The term beauty is loosely applied to whatever we like. We probably each have it as a heavy part of our vocabularies and deeply imbedded in our psyches. At first glance it sounds simple enough, intuitive even. But in reality, it is a very complex topic.

Beauty is never absolute. It has taken on various aspects depending on the time period, making it difficult to study. For example, images made by painters and sculptors from the same period could portray beauty in one way, while literature or theatre celebrates it another.

What A Beautiful Baby Meme
When our newborns arrive to the world, and we hug them to our breasts and declare their beauty to everyone nearby, what standards of beauty are we unconsciously giving them?

It can be confusing. Imagine being a historian, and looking back on a ten year time period to define beauty, 2005-2015, and finding these two songs and videos to analyze —

Two Songs, Completely Different Artists, Within The Same Year:

[Same Civilization Too — On God! Lmao]

Both titled Beautiful — 

 

Snoop Dogg (in top video) — “Lil’ cutie lookin’ like a student. Long hair, with ya big fat booty. Back in the days you was a girl I went to school wit. Had to tell your moms and sister to cool it. The girl wanna do it, I just might do it.”

Christina Aguilera — “I am beautiful. No matter what they say. Words can’t bring me down. I am beautiful. In every single way. Yes words can’t bring me down. Oh no. So don’t you bring me down today.”

We speak about beauty in big themes throughout humanity. For some, like Snoop, it is about the woman’s form and shape. Countless artists across mediums agree with Snoop, beauty is about a big fat booty.

Venus at the Mirror by Diego Velasquez
Venus at the Mirror by Diego Velasquez, 1650. He was one of the leading artists of the Spanish Golden Age.

But we don’t have to look far to see that Aguilera’s message is different. This difference is because we refer to goodness as beauty sometimes. For example, we may admire some of the people in Aguilera’s video for standing up to their fears. These men and women displayed their non-Greek-god-like bodies under international lights and cameras.

We may even call the bravery (or their bodies) beautiful; without ever desiring that beauty for ourselves. As a society, we can generally look at beauty in our environment with enough detachment to be moved to emotion without being prompted by desire, envy, possession or any other form of passion. This is especially true for virtuous deeds. Just because you believe it is a beautiful act, or a beauty in a person, does not mean you want to be in that person’s place.

mlk
“Martin Luther King Jr. did a beautiful thing. He was a beautiful part of humanity.” Most people would agree to that in Amrica today, 50 years safter his murder. But most of those people don’t want to be beautiful exactly like Dr. King. He spent his short life organizing and protesting, in jail or in danger, all to become one of the greatest intellects of his time… For Americans to know about 3-5 words of his stance. He is beautiful though. And his moral beauty challeneged everything America wanted to believe about itself.

Love does not envy, but beauty does not have to either. The passions motivated by what we perceive as beautiful, whether that is self-hatred or wild envy or righteous shame, do not define beauty. So we can most definitely rest assured that, if you are drawing a lot of attention, or causing fits of jealousy, these things don’t mean people are fighting over or reacting to something beautiful in you.

Our society places a lot of value on stirring envy. Being a desirable person should make you feel beautiful. It is a rational thought. But, if we are missing the nuisances of what beauty is and how beauty is received then, it is possible we are misassociating beauty altogether.

So, next post I am going to cover what past civilizations have tied to beauty and how it compares to what we think it beautiful now.

Tentative Topic Upcoming :

  • Introduction — Modern ideas of Beauty
    • Beauty or Booty?
    • Natural Beauty vs Artistic Beauty
  • Greco-Roman Standards of Beauty
    • Athens, Greece — Democracy, Philosophy, & Fine Arts
  • Sculputres and Homeric Tales
    • Ramsses II and the political power of statue
    • Apollo Belvedere — The Perfect Man
    • Aphrodite Menophantos — The Perfect Woman
  • The Cult of Youth or Immortality
  • The Civilized Conquerers — Building the Roman Empire

Sources :

Companion Media :

  • Netflix — Civilizations — Season 1, Episode 2; How Do We Look?

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