Is vanity vapid or virtuous?  My brilliant buddy, Tom Maschio, clued me in to a recent New York Times article, The Phenomenology of Ugly, by Andy Martin.  As you can imagine from the title, the piece was a bit esoteric (lots of references to Sartre and Camus, with a bit of Britney Spears mixed in).  But what I got out of it was quite interesting.

In essence, he writes that analyzing one’s beauty (or lack of it in his case due to a very bad haircut) can have great consequences.  That is, by virtue of recognizing that an aspect of your appearance can be improved, let’s say the bad hairdo or big zit cropping up on your chin, you realize that improvement is within reach in other aspects of life.

Says Martin, “that original, self-conscious, slightly despairing glance in the mirror (together with, “Is this is?” or “Is that all there is?”) is a great enabler because it compels us to seek improvement…The inevitable dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance is the engine not only of philosophy but of civil society at large.”

If the knowledge that we have some power over our looks empowers us to change other aspects of our lives for the better, maybe a dose of vanity is what we all need!

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