beauty modesty

Truth, Beauty, and Modesty

2:00:00 PMMeredith Kuzma

 Spring arrives, bringing with it wonderful blue skies and warm weather, and with the shedding of winter wardrobes, and the donning of skirts and spaghetti straps, there comes the inevitable questions of modesty. The thick layers of bitter winter are shed and skin shows itself, yearning to soak up the rays of long, languid afternoons. Spring wardrobes are not solely responsible for impurity, however. Interior purity is foremost the responsibility of the individual. Impure thoughts sometimes enter the mind like a bird, and the individual is responsible for whether or not these thoughts begin to nest.

Sometimes, we encourage the thoughts to nest; sometimes even our nests are full of such thoughts. In a recent movie with Joseph Gordon Levitt called Don Jon tells the story of a man who cares about only a few things in life: his car, his house, his church, his girl, and his pornography. This film enters the ongoing conversation about pornography, which covers new laws in the UK requiring internet filters, a new contest put on by a pornographic website for the creation of an ad that could be shown on television, and an attempt to get an ad for a pornographic website shown during the Super Bowl. In Don Jon, the title character finds himself not only addicted, but also willing and eager to come up with excuses for his addiction. Yet, he eventually breaks away from pornography and this frees him in a way he never thought possible so that he may experience love freed from the shackles of dictatorial physiology and the unbridled tyranny of the sexual urge run rampant.

Many websites that showcase user-submitted art struggle with regulations regarding the distinction between art and pornographic images. Accusations fly from both sides of the argument: either there's no respect for the body or you're getting hung up on something natural, as if the reason for the disagreement is a matter simply of prudish (or progressive) taste.

Dr. Maria Wolter, one of my Philosophy professors, once said that beauty is the most powerful way to encounter truth. Today we might ask where to find this beauty. To a certain degree, everything that we encounter reveals some truth to us, whether that be the truth which underlies all truth or simply the truth of our experience or perception in the encounter. For example, let's say I experience jealousy when I see someone who has just bought a new car. This experience doesn’t say anything about the car, but it says a lot about my character. I have a choice in how I respond to the situation and I am given the opportunity to reflect.

Beauty is a product that is sold through clever advertising schemes. Make-up and clothing are responsible for finding a partner in life. The ability to create beautiful photographs is tied to owning an expensive enough camera (despite incredible photographs taken throughout history with the most basic equipment). What if beauty could be bought? Would we want to buy beauty? Would the purchase of beauty then mean that truth could be bought? Many have argued that truth is merely an illusion. Like so many other illusions, then, truth becomes just another commodity to be sold. Yet, we know that truth exists from our experience and there are things that we know to be true without anyone telling us and without needing any examples. We understand without having to be shown that a lover is concerned with the welfare of his beloved.

Beauty allows us to encounter truth. Beauty does not force or coerce, but instead gives us an opportunity to encounter truth. The response we give to this opportunity, however, will impact us—either allowing us to grow or confining us to the tired though intriguing tropes of falsehood. We can choose whether to allow impure thoughts to nest in our mind or allow them to fly away. John Paul II said, "The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little." Pornography hinders us from realizing our purity and seeing the real beauty of others. We ought to strive to live purely, to show forth in our own lives the beauty of our dignity.

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