Join Date: July 2005
Re: Proportionate equality
(Spenser, Faerie Queene V.ii.41)The "proportionately equal" relationship between Venus and Ceres--like that between Ginevra and Lucy--also provides the model of a better relationship between women in general than the pattern which modern society usually provides.
- The hills do not the lowly dales disdain;
The dales do not the lofty hills envy.
As we discussed on this forum some time ago, modern culture fosters an attitude of resentment towards feminine beauty. Women are led to believe they should envy the modern media's synthetic celebrities, and should emulate their artificial look through various (pricey) methods of inflicting torture on themselves.
But it is not necessary to make women deplore their natural bodies, for the business world to prosper. Rather, profit can be derived from encouraging women to adorn the figures that they naturally possess (with attractive fashion, jewellery, etc.), to devote their resources to indulgences rather than punishments, to pleasure rather than pain. "Beauty sells," to be sure--but the love of beauty sells better than the envy of it.
And on the other side of the ideological fence, most of the criticism of modern marketing--decrying the supposed evils of consumer culture--is even more pernicious. It operates on the premise that envy is the inevitable reaction to beauty (it is not), and that beauty must therefore be done away with altogether, because when society is reduced to the lowest common denominator, no one will resent anyone else (or so these levelling ideologies maintain).
But banishing beauty from the world does not create a "just" society. Rather, it fosters a grey dystopia, a desolate, utilitarian world in which dream and imagination are replaced by cold functionality, and numerical equality. That experiment has already been tried--and it took barbed wire and a Berlin Wall to keep people from fleeing the countries in which this system was imposed.
Not beauty, but resentment of beauty is the problem. The difficulties that modern society has with beauty are not intrinsic to beauty itself, but arise out of the way in which we have been taught to look at beauty--i.e., in a material way, rather than an ideal way; as a commodity, rather than as a blessing; to envy it, rather than to celebrate it.
When we gaze upon a wonder of nature, such as a lush meadow, or a crystalline stream, we do not resent it. Rather, we are uplifted by it. We feel ourselves ennobled, and happy to exist in a world that displays such natural wonder.
Likewise, we do not begrudge Shakespeare his brilliance when we attend a play, nor do we envy Beethoven his greatness when we hear a concert. Rather, we marvel at these embodiments of human genius, and feel grateful at having our lives enriched by the fruits of their talent.
So too should we delight in the fact that nature occasionally brings Helens of Troy and Lillian Russells into this world--that Venus sometimes takes human form. Rather than envying these goddesses, we should celebrate their attractions. In Classical mythology, Ceres does not begrudge Venus the fact that she has been awarded the greater proportion of beauty. On the contrary, as the deity of food and agriculture, she helps Venus to maintain her beauty, by gratifying her considerable wants.
Not everyone is born to be a Venus, but what is to stop someone from filling the role of Ceres, and helping to nurture the beauty that does exist, so that this beauty can develop more fully, and glorify humanity?
Hopefully the incipient restoration of timeless ideals will foster this celebratory view of beauty, based on the premise of proportionate equality, and the result will be a happier and more harmonious culture.
Christina Schmidt modelling for Torrid, Winter 20005:
- Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Freezes, by Rubens