On what we find beautiful


As a person who spends disproportionate amount of time contemplating beautiful things, I often discover patterns in what appeals to me.  When I first experience some ‘sensory thing’, I try to let that thing take over so I can hear my immediate visceral reaction to it. However, after the thing and after a while, I realize that the kind of sensoryness that I find beautiful seems to follow certain paths and patterns.  And then of course, I am curious about the paths and patterns of other people. When I ask, I discover tastes both similar and different from my own.

However, this post is not just about taste. I am fascinated not just by what different people find beautiful, but the different layers of meaning that each person attaches to the word or notion of ‘Beauty’. I  find that beauty is a very loaded word for me, often attached to attributes like intensity and sometimes even truth.  When somebody calls something beautiful that I don’t find to be so, I am not sure if their experience of the thing is different from my own, or if the experience is the same, but just the choice of words is different. I suspect it is a weighted mix of the two, but I could be wrong.


As I write this, I am reminded of a section from Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being called ‘A short dictionary of misunderstood words’. Here the author describes the relationship between two people, the spaces between whom are occupied by words that mean different things to each of them. The same words serve as symbols for disparate references and experiences, making me wonder about language as a sieve where something is retained but through which some meaning might be lost. I’ve often longed for a conversation about beauty that included both the language we use to describe it as well as the symbols and motifs that transcend that language.

So, in a ‘Socrates-ian’ bid to ‘define the terms’ as well as to gain an insight into the subjective experience of beauty, I asked a few people, artists and connoisseurs (that sounds pretentious), about their conception and perception of beauty. Over the next few weeks, I will share with you what they said.

Pictures via We Heart It


  1. Hi Lavayna! I’m really excited to reading everyone’s responses and seeing how this dialogue unfolds. You have me intrigued to read your own answers, just from our recent email conversations on the subject of St. Peter’s Basilica. You and I so often perceive things similarly, yet not always (as in the forementioned), so I’ll be fascinated to read *your* responses to your survey, too!!

  2. flittersniffer

    I can only echo Suzanne’s comment, and I agree that there is a whole linguistic dimension to this discussion as well as a sensory / aesthetic one. Agog to see what people have collectively thought about this topic!

  3. Pingback: Seven Questions on Beauty : Suzanne from Perfume Journal | Purple paper planes

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