For example, I really dislike the movie The Fifth Element. I could easily write a long essay on everything I think is wrong with it. If pressed, I would have a difficult time finding one redeeming quality about it (maybe the blue opera singer... she was kinda cool). Yet, for one of my dear friends, it is one of her top 10 favorite movies. What does she see, that I don't? How does this movie speak to her in a way that otherwise just escapes me? Conversely, my favorite movie of all-time is The Crow. Yet I'll be the first person to tell you that it's not an Oscar-caliber movie, that it can sometimes be cheesy and that it sometimes plays like one long music video. Even with knowing all its flaws, why does it still hold such a special place in my heart?
A while back, I wrote about popular songs that dealt with loss of a loved one. I found songs like "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton or "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan to be beautiful songs in their own way, but I also felt like they were cliche hallmark cards that didn't speak truthfully about loss. They didn't strike me emotionally as did the song "Cancer" by My Chemical Romance. Is it because one song is better than another, technically? Is it the style of music? Speaking of styles of music, I can listen to some styles of rock music and be totally moved, while someone else can listen to it and hear "noise and screaming".
In yet another example, the book club I belong to decided to read one of my favorite books, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It's a book I've read over and over again, I love it so much. Yet several of the book club members found it incredibly depressing, a chore to get through and just not very good. How could something that is so cherished and dear to me, be such a pain for someone else to read?
I think the answer to this question is that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. More specifically, we all approach art through the lens of our own experiences. We may have all experienced being in love, or the loss of a loved one, but we all express it in different ways. So what may speak to one person’s heart, may not to another, yet both works may stand on their own merits. That's what is so beautiful about the arts: they are so varied in their ways of communicating and connecting to people. I try very hard to remember this, and to be open to experiencing other art that may not necessarily be my cup of tea. Even if it doesn't speak to me personally, I just might learn something, and I think it helps me to learn more about the person who recommended it to me.