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« A Conservative Politics without Spirit | Main | Selected Reading »

April 28, 2005



I wonder whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder or on the other hand whether beauty is the eye of the beholder? To me the perception, appreciation and seeking of beauty is the essence of Spirit, no matter whether we understand that beauty in terms of physical, intellectual, spiritual or any other attributes.

Boundary setting, boundary riding and comparison of people on measures that relate to those boundaries, on the other hand, are by definition objectifying and discriminatory and are more typical of religiosity than spirituality. If we seek to objectify beauty and use it as a boundary or any kind, we will experience this as discriminatory, no matter from which direction we look. To me this is akin to idolatry and the objectifying of Spirit or God.

What is the issue? Lustful glances in a bar. Spending life looking at “eye candy”? The bigger ethical and spiritual question for me is why we should allow our religious, business, political and social leadership, gay brindle or indifferent, to escape our condemnation for their promulgation of predetermined boundaries around beauty of all sorts and their prescriptions on how we should value it and enjoy it.

Joe Perez


I really like what you say about beauty being the eye of the beholder. Great formulation.

You lose me on the comparison of objectifying a beautiful object to (a) boundary setting/religiosity, and (b) idolatry, though. As a panentheist, I have a problem with a notion of idolatry that problemitizes the appreciation of a beautiful object as such. I don't think it's wrong or idolatrous to objectify a thing (that is, admire the beauty of something in itself)... however, as I make clear in the column, nor do I see objectification as one of the higher forms of appreciating beauty that is possible and desirable to achieve. And as for the comparison of objectification to religiosity, I try to avoid the widespread generalization that religiosity is bad and spirituality is good; spirituality can be bad at least as often as religion and vice versa, as I see it.

Lustful glances in a bar *is* an issue for those who hold such glances as sinful, idolatrous, and so forth. Specifically, the issue of picking out some people as more physically beautiful than others (lookism). It's also an issue in the feminist critique of beauty, as the quote from bianca's Lesbian Lexicon makes clear. I think a spiritual approach to beauty that acknowledges different qualitative levels of appreciation of beauty is the best way to acknowledge the truth in lookism while rejecting its baggage.

I'd like to hear more about your concerns with the "promulgation of predetermined boundaries around beauty of all sorts" ... the issue is very tricky for just as soon as we start attacking say Abercrombie and Fitch for their idealizing images of male beauty we run into the problem that their packaging of beauty sells, and a lawsuit to force A&F to hire average looking fashion models would be ridiculous. It's a tough issue and I'd love to hear ideas on how it can be tackled.


Great article, I'm realy interested now in exploring this website in more depth. Im 18 and an out gay college student in SF. I have been one to criticize the superficiality in the community, and somehow, it became contagious and I in a way became like that. But i am trying to make the effort to see more than waht meets the eye. I agree that it is a distraction to oneself, either concern in the way U look, or OTHERS, a distraction to growing intellectualy and spiritually as a person. Its terrible how poeple are treated differently based on their looks. WOuldnt it be great if the lights could be turned out? The gay community seems soo fixated on appearance, from CLUBS, to bars, to walking down the street and being stared at by guys. So why is it more superficial than the heterosexual community? Or is it? I think the gay community is much more competitive. Rather than a man looking for a woman, he cannot compare his body, his looks, to that of a woman. But in the gay community were all men, meaning, we all are in the same race to look better than the guy to our left and right. ITs a lot of pressure to be under.


there are some texts and informations about lookism.


this is a great topic, so I'm coming back from a summer concert here in town tonight, and seems this very issue is eating me up, seems the want, hunger, thirst dries up my soul, but you can't shake it, can only re-direct it, it's not enough to just look at, when I ache to touch, feel, smell, taste and be that, him. It's bad enough to be so envious in a straight crowd, it's not just his body, but his girlfriend can lay her head on his shoulder or caress his back or smile sweetley at him, ok, so it hurts enough that I can't enjoy those moments, seems some good looking enough boys could make a stab at it, if not for me then send in the hot boys, maybe they can lay down the foundation for the rest, the public at large would probably rather see? well, I can't think of two hot famous gay guys, how about Johnny Depp and Keanu, instead of Bruce Valanch and Jack McFarland? Why don't you hot boys make yourself usefull and for the rest of us...what's the difference between hot and fit? In rugby fit is a plainly used term, he or she is in good physical condition, able bodied, fit, isn't healthism, ok not a real word, tied into lookism, whether unconscious or conscious, isn't our eye trying to find the most ripe one?

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