Beauty is one of the most difficult term to define yet one of the easiest terms to understand. We all know what is beautiful and what is not. It does not take a second for a person to say if a girl, a child, a man , a place, a song or a poem is beautiful or not. Yet we hardly know why it is beautiful. All we know is that we like beautiful things and feel good when we see or hear something beautiful.
Random House dictionary, defines “beauty” as a characteristic present in a person, place, object or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning or satisfaction to the mind or to the eyes, arising from sensory manifestations such as a shape, color, personality, sound, design or rhythm.
Yet no one knows, what are these characteristics that make a thing beautiful? Since beauty is based on the perception of the person, it is often said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is also considered to be only skin deep which means that beauty is superficial and it lacks any substance.
The opposite of beauty is ugly i.e. what gives us a bad feeling. When we see an ugly thing, we just don’t like it and want to close our sensual perception and mind from that thing. Everyone wants to see beauty and become beautiful and dread to become ugly. While we see a beautiful thing or meet a beautiful person, we just want to keep on looking. Einstein used the concept of beauty to explain the Theory of Relativity i.e. how time can expand or contract
“You spend 30 minutes with a beautiful girl, it seems like a moment. You spend a moment sitting on a hot stove, it seems like 30 minutes”.
Beauty is so important to human beings that they can do anything to look beautiful or achieve beautiful things in life. The pursuit of human life seems to become beautiful or acquire beautiful things in life. Beauty has such a powerful attraction that it bewilders all logic and rationality of the person and sometime the attraction become fatal. Why is beauty such a powerful force?
Beauty means Truth and Good
In the ancient philosophies, the material body is believed to be the material reflection of the soul, the spark of the universal soul or God. Hence, if the person is good, it is because the person has a beautiful soul. It is because of the beauty of the soul that people do good actions in this world. People find their parents and friends beautiful, because they are good to them. We can hardly find any beauty in our enemies as they are not good to us. When a friend turns enemy, the same person cease to be beautiful.
In Indian philosophy God is said to have three manifestations in this world i.e. Truth, Good and Beautiful (Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram). Hence when we find something beautiful, it is only because it has the truth and goodness in it.
Scientists discover secrets (truths) of nature, because they find universe beautiful (Difficult to imagine?). Einstein said “I have deep faith that the principle of the universe will be beautiful and simple.”
Jules Henri Poincare, a famous French mathematician, and scientist said
“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.”
The discovery of truth is, therefore, to with the beauty it holds. For a scientist, the universe is not a dead object but he sees beautiful pattern and aesthetics in nature, which helps him find the secrets of nature. While most of the people find the world as an ugly place due to its imperfectness like inequality, injustice, disorder, a poet sees the same world as beautiful and creates poetry. A poet can only make beautiful poetry if he finds beauty in nature and human beings. A logical person or a critique of the world can never find these truths of the world as he can never see beauty in this world.
The Evidence of Beauty
Since beauty needs no logic, people often accuse beauty of being superficial. The rational people or scientists accept no facts to be true unless proven objectively by experiments and investigations. They often blame the perceptions of beauty as biased and prejudiced which has developed in the people in the process of evolution.
We all know that a human body looks beautiful if it is within a particular range of body weight depending upon the height of the person. We don’t find the body beautiful if it is either too thin or too fat. Yet we can’t say why only a particular weight should make the body beautiful? However, the scientists have discovered that what we perceive as beautiful is actually the best body weight for health and longevity. A study conducted by more than a million participants by the US Cancer Prevention  concluded that
.. optimum body mass indexes to be between 23.5 and 24.9 for men and 22.0 and 23.4 for women. As body mass index increased, risk of death increased. Men and women, with body mass indexes of 40.0 or higher, increased the risk of death by 250% and 200% respectively. In contrast, underweight men and women, with body mass indexes of 18.5 or lower, increased the risk by 26% and 36% respectively.
Thus, the perception of beauty is not superficial as it is supported by robust scientific research. If, we can imagine how we, can perceive the beauty of the body, we can easily notice that our perception of beauty perhaps vary in the same proportion as the effect of body weight on health as if our mind already knows what is good for the body even without going through the long process of research.
Once a scientist described to Einstein, how long years of experimentation and research lead to the discovery of the scientific theory. The wife of Einstein promptly remarked that her husband (Einstein) would have developed the same theory on a piece of paper. Einstein never conducted any experiments, but developed the soundest of the scientific theories from the imagination of his mind as the man himself a replica of the universe.
We all have the inherent capability to distinguish the good from the evil and the truth from the untruth by our ability to see beauty. When we eat an apple, we don’t have to send it to the laboratory to know if it is rotten or fresh. We can simply by looking at it can know that it is fresh. A beautiful apple is also a good apple for health.
What is Good?
The first thing to understand is what is good? We can define goodness from the perspective of self and the world. One can be good to the world, if his actions are for the good of the world. Similarly, one can also be good if his actions are good for him. An ugly man, therefore, must be one who is not only bad for the world but also bad for himself.
However, we can argue, why one would like to do anything that is harmful to self. Yet there is no dearth of such actions. For example, if one eats too much and become obese, it is surely not good for his own health. Similarly smoking, additions etc are also not good for one’s own self. All selfish actions are initially good for the person but gradually become bad for him, if these actions are not good for the society. The challenge thus lies in finding a way that is not only good for self but also good for the society. All successful persons and businessman finds a way to find their good in the goods of others. For example, Bill Gates is the richest person in the world, not by doing any harm to the society but by bringing tremendous benefit to the society. As a consequence, he also became a rich man.
However, when a person focuses only on selfish benefit without any concern for the world, he creates an imbalance in the world that makes the person bad. This leads to the path of untruth and evil. Such a person gradually becomes unattractive and ugly as the evil starts getting reflected on his body and the face.
What is good also depends on the person and the situations. A sunny day many look beautiful in the cold winters and cold countries but extremely unattractive for the people of the tropical and warm countries. The woman may look extremely beautiful to a lover but only ordinary to other men and women. Hills may be beautiful for the people living in the plain or in hotter places but may look unattractive to the native who may find the modern world of malls and urban life more attractive. A western music may be attractive to some but repulsive to others.
Thus our perception to beauty has also a purpose. The attraction depends not only the object of beauty but also our mental makeup. We find beauty in things that complements ourselves. It force of attraction due to beauty can be compared with the force of attraction of the electric changes. The opposite attracts and once they meet they neutralize each other. So often we are attracted towards something which we lack. Often, we are not even aware what is missing unless we find something attractive. The beauty is thus a guide to achieve the missing something in us so that we can have more fulfilling and contented life.