I have often wished that the function of the beauty industry was to help people get better at beholding beauty. It could be like art appreciation classes that show you what can be appreciated about art you didn’t like looking at before. That might even be the root of my complicated gut reactions about body image activism performances like burlesque. Does it help me see beauty in a new place, or does it just involve new people winning at the same old beauty contests? I think my guts know I’m looking to broaden my beholding skills, not get caught up in competitions.
So I liked this comment about aesthetics and perception, for focussing on “coming to terms with what you consider ugly,” and on ways to help people do that.
Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.
… It is almost as if the pioneers of wabi-sabi intentionally looked for such examples of the conventionally not-beautiful— homely but not excessively grotesque— and created challenging situations where they would be transformed into their opposite.
— Leonard Koren in Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers
Reading this brought up a big sensory memory of what that feels like— I get pretty thrilled and spaced out by perception shifts. I heard an NLP trainer say that it’s common to get spaced out by big new ideas, that spacing out is the physical sensation of a bunch of your brain synapses reorganizing at once. I don’t know if that’s true, but the idea delighted me.