The change of seasons, whenever and however it happens, always leads me to revisit the idea that we humans are mighty changeable creatures ourselves. This week it suddenly started to act like Autumn here in Texas, after stubbornly refusing to budge from sunny sameness for-seemingly-ever, and instantly there appeared on the public horizon a whole shift of attentions and fashions to go along for the ride. It reminds me as always of what will o’the wisps we are, how fickle and full of silly fancies and steered by every faint current into yet another direction entirely tangential to purpose and meaning, but gripping to us all when we are in it just the same.
Our concepts of beauty and usefulness and value are so mutable, so flexible, it’s a miracle we can find any consensus in our own hearts let alone in the larger community to define what’s important and desirable in our lives from day to day, year to year. I would include most “hard-liners” of any sort in this human whirlpool of constant shift and adjustment too. They will argue that their political or religious or societal stance never alters, but in fact it must if its context is constantly flickering and wriggling uncontrollably, just to maintain the semblance of fixity: the language, tactics, audience-targeting, tools to be used and even reasons for being considered an Immovable Object all have to adjust to the surrounding circumstances and forces in order to keep the believer’s sense of continuity and commitment firm. And that’s both a good and a very scary thing for both sides of the conversation. The Believer side, because it’s really not open to discussion and therefore should neither be questioned nor called to adjust, and the Other-Views side because it’s sometimes hard not only to consider whether we have become fixed in our own ways but also to consider which ways we can and should be going.
That idea alone can veer off into far deeper waters than the initial premise of this rumination warrants, so I’ll leave it by saying that I think of myself as being fairly comfortable with uncertainty and rather not so certain when it comes to taking sides. There isn’t much in the world I know that I see in clearly demarcated black and white, practically speaking. Maybe that’s why I do like to make black and white artworks as much as I do, after all.
In the meantime, the changing of the seasons and its concomitant change of more frivolous things teases me into enjoying the oddity of how easily we are steered in matters of taste and pleasure. The college cuties rambling off-campus are still wearing the same few molecules of skirts and spray-painted tops, but in a faint nod to the changing wind and temperature, suddenly they’re accessorized with bigger than ever Sasquatch boots, long-fringed fake-fur (though still sleeveless) hoodies and, when the males of the species are out of gawking range, garments that look suspiciously like emergency-rescue wrappings used to save hypothermia victims from impending death. I presume these latter items reside, in male-proximal moments, in the depths of those Volkswagen-sized handbags so prevalent nowadays.
Certainly, you can see just from the way I use of the word “nowadays” that I’m old enough to be wearing underpants that could be mistaken for a parachute, holding my socks up with garters, and wearing clothespins on the back of my neck to keep my facial features more reliably in place. To be fair, I was a geezer in many ways from about when I hit the age of ten, so although I eschew such age-appropriate gear myself, I have never quite been what anyone would call At One with the trends. Fortunately for me, I find myself quite fabulous as-is, and apparently those around me have either built up serious tolerance or agree with my skewed view.
So I’m quite happy to live-and-let-live when it comes to personal decoration, even if it means watching delusional dames dress like teenagers, teenagers dress like trashy skanks, and grown men unable to recognize that their comb-overs neither fool anyone other than themselves nor do they remain hugging the skull as insulation when the wind arises but rather take sail and remain vertical until alighting after the storm passes or the gents go indoors, whichever comes first. After all, what would be the excitement, the entertainment value, if we all decorated ourselves well or sensibly or beautifully?
What, especially, would be the fun in all of us considering the same things beautiful? I know one thing: all species would die out shortly after becoming severely inbred if every creature were attracted to only one form of every feature of that creature. And don’t get me started on the likelihood that a handsome sawfish would find a cyclamen pretty or a person who loves to grow prizewinning turnips would like to date a person who looks like a really fine turnip. When it comes to beauty, I’m all for letting you keep your ridiculous prejudices as long as you let me keep my equally ridiculous ones, my friends.