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Old 10th January 2010   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default ''One must learn to love''

(Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris Forum, September 25, 2004.)

As many visitors to this site are well aware, the ideas on which this Web project is based are not "new" concepts, but principles that are as old as the Western world. These precepts have been passed down through the centuries in philosophy, literature, art, and folklore.

The notion of "aesthetic conversion"--the process by which images of timeless femininity can transform an individual's perception of beauty--is just one example of concept pertaining to size celebration which has a noble pedigree.

Consider the following passage from Nietzsche's seminal masterwork, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft--the book in which the philosopher famously exhorted his readers to "live dangerously." In the following excerpt, Nietzsche uses an analogy based on music to explain how one "learns to love." But try substituting the text's example of a musical figure with the notion of a womanly figure, and consider how the treatise then delineates the exact process by which one learns to love the full-figured ideal--even in the midst of a media world that opposes it:

This is what happens to us in music: First one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life.

Then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity.

Finally, there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing; and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it, and only it. (262)

Similarly, anyone progressing along the path to size celebration must first identify plus-size beauty as a separate aesthetic ideal, distinct from the media's underweight standard.

Next, this "new" idea of beauty provides the viewer with an aesthetic challenge, something that stirs him into awareness. He cannot ignore it. It attracts his full attention.

Subsequently, it displaces the underweight paradigm in the viewer's perception as the aesthetic norm of feminine appearance.

And finally, at the "celebration" stage--the stage of true body love--the viewer acknowledges his preference for this ideal, compared to which the old media standard looks unattractive and unnatural.

But this process is more than just an exercise in abstraction. Nietzsche also explains how it enables a plus-size goddess to appreciate her own beauty:

But that is what happens to us not only in music. That is how we have learned to love all things that we now love . . . Even those who love themselves will have learned it in this way; for there is no other way. Love, too, has to be learned. (262)

Know yourself. Learn to love yourself. How different this counsel sounds from the self-destructive "Change yourself" message that the mass media trumpets unendingly.

Time and again, we see that the best way to shatter modern myths about weight and beauty is to look past the distortions of the current age, and to contemplate the ideals of the past, which shine on, clear and undimmed, providing a beacon for the future.

Barbara Brickner embodying the once-and-future aesthetic (at Eddie Bauer, Fall 2004):

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