Putting this article back in the blogosphere…
The ancient Greeks are lovers of Beauty. For one beautiful lady, the whole Greek alliance led by its greatest kings and warriors – Agamemnon, Menelaus, Odysseus, Achilles, Ajax, etc. – waged a 10-year war against the Asia Minor Kingdom of Troy. But the great Greek thinkers / writers debated on what Beauty was.
According to Socrates, Beauty is a short-lived tyranny. Theophrastus called Beauty, “a silent cheat”. Theocritus regarded Beauty as a “delightful prejudice”.
Plato was not as cynical as his mentor, Socrates. For him, beauty is a privilege of nature. And Plato’s student, Aristotle was more practical. He considered being beautiful as better than all the letters of recommendation in the world. For the epic poet Homer, Beauty is a glorious gift of nature. The poet Ovid even went further by asserting that Beauty is a favor bestowed by the gods.
The concept of beauty changes not only from clime to clime but also from time to time.
In ancient Egypt, Fat was beautiful. Plump women were considered beautiful in Renaissance Europe, too. Today’s Arabs still go for the heavier women but in America and Europe, Thin is In.
In the 1920s, some women took pains to conceal their bosoms and some even had them surgically reduced. Today, a great number of women have silicone implants to increase the size of their bosom.
In a recent BBC documentary, young Chinese women undergo plastic surgery to improve their chances of being hired for office work. They seem to take Aristotle’s advice to heart. A good plastic surgeon may be worth several letters of recommendation.
When it comes to beauty, the people of today immediately think of the Female variety. We think of Aphrodite or Venus or Freya of Norse mythology or the Indian Lakshmi. But even in Western mythology, we find beautiful men like Narcissus and Adonis. In
Shakespeare’s poem, the goddess of Beauty, Venus, herself describes Adonis as “thrice-fairer than myself…The field’s chief flower, sweet above compare.”
In ancient Egypt, males used as much cosmetics as the females. In medieval Europe, royal and noble males wore make-up and jewelry to beautify themselves.
Not too long ago, men who had fully developed muscles were immediately equated with manual laborers. In Anais Nin’s erotic novels in the 1940s, the female characters go gaga over men who are “effete”.
From the late 70s, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger changed the concept of male beauty. Rippling muscles became the mark of manhood. In Western societies today, rippling muscles and homosexuality usually go hand in hand. As Will in Will and Grace says it, the Gym is their (gay community’s) temple.
Before Socrates, there was Pythagoras. And his concept of beauty was mathematical. Every schoolboy/girl knows about the Pythagorean Theorem in geometry and algebra. For Pythagoras and his followers, objects, including humans, can be mathematically measured to determine their beauty.
For these people, the beautiful object is proportioned according to the Golden Ratio also known as PHI ( Φ ). Two quantities are said to be in the golden ratio if “the whole (that is, the sum of the two parts) is to the larger part as the larger part is to the smaller part”,
The Divina Proportione by Luca Pacioli (1509) depicts the golden ratio as it applies to
the human face. Buildings like the Parthenon were supposedly built according to the PHI ratio.
Leonardo da Vinci’s the Vitruvian Man depicts the whole body divided into certain mathematical proportions.
Some academics have suggested a unit of measurement for beauty could be called millihelen. If Helen of Troy could launch a thousand ships, then a beauty (person or thing) that could launch one ship could be said to have one millihelen (a thousandth of a helen).
BEAUTY AND TRUTH
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” wrote the romantic poet John Keats. If truth is beauty, then the mathematicians may be correct in their concept of beauty. After all, mathematics cannot be false.
The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote that “Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare” referring to the beauty of Euclid’s mathematical proofs. Unfortunately, most high school students are not taught properly how to appreciate the beautiful in their Euclidean Geometry textbooks. Most schools and educators emphasize rote learning rather than true understanding.
In Hamlet, Polonius tells his son, “Be true to thyself ….thou canst not then be false to any man.” Shakespeare also wrote, “O how much more beauty beauteous seem, by that sweet ornament which truth doth give.”
If truth and beauty are intricately connected, then perhaps those who desire to be beautiful must first try to be truthful.
INNER TRUTH, OUTER BEAUTY
For Hindus, beauty is something that is always new, from moment to moment. Perhaps the Impressionist artists recognize this as they seek to capture the feeling or experience of a fleeting moment.
A person who wants to be beautiful must realize that life is a flux. Life changes from moment to moment. Many people go on strict diets and punishing work-outs to stay young and beautiful and ultimately, to delay death. But what is actually happening is that they restrict themselves to a strict regimen of diet and exercise not because of their lust for Life but for their fear of Death.
Whether we like it or not, we all die. But death is not such a bad thing if we realize that we are Souls temporarily residing in physical bodies. When we take the quantum leap of focusing from the physical energy to the mental/emotional/spiritual energy, then we can create miracles.
It matters not what we eat but what our mental/emotional/spiritual state is when we eat. We can eat all the fats and carbohydrates that we can and still remain healthy. Or we can eat nothing at all and still remain healthy. There are reports that some mystical masters eat nothing at all. They get their nourishment through breathing air.
What is important is that what we do and eat give us joy. Anything that nourishes our Spirit nourishes all aspects of our being – physical and otherwise. If we are true to ourselves, our body intuitively knows what is good for our body and soul.
CREATING THE BEAUTIFUL YOU
To achieve true beauty, cultivate your inner beauty, and that beauty will manifest outwardly. Here are some steps:
** Meditate and explore your Inner Self. Recognize your talents, strengths and opportunities; and develop them. This will give you joy and confidence that will make your aura glow. Writer Margaret Young says, “Often people attempt to live their lives backward: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who your really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”
**Write affirmations that express the development of your talents / strengths such as this: “I am beautiful. Everyday and in every way I am growing more beautiful.”
**Have at least one hour a day devoted only to yourself and your Inner Self. Write down all your anger, frustration, weaknesses, etc on paper. And then burn the paper; believing that everything you wrote would disappear from your life. Relax and Let go.
**Take a Purification Bath. Pour some aromatic oils in the bath or bucket. Rose oil would be great. You can also light some perfumed candles and / or incense. You can use Patchouli or frankincense. As you take your bath, will that all the harmful energies in your body be removed by the oily water. Recite your affirmations while taking your bath. Relax and know that you are beautiful.
**At least once a month, go on a retreat away from everyone. Meditate on the Beauty of Life.
Published in Mr & Ms Magazine Sept. 2006