I came to know Undina from Undina’s Looking Glass because of her desire to share what she finds beautiful, specifically, Annick Goutal’s Heure Exquise. I’ve heard her say before that when she loves a perfume, she doesn’t like to analyze why she loves it, and so I approached her for this project just a bit apprehensively. Yet since Undina is one who loves to tell it like it is, without mincing words, I was also very curious to hear what her thoughts on beauty were.And here are her thoughts breaking out of the mould of the seven questions:
Many years ago, on a honeymoon, my vSO and I bought a book that we both wanted to read. So when we couldn’t just sit next to each other and share the book, my vSO would be reading it aloud.
The name of the book was “Prekrasnost’ zhizni: roman s gazetoi.” The official translation is The Splendor of Life: Novel [or Love Affair] with a Newspaper but I think that the word “splendor” while giving the right meaning of the Russian word used in the title doesn’t convey the adequate feeling because the original word used (“prekrasnost’ “) sounds a little weird for the native speaker – and that was the author’s intent since it’s a book of a political and social satire. I would offer another version: The Beautifulness of Life; “beautifulness”, not “beauty”, in its irregularity and strangeness, I think, is closer to the word used in the original name. The book started with a preface (I tried to translate close to the spirit and form of the original; strangeness is intentional):
The main message of this opus is: the beauty of life lies in the fact of its existence and in absence of life there is no beauty of it.
Back then it was a cute phrase, an intuitively understandable author’s challenge to the reality we all used to live in and from which we were trying to liberate ourselves. In years that passed since then, through all the changes in my life and taking into the account my atheism, I came to the realization that for me today the meaning of that phrase is much deeper and it applies to how I feel about life. Beauty in my life comes, mostly, from me and all my loved ones being alive and around.
I’ve spent many days thinking about the questions Lavanya sent to me and in the end I realize that I wasn’t a good candidate for this questionnaire: I’m not young enough (in my heart) and too practical to seriously discuss these things. 20 years ago – maybe, but now?
The question “What do you mean when you call something beautiful?” seems a little strange to me: when I call something beautiful I’m not trying to re-define the meaning of the word itself, I describe the qualities of the object – be that a face, art or a landscape – and hope that others would understand what I mean because I use the right word and do it in an expected meaning and context. The only “similarity” that might qualify the object further is that it’s I who find them all beautiful. But that’s kind of given.
I do not think I’m too special or different from the fellow humans of the similar social and cultural background to try and define my personal generic criteria for how I determine if something warrants to be call beautiful or not. I don’t think most of my judgments are too original or unexpected. And since there is no rule I can’t name an exception to it. What I can do is to give specific examples of what I find beautiful:
Landscapes are the easiest for me to think as of beautiful with sunsets being on the top of the list.
Music is also an easy pick. There are many pieces I consider beautiful but for this post I have a perfect “two-in-one example”: years after I heard Carol of the Bells for the first time and loved it I learned that it was written by the Ukrainian composer.
A woman I think of as beautiful – Catherine Zeta-Jones
Perfumes… There are several that fall into this category but I’ll name just one Ormonde Jayne Ta’if. Every time I wear it I can’t believe how beautiful I think it is.
Something that never fails to wow and wake a child in me is fireworks.
As to the physical reaction to beauty (and other positive things) – I have an uncontrollable desire to share: “Look! Look!!! Isn’t it beautiful?! It is beautiful, right? You’re not looking!”
That last sentence really hit the nail on the head for me. As I have mentioned before, one of the reasons I blog is because sharing what I find beautiful makes beautifulness easier to bear. And yes, I am adopting the word beautifulness because it is more evocative than beauty 🙂
Picture Credits Pictures of Undina, sunset and fireworks via Undina Picture of Catherine Zeta Jones via Deborah Davis on Photobucket