Beauty Is In The Gaze

It is a common truism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is similarly easily recognized that what we create tells on us. One of the issues with solipsism is that we create our understanding of reality based on how we see and interpret what is around us. Because our reality is tied up so inextricably with our worldview, it is easy for us to collapse the space between the world outside us and the world inside us. The knowledge of our subjectivity can all too quickly lead to a belief that there is no objective reality at all, rather than the humbling understanding that there is such a reality and that without outside aid we will be unable to understand it because our own filters and our own interpretations will get in the way. It is hard for humanity deal with the knowledge that there exists something that is beyond our grasp. Likewise, it appears to be a nearly universal human habit to create patterns out of what we see, and the combination of the pattern-making habits of the human mind and our lack of humility about our own capacity for reasoning and understanding blinds us to what is going on around us.

Our age tends to look with a certain degree of hostility at the gaze. To be sure, there are certainly problematic aspects about the lust of the eyes, which is sometimes so obvious that it can be recognized simply through body language. But the gaze is not always a matter of attraction. Often, speaking personally at least, one gazes in order to understand. One tries to read expressions, to see how people act, and it is undoubtedly true that people behave differently under known observation than they do when they are unaware that they are being seen. Whether people love attention and act out in order to get it or are shy and timid and self-conscious, we do not always see the way that people are, and even if people did show themselves as they are, we would often only be able to recognize those aspects that our mind can understand and grasp. And even if we were to ask other people what they were, they might not know what they were feeling or be able to put it into words, and if they did, there is no great chance that we would be able to understand what they meant.

In light of our limited capacity both to communicate and to understand, it is remarkable how well things end up working, all things considered. How is it that things end up working much better than we would expect if it depended on perfect understanding and perfect communication, given that neither is within our power to any remote degree. It appears that a great deal of our ability to relate well to others depends on on the fact that we can usually guess what others want to see and the fact that we usually see what we want to see unless someone forcefully wishes to make things unpleasant. Most of the time we do not want unpleasantness, and so we do not find it. We put up with what we would not prefer but do not think it is worth complaining about, and we choose not to be offended at the gentle remonstrances and irritation of those around us, and we are able to live more or less in peace as a result. It is only when we force the issue that things tend to go wrong. And one of the reasons why things go wrong more often now than before is that we demand more perfection from others and have less graciousness in communicating about ourselves.

That a graceless age such as our own would make it harder to communicate the beauty inside of ourselves and to relate to the beauty inside of others and to honestly and openly appreciate such things. It is striking, though, that an age that claims to focus on honesty and truth should be so lacking in such matters. It is as if we simply want to deceive ourselves that we are interested in truth, when we are more interested in a pleasant narrative that makes us feel better about ourselves, or wallow in our favorite sins without the inconvenient feelings of guilt. This may be convenient, but it makes it impossible to appreciate others and difficult for us to be ourselves. It would make sense that we as human beings would be objectively worse when we recognized our subjectivity, at least as much sense as anything else.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Beauty Is In The Gaze

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    Yes, honesty comes at a price, but it’s a good one if the person seeks self-betterment. As the proverb so wisely states, regarding the human of humanity, people in general want to be regarded as good without having to actually be good.

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