Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Tao of Beauty

My favourite film, American Beauty, is one in which the paradoxes of our so-called conventional society are shown in their true light. The orthodox beauty of the world is critically examined and the beautiful people leading successful lives are exposed as their underlying ugly, fearful selves. Even the conventional beauty of the cultivated roses from which the film takes its name are exposed as ugly in comparison to a wind-blown grocery bag (in the poignant scene attached below).

Nothing is as it seems on the surface, we are told, and so-called "beauty" turns out to be a thin veneer. Underlying beauty is a corroding ugliness, and it is in the unorthodox and the supposedly ugly where real beauty and true value may be found. Life artists and sages know this.

In the Tao Te Ching we read:

"The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful,
yet this is only the ugly; the whole world recognizes the
good as the good, yet this is only the bad.
     Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
     The difficult and the easy complement each other;
     The high and the low incline towards each other;
     Before and after follow each other.
Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking
no action and practices the teaching that uses no words.
     The myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority;
     It gives them life yet claims no possession;
     It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.
It is because it lays claim to no merit
     That its merit never deserts it. 

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