Beauty is Where your Head Turns

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Beauty is where your head turns when it seems to be out of your control. We see and touch and taste things all day long, automatically doing what we’re doing. But on occasion a switch flips inside us and our senses connect to memories—places we’ve been or a voice we heard once—or to some animal impulse deep within, preserved from our days as hunters and gatherers. The connection happens without us knowing, until we feel a jerk in our gut, like someone tugging on a fishing hook and line that was dormant for years. Whether it is inherent in an object or dependent on the genius of some compartment in our brain, beauty, when it matters most to most people, is something we feel. It stirs, shakes, pokes and prods, like new organs growing and dying inside us.

Beauty isn’t just something that pleases your senses—it’s something that triggers that organ-growing effect inside of you, that makes you step back from the comfortable touching and tasting and seeing you’d been contentedly doing all day long. When you experience beauty, you open and escape, however briefly, from your own little world and recognize how big and all-encompassing everything around you is. Beauty transcends individuality. It’s almost as though it causes you to connect more deeply with some energy or source of power in the universe, even though you probably don’t know what you’re connecting to, or even that something touched and changed you at all.

You might try to translate the feeling into something familiar, but the beauty that pulls you up always puts you back down, like being cast back into a veil of salty gray water. You have to resort to fishing analogies to describe the feeling because beauty is beyond language and, with it, comprehension. As close as you may come to capturing that experience, you are still left with just a shadow of what you experienced, and must hope that something in your description resonates with someone else who has also known beauty. And maybe realizing that you’ve felt the same way they have makes you both remember that touch to your soul, or hook in your gut, and feel it again. Remembering beauty connects the two of you, which is the same thing as when you experienced it in the first place—it opens you up to realizing the world is bigger than you, that you’re connected to everything. And that connection is what is beautiful.

– Patrick Magee, ’14

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