“The inevitable dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance is the engine not only of philosophy but of civil society at large.” Andy Martin. SXSW, Satre & Scissors: Getting Prepped for SXSW Reflects the Basis of Philosophy

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I’m in SXSW now but before my trip, I knew I had to clean up my act before my panel. I don’t mean I had to behave like a responsible adult (the totally wrong move in Austin :)).  No, I had to get beautified.

When it comes to getting my hair cut, I push it off as long as possible. I just can’t commit the time. But when I do, I enter into a state of euphoria as soon as I plunk myself down in the stylist’s chair.  This is especially true when I’m at getting styled by my good friend, and beauty expert to stars and tech gurus alike, Gad Cohen.

Hair transformations have been even more top of mind for me thanks to this week’s episode of American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J Simpson.  Poor Marcia Clark (played superbly by Sarah Paulson) undergoes a hair redo in order to be better liked in the courtroom. The look on her face as she’s about to get shorn totally looked like mine: gleeful excited and full of happiness.  Thank goodness, my result did not resemble her’s on the show! Oy.

Why do so many of us love this type transformative experience? Is because we all need a change? Actually it goes FAR deeper than that.

This question reminds me of a post a wrote a few year back in response to a pretty heady article in the NY Times, The Phenomenology of Ugly called Philosophy: A Bi-Product of Ugliness.  In the Times piece, writer, Andy Martin, realizes (while getting a haircut) that our recognition of our ugliness (in other word the need for physical improvement) is the basis of philosophy. We believe that the world, like ourselves, can be improved.

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

Is vanity vapid or virtuous?  Andy Martin certainly makes a case for the latter.  As you can imagine from the title of his article, 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 your 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 a 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!

I certainly walked away empowered from my amazing transformation experience thanks to Gad.  I feel like I can conquer the crazy networking in Austin and, especially, my stage event on Monday.  But knowing that any kind of change — even just a few inches chopped off and colored — can be the spark to even greater societal movement, gets me all goose-bumpy.

If you’re in Austin, come to our panel!  But if you’re not, then go get a haircut :).