Beauty Pageant

dysfunctional fantasy ...


Did you hear about the young woman who hosted her own beauty pageant?

She assumed complete responsibility for everything—sponsoring, hosting, judging.

As the sole judge, she of course handed down the ruling that she was the most beautiful girl in the world.

This story is of course pure fantasy. It is offered as a thought experiment.

If we learned that a woman had actually done something like this (conducted her own beauty pageant), what would we think of her?

I dare say that most of us would think that she had fallen off the deep end.

It would be difficult not to sniggle in response to hearing such a report.

But something similar to this strange story has actually taken place. As a matter of fact, it is still happening.

I am referring to the human tribe and the way it talks about itself (as a species).

Human beings claim that they are wise and give off the rather snooty vibe that they are superior to other species.

Their preferred designation for their own species is homo sapiens, man the wise.

This is not much different than the hypothetical young woman hosting her own beauty pageant.

Instead of hosting a beauty pageant though, human beings have engaged themselves in a task, one that they themselves have merely imagined, yet have set out to accomplish.

I refer to the quest for meaning.

So far as we know, meaning is only a word, one that we have invented and whose definition we have also concocted (which means that it is nothing but a fantasy).

In the same way that a young woman interested in her own beauty would require someone else (someone other than her) to tell her that she was beautiful in order for it to have any meaning, we as human beings would need the same, someone other than us, to inform us that we are wise.

But how would we know that they were right? If we were to encounter another sentient species, and they assured us that we were wise, how could we know that their judgment was valid?

We would of course want to believe it, in the same way that the young woman would want to believe that she was the most beautiful if someone else said that she was.

Yes, the correct answer is that we would not know it. We would only believe it. There can be no knowledge of such things.

If the alien species told us that we were wise, we would have to know that they were wise enough to know what wisdom was in order to recognize it in us.

We would find ourselves caught up in an endless loop of self referencing.

All of this is a way of saying something that we have no doubt heard before:

There is no accounting for taste.

Reduced to their finest essence, beauty and wisdom are nothing but matters of taste. Other than the definitions that we have created for the words, there is no true (inherent) meaning in them.

Looking for such meaning is no different than hosting our own beauty pageant.

June 23, 2007