There are many things in this world that make it not such a nice place to live in. Among these one may name starving children, natural disasters, incurable diseases, wars, death that is end of us all and so on. One could write a book, and a big one too, consisting just in enumerating all the things that are wrong with this world-picture of ours. It would probably not make a bestseller, since every reader would think that he could write the same book and maybe better and bigger. And he could probably do that, in virtue of the only qualification necessary, that is to be a citizen of this world.
But no one would think of adding beauty in that list of shame, since beauty is considered one of the best things we have, a pretty good consolation for all the bad things that strike us in this ocean we call life and which, for some reason, seems to be really angry with us. For some beauty is such a big thing as to make the purpose of life itself. I think it was Nietzsche who said that existence is only justifiable as an aesthetic phenomenon. Whatever might have been his real intention in saying that, and this is only for a professional philosopher to know, it’s clear for everyone to see that beauty was ranked pretty high in his hierarchy of things.
It’s a shame that so many fail to see what beauty really is or does. In a world in which justice is just a word to be mocked in courthouses, beauty takes injustice to whole new levels. You can always hope that the world would some day be a better place, that the kids in Africa will someday stop dying of starvation, that the Powerful of the world will finally decide that heroin is bad no matter how much money it brings you and put an end to the worldwide slaughter it produces. But you can never hope that some day you will be prettier than you are today, can you? Some women think they can, but they only end up with breast implants, which is the ugliest thing in the world. It’s true, we can already see the dawns of that brave new world in which man will finally get to play the part he always wanted to play, that is, God. But genetic manipulation is not yet an option as a remedy of ugliness, and with genetic manipulation, which indeed is confident enough to promise to correct the lack of beauty, we have to pay a price that may very well cost us our humanity.
But leaving aside genetic intervention as a way to assure beauty to our offspring, we live in world in which beauty is distributed to human beings through the blind mechanism of the genes. Some are lucky and get out into the world in athletic bodies, with perfect teeth and perfect symmetry of the face and with hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. Of course, beauty is a mystery that resides in something beyond everything that we could ever hope to put into words. Because beauty is not in athletic bodies or in perfect teeth or perfect symmetry of the face or in hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. One can have all these and still be ugly, and I mean physically ugly, if someone was thinking that I had in mind inner beauty. But the rest of the beings that come to populate this world are less lucky. Just as most people in the world are not bright, to use a beautiful word in a negative form for expressing an ugly situation, in the same way most of the people are not beautiful, using the same round-about way for stating the ugly truth. We come in all sizes and shapes but most of these would in no way make it to a beauty contest. Perhaps entropy has something to do with this. Perhaps there are more ways of being ugly than there are of being beautiful so that the world we see is just a fair display of materialized probabilities. I have no idea, but I do know that one’s sense of justice should be offended by this state of affairs. I know mine is.
But this is not the worst thing. I am just getting to that one. It is not so bad to be ugly, especially when you have a pretty good chance to find somebody as ugly as you are and for whom you will be a good match. Some may call that love and everyone, no matter how ugly, has a shot at this. Part of the problem is that you, as an ugly person, get to be the unwilling witness of a permanent parade of beautiful persons proudly displaying their bodies. Now, as never before in history, we have TV and magazines to make a religion out of beauty. It is like someone has made it a personal duty out of daily transmitting this message to most of the world population: in your face, losers!
And this is not all. The lowest affair that beauty gets to be involved in, in its blind journey through our world, is when it meets women. Of course, the woman is the very paradigm of beauty. Everything that is beautiful in the Universe could disappear tomorrow, but if there would be one beautiful woman left, we would still know what beauty is. In woman beauty finds its perfect embodiment so as to make a woman’s skin, a woman’s breasts, a woman’s eyes and lips the very materialization of the essence of beauty. There was a Romanian philosopher, Constantin Noica, who said that women cannot practice metaphysics because they are metaphysics. I don’t know if he was right about that one, had he put it differently, saying that women are not beautiful, they are beauty itself, he would have been fully right. But what seems to be the problem, a beautiful woman might ask, and one that was actually kind enough to read this far too. The problem is that for a woman beauty is like a demon that possess her and takes her to unconceivable heights or lows, transcending with her in its jaws the walls of what we call human condition. This was- I hope- poetical way to put it, but, presuming that poetry was far from any ability I may have, it was at least metaphorical. And I am afraid I cannot go much farther beyond this metaphor. It would take me way too many pages and knowledge I do not quite posses if I am to put in a discursive and non-metaphorical manner what beauty does to a woman.
Even though this is surely to be the case, let me take just one one step beyond the metaphor. Beauty would not be such a bad thing for a woman if she were to live in the wilderness, in perfect solitude. But the evil takes place when you put a beautiful woman with other people that soon enough will come to have nothing else to do but contemplate her. And who could blame them, because there is no greater and more mysterious force in the physical universe than beauty.
So the beauty is not in itself a bad thing, but only when it becomes reflexive, that is when the woman becomes conscious of her beauty as such. Her beauty, which initially is the most beautiful thing in the world, travels into the people around her which in the process are reduced to the simple function of mirrors and back to her amplified a thousand times and thus becoming the ugliest thing in the world. For the woman now knows that her strength is in her beauty and that it is the most powerful weapon in the world and that there is nothing she can do to improve it or herself. Of course, there are very beautiful women who refuse to be subdued by their own beauty and wish to rise above it. But there are few who make it. For most of the most beautiful women in the world beauty is all that is takes to be human, and going this way soon deprives them of humanity. Actually this way away from humanity goes in two opposite directions. One downwards, in the object world, as one can see in pornography where a woman is reduced to her body as a mere object. The other one goes up, in a sort of deification, but equally away from the human condition, with the woman becoming a goddess, way above the conventions, limitations and usual ways of doing that rule over ordinary mortals.
Because this is nobody’s fault, since no one can help being beautiful or admiring beauty as a slave, this is just another tragedy that befalls our world, as if there were not enough tragedies already. I realize that all this rage against beauty may be seen as coming out of the writer’s own frustration with his own ugliness. But, in fact, there are two possibilities that perhaps overlap. First is this already mentioned: a frustrated ugly person who throws venom at beauty hoping to get rid of it. But it may also be the case that the author is one who has suffered the indifference of a very beautiful woman and now seeks revenge. In regard to the first one, I will admit in all honesty that I have no idea if I am ugly or not. People, in their function of mirrors, send me mixed up messages about this. I can’t make something very clear out of these messages, but I would dare say that I have reason to believe that I am not very ugly. When it comes to the second option, the reader will have to take my word that no extremely beautiful woman has ever broke my heart. I wish I were so lucky! In fact I was never involved in any way with any woman of extreme beauty, but this may actually be what will make some say “eureka!”. Perhaps they would be right to say so, I can’t have the last word on this one.