By way of an old journal, I came across an old writing of mine that sent me to thinking. I wrote, “Beauty unaware of itself is the highest form, untarnished by the rust of vanity.” That, I think, explains my entire view on beauty.
Nature can not be aware of itself, certainly not to the realm of aesthetics. So in its innocence, beauty may flourish unimpeded by self-absorption. You have never seen a hippopotamus named Narcissus, have you? Me neither.
Hubris, vanity, is uniquely human. Works of art can not be vain. Only the artist themselves can be. I do not, however, think artists to be so far removed from the work that this pride can not tarnish the beauty of it. Smugness smudges their art, though not destroying it altogether.
Now, I must make note that beauty does not need lack confidence. This is not at all what I meant when I wrote that. Confidence in oneself is a beautiful thing. Really, it is necessary. Beauty can be unaware of itself even in the midst of compliments for it does not think on itself.
Problems arise when physical beauty finds itself and becomes enamored with itself. Even an accurate judgement of one’s own beauty can lead to this. The key lies in the nature of beauty itself. Beauty, true beauty, is not found in the corporeal self. When we are lead to think it so, and place it above true beauty, that is when vanity taints what palpable beauty once existed.
Life is a wonderful thing, though. For as we age, all of this vainglory falls away. It must. The physical allure of what defines beauty to others is rarely associated with those past the age of forty (to be rather generous to society). It is in age that true beauty is most evident for visceral pulchritude has vanished, though I would argue that physical beauty may be found anywhere (as it does not constitute a sexual connotation, as it is often given).