Beauty is often associated with something that can be seen, an image that is not only pleasing to the eyes, but something that triggers the other four senses as well. Most aesthetic experiences can be described as a beautiful, out of the ordinary landscape or piece of art that no photograph or word can accurately describe unless it is experienced live, in that moment. Although this experience can be quite powerful and moving in the eye of the beholder, I believe that the most powerful aesthetic moment somebody could experience can not be seen, but rather heard. When you’re standing on a beautiful green meadow, no matter how illuminating and breath taking it is, you are limited to that beautiful green meadow. Listening to an illuminating and breathtaking piece of music, however, allows your imagination take you wherever it wants you to go. You are no longer limited to the beautiful green meadow.
To me, the aesthetic experience is one that stimulates imagination and senses to their fullest potential. When I am lost in a piece of instrumental music, I can feel the music on and around my body. I visualize myself on a journey to any place that corresponds with my emotions, and I can see, smell and taste my (imaginary) surroundings. Each sense that is provoked during my aesthetic experience becomes an aesthetic experience in itself. Gustav Holst’s Fantasia on The Dargason takes me to a grassy hillside where a cheerful leprechaun takes me by the hand and we skip merrily down the hill, defeating all that comes in our way. I can smell the fresh grass and feel the warm sun rays hitting my skin as we are lead to a giant rainbow and a pot of gold.
The fundamental element of of aesthetic experiences is that they are unlimited. There are no “rules” that dictate what people can and can not be fascinated with. The aesthetic journey that Fantasia on the Dargason takes me on will not be similar to the one it will take somebody else on. The same thing that provokes my imagination and senses may not have any effect whatsoever on somebody else. Similarly, one person can sit and think about something that fascinates them, not paying attention to their senses, and that is as much of an aesthetic experience as somebody that has their senses completely engaged and stimulated.
In my opinion, no matter how hard we try, aesthetic experiences can not be defined. We try to better understand them by creating a list of guidelines of what is and is not an aesthetic experience, but the truth of the matter is that the aesthetic experience is something that remains inside the individual. The only guidelines is that there are no guidelines, and self-awareness is the only tool to help you discover what aesthetics means to you.