At any time, and under any circumstances of human interest, is it not strange to see how little real hold the objects of the natural world amid which we live can gain on our hearts and minds? We go to Nature for comfort in trouble, and sympathy in joy, only in books. Admiration of those beauties of the inanimate world, which modern poetry so largely and so eloquently describes, is not, even in the best of us, one of the original instincts of our nature.
Beauty! Wasn't that what mattered? Beauty was hardly a popular ideal at that jumpy moment in history. The masses had been desensitized to it, the intelligentsia regarded it with suspicion. To most of her peers, 'beauty' smacked of the rarefied, the indulgent, the superfluous, the effete. How could persons of good conscience pursue the beautiful when there was so much suffering and injustice in the world? Ellen Cherry's answer was that if one didn't cultivate beauty, soon he or she wouldn't be able to recognize ugliness. The prevalence of social ugliness made commitment to physical beauty all the more essential. And the very presence in life of double-wide mobile homes, Magic Marker graffiti, and orange shag carpeting had the effect of making ills such as poverty, crime, repression, pollution, and child abuse seem tolerable. In a sense, beauty was the ultimate protest, and, in that it generally lasted longer than an orgasm, the ultimate refuge. The Venus de Milo screamed 'No!' at evil, whereas the Spandex stretch pant, the macrame plant holder were compliant with it. Ugly bedrooms bred ugly habits. Of course, it wasn't required of beauty that it perform a social function. That was what was valuable about it.
Steve's throat swelled with tension as the intimacy of the moment became more tangible. He moved his eyes from the dark, reflective river, to the dark, reflective pupils in Diane's eyes. They seemed to quiver with tenderness - but then they would grow distant. He found himself continually surprised at the "aliveness" of the person standing just a foot away from him now. She wasn't inanimate: she would flinch if he pinched her, and answer if he asked her. And she was beautiful." -- From "The Grand Unified Story" -- a short story in Zack Love's Stories and Scripts: an Anthology
Summer sticks to her skirt sumptuously, in the shiny gray fabric hanging loosely from her curves. Her chestnut eyes, apparently hidden from strangers; her simple but graceful face, unpainted by Madison Avenue; and her straight black hair, parted down the middle without ego, all suggest a minimalist - almost pastoral - beauty that is oddly discordant with her fashionable attire, comfortable indifference to the crowds, and quasi-attentive perusal of the Time magazine unfolded over her hand.