Beauty is a short-lived tyranny. – Socrates
What does that mean?
In the age of Botox and plastic surgery, Beauty can be a much longer-lived tyranny than Socrates first believed. 8)
This saying is particularly interesting to me, as I believe this had different meanings to Men and Women. To Men, I believe the tyranny of beauty is all the things they do to entice it, capture it, and keep it, only to find that, like a flower, it only lasts so long.
To Women, I believe the tyranny of beauty is the effort and time (and, often, no small amount of pain – waxing comes to mind) required to be considered beautiful, and, for as long as they can, stave off the inevitable effects of aging.
So, for the purpose of this post, let’s get a definition of beauty, shall we? At thefreedictionary.com, it says beauty is “The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses…”
Wow! Doesn’t that sound like it is going to be incredibly subjective? Historically, there have been many odd (by modern ‘civilized’ society) definitions of beauty, including: small (bound) feet, oblong (bound) heads, stretched necks (long), pierced and stretched ears & lips, patterned scaring & tattoos. These definitions of beauty tended to be long term (multiple lifetimes), so you didn’t have to worry about tastes changing during your lifetime.
However, many of these modifications, were often debilitating to greater or lesser degrees. And women today complain about the pain of fashionable shoes. In the present, hair, hemlines, heels & makeup change with the season. Fortunately, other than the financial investment, there isn’t too much pain involved with the change in tastes.
Why is beauty important?
In the most ancient of times, beauty meant health. For the ability to continue the next generation, strength and health were the primary measures of beauty. As survival became less challenging, the definition of beauty began to take on local character. Some of the more bizarre (by my standards, at least) were mentioned earlier.
So why is beauty pursued so enthusiastically? Is it just wanting to be wanted? The desiring to be desired? A societal norm that, true to our tribal roots, we try to conform to? Does it go beyond the desire to have “arm candy” (or to be such), or is that about it? That’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know. This is an intensely personal value call as to what constitutes beauty, and also a hard-wired aspect of the human animal.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As an older man, I have largely freed myself from the tyranny of beauty, in that it no longer dominates my every waking thought (and many un-waking thoughts). I still enjoy it, and appreciate it, but my definition has changed, as has where I look for it.
For most cultures, health is still the primary measure. Most of the basic aspects of beauty are designed to augment the appearance of health, and the preparedness to continue the next generation. This applies to the appearance of both young men and young women, so I’m told.
But why is physical beauty considered so important? I never did get that aspect of life, and still don’t. Perhaps I was dropped on my head as an infant. I find beauty in a person’s heart and in their mind to be far more important and useful than just a pretty face.
How many of you have dated someone because of a physical beauty, only to find there was no depth? How satisfying was that relationship, how long did it last? (guys, quit snickering, ok?) Now, think of the longer lasting relationships you’ve been in. Was there something besides beauty to hold it together, or was the physical beauty sufficient?
For those who are a little older, reflect on how your values have changed over time. Has physical beauty become a little less important? Is that because it’s harder to find, or has your definition of beauty changed, as has the emphasis? As with so much of life, there is no right or wrong answers (within societal and legal limits, we’ve all seen the “dirty old man” with a barely legal hottie or the cougar with the young hunk). At what point does the pursuit of physical beauty become comical, farcical or even disgusting?
It is my contention that the world would be a happier and healthier place if we put as much emphasis on inner beauty as we do on outward beauty. What do you think?
From: Twitter, @AncientProverbs
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/socrates117827.html
Photo by mijori