Scene4 Magazine: Arthur Meiselman
Arthur Meiselman

Once again…

It's true, isn't it, that one person's beauty can be another's distaste as one view of ugliness can be another's view of beauty. How does it go?—To each his own! Yet I have no mitigating doubt that experiencing ugliness in one's surroundings, seeing it on a daily basis has a pervasive and profound effect on one's life.

I live in an ugly country—not the latent, panoramic beauty of America's countryside— rather it's cities and towns. Unlike many places in Europe or Asia, American cities, for the most part, have no center, no town plaza or square (if you show up in Seattle some time, you'd think you were in the layout of a downhill logging camp, which is probably how it was layed out). They're without focus, without a vision of coming together, of relationship. Here-and-there stunning architecture aside (some of Chicago and San Francisco come to mind), American cities are usually dirty, with black tar roadways, blandly shaped and blandly colored buildings, rude receptacles for mail and trash, gaudy, chaotic signage that even Terry Gilliam wouldn't use, and at night... horror-movie lighting. The homes, the houses—beyond banal, with a Walmart-packing-case motif, peaked roofs, colorless, uninviting, evoking the paranoid thought that if you entered one of them you wouldn't be able to tell whether you were on the inside or the outside of the house. And then there's Los Angeles…a collection of disconnected neighborhoods, mole's-eye views, wallpapered with billboards.

Italy's Florence was built on the concept that a person should be able to turn in a full circle and see nothing but dazzling architecture, lovely landscaping, beautiful sculpture, breath-taking art. In the beginning, they enforced a strict code regarding exterior decoration, kept the city exceptionally clean (think 15th century dirt!) and even administered a dress code. Naturally, it didn't last long. But if you walk through Florence today, close one eye and squint the other, you can see what they meant to do.

There were others: Macchu Pichu, Angkor Wat, others. Same fate.

And think about this: In your own habitat, your own rooms, your own bubble of a city, are you able to turn in a full circle and see whatever is beautiful to you, wherever your eyes rest? Yes, dear self-nibbler, beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. Or not. Which accounts for the voyeuristic surge of the television screen, the computer monitor and retina consuming smartphones.

No matter how much we believe that our inner visage protects us from the ugliness of the outer visage around us, unless we live in an aquarium or an igloo, it doesn't. We may believe that we can filter and ignore what is unpleasant to the intimate 'us' inside, but our eyes see, our ears hear and the dis-beauty flows in like John Carpenter's fog through the pores in the door.
More than what we eat, we are what we see.


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©2010 Arthur Meiselman
©2010 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the editor of Scene4.
He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
Read his Blog


Scene4 Magazine-inView

November 2010

Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

November 2010

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