The Relationship between Utility and Beauty

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Khethil
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 02:48 pm
Hey good people,

I've been wanting to toss this out there for quite some time. Unfortunately, it's so obscure, so subtle, that I've been having trouble trying to figure some way to phrase it coherently; I've failed.

So rather than toss it out completely, I thought I'd pose it here in an imperfect form and just hope that someone picks up the idea for agreement, disagreement or discussion in general. Ok, here I go.[INDENT]For many things in our physical world, there exists an ineffable quality of "use" or Utility. There stands a maple tree, very beautiful in its colors (with its graceful limbs starting to come bare and show themselves). My wife and I walk by; say "ah, nice" and press on. Walking on some more, we come upon another maple tree (yes, they're all over the place here) that's virtually identical except for one difference; this one has a tree house in it.

Well, not precisely a tree-house, but a conglomeration of boards, ropes (ah!, not smart!) a precariously-balance box and a hand-made cardboard sign that says "keep out!", written in a child's hand. This one is beautiful; a child played there, probably more than one or two. It's been 'used', it's been worked, played on and joy has been taken from and with the tree. In no time, the boards will fall, the sign will blow away and time will march on.
[/INDENT]But the second one is more 'beautiful' to me. I know why, but it's hard to flesh out. Ok, more examples:

  • The chair on someone's porch that's for-show, never getting sat on just doesn't look very nice.
  • A soccer ball, with scuffs and pits from all it's having been kicked around
  • The mature woman who, having borne children, is shaped just a bit differently now
  • The difference between the stiff, new and smelly leather jacket you just got, and the old one hanging in your closet; worn and soft.
  • The scars on a friend's arm, tell-tale signs of something long passed.
  • A book, dog-eared with notes in the margins and spilt coffee on the corner; signs of many a good adventure, cuddled-up reading on the sofa.

In an age where freshness, newness, shrink-wrap and clear-skin are so much held in the media's highest esteem, I find that - as I grow older - I'm finding actual "beauty" in the imperfect, that which by the passage of time or the fulfillment of purpose is now asymmetric and no longer pristine.

Does this make any sense? Anyone have any thoughts or feelings on this?
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 02:55 pm
@Khethil,
I assosiate assymtrical with natural and with irrational, as opposed to artificial, calulated geometry. However, I find both to be essential: actually, the interplay and tension of the two. The constructive, visual, static world of rigid forms is neccessary contrast for the destructive, sensual, dynamic world of direction. Nietzsche called them Apollonian and Dionysian tendenies. I think the modern world is hermetially sealed and increasingly, dreadfully intellectual, though not intelligent. Its about time for some unreason, some assymtry, some confused hedonism, some destruction.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 03:27 pm
@BrightNoon,
Smile Khethil,

I do not have to much to add to the above accept that perfection is unreal, attempts at perfection as in the human form, example Roman scupture, are generally compounds of perfect parts of the anatomy brought together, no one really posseing all such characteristics. When it comes to a really live human being, is it not the imperfections that indear us to them, perfection would be rather cold, rather uninteresting in someway, imperfection is often termed, when talking about many persons or objects as giving them character. I suppose what I am tryiing to say is that imperfect is more genuinely the expression of nature, the brand new leather jacket is indeed nice, the woren jacket tells of its relation to life, its got that illusive character. Perfection is something alien, the ideal that is never to be reached and would be unfortunate if it was.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 03:40 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
I do not have to much to add to the above accept that perfection is unreal, attempts at perfection as in the human form, example Roman scupture, are generally compounds of perfect parts of the anatomy brought together, no one really posseing all such characteristics. When it comes to a really live human being, is it not the imperfections the indear us to them, perfection would be rather cold, rather uninteresting in someway, imperfection is often termed, when talking about many persons or objects as giving them character. I suppose what I am tryiing to say is that imperfect is more genuinely the expression of nature, the brand new leather jacket is indeed nice, the woren jacket tells of its relation to life, its got that illusive character. Perfect is something alien, the ideal that is never to be reached and would be unfortunate if it was.


All quite true.

I think the reason I bring this up is in what I perceive to be conventional, popular or media-based notions of beauty, in all things which is opposed to this notion of utility and beauty; appreciation of the 'used' and fulfilled.

And yes, I realize I'm on a whimsical ground here.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 06:11 pm
@Khethil,
This is like how the beauty of utility ironically displays itself in the Rowanda Genocide. There were many unarmed volunteers (I forget if they were sent by UN, probably not), but while the Hutus were barbaric and hostile, these volunteers would sit on chairs, unarmed, guarding stadiums filled with Tutsis. And the Hutus would stay away even though they were perfectly able to ravage the place, out of fear of course.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2008 10:40 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil,

Maybe you like things that have been used because it makes it easier to associate memories with those items.

The scuffs on the soccer ball bring images to mind of children playing soccer that put those scuffs there. Ah, the days of youth and getting lost in games.

The leather jacket is worn in from use. The places I've gone and the people I've met while wearing that jacket.....good times.

The worn and stained book calls to mind images of getting lost in immersive tales of fiction, or those moments of epiphany as you read the thoughts from the mind of one of the world's great thinkers in nonfiction.

The sign of wear on a person or item is like a sign that says "I've got memories." and memories are important to people whose pasts have made them who they are today. Seeing signs of use stir up the feelings of your own memories, and in a way allow you to share in on the memories of others you don't even know. You old sap. This is pretty much how I view the aesthetic value of utility anyway. Smile
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 05:25 am
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
Seeing signs of use stir up the feelings of your own memories, and in a way allow you to share in on the memories of others you don't even know. You old sap. This is pretty much how I view the aesthetic value of utility anyway. Smile


Haha, nice.

You're probably spot-on. It's quite likely that my emotional association with that "purpose fulfillment" is mixing with my concept of beauty... and yes, sentiment and age seem to be growing proportionately in this shell of mine.

A painter has to paint, a writer needs to write and poet needs to dream. Fulfillment of some purpose or potential - any potential - is generally good for the human heart.

Thanks for the response.
 
 

 
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