Taylor Swift’s latest album, 1989, has glued my headphones to my ears. Though played over and over, the songs still say something new to me each time. The album speaks of love, life, loss, and adventures. It describes a day-in-the-life for most twenty-year olds today. Taylor’s words capture the heart’s ache to be great, valued, remembered. It touches on an even deeper desire: to be marked down in history as someone great, to be memorialized forever, to be immortal.
This desire for immortality is interestingly displayed in her song “Style.” The song’s fun lyrics express how Taylor and her boyfriend “never go out of style.” Despite the predictable and occasional fallout and moments of infidelity, their love remains timeless. Like any young love, she hopes for this love to last forever. The enduring love between her and her boyfriend is linked with their fashion. This style of theirs: her “red lip classic. . .good girl faith, and a tight little skirt” and his “long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt” can never be worn out. It is the outfit of a love that will last forever--a metaphor of how to look if "together forever" is how you want to be. So there we have straight from Hollywood the recipe for that relationship we want, the relationship that will never go out of style.
While I would love to think that my black skinny jeans and favorite t-shirt will never go out of style, I can’t count on it. As a matter of fact, I really don’t believe I should get into the habit of attributing those things to a timeless relationship. If I am really going to make my mark in history, to strive for that desire to be great, and try to quench my thirst for immortality, is fashion really the best route to take? The answer to this should be a no brainer, but racks of magazines along with countless public Facebook posts indicate that we don’t know how to approach this desire to be great and make a worthy and lasting mark in history. Instead, we take stabs in the dark, hoping others will go along with our attempts to be great. We decorate our attempts to fill this deep thirst by throwing together trendy clothing, finished makeovers, newest electronics, selfies that are uncomfortably edited to perfection, too many Facebook friends we don’t actually know … the list goes on. Trends change every season, but our commitment to them as a source of greatness remains consistent for some strange reason.
No matter how much we love that new gadget, social profile, or piece of clothing, they will all go out of style. In the end, these things never reflect the worth of our personal value or fulfill our desire to be truly great and remembered in a lasting way. To be timeless, we must turn our eyes to those things that are timeless in and of themselves. To aim for true greatness that lasts for eternity, we must go beyond that which is confined or relative to seasons. The soul’s desire to live forever cannot be satisfied by the fleeting, but by something greater that surpasses merely cultural or material accomplishment. To be great, we must recognize the importance of being virtuous and striving for it at all times.
In The Art of Living, Hildebrand says that “far above his cultural accomplishments rises the importance of man’s own being: a personality radiating moral values, a man who is humble, pure, truthful, honest, and loving.” (1) In order to achieve these timeless attributes, consistency is key. “Only the man who is constant really grasps the demands of the world of values; only he is capable of the response to value which is due to objective values.” (2) Only in remaining consistent can we learn how to quickly jump back from every push and rise up from any downfall we face with life. “While the inconstant man is a prey to accidental impressions and situations, the constant man dominates his own impressions.” (3) Consistency is essential to growing in the habit of living a virtuous life. Consistency is a training of the soul that forms warriors of moral greatness. It molds the reflexes of the soul, so to speak, and trains the soul to react consistently to any unpredictable situation and guides it down the path of noble success.
Such a life will certainly make its mark in history. Leading a lifestyle that consistently strives to be virtuous is one that is capable of accomplishing greatness because it reflects man’s personal worth. Such a life will be attributed to many good things. The legacy of a virtuous life remains beyond the confines of time and surpasses the relativity of seasons. This is our best route to greatness. This route gives us the best chance of becoming our greatest selves. Anyone who lives in this type of fashion will surpass the fleeting trends that surround us. The person who remains consistent in the good, the true, the beautiful, will live a life that will never go out of style.
- Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, 2.
- Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, 19.
- Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, 19.