Forethoughts

Forethoughts

A Chapter by Akshay Rawal
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In this section, the attempt is to explain the motive behind writing this story and certain referential literature I'm reading alongside to better understand my themes, subjects and thoughts explored.

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Forethoughts
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"Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference: beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend. If there are people who are indifferent to beauty, then it is surely because they do not perceive it."

 - Scruton, Roger. Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. ix). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition. 


There sure is a heavy emphasis on pursuit of beauty, in our lives - We pursue what we find beautiful, and lay our respects, love, admiration and acknowledgments before the beautiful. Since everyone, being social animals, craves for belongingness and validation and since we have established possessing beauty is one way of demanding those, there's an evident emphasis on 'being' beautiful as well.

Beauty is so far an abstract concept, in a philosophical sense. So, having no objective knowledge of the all-encompassing characteristics of beauty, it is possible that we perceive the beauty others have defined for us. This platitude of beauty is very applicable in today's context of heavy social media influence and a globalized, inclusive digital culture.

While there's an almost absolute unanimity in perceiving and branding adjectives of beauty for art, music, ideas, places and virtues, the definition of beauty standards for physical appearance would see the most volatility over the course of history and geography. Some beauty standards aligned towards fat, obese women in certain parts of the Middle East show stark difference from some of those aligned towards extra slim, anime-like features in Japan. Beauty standards changed for men drastically too, over the years, in the same regions.

You'd hear almost everyone say, or silently acknowledge the fact that physical appearance matters in our society. We may even have psychological reasons to support it. For example, beauty has been attributed to certain virtues, depending on which virtues mattered the most in that era.

* Fatness and Fertility -In the 20th Century United States, fatness signified wealth and affluence for men, they even had 200 pound clubs to restrict men weighing under 200 pounds. In the Middle East, even till present day, it signified fertility for women. Fat women would seem to bear and feed the newborn better. 

* Slimness and Liveliness - Under a heavy anime influence in Japan, people have aligned their beauty standards towards features accentuated for women in anime - Large eyes, diminutive facial features, feeble arms, swollen breasts, butt and thighs and hairs dyed in a frenzied tint. Cheerfulness, liveliness and a certain level of dumbness is deemed attractive in a certain sense. In the 70's era of the US, a certain unkempt, hippy look for men was trending since it represented belligerence and rebellion, aligned with the sentiment of people during that time. There was a permeating advocacy for women's rights, environmental concerns and the LGBTQ movement and people were generally fed-up of the prevalent political and socio-economic systems requiring change. 

* Obsession with fairness of skin and Apartheid - Fairness creams have been a common commodity in South Asian countries, even when the products have been proven ineffective for their proposed function. Advertisements centered around definition of success and validation based on fairness of skin. It's certainly a given that most of the products in today's world target our insecurities and thrive on our tireless pursuits of hope and dreams these companies advertise. The history of apartheid is as well-known and far-spread as the extent of colonialism from the neo-medieval times till the end of WWII. Africans and Native Indians were treated as slaves in their own land, so their very semblance shaped itself to signify poverty and unattractiveness. In the subconscious of a morally radicalized and polarized mind, dark skin hints at darkness, grief, poverty, sin and bright skin hints at light, wealth, beauty and piousness. This connects to how religions defined morality - All is either black or white, nothing is grey. Black is bad, white is good. Hence, these virtues became the very instrument of fueling propagandas of ethnic cleansing in pre-modern times.

We know that in today's globalized, informed, digital era, racism is a thing of the past but we cannot deny that humans of the past. having nearly the same kind of conceptual and analytic abilities participated in the same. We also cannot deny that humans of the present possess cognitive biases that require layering of acquired wisdom, conscience and mental analysis to contain or diminish.  

Being rational beings, abstract concepts such as beauty and truth need to have some shape, form or signals for identification. It is our nature to assign attributes, make connections with experiences for perceiving beauty. Beauty has to have examples or benchmarks to opinionate on how beautiful a certain person is. 


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Therefore, society has ranks of beauty, society has taste, and that taste ends up being collective on the roots. We all end up cherishing a certain metric of beauty cause everyone else deems it as beautiful. We follow or aspire to be actors, models, athletes, performers and obsess with their personal and professional life. We also deem ourselves aware and woke by keeping up with trends and events in the news. We even have metrics for our own acceptability in the society and alignment of our virtues and features with commonly acceptable norms and when we don't, we have the capacity of losing confidence in ourselves and even the force of life itself.

Corporations and profit-seeking institutions are aware of the power of consensus and mass behavior, and they infuse unimaginable amounts of money into the advertisement and propagation of beauty and life standards that benefit their products. The misfortune of today's world is, it's almost impossible to be detached from worldly buzz and it's almost effortless to emulate and manipulate mass opinion and consensus in the minds of sectionalized, nucleated, individualized individuals who have no perceivable bird's eye view of the actual matter, through what everyone looks to for information - Social media and Online forums.

In such an environment, body image issues is blatantly common, although trodden upon and concealed under the gleam of exceptional and specific beauty standards, especially some commercialized and accentuated versions of it. They are, in certain areas, linked with increased stress, depression, health issues and even the will to live. I know this is a sweeping sentiment among all individuals but there would definitely be some research I'd be able to cite in this regard.

***

The purpose of  writing this story is to explore and understand beauty  and body image issues, the psychology of beauty and it's impact in our world. The protagonist is a woman in her 20's suffering from extreme body image issues, so much so that social anxiety, fear of the outdoors and a permeating self-loathing ensues. She ends up locking herself in her own house, but a few days later she starts receiving letters from an anonymous person, whom she falls in love with. Who this person turns out to be and what really is going on in the protagonist's mind, is what this story aims to reveal.

I'd be reading certain literature alongside, on these themes, and would like to update the reference section of this book with articles, books, essays and research pieces, as I explore them.



I'm highly grateful for the readers and the community at Writerscafe, who provide inspiration and an environment for me to continue pursuing my writing. Thank you, for reading this book. 



- Akshay Rawal


© 2020 Akshay Rawal


Author's Note

Akshay Rawal
Please share your thoughts on the ideas and themes described in this chapter. Would love to understand your perspective

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the makings of a great book

Posted 10 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Akshay Rawal

10 Months Ago

Thanks for stopping by, Wordman. I'm starting work on the first chapter, will share. Hope you enjoy .. read more
 wordman

10 Months Ago

you`re welcome

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Added on September 13, 2020
Last Updated on September 15, 2020
Tags: Introduction, Beauty, Thought, Society


Author

Akshay Rawal
Akshay Rawal

Brampton, Ontario, Canada



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I have a vision. I can finally commit to writing for the love of it. Been writing and making mistakes. Trying to let my past self get inspired to write and serve. I aspire to use my creative energ.. more..

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