Do you want beauty? Here it is

Editorial by Stefano Lavorini

«We demand justice for the body as well as for the soul». So wrote Aldous Huxley in a collection of essays published almost a century ago.

And it seems to me that this call of his is still valid today, as demonstrated by the obsession with appearance and an attractive self-image for which, in general, people are willing to spend energy, time and money.
But what is beauty, if not an artificial projection of health? Or, at least an imitation good enough to sometimes be mistaken for the original.

It is possible to imagine that, in the future, women and men will all be beautiful without chemical or surgical help, but this is rather unlikely considering, as Huxley points out, beauty is not only an external question, but also internal.

As he explains: «The beauty of a porcelain vase derives from its shape, colour, and grain. The vase can be empty and house spiders, it can be full of honey or fetid mush: this in no way alters its beauty or ugliness. A woman, however, is alive, and her beauty is not, therefore, only on the surface. The surface of the human vase is influenced by the nature of the spiritual contents ».

Unless, I add, AI is able, in the short-term, to subvert this natural order of things.

In any case, after listing the various types of psychological ugliness - stupidity, recklessness, greed …- the English thinker stresses that “sins” like these, deadly sins that deny beauty, often appear «on the pretty faces of those especially who are trying to have a continuous ‘good time,’ one sees very often a kind of bored sullenness that ruins all their charm».

In practice, from the point of view of a “porcelain specialist”, there are very beautiful people; and yet, their face, their gait and gestures express so weary a listlessness that it is unbearable to look at them.

In conclusion, Huxley is still able to offer us a note of moderate hope: « So long as such disharmonies continue to exist, so long as there is good reason for sullen boredom, so long as human beings allow themselves to be possessed and hag-ridden by monomaniacal vices, the cult of beauty is destined to be ineffectual. [… ] All men and women will be beautiful only when the social arrangements give to every one of them an opportunity to live completely and harmoniously …».

Huxley’s essay titled “The Beauty Industry”, was published in London in 1931. I haven't even remotely considered amending the text in the direction of "political correctness” which is very popular these days, because I’m convinced that art, worthy of the name and in all its forms, is more acceptable and convincing than reality. I apologize here and now to those who may disagree.

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