Beauty is defined as a quality that delights. This quality may be manifested as a form, action or sound that delights the perceiver. In order for a form to be perceived as beautiful, it must possess three qualities. These are wholeness, balance or symmetry and “quiditas” – the whatness or integrity of what something is (its natural appearance). In an ideal or perfect form, the qualities taken together project radiance. Difficult to clearly define with words, but we all know it when we experience it. Wholeness and symmetry are about the way things fit together within a given boundary. The frame around a painting, for example, is such a boundary. But we are aware of boundaries without having to think about them. The image of a bird sitting on the limb of a tree represents two separate (but connected) bounded conditions.

The face represents a bounded condition. In order to be perceived as beautiful, it must project wholeness, symmetry and its integrity as a face. If is looks artificial (an unnatural appearance produced by plastic surgery) it cannot, by definition, be perceived as beautiful. Even if the signs of aging have been radically reduced, an unnaturally appearing face will not delight, and cannot be perceived as beautiful. Aesthetics is the ability to experience, at a feeling level, how things fit together. Wisdom is the ability to experience, at a knowing level, how things fit together. They are two sides of the same coin. One could say they are respectively right and left brain ways of experiencing something. The right brain experience is difficult to articulate with words.

The way beautiful things fit together has more to do with the ratio of how parts fit together to make up the whole. We, as perceivers, are genetically programmed to experience certain ratios as beautiful. These ratios are the relationships between parts and can be expressed by numbers. This was first understood in the East by the Egyptians and later in the West by the experiments of Pythagoras, the father of western science and art. What these ancients determined is that certain ratios produce beauty in what we see and hear. This is true whether it is the proportional harmony in a butterfly’s wings, a Mozart symphony, the legs and arms of a ballerina or the structural design of the Parthenon Temple in ancient Greece. The details are different but the way the parts fit together (the ratio) are very similar. These ratios or balances among parts are critical to an understanding of the aesthetic nature of the human form. There are objective criteria for this and well done plastic surgery will reflect an understanding of this importance. Surgery that distorts anatomical boundaries or produces disproportionate relationships between body parts is not aesthetically pleasing. A hair line pulled back too far after a face lift or breasts too large in relation to the rest of the body is not good aesthetic surgery. The elimination of facial lines at the expense of an unnatural appearance is not an intelligent nor reasonable trade-off. It is certainly not an aesthetic trade-off. If you can tell that a stranger has had surgery, you are experiencing, at a feeling level that things are not fitting together in a natural and aesthetically pleasing way. People who choose an unnatural appearance in order to lessen the signs of aging have lost sight of the forest through the trees. Instead of seeing their face or bodies as a whole (the forest), they focus on the lines or breast size (the trees).

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