Sunday, 21 February 2010

Ageing - a kind of beauty?

Interesting that we see the ageing process as slowly stripping the face bare of what we construe to be ‘beauty’. And yet scientific research from the University of Newcastle really tackles the issue of what we deem ‘beautiful’.

I was listening to the radio the other day, eating my oatbix, just minding my business: thinking of the day ahead, wishing I didn’t have to wake up at 7am every morning. And then this piece came on that made my put my spoon down and go: “Wow”. I love moments like that.

I didn’t really care about the what fors and the whys behind the university findings. Apparently, they are trying to find a way to decelerate or prevent the effects of ageing. I’m not sure they will actually do this, and the whole thing is a potentially thorny moral issue; although, in theory, concerns with ageing don’t have to just be about our obsession with physical appearance – all of us want to live longer and be healthier. That’s just our instinct.

But anyway. The bit that made me sit up and take notice…the bit that made me think it worthy of this blog…of being an ‘encounter with beauty’: the reasons 
why cells age. I hadn’t really thought of this before…

Cells age because they deliberately
 switch down. It is like an act of euthanasia, an act of love. When a cell detects serious damage to its DNA, it sends internal signals that keep it from dividing, as they should do to stay healthy. If we didn’t age, our bodies would probably be riddled with cancer. For cells with serious damage that don’t switch down – they tend to go that way.

I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. In the mirror, I saw my eyes puffed up, with tiny creases underneath; the skin getting crepey, the lines on the forehead. And this is only the beginning. I am 27 years old.

Sometimes it makes me bite my lip and want to scream that the very air itself, the very stuff that life is made of, with its swirling free radicals, is what is changing my face, making it something not mine anymore, but something stretched and distorted, and waylaid by existence.

But to look at these wrinkles as my friends, my safeguards, a source of sustenance, self-preservation: what a beautiful twist of irony, that the things we attack with expensive face creams and Botox surgery, which we consider violently ugly, are performing an act of self-sacrificing beauty.

Because, yes, beauty can be function; can be form. It doesn’t have to be literally what’s in front of your eyes. Does it?

But maybe soon I should go deeper into physical beauty and my own personal battles…another time, another entry. 

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