Pictured: Adian Imbrogno-Mastin
Photos by Anastasia Condolon | Photo illustration by Isabella Teague
Beauty is a quality that has no boundaries, no objective definition. Everyone has a different perception of what beauty is — perhaps that in itself is beautiful.
“Beauty is something that makes the world seem more full to you,” said Amanda Cooper, a senior Creative Writing major. “Whether you are looking at a painting, or you’re with someone, or you’re seeing something — whatever it is in that moment, your perception of life and the world becomes fuller because of it, and it changes some aspect of our larger worldview.”
People find beauty in many different things: towering trees against a snow-capped mountain, a canvas covered with the intricate paint strokes of an artist, the harmonious sounds of voices and instruments together. Although these are all vastly different, they are bound by the same theme.
Beauty in nature
Most everyone can agree that the things of nature are beautiful. Earth is covered with diverse ecosystems that 8.7 million species call home, according to the National Geographic Society. Scientists have only identified 1.2 million of these species as of 2019.
Each organism is unique, possessing different qualities that make them look and behave differently.
Chris Doran, professor of Religion and founder of the Sustainability minor, is a scuba diver who spends much of his time underwater. While roaming the ocean, he said he finds beauty in the fact that a lot of people never get to see the creatures that he does.
“The different colors that you see underwater, the different ways of living – you know, creatures live differently underwater,” Doran said. “I think that there’s something beautiful to that.”
Doran values growth in nature.
All living things are constantly growing and adapting. Even after a harsh winter or a fire, there is always new growth.
“I’ve lived through a bunch of fires here in the Malibu area,” Doran said. “And seeing green things pop up out of the ash has always been an interesting sign of beauty for me because it’s just a reminder that life can come out of death.”
Beauty in art
Scientists and mathematicians often link together symmetry and beauty, Ian McManus, University College London professor, wrote in a European Review journal article. However, the majority of artists find asymmetry to be more aesthetic.
“A genuineness, or an honesty or maybe even a freshness about a painting,” Art Professor Gretchen Batcheller said. “You can look at a work of art, and it doesn’t feel super refined, and it doesn’t feel super perfected.”
Imperfections and struggles lead to beauty. Where there is struggle, there is room for growth, and growth, Batcheller said, is beautiful. She always tells her students that if they’re struggling, then that means they are learning.
As an art professor, Batcheller believes that beauty in artwork is found not only in the colors and design of a piece but also in the meaning behind it.
“Beauty for one person might be a painting of a vase of flowers,” Batcheller said. “And the other one might be a slab of meat that’s hanging there, but they see and interpret it.”
Beauty in music
Senior Lily Piekos is a singer-songwriter and uses the power of music to influence others.
“Music is the one language that all across the world no matter what your language, no matter what your culture — you can find beauty in the melodies of music or the way a violin sounds or a voice sounds,” Piekos said.
Piekos finds beauty in the way musicians can create a song in any genre, and no matter what, it will provoke some sort of emotion in someone.
Music, for Piekos, is a metaphor for diversity among humans. The melody and different harmonies within a song compliment each other to create something beautiful.
“I think that when music plays and we feel something — you’re tasting a little bit of what being in the presence of Jesus feels like,” Piekos said.
Beauty in philosophy and religion
“Beauty is a cognitive phenomenon, a subjective experience,” sophomore Philosophy major Adian Imbrogno-Mastin said. “I think that beauty is freedom from categorical associations.”
Philosophers like Plato and Socrates have studied why one person’s view of beauty is different from others for thousands of years, and still, there is no consensus.
“The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness,” Aristotle wrote in his book “Metaphysics.”
Most of the ancient philosophers concluded that people find beauty in perfection, but that doesn’t explain why some find imperfection beautiful too.
A person’s definition of beauty is completely dependent on their opinion and understanding of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it all stems from one thing, Great Books Professor Paul Contino said.
“All beauty has its source in God,” Contino said.
Whether it be Earth itself, a piece of art or a song, the Bible affirms that God has His hand in creation one way or another, Contino said. The author of Ecclesiastes 3:11 writes, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Beauty in people
Many Pepperdine students said people and the memories people make with one another are beautiful.
Whether it be the natural beauty of the human face or beauty within, the word ‘beautiful’ has always been a descriptive word for people.
Imbrogno-Mastin admires his girlfriend, Marley Penagos, a sophomore Currents production assistant.
“What first comes to mind when I think of beauty is my wonderful girlfriend – she’s absolutely beautiful,” Imbrogno-Mastin said.
Cooper finds beauty in the time that people spend with one another.
“I think that there is a lot of beauty in human connection and those smaller moments,” Cooper said.
Cooper recalled that a lot of her most beautiful memories are the last moments that she was together with all of her friends before the pandemic.
“A moment of beauty is when you don’t know it’s about to be the end of something before it is,” Cooper said. “But it feels like the last good moment that you’re sharing with a group of people.”
The definition of beauty is subjective. Some people are attracted to the vibrancy of a sunset, while others find beauty in the classical notes of a piano. Some believe that beauty flows from symmetry, while others admire imperfections.
No matter how someone may choose to define beauty, everyone’s perception is rooted in the same truth.
“All beauty is rooted in goodness, and goodness is the truth,” Piekos said.
Email Lydia duPerier: Lydia.firstname.lastname@example.org