Friday, April 06, 2012

On Beauty

The thing is to knowing as the person is to mastery. The object is to the thing as the subject is to the person. Beauty is a coordination of our knowledge and our power; it positions the subject in relation to the object. It establishes a proportion.

The experience of beauty is a species of apperception. The exposure to beauty is a posture of the self, the thing knowing itself and the person mastering himself. When we experience beauty we experience ourselves. And the beautiful thing, when experienced, experiences itself. We are but occasions for its apperception.

In his experience of a beautiful woman the lover seeks always his own self. This is easier to accomplish before a work of art. Here the self is brought out and laid bare, but in the comfort of an institution (and an intuition) that has been specially designed to support the experience. A work of art, its beauty, presents a finite sequence of poses, available to the self before it.

With women, beauty is altogether more difficult, the sequence of poses is complete, infinite. A woman's body, its beauty, issues a command. The lover contorts himself to obey it, and in his obedience finds himself, alone. All the more alone as he is successful.

It is forever unclear whether a beautiful woman, like a beautiful thing, when experienced, also experiences herself. It seems unlikely. The lover's art is to show the woman her own beauty, which will reveal her to her own self.

It is easy to exaggerate a woman's beauty. Women themselves do this, as do their lovers. Much pleasure and much heartache results. The trick, as ever, is to keep things in proportion. One does not hold one's breath.

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