The idea of beauty
Updated: Jun 12
A dictionary definition of beauty goes along the lines of ‘something that gives pleasure to the senses, often sight’. But do a google search on the word ‘beauty’ and you’re likely to turn up a whole lot of comments/articles/information/advertisements that deal with personal beauty; that is, physical beauty of another human, often women. The findings of the google search rather startled me; it seemed a rather unhealthy fixation! When I searched on the term ‘what is beauty’, I got more satisfactory hits, including philosophical treatises that conclude – after lengthy discussions of the views of beauty throughout the ages – with the circuitous statement (and I paraphrase) that ‘beauty is simply appreciated by humans because it is beautiful’.
I’d often heard the expression that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. There is a lot of depth in that expression – more than I really appreciated until a startling incident some years ago. I had been on a bushwalk in one of my favourite national parks in NSW, Guy Fawkes River National Park in NSW. I had walked through the park for three days and nights by myself. For three days and nights I saw not another soul but: I witnessed the quiet contemplation of a black, well-muscled wallaroo; I saw a dingo, handsome in full and strong adulthood, survey his surroundings; I smiled at the antics of rufous fantails playing with one another; my gaze was caught by the bright red flicker of mistletoe birds; I breathed in the vista of ridges rolling into the distance with the black ribbon of the river weaving through; I luxuriated in the tart taste of an orange plucked from a tree clinging to the remnants of a tumbledown hut; I held my breath as I watched a red belly black snake slowly gulp down a frog; I stared down a stallion that screamed and reared before me as I walked through its territory; I lay at night beside a fire wondering at a zillion stars in the sky and listening to the thousands of sounds of life around me while I drank in the perfume of the night.
Some of these experiences I tried to capture in the snap of my instamatic camera. Eagerly, I developed the photos and, yes(!) I believed that some of the photos reflected a little of the beauty I’d felt so privileged to enjoy. Triumphant, I brought my photos into my place of work, wanting to let others share some of my incredible fortune. I wasn’t put out by the condescending smiles and the ‘Oh, these are nice!’ What startled me was the genuine puzzlement of one friend and his words: ‘But they are all the same.’
No. Each photo showed something different. ‘What do you mean?’
‘There are no buildings here. Where are the people? It’s just bush and stuff.’