Thursday, September 6, 2012

A meditation on beauty

Last Labor Day weekend, one of my activities was taking myself on what Julia Cameron calls an “artist’s date.” I went to the Bowers Museum to view the exhibit called “Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Stars.”

You know Peter Carl Fabergé for the jeweled eggs that he created for European elites, especially the pre-Revolution Russian royal family. This exhibit didn’t have the eggs that opened, but there were more than enough marvels in store – from egg charms to presentation boxes to bell pushes (used to summon servants) to cigarette cases (some of which I would have loved to given Two Dogs) to table clocks.

(If you are in the Santa Ana, California area between now and January 6, 2013, I highly recommend visiting this exhibit. On the first Sunday of every month, Target sponsors free admission to the museum, a bonus that I took advantage of.)

Looking at these finely crafted objects was a meditation on the nature of beauty. It may be that beauty is less subjective than we think. No matter where we’re from, we can agree that the objects of the Fabergé collection are beautiful. We can also agree that a pile of excrement on the street is ugly. It is difficult to believe the maxim that “everything is beautiful in its own way.” Everything may have a specific purpose, but there is an inevitable hierarchy of beauty.

Some will look for a lesson about getting what you give in the examples above. It took hours of painstaking work to create one tiny Fabergé egg charm, whereas an animal can dump excrement on the street without thinking about it. Yet, we can find cases where the opposite is true. Flowers do not need to spend effort on their beauty, while architects have slaved over blueprints and construction workers have toiled for months for results like this:

This is the Buffalo (New York) City Court Building, which is a good reason not to live in Buffalo.

Take every chance possible to view beauty, whether it be at the museum, the antique store, or your own backyard. It is, I say, one of the best tonics for the soul.

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