Beauty within, beauty without

"Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite" is a wonderful book by Robert Kurzban and the site where you can read a bit about it has a great URL too:

It is all about evolution and the mind that has different compartments, creating this apparently terrible habit of noticing inconsistencies in all but ourselves.

As our mind is a kind of cabinet with many drawers and some of them are full of junk and others of exquisite art objects, things can look a bit incongruous.

Our inner balance depends on ignoring the co-existence of junk and art and happily thinking of the whole cabinet as a solid piece of furniture.  This is of course a bit of a simplistic review of the book and the theory behind it, but it serves the purpose of my own theory: that physical beauty is our greatest source of hypocrisy.

If there is a drawer that very few people dare to open, let alone examine its contents, that is the drawer of our looks. The real physical appearance, not the glossed-over one, either through fantasising or as a result of dishonest compliments.

Some people look good and a few really good. The vast majority have mediocre looks, for lack of a less harsh word. That's fine, nature does not condone exceptionalism and mankind has survived so far  within normal limits of attractiveness.

Nevertheless, as soon as the topic of physical beauty comes up, in a public debate or in the conversation between a man and a woman, a weird thing happens. Outward beauty elicits a moral high ground reaction, and inner beauty is readily invoked as the real stuff.

It's not the looks that count, it's the character, the soul or some other intangible quality. It's all skin deep, we need to see beyond appearances and so on.

No, we do not. We'd be better off if we admitted that physical beauty, a result of successful gene pairing, good food in infancy and not too much sun, is liable to wake up envy.
That's normal too. Is there anyone who would honestly refuse to be touched by a magic wand if that would make them really beautiful? Hypocrites would probably say no.

Beauty within is different from beauty without, but the two do not clash. The former should not be viewed as the rightful recipient of admiration, while excellent physical attributes would somehow be indecent and undesirable.

There is room for everyone under the sun, they say. There must be then room for all kinds of beauty in an individual human being. Somehow, as we notice when we are not too infatuated with ourselves or devoured by envy, the sum of it all stays the same throughout our life.


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