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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Verbeek

The idea of beauty

Updated: Jun 12, 2023


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.’


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.’



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