On Vanity | Teen Ink

On Vanity

April 18, 2015
By GeorgeProensagh PLATINUM, Lisbon, Other
GeorgeProensagh PLATINUM, Lisbon, Other
25 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." - Oscar Wilde

Vanitas. That still, fading image in which man is reminded that he cannot escape angel death. Man, of course, is often represented by fruit or some pile of objects which in time will rot and pass on so that “(…) worms may destroy this body.” But in that reminder, which subjects one to so miserable a fate, there is always a defying factor, even if it will inevitably fade away. Vanity. That sin of sins, that seat of Satan (To echo the pomp of John of Gaunt’s lamentation in Shakespeare’s Richard II) which seduces mankind to an early grave. That is undisputedly the message of Vanitas. No matter the heights to which men may rise, the cold marble and the humid earth will always devour his form. And so, he will cease to be, leaving behind nothing but a memory, which will slowly fade until it is just as a book in one of said paintings; present but too clouded and sullied by time to understand. Vanitas shows them as the lifeless remains of a life taken by death. It cannot be denied that there is no breath in them, no lips which can tell the tales of their owners. Yet they remain, and while Vanitas insists on showing vanity as a sinful and earthly sentiment, it is because of it that they remain. The scene presented may be melancholy and much too still, indeed quiet as the grave, but it is triumphant in aesthetics.
These objects may be presented as meaningless ostentation which will not follow its bearer to the grave, but that is the flaw of Vanitas. They are not meant for tombs, but rather to stay behind, reminding the loved ones of the deceased of his character and fiercely showing his enemies that his soul lives on. That is ultimately Vanitas, and certainly vanity; a reminder and a symbol. It is not only an aesthetic expression of character; for vanity, like art, is the human manifestation of beauty.

Vanity is first and foremost regarded as a sin, for it defies the idea of God as the uncontested paragon of beauty. The fact that it was established as a sin, of course, should only draw one’s eyes to the fact that even Great Jehovah is a vain God, for He would not have creatures more beautiful than He. It was this vanity which precipitated the fall of Satan, and his loss of paradise, vanity stemming both from the rebellious angel and his omnipotent Master. If God is perfect, how can He be a sinner? Does His deity elevate Him to a level in which all His actions are given carte-blanche, regardless of the extent of their ruthlessness? His own perfection should rescue vanity from the garden of sins, and thus lead Him to embrace it as a virtue.

What are cathedrals but symbols of the vanity of God and the pride of their earthly architects? They are like the immeasurable palaces of kings, built to impress their beholders with their majesty, their grandeur, and above all, their beauty. It is this which adds colour to life, the enthralling explosions of splendour, opulent or frugal, which give a face to all of mankind, and an individual air to every human being. It is a banner, a coat of arms of sorts, which symbolizes its bearer on account of who he is rather than who he is required to be. Yet individuality, pride indeed, must take second place to beauty, for it is this sole entity that glorifies life, or indeed, enlivens it. And the cathedrals?

What of the palaces of the King of kings? They serve to be beheld, to be blissfully contemplated with a dreamy, fulfilled gaze of unearthly satisfaction. They needn’t be entered by Christians, but by all devotees of beauty, and be appreciated as works of art, created by the most accomplished artist of all: vanity.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Apr. 30 2015 at 5:18 am
JamesMcBriddle, Glasgow, Other
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
this isn't how I write, and it's not how writing is. . writing needs to be real, it needs to be direct to the point. you’re obsessed with beauty, you’re an aesthete. i don’t like that frame of mind, I don’t like the way in which you people make beauty almighty. but this article is so persuasive, so beautiful, that I was almost strangled by it. You nearly divided me, mate, and I hate that, but it takes talent to stick doubt into my stubborn head. And you’ve definitely got talent. Don’t keep writing, though… you’re too good and you’ll be competition. cheers