The Rule Of Beauty

The world, they say, obeys the rule of beauty. Everyone falls over themselves to give the beautiful ones whatever they might want. To those that have, more will be given. When confronted with a beautiful person, our desire is always to protect and serve, even when he or she hardly needs our protection and service. But that doesn’t matter, because just being around that beauty makes us happy, even as we are subordinating our own interests to its possessor.

“Beauty makes princes of those that have it,” said Wilde. When the unbeautiful approach, however, people’s eyes refocus: “Oh, it’s you…” In the story of Snow White, the royal huntsman hesitated to bring her heart back to the Queen, because of her great beauty. Had she been plain-looking, of course, he would have had her head off without a second thought.

When people bow down and worship great beauty in a woman, and men feel they would happily die at her command, is this in fact the usual business of reproductive strategy, or something else again? When we harbour this kind of sentiment also for the beautiful of our own sex, and when the beauty is of voice rather than form, then it is probably a different mechanism, a neural hack, even a form of neural enslavement. Perhaps it works not only by moving others to breed with the possessor and give him lots of children, or her a choice of the best fathers, but also by moving everyone to extend all manner of aid and comfort. The recipient of the worship will thus do better in life than the competition, and other things being equal (which they might not be), the genes governing such subversive beauty ought to proliferate. On the other hand, any random mutation is almost certain to decrease beauty rather than increase it. Genetic heritage and embryological development have to be “just right” to produce beauty. Our appearance is probably, therefore, the resultant of sexual selection pulling up, and environmental insult pulling down.

Posted on September 4, 2009 at 10:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Myth Of "Inner Beauty"

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