There have been a number of documentaries in the last several years exploring standards of beauty around the world. Regardless of the technological level of the people studied or their connections with the rest of the world, researchers found that people responded most favorably to human features with Golden Section proportions – the same proportions we see all the time in classical Greek and Roman sculpture.
It is also interesting that the same proportions used for sacred architecture keep showing up all around the world. I wonder why this is, and I’ve heard lots of theories (the Atlantean Diospora is one of the coolest). However, I think the answer is a little more basic.
Human beings are hardwired to appreciate beauty. I’m not talking about manufactured expectations of beauty like the elongated forms so popular in the fashion industry, I’m talking about the gut-level reaction most of us get when we see something like Yosemite or Yellowstone for the first time, or Michelangelo’s Pieta. When Sultan Mehmed II first stepped foot into the Hagia Sophia, he reportedly was so impacted by its beauty he commanded his soldiers to protect it from looters – and this beautiful Christian church has influenced sacred Muslim architecture ever since.
This sculpture is based on the use of the Golden Ratio brought into 3D, with a dried pomegranate suspended in the center. The colors blue and green with the overlapping patterns of leaves and flowers are indicative of Paradise, and the pomegranate has been used to represent the fruit of knowledge in many ancient cultures. The intersecting planes are cut with holes so we can see all the way – but as we shift our perspective the view changes, some things are revealed and others hidden. And the structure is tied with hemp as a recognition of the role books have in the process of sharing and learning, and in particular the Qur’an. Knowledge is vital to us as human beings, but knowledge without the guiding structure and awareness of beauty is a sad and desperate thing.
When we see something truly beautiful and we find ourselves resonating to it, I believe this was put into us as a guide – not only to find those things which lead us to become better individuals, but help us to appreciate the Source of all beauty, the Creator. God can literally do anything He wants, and He chose to make us so we enjoy beauty.
How cool is that?