For those of you expecting a post on Ecclesiastes, I’m terribly sorry to disappoint you. I love Ecclesiastes, and I recommend reading it, but, alas, this a post on vanity.
It’s one of the seven deadlies, but, like the others on the list, it’s only negative if you let it control your life. I do believe that vanity is at the root of many of our actions, often unconsciously. If you’re new to my writings, let me tell you up front: I don’t believe in sin, so you’ll get no preaching from me (in that respect). Vanity can actually be quite a positive force in our lives.
I exercise five days a week. At the root of this is my desire to have more energy, gain strength, and live a longer life. But I would be a fool and a liar if I denied that vanity plays a part in working out. Everyone likes to look good, no matter what he or she might say, and I am no different. Looking good is a by-product of being healthy, and we want to look good to attract a mate (I could argue that a desire to procreate is actually at the center of all of our actions, but that will be left for another post). If it is solely vanity and nothing else that drives me to the gym, at least I will be healthier and more productive, which will benefit not only me but society as a whole.
If you’ve done any (even superficial) perusing of my posts, you will know that I pay close attention to what I wear. Some may say that this is a waste of time, that it is a superficial endeavor, that the inside is what counts. I say to that: I am, by no means, stating that what I wear is tantamount, but it is important, not just for me but for everyone. Like it or not, people judge others based upon their looks. In fact, it is an instinct. Humans judge symmetry down to the decimal point in other people; they calculate–unconsciously, of course–shoulder-to-waist and hip-to-waist ratios to determine fertility. And in our culture, they judge what you wear. You can be classified by your clothes alone. This classification may be false, but we all know what they say about first impressions: you only make one. Go into a job interview wearing sweats and a t-shirt and note the looks on the faces of your interviewers: it will be one of surprise, but not in a positive sense.
An old roommate of mine once said, when I commented on a guy’s clothes, “I thought you were supposed to be all philosophical and deep, Mr. Literature.” I am. I’ve read more books than most people I meet; I’ve written more poetry than most people I meet; I spend more time pondering impossible questions than most people I meet.
But I would be an idiot to deny that the way we look helps to determine who we are to others. Rage against the injustice of it if you will, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get your ass into the gym and buy a wardrobe that accentuates all your hard work.
“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!”