Imagine, as an adjunct to your five or six senses, a symbiotic ability of your neurological and electromagnetic systems, an extra sense located perhaps in the pit of your stomach. Wherever that clichéd location may be. See it as a glowing, vibrating spot with feathery antennae like a moth on a moonlit night. We will call it your aesthetometer.
Let it measure beauty. And, to pander to all beauties in the eyes of all beholders, let it measure your interpretation of beauty.
How acute is your aesthetometrics? Does beauty hit you like a fist to the solar plexus? Does it leave you nauseous and panting for breath?
I have, at last, found a name for this malady. I am, for better or worse, an aesthete. My aesthetometer pings at the slightest breath of beauty, as fine-tuned as the needle of a seismograph picking up rumblings in the earth’s tectonic plates a hundred miles hence. It trembles and flutters at a drop of colour, a veil of light, a note on the air.
Beauty does something to me. As other creatives are affected by pain or love or unfairness, I am blown away by beauty. It grips me by the throat, so that I want to cry out “Look! Look! Listen! Isn’t it beautiful?”
The colours and composition of summer fruit in a bowl, the sliced surface of a red cabbage, the way the trees dance in a forest, the smell of a lily, the clear call of a butcher bird – I am overloaded with impulses, brimful with beauty, and I don’t know what to do with it. I lack the skills to reproduce it or even to reinterpret it in art or writing. It is beyond me.
This is perhaps where photographers have an advantage – the ability to precisely capture beauty in an instant and hold on to its mercurial attraction. In a next life, I would perhaps choose such a direct way to deal with beauty.
But here and now I groan inside because I cannot sing. I limp because I cannot dance. I shed words like tears, blurry and inadequate. Because, as Joyce Kilmer put it so beautifully
“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”