Beauty Response and the Importance of Definitions

So, my beauty piece got a response essay on CM. That’s good, since it’s a sure sign people were talking about it. It’s okay for the most part; a lot of reacting to things I didn’t say and emphasizing points I specifically mentioned. I notice that whenever you say something positive, people automatically read a lot of negatives into it: if I say ‘beauty is real and important’ people read ‘physical appearance is the measure of a woman’s worth and men don’t have to worry about it.’ She also confuses attraction and beauty, which most people do these days and which I didn’t have time to deal with.

But here’s the one part that really bugged me, just because this is a pet peeve of mine:

Okay, so what did the article miss?

1. That all women are beautiful, regardless of form or figure.

Women are God’s crowning glory. We were created at the peak of creation, after all other creatures and beings (aka rough drafts), and each one us holds the immense power to create life within ourselves. I mean, our physical forms can’t get more amazing.

The catch in the other article is that “beautiful” seems to refer to the type of women who stop you in your tracks walking down the street. But that should not mean that all other, more “ordinary” women are not beautiful.

For clarity’s sake, let’s just reiterate: every female form is the peak of creation! Regardless of shape, figure, size, flavor, or color.

I don’t say this to be mean, but no, not every woman is beautiful in any meaningful sense of the word. Yes, the female form and body is amazing for its powers and dignities, but that’s not the same thing as beauty (‘Nobility’ or ‘majesty’ would be a better adjective, conveying the idea of ‘worthy of honor’).

A lot of people like to say “all women are beautiful since they are all God’s creations.” But to say that someone is beautiful because they are a creature of God is to make ‘beautiful’ synonymous with ‘exists.’ And while it may be a good thing to remind someone she exists, there are already plenty of words to convey it. But beauty is such a unique and difficult concept that philosophers have struggled to define it for millenia. Our language is muddled enough; we don’t need to keep watering it down.

Besides, ‘you are beautiful because you are made by God’ is praise that could just as accurately be offered to a cockroach. It is a glorious thing to be a creature of God, but it is hardly a distinguishing compliment.

Not only that, but to insist that ‘all women are beautiful’ is to say that a woman’s worth is dependent upon her beauty, because the implication is that to say otherwise is to imply a lack of worthiness. To say ‘not all women are beautiful’ is to render beauty inessential to a woman. It is a glorious thing, but a woman who lacks beauty has no less dignity or worth than one who does.

The trouble is that words stripped of their meaning are stripped also of their power. To expand the definition of a word so as to comfort those who don’t fall within its scope will not actually help anything, like how receiving participation trophies doesn’t actually boost anyone’s self esteem. There is no magic in words, only in ideas, and people generally understand where the idea ends. To have the word and not the idea; to be told that you are what you yourself know you are not isn’t actually comforting. Quite the reverse, actually; it encourages resentment.

Did you ever notice that the leveling of standards has been accompanied by an increase in resentment? That the more you try to tell people they are equal in fact and not just in principle, the more of both envy and arrogance they show? The more someone is encouraged to say ‘I’m as good as you,’ the angrier he becomes at the voice of reason telling him that he isn’t.

It’s one thing to be denied something entirely; it’s quite another to be given a sham replica, or to be given the title, but none of the honors. It’s better just to be honest and say that this particular title is not for you, but you’re no less worthy as a person because of it.

 

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Catholic Match: On Beauty

My latest post is up on CatholicMatch, in which I get to quote St. Augustine, The Lord of the Rings, and My Little Pony all in the service of beauty.

That is why I hate the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and consider it a grotesque blasphemy. To turn that which so completely removes our gaze from ourselves and twists it into a mere statement of our own reactions—in fact to turn our gaze back upon ourselves—is the sensual equivalent of an auto-immune disease, akin to making your charitable works a demonstration of your own piety. Like so much in our modern culture, it invokes compassion to tempt us to self-centeredness.

No, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is not something we project upon the world around us, but something that we meet and respond to. It is undeniable reality. As St. Augustine said, if you question the beauty of created things, they themselves will answer you “Here, look; we are beautiful,” and in so doing, point to the glory of their Creator.

The natural response, the one we ought to have, is to admire beauty and to be thankful for it. When we meet beauty in the form of a woman (which is the greatest form of beauty we normally meet in this life), it can inspire the first beginnings of love.

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Read the rest and see what you think.

 

Saturday Sundry

  • Publishing of my new book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney is planned for sometime next week. I originally planned to publish it this week, but needed more time for editing and such.
  • I’ve had a notion that I’ve been trying to make into a suitable essay: this increasing insanity we see in public discourse is partly a manifestation of the style of thinking that we’ve been taught in our school system. You see, our schools, by and large, don’t teach us to actually think or reason logically. Instead, we’re told (in essence), “this is the right answer. This is the wrong answer. Good people pick the right answer, bad people pick the wrong one.” Tell me that the vast majority of issues presented to the public aren’t presented in this kind of ‘right-answer-wrong-answer” pattern: Global Warming, same-sex marriage, ‘Transgender’ rights, racism, ‘Islamophobia,’ and on and on.
  • Planning to do the videos about every two weeks. Hopefully the next one will go a little easier, since Land Before Time was a lot of work. And I’ve discovered that years as a bitter recluse have left my voice a little…off. Maybe it’s just me, but recording’s kinda difficult, and I think I sound strange. Anyway, I’ll announce what the next film to be reviewed will be early this week.
  • I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo this week. It was about mid-way through that I realized “Wait a second: this a book where the hero is a Bond villain!” Think about it; he’s got his secret island lair, unfathomable riches, a beautiful mistress/henchwoman, exotic henchmen, untraceable poisons, and he’s an urbane, sophisticated man enacting an elaborate scheme of vengeance. Absolute Bond villain!
  • And a little beauty to finish up:
Giotto_Polittico-Baroncelli_Firenze-Santa-Croce

-Polittico Baroncelli, by Giotto