I’m not much of a poet. When I was in high school, I went on a Shakespearean Sonnet binge. Iambic pentameter isn’t the easiest form to write comfortably in (and in truth I have trouble with haiku) but I soldiered on and pounded out three or four dozen at least. They were all lost when the book that they were written in drowned. We had this hardbound volume which we called “The Wreckord” that we passed around our circle of friends. Everyone could write or draw anything they wanted. In theory the contents of “The Wreck” were for consumption of the group only, but I’m pretty certain that thing found its way into the hands of various people that shouldn’t have had access.
While I was in high school, the Beauty and the Beast television series with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton was running. I latched onto the show, the concept of the Beast (named Vincent, played by Perlman) being raised a poet and scholar to help tame his savagery reeling me in. Vincent wrote letters (what a concept) to Linda Hamilton’s Catherine, and this strange romance fueled my imagination.
I was in love at the time. It was a classic teenage conundrum. I’d fallen for one of my closest friends. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t anything more to her than that, and for the better part of two years I agonized if I should protect the friendship and suffer in silence, or try to make more of it and potentially fail – but potentially succeed! Always a pragmatist, I chose to do the worst possible thing. I suffered in silence for two years, until my willpower broke and I tried to take her on a real date. This was 1989, so I will maintain that I was friendzoned a long, long before it was given a label.
She wasn’t considered the prettiest girl in our class, nor was she the most popular. I loved her personality, her humor and her boundless positivity. She was the prettiest girl in class, to me. All of the emotion that I was channeling through Shakespeare, writing in The Wreck, following Vincent and Catherine on the telly and wishing that I could write that perfect letter than would convey my feelings to HER, it all came crashing down into the friend zone.
When I think back to that time in quiet moments, I can still feel it. It still brings tears, sometimes. I will always, always believe that the beauty of all of it is what makes it one of the few truly raw, human emotions that I have felt in my life. Of course anyone that isn’t me will never understand it. Some may have had a similar experience, and can have empathy with me. It’s still never going to be the same.
So yes, experiencing beauty must necessarily be an absolute subjective thing. It’s in the details, the degrees, the tones and hues and taste and smell of the moment. Even two people experiencing the same exact thing at the same exact time will react differently, for we are all unique.
When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
– William Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIX