On a golden dawn in the dawn sublime
Of years ere the stars had ceased to sing,
Beautiful out of the sea-deeps cold
Aphrodite arose—the Flower of Time—
That, dear till the day of her blossoming,
The old, old Sea had borne in his heart.
Around her worshipping waves did part
Tremulous—glowing in rose and gold.
And the birds broke forth into singing sweet,
And flowers born scentless breathed perfume:
Softly she smiled upon Man forlorn,
And the music of love in his wild heart beat,
And down to the pit went his gods of gloom,
And earth grew bright and fair as a bride,
And folk in star-worlds wondering cried—
“Lo in the skies a new star is born!”
— Victor James Daley (1858- 1905)
This week, we have seen just how forlorn Man can be, and the ways that the cold sea-deeps of our lonely hearts can twist and destroy. Is it banal to worship beauty? I think not.
Aphrodite awakens in us, not just our glorious sexuality, but intertwined with its very heart, our need for beauty. Beauty is not a luxury, only affordable to the affluent. And beauty is not a consumer good that comes in the form of a cream, pill, surgery or brand name. It is not only a physical attribute, particularly one that is created to sell ideology or merchandise.
For instance, I wonder if Aphrodite shaves Her armpits and legs. Does She wear sheer foundation and exfoliate?
In some ways, Western culture seems obsessed with beauty. Studies prove what you and I have always known – handsome or physically pleasing people are paid more, get the juicy jobs, and enjoy more success in nearly every category. Yet is this what beauty really means?
As feminist De Clarke noted in a 1983 speech, “The natural female body, we are told in one , is the loveliest thing around (and I say thing, because that’s the tone in which we are told this); and in the next breath we are ordered to starve ourselves, change our voices, paint our faces, shave our bodies, watch how we dress and mind our manners — because, after all, the natural woman is loud, fat, hairy, smelly, and UGLY. Beauty as we see it enshrined here is an illusion, and it’s a big effort (and a big business) to keep it up. The shell of the perfect woman is stressful and expensive to maintain; the contest is to see who does it best.”
In the past several days, in this discussion of Aphrodite, I have shared some of Her stories. That’s because when She came riding up from the sea foam on Her shell and stepped into the often quarrelsome clique of Olympus, She was instantly welcomed and loved. Other beautiful Goddesses did not fare so well, you know, and the stories of jealousies and revenge are legion.
Why is Aphrodite different? Perhaps it is because the old saw is true, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Beauty, it may turn out, is connected most truly, not to appearance, but to action. Her stunning good looks were certainly important, but they would certainly not have impressed those fussy Goddesses and Gods as much as Her kindness, generousity and open heart did.
So consider this, as we invite the juicy power of the Maiden of Beauty and Love into our lives. Beauty is an act; it manifests from inside out. For today, see ways that you can act on behalf of Beauty. Bring more beauty, as you see it, as it gives you pleasure, into your world. Or at least remove from your daily orbit some of the pervading ugliness that passes for modern culture.
Seek beauty, serve beauty, walk in beauty.
In the name of Aphrodite, we all certainly need it.
Note: For a very worthwhile essay about the events at VT, please take a few moments to read this. Meantime, my prayers and thoughts are with those who grieve everywhere, both in Virginia Tech, and the streets of Baghdad, and Darfur, and where ever violence strikes down the lives, young and old, in such senseless ways.