It should come as no surprise that we often make judgements on appearances. We do this even though we know magazine cover-girls with airbrushed perfection aren’t real. Similarly, the facades of movie stars are often a far cry from their true nature. Why should anyone assume an actor has a valuable perspective beyond his or her profession? And yet, this week Robert De Niro offers his perspective on vaccinations and autism, apparently because some “journalist” gives him a bully pulpit. Perhaps we sometimes just want fantasy or drama.
Beauty is said to be “in the eye of the beholder.” This is often true even though there may be general consensus regarding a handsome man or an attractive woman. True beauty often requires understanding beyond just the facade. An example is my acquired appreciation of non-representational abstract art. I once admired the Dutch Masters like Vermeer. I still do, but now I have a deeper understanding of abstract art, and I’ve come to appreciate colors and shapes even if they don’t represent anything.
Two of my favorite courses in college were Music Appreciation and Art History. By comparison, I didn’t think much of English 101, which I viewed as something I just had to endure and pass. However, maybe I was influenced more than I realized because I now appreciate the perfect word, good prose and poetry. The jazz artist Count Basie once said, “If it sounds good it is.” And even though I now recognize an acquired taste, for example, coffee, I can also say, “If it looks or tastes good it is.”
Western civilization has an “eye” for beauty which may be different than other cultures. Artful 17th century Japanese Byobu screens are vastly different than western paintings of the same period. The Chinese consider their logograms and calligraphy artful. Westerners fancy more elongated facial features. While Asians prefer the round facial features which mimic their own. Similarly, our art reflects our predilections driven by our heritage and perhaps our unique sense of beauty.
The televised Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate of 1960 is a classic lesson of how visual perception may trump substance. Those who listened to the debate on the radio said Nixon clearly won. However, those who watched this first televised presidential debate perceived Nixon as non-presidential because of his five o’clock shadow, his nervous mannerisms and perspiration. Interestingly, I’ve heard similar comments regarding Ted Cruz’s appearance. I’ve challenged people who say his skin coloring bothers them. This is bigotry as odious as voting for someone because he’s black or for someone else because she’s a woman. Is appearance more important to you than substance?
As I was designing a fountain for my back porch I discovered the Golden Ratio, also known as the divine proportion. Phidias was a Greek sculptor, mathematician, and friend of Pericles the great leader of the ancient Athenian city-state. Phidias was appointed the supervisor of construction of the Parthenon. He also designed the sculptures we now know as the Elgin Marbles, which once adorned this famous temple to Athena. Phidias studied proportions and he utilized the esthetic ratio of 1:1.6, now called phi.
Some have found this divine proportion in the Egyptian Pyramids, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Salvadore Dali’s Last Supper. The Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci introduced Europe to the mathematical ratio of phi in the 13th century, and Dale Brown used the divine ratio in his controversial novel, “The Da Vinci Code.”
Though there is controversy, many have found the proportional ratio of 1:1.6 (phi) in nature, including the human body. The ratio of measurements from your navel to the top of your head and then from your navel to the floor is about 1:1.6. Similar relationships have been noted in human facial proportions and finger digits, pine cones, the arrangement of sunflower seeds, the ocean nautilus and spiral galaxies. Perhaps some search for patterns, just as Kabbalists search for hidden meaning in Jewish scripture.
This seems like the season “of our discontent” because none of the Presidential candidates approaches a divine ratio. Years ago people spoke of the “Bush derangement syndrome” which described an irrational hatred of George W. Bush. I disagree with Obama and the liberal-progressive philosophy which now controls the Democrat party and our country, but I don’t hate anyone. I even consider ISIS as people co-opted by evil amidst a perverse ideology. How can you hate a zombie?
I’m not a Trumpster, but the “derangement syndrome” has shifted to Trump among the establishment in the Republican Party and the media. The Boston Globe even published a faux newspaper about the horrors of a Trump presidency. The Globe’s fear and panic principally focused on Trump’s pledge to enforce America’s immigration laws and control our border with a wall already mandated in Congressional legislation. It seems to me Trump’s biggest fallacy is not his populist message, it’s his boorish style and verbiage.
In ancient Rome there were two political parties. The establishment party was known as the Optimates. The people’s party was known as the Populares. The Roman Consul (ruler) was Pompey who was an Optimate. He and the Roman Senate forbade Julius Caesar of the Populares (Party) to bring his army from Gaul (France) back to Italy. Caesar crossed the Rubicon and civil war ensued. Julius Caesar won, Pompey was killed and Roman Rulers thereafter were known as Caesars.
These days the Democrat establishment has made it virtually impossible for the socialist and populist Bernie Sanders to be their standard bearer. “Superdelegates” will vote in lockstep for Hillary Clinton. And the Republican establishment is likewise working to deny the outsiders, Trump and Cruz, from being their presidential candidate. Maybe they just object to Cruz’s appearance and “The Donald’s” hair!
Were you challenged by this essay? Well, good! Now check out my book of stories, “Well… What Did the Doctor Say?” It’s available at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. Perfect prose for the “library.”