Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eye of the Beholder

My facebook feed is filled with the most profound wisdom captured in snippets, usually accompanied by a relevant photo.  Each meme a piece in a giant puzzle, filling in details and fleshing out the "ideal" perspective.  One thing I realized recently, that has been missing from the stream, is the idea that wealth is always a matter of perception.  This realization came to me when I went to visit someone who perceived themselves to be VERY wealthy.

They lived in a middle class ranch in a small town with a fabulous view.  It still had the original pink stove, pink sink and pink glitter formica counter tops.  The house was furnished with a mix of furniture that appeared to have been picked out by John Wayne and Liberace with some Chinese museum replicas thrown in to boot.  There were pieces of ladies costume jewelry laid out on dresser tops as if ready to wear at any moment in a home where no women (or cross dresser) lived. Crystal bowls filled with glass beads and shiny stones, plastic rococo furniture and bad art.  It reminded me of a birds nest lined with tinsel.

Ironically, there was a stack of Architectural Digest magazines sitting on a table.  I wasn't sure if they were a gift or purchased by the homeowner.  As I glanced through the pages admiring the complementary colors and styles, the fine proportions and balance, I realized something; what I thought was beauty, and indeed many others did also, is not exclusive.  I know that beauty can be measured to the extent that there is a mathematical pattern that is consistent, the fibonacci sequence which defines the pattern and balance of beauty.  Is there a fibonacci sequence of color?  I wonder if these parameters are simply a justification for the bigotry of ugly.  If ugly is relative, is anything ugly?

I often state that I don't have all of the answers and what I know is always changing.  I know what I think is beautiful.  I believe I am right. Even in those things I don't feel are beautiful I recognize the balance, symmetry and the complimentary pattern, textures and colors.  I see that it fits the defined pattern of beauty.  Does that make something outside of this "pattern" any less beautiful to one who sees beauty there?  Do plastic and paint gilded faux ormolu antiques have any less value than an original if they are perceived with equal appreciation?  So my mind stumbled through this quandary.  What is beauty if not the appreciation we have when experiencing something?

The full meaning of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" became poignantly clear to me.  My feelings of pity and condescension that come up when I trip over those who find the most hideous items beautiful or valuable will I hope transform into appreciation for the ability to find joy where I perceive there to be none.  Finding joy in the less obvious is the real treasure.  That is a gift.