I’m starting to see what they mean by vanity and narcissism.
This unbearable flood of ‘portrait photographers’ doing fancy and yet totally predictable pictures of … you guessed right, usually women. And then they pat each other on their fleshy shoulders and say ‘Wow! Beautiful!’ and blah blah. And what’s beautiful? The soft skin? That’s not even real but photoshopped ‘in just the right amount! Well done!’. But even if it was, dig deeper. What is skin? It’s not some mysterious ungraspable thing. It’s a part of an organism. It’s some weird kind of tissue that’s totally susceptible to age, decay, rot, burn, being destroyed etc.
Like wistful children these photographers get attached to and worship the ephemeral state of female fertility. How pathetic. And it’s not even fertility they cherish. It’s the superficial symptom of fertility, so called ‘beauty’.
And they talk in their photographer jargon, proud of having learned all those great words with which they now analyze each others ‘great pictures’. ‘That’s great color grading you did there, but I feel like you get a little more microcontrast out of those near-black areas’ blah blah blah. Who are they doing it for? Normal people? Nah, normal people don’t see such detail. Normal people are usually almost insultingly ignorant towards finer details of an art. So they do it for each other. Photographers photograph for other photographers. But that sounds too selfless. They do it for the appreciation of their own photography by other photographers. But if a non-photographer cannot appreciate it, it is a learned appreciation, is it not? An appreciation of values that exist solely through the imagination that they exist. One has learned to look for photographs that abide by certain rules and now one perceives those abiding photographs as ‘beautiful’ or ‘nuanced’ or ‘with many facets’ or ‘deep’ or ‘thoughtful’ or ‘expertly’ or whatever.
‘And those beautiful full lips’ they say. And what are lips? They are the gateway to the mouth, through which endless streams of dead tissue, processed organic materials, and whatnot have traveled. Indeed, the mouth is almost less a symbol of procreation than it is one of destruction, devouring, and selfish self-sustainment. And the photographer worships those lips. Those lips the mouth behind of which hides more bacteria than an average toilet seat, as a dentist once told me.
How can you call on the beauty of something without simultaneously calling out its ugliness and banality? Does that not make you a hypocrite, a falsifier of reality? Yes, maybe that is what those photographers pride each other in – the skillful falsification of reality.
But what purpose does this falsification serve? Is it some noble cause that is achieved through its success? To hide the ugliness, is that noble? But then nobility in itself is nothing but the obfuscation of ugliness, so nobility is inevitably referential to and thus intrinsically linked with ugliness. So in fact nobility is a variation of ugliness, which renders it kinda pointless in that its goal is, in a paradox way, to eliminate itself.
And we see this clearly when we compare different cultures, times, fashions, all of which were once considered ‘noble’ or ‘beautiful’. What was once beautiful is today ugly and an offense to beauty. So beauty is at a constant anxious run from itself. Today’s beauty is already fearful of being revealed as ugliness tomorrow. And that’s what we fight wars for. To protect today’s beauty from becoming tomorrows ugliness. And for the same reason ugliness fights wars – to become tomorrow’s beauty.
Ironically, of course, today’s beauty hasn’t changed when it becomes tomorrow’s ugliness. It is still the same thing. But it no longer carries the symbolic notion of ‘beautiful’. Of ‘good’. Of ‘noble’. It is still the same and all the while it can no longer heighten its nose and look down on that which is unnoble while yesterday it still could. But it hasn’t changed.
So the identity of the thing has nothing to do with the thing itself and everything to do with the perception of itself. And of course it’s in panic. It struggles to be ‘beautiful’ and yet it has no control whatsoever over being that, because that ‘beauty’ seems completely divorced from what its existence is. And today this blob of flesh imagines itself to be some kind of epitome of ‘beauty’, to have some so-called ‘meaning‘ and being ‘special’ and tomorrow, while not having changed, it’s again only a blob of flesh again. And while that is its true nature, its the thing it most fears to be: A blob of flesh. It would rather be beautiful, while not even being quite sure what beauty really is, as all beauty seems to be nothing but the willful and sanctioned misinterpretation of its true nature. The idea that conceals the skin that conceals the flesh that conceals death. It desperately wants to be an illusion while keeping itself unaware of the fact that the illusion in itself is merely a perverted distortion of its own nature (and those who want to undistort the illusion are called evil – Just how can you say I am not beautiful?). Maybe that’s why it’s called an illusion – it only holds up until you examine it and wonder what it truly is. How strange.
How strange that asking What is beauty? destroys the notion of beauty. That beauty may be nothing but the refusal to look closer and ask what you are really seeing. That beauty may be nothing but unexamined ugliness. Although without beauty, is there even a thing as ugliness? The beauty evaporates and is destroyed. And you may think that’s tragic. But then you may start to wonder what exactly has been destroyed. And you may not even be able to come up with an answer. You are mourning something without knowing what it is even supposed to be.
And the blob of flesh defends beauty like it would defend a flag. Not against destruction, mind you. But against not being revered, worshipped, deemed important, whatever that means. To say it’s just a piece of cloth is an insult of unimaginable grossness, while it really only reveals the true nature of a flag. Just like saying it’s just a blob of flesh is an insult. An unforgivable insult. It’s not just a piece of cloth! It’s a symbol of greatness! It’s not just a blob of flesh! It’s a human being! No, even human being is an insult. It’s not just a human being! It’s beautiful! One may wonder, though, is blob of flesh an insult to beauty? Or is beauty an insult to the blob of flesh, considering that the blob of flesh is the true nature of the thing? Can truth be an insult to a lie? On the other hand one may argue that a lie can never be an insult to truth. Because while the lie is ephemeral and ever-frightened, truth is everlasting and unafraid.
Uh yeah, what was I talking about originally? Seems I got lost writing some noble essay, hah.