And the first one that poses a frisson of doubt. Omnia Vanitas, right?
According to my Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary Vanity means 'too much pride in your own appearance, abilities or achievements'. Or, more deep, 'the quality of being unimportant, especially compared with other things that are important' (the vanity of human ambition in the face of death).
The last one is the easier: if you ask me, anything is unimportant in the face of death, except death itself and how to avoid it.
Vanity. Yes, most definitely one of the less attractive human traits. And at the same time almost accepted as a given. Look at all those selfies on FB and Instagram. "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you"; Carly Simon sang it 40 years ago and not a lot has changed, really, has it?
If you practice absence of vanity, is that feeling at peace with yourself? Or is it synonymous for humility, the quality of being humble?
Am I vain? Hm. Absolutely where my appearance is concerned. I would never (ever!) go to the supermarket in sweatpants, or without combing my hair. And I wouldn't been seen dead in a bikini these days. And I've invested in far too expensive L'Occitane moisturizer only yesterday.
How about those abilities and achievements, then? I'm not vain about those, surely? I'm much too insecure for that. Although I am proud of the books I have published. Is that vanity?
If you want to achieve absence of vanity, does that mean you have to walk around make-up less, or can we take care of our appearance, make ourselves attractive, without it being vanity?
According to Wikipedia (thanks, guys!):
In conventional parlance, vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th century it did not have such narcissisticundertones, and merely meant futility. The related term vainglory is now often seen as an archaic synonym for vanity, but originally meant boasting in vain, i.e. unjustified boasting; although glory is now seen as having an exclusively positive meaning, the Latin term gloria (from which it derives) roughly means boasting, and was often used as a negative criticism
Vainglory, what a lovely word. It sounds too sweet for its meaning. Futility- now that is a word to work with! When you have reached my age (almost 56), you come to realise it is futile to want to look as gorgeous as your daughter. Vanity in the looks department sense is a waste of time and money. You can botox yourself to the extent that your face looks like a wrinkle-less mask, but your hands will always give you away instantly.
What do you think? Should we rebel, and revert back to our natural state of being? No more hair dye? No more anti-wrinkle cream? Ban all dieting?
Let ourselves go, like most men of our age do? We would achieve absence of vanity, perhaps. But also absence of joy-de-vivre. I do like my L'Occitane, I do.