here's a blast from the past (almost 10 years). during this holiday season's annual archaeological dig in my mom's garage, i found the mini-speech i wrote for my high school's academic decathalon team. i'm really tempted to destroy-via-edit it, because after grad school, this drab sounds just plain awful to me. but here it is, in all its guileless glory:
"if eyes were meant for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being." these words by ralph waldo emerson express how civilization appears to be built and controlled upon the adoration of beauty. but what is beautiful? what is beauty, anyway? jon keats defines it frankly, "beauty is truth, and truth is beauty." throughout history, civilizations have found beauty in different states. ancient greek societies found beauty in ideal and mathematical proportions applied to their architecture. the ultimate renaissance man, leonardo da vinci, found beauty in the art of learning; as throughout his life, he vigorously attempted to learn just about everything about everything. american abstract expressionist, jasper johns, found it in a couple of bronze-covered aluminum cans of pale-ale.
instead of classifying beauty in varied categories of music, literature, drama, painting, or anything specified as a "fine art," today, our societies often limit beauty to the physical or superficial. we are focused on exterior aesthetics, a celebration of the various faces of beauty. and we spend too much time, thought, and energy on appearances when we should really be focusing on what makes us happy - pure beauty and the celebration of the human soul.
why when we glance in the bedroom mirror do we desire to see a barbie-body staring back at us? americans justify this superficial lifestyle by spending over $32 million dollars a year on miraculous exercise equipment, fantastic fad-diets, and magical medication to match the many modern faces within today's international and life-threatening beauty culture. one of my pet-peeves is the before and after photographs incorporated into never-ending infomercials. millions of people all around the world continuously buy into touching anecdotes although the comparisons are clearly as fake as the product being sold, as fake as the desperate and burnt-out actor of a salesman, and as fake as this theory that beauty is limited to appearance. in the end, scholars and researchers have inferred that if the 50-something year old, influential and fabulously famous Barbie doll were indeed a real woman, she would have to prace to her trendy hot pink corvette on all fours. her perfect proportions are both unhealthy and unrealistic.
but would we truly be happy if we all reflected the 99 lbs computer-enhanced models glorified on all of the top-notch fashion magazines? we would be so caught up in a world full of cover girls and ken dolls, that we would overlook all that is true and real. everything would be primarly judged on appearance, and if we were to base our lives and relationships soley on appearances, we would only find people who soley base their lives and relationships on appearance, and the beauty within the human spirit would simply vanish. suddenly beauty would become a contradiction of itself. poet thomas campion illustrated beauty in its most horrific state, "beauty is but a painted hell, she wounds them that admire it, she kills them that desire it. give her pride but fuel, no fire is more cruel." but beauty does not have to be stroked so violently and beaten into a manipulative vanity.
people have it all wrong. beauty is not a look, it's an attitude, a state of mind. i recall a time when a few friends and i were casually scanning a magazine and gawking at all of the cookie-cutter models, and one of my friends said something that i will never forget, "they might be pretty, but they aren't beautiful." beauty is not conforming to a look, but embracing diversity. beauty is living within reality. and reality is more diverse, complex, and layered with more double-chins, love-handles, and more thunder-thighs than we think. beauty is accepting our shape, finding ourselves, discovering and celebrating our identity. beauty is recognizing what makes us unique and finding our purpose. celebrating and accepting that we may never be crowned one of people magazine's "50 most beautiful people," i think that is beautiful.
bleh. these days, i prefer to hear denis dutton's thoughts on beauty: