Sunday, June 14, 2009

On beauty

Beauty has little to do with physical perfection. Beauty inhabits age; it inhabits decay. A rotting fence post, consumed by lichens, fungi and termites has beauty. A sheet of iron, distorted by weather, ill-used by man and pocked with rust has beauty. A bloom past its best, meltingly brown with weathered decay, epitomises beauty.

Human beauty must house life experience to flourish. This life experience is fueled by intellect, ethics, courage and loss. And each comes in differing quantities: painting beauty a myriad styles. Age alone is not sufficient. Not all aged people are beautiful; nor all young people merely pretty. As Maria twirled into the fabric before the mirror, she felt pretty. Many forms of narcissim are mere prettiness. In the 50s Tony Curtis was pretty, but as he aged his internal emptiness disolved this prettiness into grotesque ugliness. Vanessa Redgrave's intellect and commitment transformed her youthful prettiness into the most becoming of beauty.

Beauty is not the result of makeup, airbrushing or cutting and stretching. Crows feet and creases have an inherent beauty that botox can erase but cannot replicate. Beauty resides within the listener moreso than the speaker. Beauty radiates from quiet meditation rather than the garrulous spotlight. Assuaging an inner emptiness with alcohol, nicotine and amphetamines ravages all prettiness, converting it into a walking grotesqerie.


Beauty grows as a life is lived naturally: without bitterness, with sincerity, without jealousy, with intellect, ethically, courageously and in response to love. Beauty has everything to do with acceptance: of self, of others and of time.

13 comments:

Joan Elizabeth said...

This post has got me thinking. I just don't know my position on this beauty in age thing. I think of flowers at their peak of perfection or that dewy translucence of a young childs skin and I think ... oh I will mull it over a little longer.

freefalling said...

Your granma really is adorable as an old lady - of all the images on this screen - that is the one I am drawn too.

So...I read this 4 times.
It is so beautifully expressed and so true!
I think you are right - acceptance.

(poor old tony curtis)

Julie said...

What I am challenging, Joan, is the definition of beauty. As soon as a child is born, things in that body start to age and die. Our society is based on purely a youthful definiton of beauty. And yes, they contain elements that are very beautiful ... but we need to appreciate a broader definition. I have given a definition and tried to explain how I have arrived at that definition.

Ann said...

Redgrave's beauty shines from within. I stumbled across Curtis on a chat show recently - took me about 15 minutes to realise who it was - absolutely grotesque. A young unlined face is pretty, not beautiful, experience and depth of character adds beauty.

Dutchcloggie said...

I am a long-time believer in the outside-reflects-inner beauty theory. Also, I find people and their bodies more interesting if there is a story to tell. What is there to tell about a body with perfect skin, no wrinkles etc? Not much. But a scar tells a story, be it a big one from surgery, or a small one from when you scratched your arm when falling into the river years ago on a camping trip. Bodies and faces are like paper.

Would you be entertained staring at a blank piece of paper for long? I wouldn't.

altadenahiker said...

Your grandma and the flower series -- that's really lovely.

Now let me kick this around a bit. There's something in my head about one type of beauty that has elements of seduction, which the other doesn't.

In other words, our reaction to the two types of beauty are quite different. (Altho, I must say, Redgrave has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen.)

Joan Elizabeth said...

Still thinking on this. Just thought you'd like to know how much I enjoy the way you make me think.

Julie said...

Yes, that is pleasing to know.

Just like that comment that Karin (AH) made about seduction. I waited about 12 hours and had a comment ready to press but deleted it. Not quite just right. I am not sure that young people are seductive or whether they are just using their physical power. Then I realised that I was not sure what seduction was.

I return to back field and chew a while longer ...

Café Chick said...

I agree with your comments about beautiful. Often it is simplicity, or even imperfection, which is more appealing. And yet society chases stereotypes. Very thought provoking.

Julie said...

Hello, Cafe Chick. Welcome ...

That is a useful thought: imperfection. I am drawn to what I think of as "damaged" people and steer clear of "the beautiful people" because they might sneer and be condescending to me, a mere mortal. I am always shocked to the core when I have judged the book and the cover turns out to be false.

altadenahiker said...

Me too. I'm still chewing.

Sally said...

How about the revelation that's they're allocating centre court matches at Wimbeldon (for women players) based on beauty!

Julie said...

Just mind boggling ... and they justify it because that is what sells the tickets ... I really dont know what to say about this ... just sit here shaking my head!!