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Aristotle and Me: A Lifelong Search for Beauty and Balance


I love the Greeks.  And I don’t mean the ones we’re trying to ignore until their financial crisis goes away.   I’m talking about the ancients… the ancients who had time to sit and contemplate beauty and truth.   Though I find him misogynistic and redundant, I do have some respect for the teachings of Aristotle and I use the interpretation of his work known as the Aristotlean mean nearly daily. Arriving at the actual conclusion of the mean was a result of multiple theories starting with Plato but the gist is something like this:  There’s a balance in everything and that includes beauty and morality.

For example:  The mean (or desired place) between being a coward and being reckless is being brave.  Brave people feel the fear, they just act in accordance with what needs to be done for good or basic necessity.  Being brave isn’t driving as fast as you can while drunk. That’s just stupid.  The fear that people feel before they give a speech or go to war is the feeling they must face before making the decision to have courage and do it anyway.  The feeling of fear that someone gets before they launch their lawn chair into the air with a catapult is the feeling of fear that says “stop, idiot, you’re going to kill yourself”.

It’s tough to be a real girl with any kind of intellect in this age of beauty.  The usual route is to just give up rather than having to succumb to resembling a Real Housewife.  Though they all believe (because they have television shows)that we all aspire to be them, most smart women consider them a cautionary tale of aesthetics gone awry.   The mean is so handy in these times!   The mean between fashion apathy and blatant superficiality is style. The great thing about style is that it is timeless.  We have icons for this – Hepburn (Audrey and Kate), Chanel, Von Furstenburg.  And style is so individual.  We don’t have to all run around in those trampy engineer hats sporting braids and pigtails long after they have any relevance (which is age 13, in case people don’t know) just to be current. There is no more balance in trying to disappear than there is in desperately trying to look 25 forever.   In the middle is a healthy respect for one’s individuality and the desire to look great because it reflects on the beauty of our current life.

Whenever I look to design a room, an outfit, a meal or an event I try to think about what it will reveal in 20 years.  Any gamine 20-something girl could walk down the street today in an outfit that Audrey Hepburn wore and look current.   Not so true about the clothes from an 80s Madonna video.   Take a look at television.  If you look at the living room of Frasier Crane today, it still looks well done.  Not so true with Golden Girls (though I will love them until the end of time).  When it came time to plan our wedding we made sure that no detail would allow someone to say ‘hey, you must have gotten married in 2010’.  One doesn’t have to be boring or conservative to be timeless.  One just has to have the vision to see style as the mean.

Some things come back into fashion. Food, for example, can be played with a little more without losing one’s sense of balance.  Mad Men brought some of the old favorites (Beef Wellington, Deviled Eggs) from that era back to the forefront of culinary culture.   This year I’ve made several Wellingtons and Beautiful Angel Eggs are a staple at gatherings for friends.

Let’s make sure to go play with our food but don’t play around with fads and southwest furniture!

Make it a beautiful day.


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