Beauty, it seems, takes many forms.
The notion that Beauty is a relative virtue, lying “in the eye of the beholder” is attributed to many, including Plato, Shakespeare, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford and others. Perhaps Beauty is subjective, because it is most commonly associated with forms, and what we can see. Yet, Beauty extends far beyond just the physical, as people can have a pure and beautiful heart and/or a clear mind capable of creating beautiful thoughts.
As a practical matter, some have attempted to take some of the mystery out of the subjective nature of Beauty. Architects and artists have attempted to create designs and works consistent with the “Golden Ratio.” The Golden Ratio is when the ratio of the sum of the quantitites to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. Mathematically, the Golden Ratio is expressed as: [(a + b) / a] = a / b. It is believed that designs and visual arts proportioned to the Golden Ratio are considered aesthetically pleasing.
The Golden Ratio is an interesting definition of the physical expression of Beauty, but as we mature we discover more ways to both perceive Beauty in the world and manifest it in our lives.
When I think of Beauty, adjectives like these come to mind: balanced, harmonious, purposeful, simplicity, magnetic, striving, sacrificial, creative, and so many more. Although Beauty in our culture is attributed mainly to the appearance of the physical body and in the arts, it can manifest anywhere. To me, a gasoline engine is a thing of Beauty, with all of its complexity and moving parts moving harmoniously at thousands of revolutions per minute in perfect timing to achieve its purpose of generating energy and getting me to work on time. That is a beautiful thing, indeed!
More abstractly, we have to admit that even people can live beautiful lives of achievement by overcoming their obstacles in spite of being surrounded by squalor. We look at those who have overcome all odds to achieve as heroes.
Instead of how something looks, feels or sounds, another way to perceive Beauty is to consider what something something evokes from within us. For example, if an image, symbol or form evokes joy, understanding, unity and other positive virtues from us, then it probably is beautiful. If not, then it is most likely just wasting our time. If a book inspires us, or a building marvels us, then those things are beautiful, but if they create fear, despair and hate, then they are ugly.
To me, Beauty in its highest form is a synthesis, when things work in harmony to achieve a common purpose (like my gasoline engine example). Controversially, perhaps even the ugly act of going to war can be beautiful if the action involves the willing sacrifice of those pledged to defeat evil.
On another level, there are few things more beautiful than the human soul overcoming its obstacles on the return path to the Father. No matter how bad the circumstances, how dark the storm clouds and how hopeless the outlook, few things radiate more beauty than when our little sparks turn our faces to the Beauty given to us each day by God, attracting us back to the source from where we came.
And, the beautiful thing is, I know the Sun will come up tomorrow and give me another opportunity to find Beauty in this world.