Crooked Beauty

by Anthony Weber

This dog is making me rethink beauty.

When I first looked at him I tilted my head a bit, thinking he was tilting his head too.  He wasn’t.  His face is crooked.  You would think this should count against him, but it doesn’t.  He’s not perfect, but somehow that actually adds to my opinion of him. (How many of you thought, “Ahhhhh!”)

I am wondering why imperfections sometimes make things more beautiful.

This seems wrong somehow.  Beauty is perfection, right? Don’t studies show that the more a person’s is symmetrical, the more we consider him or her beautiful?  If we are so drawn to perfection, it would seem to follow that the more physically perfect something is, the more beautiful it is.

However, as Christians, we embrace a tension about this. We talk about the perfection and beauty of Christ, and yet the Bible says of Jesus, “There is no beauty we would desire of Him” (Isaiah 53:2).  

I believe we confuse “beautiful” and “aesthetically pleasing.” While beauty and aesthetic appeal are not at odds with each other by any means, they are far from synonymous.  There are many things some consider beautiful (such as the glorious scarlet and grey of the Buckeyes) that others (namely, everyone else in the state of Michigan) do not.  This is actually not a clash over beauty; it is a clash over aesthetic appeal.

Many have tried to define beauty. Plato said beauty was ultimately an ideal form that manifested in things we see as beautiful; Aristotle didn’t like Plato’s ideal state that much, so he offered an oddly circular explanation that beauty exists in beautiful things. I don’t find this helpful. To say beautiful things are beautiful because they participate in beauty stops somewhere short of profound…

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