I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty for the past few years—trying, with varying degrees of intensity, to figure out its component parts, its formula, its various balances.

So often, we say, “My, that's beautiful”—about a sunset, a song, a poem, a photograph, a painting, mountains in the distance, a school of fish, a novel, a religious rite, etc., etc. Why?

It does occur to me that this has been debated for milennia, so I very much doubt that I'll be able to contribute anything unique to the overall conversation, but it is nevertheless valuable to me and my art to at least explore the question pesonally.

Before I even start thinking specifically, I assume that reducing beauty to any kind of logical equation (which, if it really worked, would no doubt be beautiful) would be like a dog chasing its tail. It seems to me that beauty requires an element of surprise—being caught off guard. To define it would render it ineffective and powerless (even if that “newness” was built into the equation?).

Then there’s the whole question of the value of beauty in the first place. Can something that tastes bitter and ugly reveal itself to be beautiful, or are we just using the wrong word? Is “beauty” just simply not as specific as I’m wanting it to be? Why am I so preoccupied by this word?