Beauty is not a thing; it is an experience.

Beauty is when the mind says, "There is symmetry here and I must find it!" It is the great hunt, the quest for meaning. Once the mind finds a pattern, beauty dissipates like a mirage. It is in those phenomena that are never truly resolved, that demand at each look a new resolution, in which the human mind finds the most fascinating beauty.

The Mona Lisa would be just another example of High Renaissance portrait art if it weren't for that maddening slight curl on the left lip that drives you back again and again attempting to resolve it with the rest of the image. Beethoven can drive a hundred times the same simple motif in the first movement of his fifth symphony (and the same with his theme in the first movement of the Pastoral) because it never becomes truly resolved—it always leaves over this itchy feeling that it hasn't finished its business and its going to come back to get you.

Beauty is the sensation that accompanies the mind's most delightful and addictive activity, the experiencing of resolving and resolving again and again ad infinitum like Mandelbrot's fractals inside fractals in infinite sequence. This is what Rabbi Sholom Dovber, the fifth rebbe of Chabad wrote, that beauty is what the Zohar calls, "Tiferet Ha-ne'elam, the essence of the Infinite Light extended into Creation". In other words, a window on infinity.

Perhaps Truth, as well, is not about finding the number 42 by which all phenomena of the galaxy are explained, or as Niels Bohr described the job of a scientist, "reducing all the most fascinating mysteries to trivialities"—perhaps Truth is not a fact at all. Perhaps it, too, is an experiencing of reality, a hyper-awareness of the infinity within this attempt to resolve all things.

Beauty, it seems, is glued together with paradox. In the sefirot, it is Tiferet, placed at the center of all things, balancing opposites without really resolving a thing. Truth, as we generally understand it, abhors paradox and is the result of carefully ironing out and resolving all those bumps and dissonance of the incoming data. But the Truth of Torah is different: A surrender to the paradox of the Infinite.

Hegel decided that all coherent thought follows a pattern of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik claimed that in Jewish thought the synthesis is always a step beyond—like the artist's parallel lines of depth perception that meet at a vanishing point infinitely in the distance. The Rebbe took an even more radical approach in his thought: Over and over, he would search for the core paradox of an issue, which he then establishes as an essential truth upon which all reality relies.

It is concerning the object of beauty that wise Solomon says, "Charm is false and beauty is vain." But in the experiencing of beauty we open a window upon the infinite that is synonymous with the experience of truth. Throw out the chaff of the static object and focus upon the inner experience, seeking a beauty that will last forever, and you will find true beauty—and beautiful truth.

And Ugliness? Ugliness is when the mind takes one look and gives up.