Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Symmetry's failure

I was looking at my latest blog post and realized I failed to mention something that was very important to the concept of harmony that needed to be addressed. That idea is symmetry, which is generally advanced as one of the characteristics of beauty, usually in association with human beauty. There are several problems I have with this idea, and the first one is that most beautiful things are not symmetrical. Think of the natural world of trees and flowers, and you can immediately see that you are grateful for asymmetry. And most beautiful photographs do not have a perfectly symmetrical subject placed in the center.

In human beauty, symmetry is held up as a standard for measuring beauty, but that works only somewhat. Symmetry is only one of the aspects of the human face that make it attractive, and there are plenty of attractive people with asymmetrical faces. In fact, just look at pictures of actors and actresses. Many of them don't have perfectly symmetrical faces, yet are very pleasing to look at (hence they have a job where people look at them).

That is why harmony is superior, because instead of looking for a perfectly symmetrical object, you look at how everything, even the asymmetrical parts, work together to make something beautiful.

In music we see this quite, because most melodies are not perfectly symmetrical. Sometimes dissonance is needed to add to the beauty of a piece as a whole, and our harmonies are not built on finding a perfectly symmetrical relationship between all the notes.

And since we are relating characteristics of beauty to God, how is He symmetrical?

This is why I had to come to the idea of harmony instead. Note, this does not discount symmetry as a characteristic of a beautiful object. A symmetrical face is more likely to be harmonious, but it is not a universal characteristic of all things beautiful.

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