What is Beauty? What is Ugly?

What is beauty?

They (you know, those they that say things) say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

… and when they say that we all tend to nod as though we know exactly what they mean, but what do they mean exactly?

If I see something beautiful, is it really beautiful or is there a beautiful speck in my eye causing an optical illusion?

They say that beauty is only skin deep, but then they also say that true beauty comes from within… they are a confusing bunch!

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beauty and depth nietzsche

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What is ugly?

Didn’t the ugly duckling turn into a beautiful swan? Wasn’t that a happy ending!

How did that make the other ducklings feel, I wonder… were they jealous, envious, did an inner ugly get stirred up like sediment on the bottom of a placid lake when a duck dives down and sticks its bill in it searching for food?

Humans can be very conflicted when it comes to the concepts of beauty and ugly. That type of conflicted can lead to conflict. Legend has it that we’ll even go to war over such things.

If I can’t have it, then neither can you!

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leonard cohen - crack light

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We’re a confusing bunch, not unlike the they who are always saying things.

Speaking of people who says things…

… cue personal story…

I used to work in an art gallery in a city which sees itself as beautiful even though in certain ways it is rather ugly… but a beautiful kind of ugly or an ugly kind of beautiful.

One day, this couple came in…

I knew immediately that they were browsers rather than buyers. Mostly because of sexist reasons – sexism is an ugly thing, even though sometimes it is unfortunately accurate.

When you work in the art business you’re taught that male customers tend to be buyers, often on passionate impulse, but mostly they won’t bother coming in to the gallery just to browse, they won’t waste your time because they don’t want to waste their own time, they’re there because they you have something they want and they’re willing to pay for it to have it. Whereas female customers tend to be browsers, they may only have come into your art gallery because they’re killing time between appointments, business or otherwise, and they’re just enjoying the experience for the sake of it. They’re not wasting your time or theirs, they’re appreciating the different things you can do with time. If they buy anything they will make you work your ass off even if it is just something tiny and relatively inexpensive, from which you won’t earn a commission.

On the flip side, what this means is that women are viewed as being more frugal and thrifty financially than men (except apparently where shoes are concerned) – which isn’t a good thing if you work in the unnecessary luxury business. When you have a male and female come into the gallery, and they are a couple, if the women says – Let’s go home and think about this… – you haven”t made a sale and never will. She has decided this is not happening, but she’s being polite about it for the sake of consideration of everyone else’s ego. Or something like that.

I’ve worked in a shoe shop too. In the shoe shop business you’re taught that female customers tend to be repeat buyers, buying on passionate impulse, driven by fashion to spend, spend, spend on something they may only wear once if at all. Whereas male customers will try on every pair of shoes in the shop, and maybe decide none of them fit properly, if they do buy a pair of shoes, they will expect that pair to last them a lifetime.

Disclaimer: I haven’t been in those business in awhile, things may have changed. Please don’t shoot me, or if you do, please miss.

If a male and female come into the art gallery or shoe shop together, as a couple and united front, one of your jobs as a salesperson is to figure out which one is the Alpha in this particular scenario.

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Opia eyes

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In the case of this couple who walked into the art gallery in which I worked, the female was the Alpha. She’d dragged her husband in with her, and he looked pained, he didn’t want to be there (because they’d done this before in other places and he knew what she was like). That information was so loud that it deafened even the casual observer.

She walked around looking at the artwork as though she was a scientist looking for a virus under a microscope. She had an attitude which wished it was a Ginzu knife. She was searching not for something to love, but for something to hate, and, luckily for her, she found it or this visit would have been a waste of her time.

She picked one painting, then smiled with leering satisfaction before adopting a look of shocked disapproval. This painting – of a semi-naked woman – was disgusting, obscene, and should be burned! The artist should not be allowed to paint such pornographic imagery! People should be protected from this kind of evil shit!

On and on and on she went, never once averting her eyes which grew wider with the length of her stare, masturbating herself into a climax of self-righteous indignation. While her husband just stood there with that look of someone hoping for something beautifully ugly to happen either to his wife or himself, anything just to end the onslaught of this experience. He wanted a hole to open up and swallow either him or her.

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reset the world

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Are you at all wondering what I was doing during all of this?

I just stood there like a statue waiting for her diatribe to run its course – following my training which also and especially included that the customer is always right even if strictly speaking they aren’t a customer because they haven’t bought anything and you know they have no intention of ever buying anything.

I did fill my waiting time considering how long I’d have to be in jail for the crime of killing her and whether it was worth it. Her death was getting messier by the minute, and I’d probably have to pay for the clean-up costs too.

You see… the painting she was massacring with her artful hatistry was painted by my father, and although I didn’t like everything he painted, or even him sometimes… well, blood can surprise you with how thick it is particularly when it is faced with, and has thrown in its face, the vitriol of others.

This woman’s mouth spewed acid onto the painting defacing it. Somehow she managed to escape splashback…

And while she did that I watched myself just stand there, saying and doing nothing. Although I think I had an understanding smile plastered on my face, which made things worse.

