It seems in Western culture that people are valued less and criticised more as they age, and purely on superficial factors – often on standards of beauty associated with attributes of youth. We do not seem to value so much the wisdom, experience and understanding that living offers us or the natural human face of that process.
I understand in a way that our culture praises what can be described as youth/beauty. I write it that way because it seems that youth ‘has’ beauty, which is then emulated and passed off as beauty itself. But what is beauty? Youth isn’t beauty, but youth often has what we judge as beauty. Maybe it’s the life force, the innocence, the relationship of inner qualities meeting outer forms, an honesty in that. I don’t know. I’m pondering. But youth is not beauty, and believing it is creates a mask out of youth that makes the truth hard to grasp.
Essentially, what I am saying is that I feel our society is mistaken in confusing youth with beauty and peddling that to us all. I don’t feel that fighting the process of aging in order to maintain a youthful figure or hair colour should be the main path to beauty and it seems quite a damaging attitude for a society to adhere to. By all means, pursue those things out of regard for health or general aesthetics but in and of themselves they do not make a person beautiful or more worthwhile.
Obviously an aside could be taken here regarding the economic drivers behind these attitudes or how beauty in a way becomes a preserve of those with funds to wage this battle and therefore another source of social division. But I’ll leave it there.
For me, beauty is the continuance of the truthful relationship of the inner and the outer that I stumbled on above: as we age we understand how we are and why, we make choices based on our values and priorities, we hopefully come to a happy self-expression in the image we present to the world and how we feel about it and our selves. There’s a truth there, a personal engagement with the process of living, an authenticity and originality. No one expression can be judged better than another if they are all expressions of inner truth.
Clearly this is quite a philosophical take on image, but aging is a natural part of human existence – we are young, we age, we decline physically. Why do we praise certain parts of that cycle and disregard the attributes of others? Given that we’re all going to go through this, surely it’s sensible to have a society that values its members throughout their entire lives.
To judge people and put pressure on them to conceal signs of the natural process of living seems an assault on the individual – as if you have to fight your self, conceal your true nature in order to have worth in the eyes of others.