August 9, 2006
That is at once an
over-statement, and an under-statement, as you will see...
The Case Against Beauty
Let me start by agreeing with the statement: Beauty is indeed only skin-deep. It is not
everything. It is but a superficial veneer. It doesn't represent one's
core. Come to think about it, it's not even that. Often, beauty is only
cosmetics layer deep. It's not even to the skin level. It's more illusion
Beauty is also fleeing & elusive: Such shallow and unreal phenomenon
exists only moment by moment, and only from certain angles and specific distances.
Subtle calibration of expressions and poses result in drastic shift in
Case in point: As photographer, I'm keenly aware that even the most
mundane objects and humans alike, can be rendered beautifully―upon careful
manipulation and massive coordination of: placement & orientation, distance
& perspective, lighting sources & conditions, color saturation & hue,
emphasis & de-emphasis (hiding). It's all about the magic of rendering rare
specific instances of the 3D universe into pleasing 2D images.
Beauty is undefined, or as it is often said―in the eyes of
the beholder. It has
as much to do with the subjective beholder as it does with the objective
beauty itself. Psychological insights in conjunction with cultural
understanding are paramount in creating appealing images for any given
Beauty could be destructive. Many a war had stemmed from precisely such
The Case For Beauty
Following that barrage of dismissal, you might begin to feel that beauty is
utterly over-rated. I shall now demonstrate that beauty is also nothing to sneer at:
- Beauty is a virtue. It's something to strive for, with comparable
importance to being polite, or any other provisions to make your guests
- The desire and need for beauty is universal, inherent and
insuppressible. It's one
of the proven basic laws of nature.
- Beauty is constructive, and is credited as catalyze to advancement
- Beauty provides intrinsic values, and under the right circumstances―tangible benefits.
- Beauty is inspirational, and hence brings meaning to life.
- Beauty can be timeless.
Defense & Clarification
Many people do things related to beauty that are clearly objectionable.
- Unduly discriminating against those lacking (or simply not touting)
- Imprudently elevate beauty to trump higher order & more fundamental values.
- Over-doing it to offensive scale, often with excessive emphasis
in sexual arousal.
- Beauty as disguise, is a device of dishonesty to achieve rouge
- Use beauty as weapons, shields, means to cheat, or in other immoral
However, none of them is actually against beauty itself. People often
confuse them with the offenders' behavior―the root
cause of objections. In a case of zeal, or sheer ignorance, many see it fit
to demonize beauty, as a way to promote other "real" values. Truth be told,
beauty and morals are not mutually exclusive.
Let it be known that most
vocal critics who publicly denounce and ridicule beauty, are in fact (naturally) themselves secret admirers
and seekers of (or otherwise
receptive to) beauty, and therefore considered hypocrites.
Things are seldom quantifiable in a single 1-dimensional attribute.
Beauty is no exception. It is a complex, multi-facet issue with a myriad of
criteria. There is a time and place for form over function, and vice versa.
Beauty exists in more forms than one, and is not necessarily linked to
lust. Beauty is neither all-important nor un-important. It is at times
virtuous, and at others, down right evil. At its best:
Beauty, truth and
goodness are one and the same. At its worst: Abuse of beauty
exemplifies the flaws and ugliness of humankind.
I submit to you that an undistorted and comprehensive
understanding of beauty is essential, in order to competently address such
wide-ranging topics as: public relations, marital problems, social utility,
truth, purposes, and advancement of humankind.
Back when I was around 12, during a beauty pageant, there was much
passionate debate among my friends. Naturally, we each had our own diverse
opinions. That turned out to be one of my earliest profound enlightenment.
Inevitably, I concluded that there's no such thing as "the most beautiful."
That would later form the basis of my philosophies on the whole concept of
"best," or more precisely, the exposť of misconception and fallacy of it.