For a moment it reminded me of all the times I had done that when the person spewing acid was one of my parents and the painting they were defacing was me. They also suffered no splashback…

I guess I was just too used to the ugliness of human nature to react to it in defense of preserving beauty.

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mad quiet

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However… I did eventually react. I simply said to this woman that art isn’t always meant to please, sometimes it is meant to provoke. And sometimes art is neutral until we look at it and project our own selves onto it. The provocation comes from within…

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder… then ugly is also in the eye of the beholder.

Yes… I did pretty much say to her that the ugliness she saw in the painting was her own reflected back at her. That the painting was disgusting, obscene and should be burnt on a pyre because… that was the state of her soul, her opinion of herself reflected back at her by what she saw in a thing that was just paint splattered on a canvas. The painting was empty, neutral, nothing, until she filled it with her special brand of ugly which only she could she because… she was special like that.

She made a hasty exit after that.

I did feel a bit bad for doing that, but I also felt good about it. Being conflicted… sometimes offers a moment of peace between warring factions.

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madman storyforget the second bit of this… I’ve never believed that

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I am very grateful to that woman for what she did. She opened my eyes to the beauty in ugly. My father had done that too – he could make a pile of actual garbage when seen through they eyes of an artist look like a bouquet of lowers when he painted it… but by the time I had that encounter with a harpy, he’d managed to make everything ugly, including beauty.

For a moment I made peace with him thanks to her hell.

For a moment I saw why he had become the way he was – he’d had too many encounters with people like that woman, they’d scarred him too deeply because they hit his wounds… and kept hitting them because they had wounds too which need a sacrifice of someone else’s blood. That type of person had made him hate those who loved his work. Had made him hate his work. Had made him hate himself and everything he did. He’d been exposed to more haters than lovers… or enough haters to make him lose sight of the lovers and see them as haters too.

They had made him the way he was not because anyone can make anyone else into something else, per se, but because… if some hits us where we are already hurt, they can kill us with a whisper, or more to the point, get us to self-destruct.

The human psyche is both complicated and fragile… once his was broken, it never recovered, it tried… but… the pull of destruction was greater than the draw of creation, and his creativity eventually became destructive… it went around breaking everything and everyone it touched. Like that woman.

Perhaps they don’t want to do it, but…

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WTF

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What is beauty… is it the triumph of the human spirit when everything is ugly?

What is ugly… is it when we sacrifice the human spirit for some notion of beauty?

What do you think?

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11 thoughts on “What is Beauty? What is Ugly?

  1. this is a very complex issue to deal with when you are talking to people.I lost a friend who couldn’t bear my decision to go NC with my father, I have been judged as shameless, harsh and with no capacity to love, after all it’s my father.yes, biological father. My mum died ten years ago and although i have investigated all the causes and reasons for her destroying me, I shall admit i feel no love for her, as probably she never felt for me.I can say this here but I have to be very careful about people who hve no experience of a N parent, as it’s like a recorded tape stuck in a rut,”but this is impossible, i think you overdo it” and I have no intention to explain myself and justify my grief.
    I started a therapy when i was 26 and i remember i couldn’t even mention to my shrink what she used to do to me as i felt guilty to talk behind her back; i finally could name everything eight years after her death. N parents possess your mind and soul, but i am glad that at least you can get rid of this with your father.

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    1. The problem with discussing how you feel personally about your own parents is that everyone else always has an opinion about parents, because they have parents, or maybe they didn’t, and because they may be parents themselves and are very sensitive about that. If you say you don’t love your parents to someone who has issues about their own parents, and who is also a parent themselves… it can get very touchy and prone to emotional explosions of all sorts.

      I have an unrelenting need to be up front, so I often says things which are considered what should never be said. When I was younger, even as a child, I often stated that my parents didn’t love me… and then had to put up with people who didn’t know anything telling me that I didn’t know anything, and lecturing me on the unconditional love of parents.

      I eventually learned to keep my mouth shut and tell people what they wanted to hear when it came to the issue of parents. But, even then. I got into trouble because I refused to say anything when someone wanted me to reveal more.

      Damned if you do and damned if you don’t tell the truth.

      There is absolutely no reason for you to love your mother. Don’t feel bad about it if you don’t. Narcissists are impossible to love, especially long term, and as parents all they give is hate, that’s their version of love. I don’t love my mother, there is nothing to love. She’s an asshole. Others only expect me to pretend to love her for their sake. The first lawyer I hired recently to deal with her was all ‘Oh, your poor mother, and poor you for not loving her, let me help you reconcile…” A few interactions with her later he asked me never to ask him to talk to her again because he couldn’t stand her. There you go. People find it easy to tell you to love your parents and to judge you for not loving them, but if they have to put up with (even for just a little bit) the shit we’ve had to put up with from our parents all our lives… suddenly they change their minds because they’ve been exposed to the hell on earth that is a narcissist.

      I get why people don’t get it… takes awhile for them to get it too, if they ever do and sometimes it’s best if they don’t.

