Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Beauty Self Evident?

Several months ago, the Washington Post conducted a fascinating social experiment - it's a long article but worth reading. They commissioned Joshua Bell, a renown violinist to play some of the finest classical music ever composed on a Stradivarius, right in the middle of a Washington DC metro train station...during rush hour.

The idea was to find out if the essence of beauty is self evident, and whether it would transcend the busyness of the rush hour commute. Would people be so moved by the music, so as to pause the hustle and bustle of the morning, to recognize or perhaps even appreciate its evident beauty?

Well, the results aren't pretty. As Joshua Bell played for 43 minutes, a total of 1,097 people passed by. Only seven stopped to listen. Here's the excerpt from the article that really got my attention -

The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler's movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.

Knowing myself, I probably wouldn't have been found among the seven but it did give me pause to think -

Is real beauty self evident and self authenticating?
Why can't we recognize it?
What does that say about us?
What is real beauty?

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

What do you think? Is beauty self evident? What is the basis of true beauty?


Dave Chang said...

A chinese proverb wud say it's like "Playing the piano before the grazing cows" hehe

Every Square Inch said...

yes, or the biblical saying "casting pearls before swine"?