Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just about Beaux Yeux

When the eye sees something beautiful, hand wants to draw it, take photographs, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable.

Beauty gives blissful pleasure – which is why it is sought after. We all seem to possess an inner need for beauty that is both primitive and rather intensive. Everybody wants to experience beauty, and to be beautiful – whole industries are built on these needs. We are ready to make sacrifices, some small and some great, in our pursuit for beauty; we travel to the other end of the world to experience the beauty of nature, or some famous work of art; we buy high prices for Margalla Tower apartments with wonderful views, as well as for works by well-known masters – examples of appreciation of aesthetic qualities are plenty, and easy to find.

Beauty is the greatest power in this world. Obviously, then, it is a power to be reckoned with, and only a fool would neglect trying to understand such might.

Beauty can be arbiter of the myriad decisions needed to build whole ecological, truly sustainable solutions, whether it is a building, a sewage system or agricultural plan.

We are beginning to sense that even those paths lay out by science and logic may not take us to where we wish to be. Beauty may not be the way but it can help us in choosing the how. Einstein wrote that, "The theory that turned out to be true, was also the most beautiful.”

At the present time, we have a great many of the tools and technical know-how to make a new world...everything from stainless steel hipbones to sustainable houses and cities. But how do we relate this know-how to life and each other so that it truly serves life? It is here that a sense of beauty and esthetics can help us give form and meaning to what otherwise would be a scattering of possible solutions. It is as if we had all the parts of a human being spread out before us. It depends how we put them together into an elegant and sympathetic whole.

There is a connection of beauty to love. Both of these qualities can open within us feelings and sensing that seem to be outside of fear. Putting aside fear even for a moment begins to change things. Somehow beauty and love awaken the part in us that allows us to be ourselves. This is to give light. It can come through an individual or a work of art. It is very much one human reaching to another and allowing for the wholeness of the other.

We underrate even our traditional concept of beauty. Why is nature so prolific in endowing its creatures with magic of form, color, and diversity? Is it merely for competition and pre-creation? Or does the beauty of the flower or a maiden dressed in her beaded buckskin change the rules of the game? For the Hindu woman, to adorn herself is to decorate the temple of the Lord.

We will rediscover beauty in future. Not the pretty of the 19th century or the ugliness of our century, but a robust kind of beauty that accepts the intertwining of chaos and order, and of darkness and that guides and transforms life because it seems life as a whole. We can learn to put a sense of beauty to work for us.

One asks people who are individually opposed to beauty to think in terms of our whole era or even century: “Do you hope that when people in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries speak of us (the way we so effortlessly make descriptive statements about people living in the nineteenth or eighteenth or seventeenth centuries), do you hope these future people will describe us as beauty-loving or instead as neutral with respect to beauty or instead as beauty-disregarding?” We will be spoken about by future people as beauty-loving. Does it not seem reasonable to suppose that many people might give this same answer?

Let us suppose this and then see what it would mean—it would mean, oddly, that although beauty is highly particular and plural, one can suffer its loss to oneself, or even to those within the daily circle of one’s activities, but cannot wish so grave a loss to the larger world of which one is a part, to the era in which one has lived. Neither from one’s own century nor from any future century can one imagine its disappearance as anything but a deprivation.

In the future, it would be interested to further investigate into what kind of simplicity would be right for creating trustworthy design. Graphic designers often complain that usability experts always want design that is too simple, that is, boring. Simplicity in this sense is a kind of stripped simplicity – the design is stripped naked of all fancy features, colors, and flashy, moving objects. Is this what people really want? Or could there be a second kind of simplicity that they actually mean, designed simplicity – clear, and clean like Swedish wanted, but in a stylistic and beautiful way that does not lessen the pleasure provided, even if it lessens the elements? We think it is this latter form of simplicity that is asked for.

In the not so distant future, there will be novel interfaces that make use of different modalities. We will have voice and haptic interfaces embedded in our devices, in our clothes, or even in our bodies. These will bring with them many new challenges for interface design, and it is clear that aesthetic dimensions will be among the most important ones. These novel means of interaction may promote aesthetic experience to its peak through turning this experience into a more complete total experience. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation