Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
                                                                                                         - Oscar Wilde

Listening to John Grant’s Where Dreams GoTo Die (a canny equivocation of Karen Carpenter-cadence and Doo-Wop vocal-emotion) I was reminded of a regularly resuscitated peeve. The conventionally accepted – and totally wrongheaded -  view that exceptional, physical, human beauty – and our, almost autonomously positive, physiological, psychological, and intellectual response and attraction to it is somehow superficial. And that the sorts of extraordinary personal exertions that men and women undertake to be near and (hopefully) intimate with a beautiful human specimen is evidence of superficiality and self-delusion.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider that an acquaintance recounted a tale wherein he or she had trekked  (off-trail) into Alaska’s remote, wild, and astoundingly beautiful, Brooks Range. And in so doing had risked rock-fall, grizzly attack, gastronomic privation, physical punishment and exhaustion. All endured in order to stand and fleetingly gaze over an endless succession of pristinely beautiful basin-and-range. I imagine a conventional listener to such a tale would evaluate tale and teller as admirable.

Now consider the same narrator relating a tale of privation, abasement and ordeal in connection with the pursuit and attempt at an impossibly beautiful man or woman. I doubt – by conventional measures – the teller, or tale, would be judged admirable….unless such a story were delivered in  fictional form - as film, novel or play. 

Instead – and despite the fact that the response to human beauty is, almost universally, one of being swept into an irresistible gravitational field – a soul foolish enough to publicly admit to human attraction, based solely on dazzling physical attributes, would be (glibly) adjudged superficial.

I forward there is little-to-no difference in our succumbing to the natural beauty of larger creation (as in the case of a preternaturally beautiful mountain peaks) or our subjection before other, more proximate, sports-of-nature… as embodied in physical presence of exceptionally beautiful men and women. 

Nor should we unfairly, and pointlessly, castigate ourselves, or allow ourselves to be shamed by others, for wrecking ourselves on either the rocks of mountain-tops… or other, more human, promontories.