      Part of me needing to kind of reconcile with my father had to do with my mother always hating on me because I reminded her of him – it’s healing for me to do that, and sometimes being selfish is healing πŸ™‚

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  2. I think you nailed it! Thanks for sharing.

    On a side note, I tripped into some fun facts about red head on youtube. I wish I could provide you the link but I didn’t save it. It said red heads take more ansethesia and pain meds to have affect, their hair goes grey less quickly because of strong pigmentation, and red heads make up only 1-2% of the population, so you’re definitely a rarity! I thought you’d like to know πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you very much πŸ™‚

      Haha! Yes, there are some weird things online about redheads, as though we’re some sort of alien species just because of a colour fluke of nature! There’s nothing rare about redheads where I live, we’re everywhere taking over the planet by multiplying and encouraging non-redheads to go red.

      This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen about being a redhead:

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      1. Haha! That’s funny. Kinda goes along with this post.

        This is an article she sent me along with an email whining that she’s “tired of trying to fit in, being what everyone else wants her to be, and just wants to be herself. Wasn’t about me, but whatever particular situation she was in. I didn’t trip in to ‘rescue’ her so it was dismissed. But I thought it was whacko and almost hilarious. I thought you would get a kick out of it too.

        http://www.sott.net/article/299701-Bipolar-Or-gifted-The-modern-day-epidemic-of-medicated-madness

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        1. Thank you, I’ll check it out πŸ™‚

          Yep, I know that whole ‘poor me’ said the narcissist thing. Bloody tedious. But they reel people in with it because it’s quite good bait for humans who are still in touch with their humanity.

          Sounds like she plays ‘Penelope Pitstop’ quite a bit and expect others to rush to her rescue, then she stabs them in the back as she didn’t want to be rescued at all, she loves her peril as it makes her feel important.

          Have you read this – http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/5-signs-youre-being-played-by-a-victim-fiff/

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          1. Yes, I’ve actually read it, and experienced all of it. I did all the cooking, cleaning, working and paid all bills. Looking back it’s WTF was I thinking! I was catering to her wounds instead of my own. I wasn’t even that into her and the sex wasn’t even that good so the lesson came at a very high price. She brought nothing to my life besides pain and drama. Going to get a massage and haircut. What did you think about the article?

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  3. Haha! this is an hommage, a celebration of British sense of humour and the British blood in your veins!!!exilarating!
    i personally can find in this “a city which sees itself as beautiful even though in certain ways it is rather ugly” a perfect definition to the genius loci of Milan, it’s very subtle what you say..and i love the “Ginzu knife” image, i will keep it in mind, it makes me laugh and it’s very sharp indeed!!
    As far as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” to me it raises a far complex question, as what’s behind our eyes and where is it leading us to?” i am addicted to Gombrich and his perspective of vision.
    I find very difficult to appreciate beauty in itself, to me it’s just form, and to find someone or something beautiful i need to pry at the other senses and their essence, i would like to say soul without the religious acceptation.
    BTW, have you ever come across Umberto Eco’s “History of beauty” and “history of ugliness”? his point of view is similar to your way of thinking, considering always the subjective element and indeed taste itself.
    I have the impressionyour father was difficult but easier to understand than your mother, his N was less creeping underneath than hers, i can also feel empathy for him too.He must have been a real artist though, someone who lived for his creativity and could do something with his emotions and pain.

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    1. Thank you very much πŸ™‚

      I do find it easier to understand, empathise with, and even love my father. In some ways that’s because he’s dead. People who don’t have malignant narcissists as parents won’t understand why a child experience relief once their parent is dead. Unless you’ve been harassed, bullied, abused, and stalked for your entire life by your parents, you won’t understand the relief when it is finally over.

      I don’t have to protect myself from his shit anymore, I don’t have to harden my heart and barricade my mind against his onslaughts. So I can relax and see things more clearly where he is concerned. I can let my guard down as he’s not there to take advantage of it. I can love him without my love being a weakness. I can empathise without my empathy being used against me. So I can finally accept his side of the story without it being used to undermine my own story.

      He played some seriously a-hole effed up games with me when he was alive, he left a few treats of that kind behind apres-death. I’m still trying to tidy up that mess, and still dealing with my mother who is still very much alive and being a total malignant narcissist a-hole about it all.

      Someone recently said to me that if my mother was still alive I should appreciate her, make the most of her being alive, before she is dead and it is too late. This person obviously had a lovely mother and misses their mother. When they said that, all I could think about was what a relief it will be when my mother finally dies. People might think I’m a terrible person for feeling that way, or at least admitting to it openly… they can swap places with me if they’d like and deal with my mother instead. She’s lost most of the superficial charm she used to have, and these days people can only take her behaviour for about a few minutes before they realise what a nightmare she is.

      I would love to pay homage to my father’s work, but I can’t because my mother stalks the internet for any mention of him or any share of his art. He belongs to her, and every painting he painted is hers. It’s very sick… as it always was. Such is the narcissist’s way.

      β€œAbsence is to love as wind is to fire: it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big.” ― Umberto Eco

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