At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.
Many of us, myself certainly included, suffer from an insatiable desire for wanting more. We want to make more money. We want to buy more toys, take more photos and eat more food. More. There’s always more to be gained and attained, so we’re never fully satisfied with what we do have. We’re ungrateful and that needs to change. Sometimes, enough really is enough. And enough can be beautiful.
And that’s precisely the point. Because the truth, even in a work of fiction, can be uncomfortable. It also needs to be said and Toni Morrison doesn’t shy away from saying it.
One of the most profound stories I read during university (as part of my English Literature minor over ten years ago) was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I actually still have it on my shelf. The tale follows the life of a young, African American girl who gets raped by her father, mistreated by others, and yearns to have the “bluest eye.” She wants to look like the affluent, white families, because she thinks that is what will turn her life around.
It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.
Intellectually, I think most of us understand that this line of thinking is fundamentally flawed and essentially absurd. Pecola’s life won’t suddenly turn around if she puts in a couple of blue contact lenses. Of course, we should strive to find beauty within ourselves, not based on the judgment of the outside world.
And yet we continue to invest so much of ourselves, and not just monetarily, into how we look. Clothes, makeup, accessories, hair appointments, the cars that we drive, the shoes that we wear… we think that by altering how we look on the outside, we can fundamentally alter who we are on the inside. Now that I’m raising a little girl, I’ve become even more keenly aware of this potentially toxic culture of impossible standards.
Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.
I don’t have any answers and I imagine things will only get harder as my daughter gets older. There is nothing wrong with beauty. It is enough on its own, contingent not on the opinions of others, but only on your own subjective experience. If it makes you happy, then that is enough.