This is what I mean by beauty:
Wholeness. Brokenness. Depth. Shallowness. Pleasure. Pain. Grief. Joy. Unfolding. Containment. Treasure. Garbage. Luminescence. Darkness. Kindness. Meanness. Light. Shadow. Awareness. Birth. Death. Growth. Decay. Cyclic. Mindfulness.(So, pretty much everything that is was and ever will be.)
OK, but let's look at just humans (since we love to think about ourselves at the center of everything).
What is most beautiful in a human?
To me, you are most beautiful when you are mindfully inhabiting your body. Laughing, crying: mindful. Be-ing. (The secret is, you can't help but do that, since you're the you in you.)And so, who is beautiful?
Everyone. Every. One.Our human aesthetic enhancements can overlay our actual beauty (which simply exists) and bring it out or they can diminish our inner spark by masking who we really are to our own selves if we believe the cultural myths around us about beauty.
Aesthetic is personal taste. That's more about attraction than beauty, to me. There's so much beauty in attraction, but beauty is much deeper than attraction. Attraction helps us find our mates, helps us find our tribes, but it can also be used to separate people into "us" vs "them" (if we only accept as beautiful those who are considered attractive).
Our culture tells us beauty and attraction are the same. Our culture has a lot invested in perpetuating "us" vs "them" mentalities. But attraction (both romantic and platonic) isn't the same as beauty, unless we make it a goal to be attracted to (and repelled by) everything - which is part of the path of beauty that I walk.
We are attracted to things that look like an ideal that we hold (that we are in part given by our tribe/ our culture). How many ideals can we hold? Can we hold the entire world in our ideals? Can we hold every atom?
Beauty is within every person, every rock, every fish, every piece of "disposable" plastic. Every atom that makes up this vast, expanding universe contains beauty. Beauty is universal. Beauty just is.
Cultivating your inner beauty isn't aesthetic, it's inner work. (You can continue having fun with the aesthetic while you cultivate your self. Aesthetic is fun. I'm all for fun.) It's the smile you smile for only your lover, but which influences all your smiles. It's the tears you cried when your last project went belly up. It's the pain you felt when your best friend died, it's the joy you felt dancing at her daughter's wedding. It's the truth in how you react when you look at yourself in the mirror.
Our unfolding/contained beauty isn't a set point. It isn't youth (though youth is beautiful). It isn't age (though age is beautiful). It isn't birth. It isn't death. It is this moment, as it exists, as it continues to exist.
It's the garbage in your house: beautiful. (Contained.)(Yes, age is decay. And decay is beautiful. Why pretend that you are new when you have lived the years of your life?)
It's the worms making your food waste into compost: beautiful. (Unfolding.)
It's your body, sore and wrinkly at the tail end of your life: beautiful. (Decaying.)
It's your great-grand daughter's body, so brand new: beautiful. (Growth.)
I often use the Japanese term wabi sabi as a shorthand for what I mean by the aesthetic choice to see everything as beautiful. To see ourselves, especially in our aging, as beautiful.
What my conception of beauty is, is love.
And everything is love.