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Substance vs Style

written on September 12, 2012

One of my guilty pleasures as it appears to be is to provoke people and attack their core beliefs and ideas, challenging them using their very own framework.

Philosophy doesn't solve problems, science does, philosophy asks questions. People often tend to confuse the two in a way or another and even stop asking questions at all, basically taking everything for granted.

One of these age old questions is do looks matter?, personally I like to call it substance vs style, which is a much better way of expressing this quite complex phenomena.

By definition, looks (a.k.a style) does matter, 99.999999999% it does matter. Yes you read it right, it does. This Mr. Natural Selection at work, in other words survival of the fittest. However these days in our concrete jungle, we are giving NS a hard time, people can migrate between continents spreading their DNA left and right, cross-breed and the list can go on and on.

Evolution shaped, designed and programmed us to choose the best looking partner from the available pool (read as group, tribe, community) of individuals.

Look at other animals, whenever the mating season is in effect, you can see an explosion of color and sound which all aid this very same process, only in a much more primitive or rather raw way.

We happen to be the only pieces of carbon who have Evolution's greatest gift, the thing called conscience.

Conscience brings everything to a whole new level, giving life an array of meanings, influences every tiny detail of our lives, yes we know that we are alive and our time is limited, we are going to die.

Because of this misfortune of nature so to speak, we can turn everything upside down and say "No, Mr. Natural Selection", "I'm not going to play your way".

This is where personality (a.k.a substance) kicks in and turns the table around, but this alone won't suffice. Statistically speaking people who have substance but lack style are dead as far as Natural Selection is concerned, simply because they just couldn't pass on their DNA and therefore die out which brings us back to what I said earlier about our concrete jungle and free will.

Substance alone, it just doesn't cut it, it's not enough, there must be some style, otherwise there will be no initial attraction, meaning that you just won't get laid.

Basically, people who lack the looks will never pass on their DNA, but if that's so then how the Human race didn't go extinct by now?

We have to return to conscience and free will again; it is possible to overlook the lack of style in certain circumstances if we get to know a fellow Human being, this takes time and it doesn't always work. This is when we wonder "How the heck did he/she got her/him"?.

It's not all nice and rosy as one may tend to believe, while on the surface everything appears to be fine and the actual DNA exchange happened, what lies underneath is horrible and rather disgusting; interests, money, greed, desperation are some of the few words that pop up into my mind.

Socrates describes this in an very ingenious way:

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.

We try to replace style with substance or vice-versa. Neither of these scenarios work, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit it that in face of Natural Selection there are only some many winners, the rest are losers.

We managed to overcome this as well, by lying to ourselves and feeding our egos with senseless crap, all this because of conscience, our most powerful asset and yet at the same time our biggest weakness.

One can never go wrong with too much style (in terms of reproduction), but there must be some substance lurking around in order to create meaningful and lasting experiences.

Paradoxically as one grows older style and substance slowly exchange places, which should ring a bell to all of us about the importance substance in our daily lives.

Getting back to our concrete jungle, a person who has substance but limited style is going to have a hard time (in terms of reproduction) by definition, simply because there's no initial spark and thus finding a mate will require working against Mr. Natural Selection which is a not impossible, but we have to admit that it's difficult, hence why less educated or self aware people will settle for less and take it for granted just for the sake of it, disregarding and defying common sense; again this would never happen in raw nature without the help of conscience.

Like the French say: Better alone, than with bad company, if anybody knows anything about substance or style, it's the French, that's for sure.

Take it for granted and call it love, this is so Human. If reason fails just blame it on love, you can't go wrong with that, can you? but this is another story for another time.