These billboards have graced our city the past couple of days. It’s impossible not to notice. There must be hundreds of them. Each has an immense portrait of Nicole Kidman. It is a beautiful picture. She looks straight into the camera, her face rising like a sun above the pink cloud of her dress, her hair a mesmerizing golden flame.
She doesn’t smile. Her expression is neutral. She seems to be waiting for something. But for what? It is not clear. This is the riddling Sphinx without even the riddle. Her beauty relieves her from the need to explain. Like the father doesn’t need to explain himself to the child, the beautiful don’t need to explain themselves to the ugly.
Favor flows uphill from the ugly to the beautiful. But why? Is it fair? Does beauty signify anything beyond the naked ambition of natural selection? If not, then what is the moral significance of beauty? By what token can the beautiful lay claim to their privileges, if their beauty is merely a reinforced random adaptation? Should not a fair society work to provide equal opportunities for the ugly?
Perhaps technology can reduce our dependance on physical beauty, in the same way that it reduced our dependance on physical strength. Would this help to emancipate the ugly? Or does it only help to reinforce the tyranny of beauty? Because if studies show that beautiful people live longer and healthier lives, and the technology exists to make even the most wretched person beautiful, then don’t the ugly have an obligation to make themselves more beautiful? And ultimately, wouldn’t then the state have an obligation to round up the ugly and send them to beautification camps?
But what if there is more to beauty than evolutionary effort? What if we cannot live without beauty? Beauty ignites our passions, animates our thoughts, informs our intuition. Then we must pursue it relentlessly, worship it whereever we may find it, accept that it divides us.
Send out the ships of war! For so long as there is beauty, there never will be peace.