Saturday, March 3, 2012

Judging By Beauty Is NOT Superficial.

  So, I've recently been thinking about something, ever since I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray (another classic, an instant favorite, easily in my top 10 favorite books of all time, and an EXTREMELY intelligent book). This may not necessarily be a moral of the book, but it started me thinking nonetheless. My question is... is it really that bad to judge someone by looks?
  I know, I know, I may sound dumb and superficial and shallow, but hear me out. First of all, I'm not suggesting at all that people should be judged ONLY by looks. I just think that people who judge by appearance get an unfair reputation as shallow and superficial. Lord Henry Wotton of The Picture of Dorian Gray maintains that "...Beauty is a form of genius-- is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world..." and even says that "People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances." Interesting thought, no? I certainly thought so.
  Now, I presume (perhaps incorrectly, but this seems to be the most plausible explanation) that people who say that beauty is an invalid method of judging another do so because beauty, at least in their eyes and in a classical sense, is something that you are either born with and have, or something that you do not and will never own. It is unfair, they seem to say, to judge someone by something which they cannot change, regardless of how much work they are willing to put in. However, I propose that thought and personality function much the same as beauty. There are certainly people who are predisposed to be talented or intelligent (or willing to work to be so) in certain fields, and less so in other fields. It would seem, then, that judging someone by intelligence or talent is just as "superficial" and "shallow" as judging by beauty, the only difference being that the former is not based on something visible. Of course, there are no doubt those who would argue that everyone is talented or determined to excel in SOME field. As Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” However, my response to these people is that, then, they have invalidated their own point. If they claim that thought and intelligence and talent are equal, albeit different, in all people, then they will have to agree that these are completely invalid bases by which to judge people.
  Perhaps one believes that one should judge people by a different kind of thought, such as their morality and ethics. I think, however, that while this is a valid point, one must agree that one cannot be sure that what one sees is what one gets on such topics. One can certainly imagine being lied to about another's moral standings, as often happens in politics, among other places. Besides, surely it is at least the slightest bit arrogant to judge someone's thoughts by whether they match one's own thoughts and positions or not. Surely one cannot consider themselves the standard by which to judge all others.
  Now, here I will cede ground. It as at least as arrogant to judge someone by one's own definition of beauty. It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so everyone's definition or ideal of beauty is unique and different. However, as far as beauty is concerned, at least you cannot be lied to.
  Or can you?
  In today's society, we have make-up and plastic surgery to cover up or change all of one's own imperfections of beauty. But I disagree that this is akin to lying about one's beauty. I see it as one displaying their own ideal of beauty, and allowing, even inviting, others to judge it by their own standards to see if the two match. I see judging by beauty, in this case, as a mutual compromise instead of a one-sided examination. And to those who would claim that make-up and plastic surgery are also superficial, surely this is unfair? You would deny people the right to achieve their own ideal of beauty (not necessarily those of others, as one might assume)? Isn't this similar to denying an artist the right to paint the most beautiful painting he could paint because the easel he owns doesn't already have this beautiful image on it? Both are simply a person's attempt to create their own reflection of beauty. And make-up and plastic surgery can be no worse than education, right? Since they are to beauty what education is to intelligence, I mean? Just attempts to reach one's personal ideal.
  In the end, I will grant that a large part of me agrees with those of you who would argue that it is arrogant to think oneself worthy to judge anyone at all. The rest of me agrees with those who would say that any method of judging someone is as arbitrary as the next, and so any method is valid. This article was purely my attempt to dispel a belief held by people purely because they are told that that is what they should believe: namely, that judging someone by appearance is "superficial" and "shallow" and "wrong". It is my strong hope that people will think things through before internalizing them instead of believing things at face value.
  Good day, reader. (I hope I didn't bore you TOO much.)

P.S.  One shouldn't assume that I'm being selfish and trying to make people judge me less harshly with this discourse, since I'm hideous myself. : D

-Adarsh Nednur

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