Beauty. Its complexity is equally mesmerising, mysterious and charming. We may look at an opulent sunrise with its rich canvas of purples, pinks and golds and utter in awe how it is undeniably the epitome of beauty. At the same time, we may spot an individual, striking in their appearance and remark how this individual is really quite beautiful. What exactly do we mean when we gasp, extolling the breathtaking beauty of someone or something?
Mathematics of the Golden Ratio
For some, the notion of beauty has been very specifically defined over the millennia. It’s been known to some by the Greek letter “phi,” while to others, as the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion. Mathematically, it came down to a very special number that occurs when one divides a line into two parts. Here’s where it gets interesting. The long part of the line divided by the short part is equal to the whole length divided by the long part. That special number is 1.618 or phi.
For some, in a meticulous and defined way, it is a proportion that will never fail to yield an incomparable beauty, be it in art, architecture, music or in nature. The proportion can be found in the Pyramids of Giza, certain pieces of music such as Erik Satie’s Sonneries de la Rose+Croix, Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” Michaeolangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” as well as the simple and magical shell of a snail. Some very specifically used the Divine Proportion in their work. For instance, Salvador Dali employed it when painting “The Sacrement of the Last Supper.” Not only was the canvas very close to a golden rectangle, the multi-panel window is a dodecahedron whose “surface area and volume are simple functions of the Golden Ratio.”
Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,”
Albeit superlative in their excellence, can these works of art and other examples represent the full extent and broadest understanding of beauty? No one would question the immaculate beauty of a snail’s shell nor any of the other scenarios where the Golden Ratio has been admirably employed. Still, there is an element of beauty that still defies the mathemetical boundaries established by the Golden Ratio.
One of the various definitions of beauty is “a beautiful person, especially a woman.” That may seem straightforward. Although, this particular definition has led to interpretations that have ironically paved the way to discontent and sadness. What has happened is many of us have standardised our interpretation of what exactly is a “beautiful person, especially a woman.” Magazines, celebrities on film, advertisements and any number of multi-media sites flood our lives with images of the ideal woman and man. We are overwhelmed by an imposed interpretation of what is beauty. A man must be tall and strong. A woman must always appear young, be slim or possess an hourglass figure, with features such as a narrower facial shape, high cheekbones, longer eyelashes and fuller lips. How many match up to these specific ideals of beauty?
But there is hope. Other definitions of beauty provide a hint of how we can free ourselves from these rigid and society-driven definitions. The dictionary also defines beauty as a “combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind.” Those are the moments that punctuate our lives and they can be found in numerous situations. That sunrise we witness is captivating, a sign of beauty we feel deep in our hearts. It takes our breath away. There is the beauty which brings us to our feet as we watch a master musician magically bending melody and rhythm. At other times, we may watch a dance that magnificently blends heart-resounding beat with a soaring and swirling sashay. These events touch our hearts and are ones coming from within us, a part of our very spirits.
Likewise, when we think of those society-driven images of beauty thrust in our faces, we again must look within. We could be looking at an individual who defies all the standards of beauty as defined by society. Still, when we momentarily close our eyes and listen to their words, we hear a voice speaking words of kindness, joy, and compassion. And then, when we re-open our eyes, we are witness to a man or woman who, by their words, have been transformed into images of magnificent beauty. But in order to do so, we needed to delve within to find the true nature of beauty. It is there in our hearts. Make no mistake.