Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

    One of the poems written by John Keats opens with the observation that, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever". Another poem's opening line, this by Lord Byron, is, "She walks in beauty, like the night..." The unanswered question which remains even after eons of thought and study and discussion by artists, musicians and philosophers, "What is beauty?".

    Among the various definitions offered are, "The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality" and "One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman."

    Some behavioral scientists believe that awareness of beauty and beautiful things is hard wired in the human brain from birth and that it has more to do with harmonious agreement among the various qualities which describe the object or sound or person and less to do with what is fashionable for the moment.

    So from an early age the appreciation of what is beautiful and what is not becomes a life-long learning process. That implies that the longer a person lives, the more sensitive and aware that person becomes to beautiful things. Unfortunately it seems to apply only to inanimate things.

    Enter the beast, an older man who still finds beauty in a younger woman. Such older man is allowed to find beauty in art and music but after a certain age appreciating the beauty of any woman more than a few years younger than himself renders him the dubious status of "dirty old man".

    Some definitions of "dirty old man" describe a "middle-aged man roughly between the ages of 45 and 65 with lecherous inclinations". "Lecherous" is defined as "excessive indulgence in sexual activity".

    How then, I wonder, can a sensitive, thoughtful man who has had the good fortune of surviving into middle age and who still marvels at the nubile beauty of a young woman with absolutely no sexual activity, excessive or otherwise, be labeled a "dirty old man". At what age must he limit himself to appreciating the beauty of music, the arts and poetry but not to the living beauty of an attractive younger woman?

    Were this man wealthy or powerful (Can they be separated? Wealth can engender power; power can generate wealth) he would be applauded by his contemporaries for capturing a beautiful young thing half his age or less (You sly old devil you — wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

    Cases in point, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who wed billionaire Aristotle Onassis and all the very young women who flocked to Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion in Chicago. It appears that if a man has prizes to offer, the age difference is of no concern and a younger woman will happily share her femininity and her femaleness.

    But, if a man has the good fortune of surviving to middle age or beyond and has only himself and neither land nor wealth to share, a younger woman may be happy to talk about the weather or the sports page but little else.

    Beautiful day today. Hey, what do you think about them Phillies this season?

I guess I'm ready.
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