A faint blush, delicate streaks of highlights cascading down, beautiful curves in perfect proportion… am I describing a beautiful goddess? No, just an apple engineered to look like all the others – engineered until all of the potential flaws are weeded out. The result is the perfect apple we find in the grocery store.
Greek mythology tells of a beauty contest which resulted in something more than a prize-winning beauty. Some say it began the Trojan war. Our story takes place at the wedding celebration of Peleus and Thetis. In order to assure a blissful gathering, Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited. Full of anger, she went to the celebration anyway and in her hand was a golden apple on which was inscribed “Kallistei” or “For the fairest one.” Attending this wedding were three goddesses – Hera, Athena and Aphrodite – each of whom claimed the apple for herself. To resolve the dispute, the three beauties were brought before Paris – a man from the city of Troy – to be judged. They used all of their charm to persuade him and when they saw that Paris was still undecided they resorted to bribery. In the end, Aphrodite won the day with her promise of the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. Wasting no time, Paris then whisked Helen away from her home and husband and brought her to Troy thus dooming the city to its destruction. (To those unfamiliar with the rest of the story I recommend reading Homer’s The Iliad.)
Why this connection between the apple and beauty? Does the apple really represent beauty? In The Judgement of Paris, the apple was the prize to strive for and winning it meant the confirmation of perfect beauty for the goddesses. But the roots of this prize – the so-called apple of discord – were steeped in vanity, and once obtained led to envy and conflict as well. Perhaps the apple serves as a mirror. It might show us what we think we could be – an image of perfection – or it might remind us of the human side of our being and a true vision of ourselves.
Of course we are not gods or goddesses and our imperfections are many both in our outward appearance and the intangible things inside of us yet we still strive for perfection. Why? Is it because we really believe we can attain that? We are, all of us, unfinished. There is always work to do. The question is whether the task is to accept ourselves and embrace our imperfections as expressions of who we are or continue to struggle for something which is unattainable. Any thoughts?
The Apples of Our Eyes
Pick up that tempting red
Take a moment just to see.
Do you see yourself instead
And who you are trying to be?
Picture perfect – no one can deny
A fruit fit for the gods,
But is it meant for you and I
To conform despite the odds?
We are not the gods, you see
Imperfection is sublime
Flawed is how we’re meant to be
Through our differences we’ll shine
Accept the fruit of humanity
In a world of flaws we’ll reside
We’ll put an end to vanity
And our “beauty” we will not hide.