Beauty for Dummies

Or just a dummy (aka, me.)

I’m having some struggles that are hard to articulate, but I’m thinking this place is as good a place as any to seek meaningful feedback.

I’m a Catholic and a creative type. I’m involved improvisational theater and aspire two write and make films. I dabble in music and painting (doing both poorly) as well as basic web and graphic design.

All of the above there has me wrestling with the concept of Beauty and how my work as creative person and follower of Christ relates to it. If feel that my religious upbringing as more fundamentalist baptist (I’m a “convert”) and my cultural upbringing as a heavily pop-culture consuming middle-class American have left me woefully unprepared to deal with this issue.

I don’t know anyway to handle this other than to just toss out some questions, so here it goes.

  1. There are works that I would probably describe as beautiful in the sum (Flannery O’Connor’s stories come to mind) which have pieces that are anything but beautiful. Even these dark spots seem to add to the over all beauty in some way. Is it true that beauty and perfection aren’t synonymous? My instinct is to answer that “yes.”

  2. The face of great works (esp. the music of Palestrina or hand-written iconography which was created for sacred use), what is the place of more trivial art? Is there a place of art for entertainment’s sake? Again, my instinct says “yes.”

  3. How can I begin to train my eye and ear to more appreciate objective beauty and how does this objective beauty relate to my subjective experience of beauty? Can that “gut” be trusted at least as an initial indicator of beauty? I’m thinking “yes” yet again.

  4. I’m over thinking this??? :slight_smile:

I apologize for the scatter-shot nature of this post, but I’m struggling to put these thoughts into words. Any thoughtful feedback will be appreciated!


Beauty is actually very similar to joy.

Both are the result of the instinctive perception of progress. This makes them largely subjective, but actually objectively derived.

What is happening is that your life is attempting to surround itself with that which is in harmony with itself. But the conscious mind must decide exactly what that really is. In its struggle, the subconscious gives its vote and the conscious reasoning and learning adds votes. In the long run, even though every living thing is actually trying to accomplish the same basic goal, they each make different decisions as to how to obtain that goal and thus each sees progress differently and thus each sees joy and/or beauty differently.

Darkness and even violence can be seen as beautiful if the person has come to identify something “good” about it. That sense of good comes from that same drive to find harmonious surroundings. The mind can even decide that being disharmonious is the best way to harmony.


  1. Is it true that beauty and perfection aren’t synonymous?

Yes, it is not true. Perfection is a match to something and thus is associated, but not the same thing.

  1. Is there a place of art for entertainment’s sake?

This depends on your goal in life. Your goal determines what has a place and what doesn’t. What you see as “entertainment” is that same perception of progress (joy). In the objective sense, your entertainment should only be for things that actually make progress toward greater eternal harmony, but you have to guess at that and thus you feel entertainment based on less conscious perceptions.

At times, mere entertainment for the sake of entertainment is the best path at that time toward more eternal harmony. But the temptation is too often relegated to the subconscious urges (pathos) that are very often wrong. You have a conscious mind for a purpose. It isn’t merely to ask what your subconscious wants.

  1. Can that “gut” be trusted at least as an initial indicator of beauty?

“Initial”, yes. But understanding your real purpose and how to make real progress toward that is what determines real beauty. Often your instincts will mislead, but they are certainly not totally stupid.

  1. I’m over thinking this???

Am I over explaining it??? :smiley: