The mathematical rules of the universe are visible to men in the form of beauty. (John Michel)
Esthetics and Ethics share a lot of letters, but further not too much, I have learned. My latest conversation with the psychiatrist brought up an issue I wrote about before: the act of placing beauty over morals.
What exactly is beauty? When do we call something beautiful, and why? I think it is subjective for one, but on the other hand I believe that all actions and objects possess a certain esthetic value. The best way to describe it would be as “resonance” with something bigger I think, something more general and less fleeting than our universe and everything in it. Maybe it’s just me who feels this resonance, I don’t know. The stronger the resonance, the more beautiful we perceive something.
I feel the resonance in many things. I can feel it in art, in murder (if you want my opinion on what constitutes a beautiful murder, feel free to read it here), in a symmetrical face, in a fierce barrister’s defense, in social interactions or a broken vase. There is resonance in many things, and with it comes beauty. At least, to me. I feel inclined to point out these are just my own analyses of the subject and I don’t tend to generalize.
To me, it is more important that what I do is Beautiful, than that it is Right. What is right is only determined by surroundings. What is beautiful answers to a higher law. I like to think that the beauty that resonates in our world is the only thing that won’t perish together with the rest of the universe. It is mathematical, it doesn’t need a tangible form to exist. It doesn’t need anything or anyone to exist, not even the universe. To quote the mathematician Janos Bolyai: “I have created a new universe from nothing.”
I am afraid of few normal things, yet terrified of a lot unusual things instead. The transience, the fleeting importance of everything and anything in perspective to the universe fills makes me melancholic, and fills narcissistic me with fear of being forgotten. A futile fear of the unavoidable, I know that much. I surround myself with beauty, cold and ruthless beauty rather than the socially acceptable brand, because the resonance makes me forget my own insignificance for a moment.
Can we, as human beings, place Esthetics over Ethics? If we do I think we are deluding ourselves. But it’s like some kind of drug, sweet oblivion, a way of temporarily forgetting our limited human nature. So forgive me if I do.
Excellent post! I have a few ideas but would like to ruminate them a bit before posting them
Hey there little QP,
I’ve been thinking about this one on and off for the past few days, trying to organize my thoughts a bit more. I have two primary feelings about this question. First, both what we consider ethical and what we think are beautiful are subjective; what if someone considered ethics beautiful? or if their cultural foundations stressed beauty over everything else? or ethics over everything else? I think a lot of how we prioritize our lives, and the things we decide are important are learned behaviors, things that are trained into us at a young age to make us more willing to participate in the game of society (or at least sit at the table and pretend to play, then cheat our asses off hahaha). If someone was not taught these things, say they were raised in the woods by wild animals, would they still value ethics? probably not…most likely they would only worry about eating, fighting and fucking. yay Darwin. but ethics do create a sense or rules, leading to order.
as for beauty, I don’t think that we get a say in what we think is beautiful…it just is to us. I know i find things lovely that others wouldn’t, and others like things that I think are…lacking…in any Esthetics. can something be created if all you value is beauty? i think you would have unmitigated chaos, which while beautiful, may not function precisely well. hahah Like all things in life, I think this one is a matter of balance…beauty and order.
It’s hard to explain. I think ethics, certain systems of ethics, can be considered beautiful. There is something very peculiar about small sets of rules that successfully regulate large systems, a bit like the traffic code. It has that resonance. Despite that, I think esthetics fundamentally stands over ethics; it’s not because something isn’t ethical that it can’t be beautiful.
You say that both ethics and esthetics are subjective, and I don’t disagree, that’s what makes it so hard to explain. I feel resonance that seems larger than the world, and that is what determines beauty for me. Perhaps it is nothing but the delusion of a schizophrenic woman, who knows? I never forget that possibility.
I am aware that to place esthetics over ethics in daily life is making it impossible for yourself to function. It’s sad, but true. I can’t seem to shake the habit, though.