An early afternoon storm 's first thunder was just starting up as I sat beside the campfire slicing okra pods. Above, you can see some of my slices on the chopping block
There were beautiful. I sat awhile just looking at them, wondering why the Universe was configured so that it hides beauty inside okra pods.
But, consensus among philosophers seems to be that "beauty" doesn't exist until someone comes along to notice it. "Beauty," like anger and being bashful, is in the beholder's head, so the Universe isn't hiding anything; I needed to rephrase the question to, "What does it mean that I personally find okra slices beautiful?
My first thought was that maybe the okra sections were beautiful because each was so neatly divided into pie-slice-shaped, green-walled compartments, and each compartment held a white ball, the future seed. In other words, maybe geometric orderliness lies at the heart of beauty.
It's true that people often find six-sided quartz crystals, intricately veined insect wings, diatoms floating in water, the structure of classic Greek buildings and other such geometrically orderly things beautiful. However, billowing, white cumulus clouds in summery blue skies are beautiful without geometric orderliness, and the geometric orderliness of Hitler's Nazi architecture was ponderous and oppressive, so geometric orderliness isn't at the heart of beauty.
In fact, the more I thought about it, and the more theories I proposed and then shot down as with "geometric orderliness," the clearer it grew that to answer my question I needed to change gears in thinking. Instead of sorting out the qualities of what I thought were beautiful things, and looking for revealing patterns, I needed to think cosmically. I needed once again to rephrase and refine the question to, "Why is the Universe ordered in such a way that I find slices of okra beautiful?"
A good-feeling answer immediately offered itself:
Beauty is the Universal Creative Impulse's way of letting each of us sentient, feeling beings in the Universe -- in a heartfelt, one-on-one communication -- know that we're on the right track. If this afternoon I think that an okra pod's cross section is beautiful, then the Universal Creative Impulse is encouraging me through the process of positive reinforcement -- because beauty feels good -- to keep gardening and growing okra, to keep snipping those pods into my hermit stews, to keep making campfires to cook the stew as tropical afternoon storms materialize....
A corollary of the above insight is that a life starved of beauty is a life on the wrong track.