My roommate and I have a tapestry hung in our living room that declares, “Be your own kind of beautiful.” This implies that the meaning of beauty varies, and even that each person creates his or her own definition of beautiful. Furthermore, we ascribe beauty to a number of images that draw contrary emotions. We behold an idyllic landscape and call it beautiful, then a novel wrought with sorrow, and even a suicide.
Are we applying the term too broadly, or does it simply have a broad meaning?
Culture, it might be argued, affects what a community accepts as beautiful. Standards of beauty change with history, as in China where bound feet once represented feminine beauty. From this perspective, beauty has meaning over subjectively; we adopt a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” stance. What, then, becomes of beauty’s position as a transcendental element?