Sunday, November 23, 2008

Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is?

I was taking a random trip down memory lane due to my utter lethargy to complete the last question on my last assignment for the semester (wow time does fly!). I often fall into this numbing hole of procrastination when I reach very close to completing a tedious/laborious/plain uninteresting work. It could be the last paragraph to write, the last chapter to study, or the last question to answer, and I become restless to finish it, equally excited that I am almost done and become complacent to put it off for a while and laze around. I have reached that state.

Enough of that boring intro... so what I started to think about was the teddy bears I had when I was young (since I happened to glance at the fat white bear sitting on the shelf... a stimulus to my thoughts if you will). I got them when I was around 6 or 7 and I was very attached to those two that even after reaching my twenties I would possessively hide them when young cousins and kids visited my place. No, no, I don't need therapy...I was just reluctant to let a precious part of my childhood be chewed on, torn apart and dragged on the floor by all those adorable kids :). Being the only child, and mostly a loner, these dolls formed a huge part of my childhood... being my pals.

A barbie doll was one among them... although I was never attached to it, for the main reason that you couldn't cuddle one. Almost all my friends and cousins had one at that time. These days there are talks on how perfectly pretty barbies could instill an "unhealthy" body image on young girls, laying ideas on perceptions of beauty. Well, I'm really curious to truly investigate this... talk to a few young girls or probably read more about how valid the fear/hypothesis is. When I was young I really don't remember noticing how pretty a barbie was. I'm stumped if that doll probably had some impact on my image of beauty.

Cambridge dictionary defines beauty as, "the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially by being looked at." I'm surprised at the heavy connotation of physicality in the definition, and something predominantly experienced by our sight! I beg to broaden the definition....

They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but what makes the beholder view something as beautiful? There are a few people/things/aspects in life that most people will unanimously agree as being beautiful, and this is probably an objective measure of symmetry etc. But what about the rest?

As Keats said, is beauty just truth? Well... there are some truths that are ugly when revealed, I can't find a trace of beauty in them. Is our perception of beauty just emotional bonding? I don't know, but I know I loved a ragged 2 rupees doll in comparison to a barbie and I loved my two teddies that were patched up and kept together with stitches, and I still search for a bear that resembles those two. Maybe I'm in search of memories but I would still call the bears cute, pretty and use other nice adjectives (or am I using the adjectives on my memories?). There is a saying in Tamil that I'm inadequately translating as, " To the mother crow, her young one appears like a golden chic." Crows are supposed to be "ugly" since they are black, but a mama crow thinks its little one is a pretty golden bird. Of course "golden" is a could signify physical appearance, and other general characteristics.

Beauty by itself then becomes a metaphor. A metaphor to symbolize and probably qualitatively assign our appreciation in response to positive feelings and emotions that get evoked. Most times, these feelings are evoked through people or objects and we place our appreciation on them, thereby making them special and seeing them as beautiful? Sometimes it's an event, a phase of life, riveting memories, and we often scrounge around to find an object to pour the sense of beauty we want to treasure in an effort to make the memories as "real" and "physical" and as alive as possible.

I don't know why I end up relating everything to emotions and sentiments... I sound sappy. But really, a challenge that AI faces is in simulating these emotions in order to "program" a computer to recognize or subjectively categorize an object as being beautiful even though it fails all the objective measures of beauty.


Anonymous said...

You relate everything to emotions because it is finally about the self and the ego. Beauty lies in the eyes/ears... and mind of the beholder. Truth is one's perception.

And Scorpios get clued into this sooner and that's why we relate everything to emotions :).

Neeraja said...

I appreciate the comment from a fellow Scoprio :). True, everything really boils down to ego and our perceptions.