Vanity ~ Omnia Vanitas

My Vanity
My Vanity | Source

Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.

— Ecclesiastes 1:2
Vanity - John William Waterhouse
Vanity - John William Waterhouse

Vanitas Vanitatum

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything.

I grow from the plumage of peacocks, from the songs of the nightingale, the dance of the birds of paradise, the mane of a lion. I live on the bright rainbow petals of flowers, their delicate scents and their honeyed interiors that attract the bees and the butterflies.

I thrive on mating rituals where the bright display of colours, skills and sounds are there to attract a suitable partner. I am a necessity, a survival tool. I blossom with the advent of a mirror, where one can see, seek, select and self-love. I have lived long and multiplied on belladonna eyes, crimson bee-stung lips, oiled skin and gravity defying pompadours.

I am beauty with confidence, maybe with some arrogance. I am the exuberant display of what one has got, or even when one hasn’t got it. I am the fine line between seeking affirmation and sneering self-satisfaction.

I am celebrated by many and frowned upon by many. I am classed under Pride, one of the seven deadly sins. I beam into minds, hypnotising their feeble resolve where resistance is futile.

I grow and spread in these days of media glamour, social networking and instant gratification. I post updates, pimp my pictures and give self-serving interviews. I preen on Television, pose for magazine spreads and watch myself at the movies in all widescreen glory.

I smoulder, pout and glower.

I am Vanity.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything.

Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.

Echo and Narcissus :
Echo and Narcissus :

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

— Isaiah 40:6

Ephemera

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything

Before the 14th century my name meant futility. My origin 'vanus' is an adjective meaning empty, vacant or void. It could also mean insubstantial or meaningless; ostentatious or boastful.

Vainglory was the term used for empty boasting. From which comes the phrase’ in vain’ meaning ‘ futile’. Vanity was futility itself. Artists wanted to depict the futility of life in these vanity paintings. A seated or recumbent woman, a mirror, add a symbol of death and decay like a skull. They were inviting the viewer to look within the painting and see the purposeless of existence. Perhaps the purposelessness of vanity.

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

Allegories of my name flourished. The painters vying to produce glamorous images with a self-conscious nod to my name.

The handsome shepherd who fell in love with his own reflection became symbolic of my meaning. To be fair, it was because of the curse from the forest nymphs whose advances he spurned so harshly that he endured such fate. I remember his sorry self, sitting, leaning, lying looking at his reflection on the crystalline surface of that spring. Hoping for his affection to be returned. Feeling shunned, entreating the other to return, fading day by day losing his vigour and vitality. The Gods took mercy on him and turned him into a flower.

Now, why do I get blamed for a lustful forest nymphs curse?

Take the morning star, Lucifer. His fall from heaven came from his pride but more so from his desire to rule the place where another rules. Being cast out, he sought his own kingdom. Better be a king in his own domain than a mere foot soldier in another’s empire.

Am I to blame for his fall?

Perhaps my name was tarnished by those religious writers who felt loving oneself was far too self-idolatry and in neglect of worshipping God him/herself. The same people tell us that God is in all of us? If so how can loving oneself be an exclusion of the celestial power?

I claim that one could do both. In fact, the more one loves oneself and better one’s love for others could be.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything

Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.

Narcissus: Camie Davis
Narcissus: Camie Davis

Narcissus

The handsome shepherd who fell in love with his own reflection became symbolic of my meaning. To be fair, it was because of the curse from the forest nymphs whose advances he spurned so harshly that he endured such fate. I remember his sorry self, sitting, leaning, lying looking at his reflection on the crystalline surface of that spring. Hoping for his affection to be returned. Feeling shunned, entreating the other to return, fading day by day losing his vigour and vitality. The Gods took mercy on him and turned him into a flower.

Now, why do I get blamed for a lustful forest nymphs curse?

Take the morning star, Lucifer. His fall from heaven came from his pride but more so from his desire to rule the place where another rules. Being cast out, he sought his own kingdom. Better be a king in his own domain than a mere foot soldier in another’s empire.

Am I to blame for his fall?

Perhaps my name was tarnished by those religious writers who felt loving oneself was far too self-idolatry and in neglect of worshipping God him/herself. The same people tell us that God is in all of us? If so how can loving oneself be an exclusion of the celestial power?

I claim that one could do both. In fact, the more one loves oneself and better one’s love for others could be.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything

Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.

Omnia Vanitas : William Dyce
Omnia Vanitas : William Dyce

'Vanity well fed is benevolent. Vanity hungry is spiteful.’

— Mason Cooley

A lack of Pride

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything

Far too often I see people not believing in their own beauty. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and vanity in one’s mind. Such power lends confidence and courage. Don’t you think?

As someone once said 'Vanity well fed is benevolent. Vanity hungry is spiteful.’

Feed me, and I can be benevolent. Look in the mirror, admire yourself. Cast away the conventions of beauty. All what you are made to believe are ephemeral. A speck of time and space in the cosmos.

The reflection you see is to be loved and cherished. Walk with your face held high. Exude confidence. Feed your vanity. For with confidence comes comfort in communication. Consistent comfort gives courage and copious opportunities. But beware its intoxicating power that can make you oblivious to your faults, arrogant in your advances.

Opportunities lead to fulfilling dreams. Hating one’s looks never leads to happiness. Ignore the naysayers who feel vanity is a pride and a deadly sin.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything

Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.

Vanity: John William Waterhouse
Vanity: John William Waterhouse

“What people regard as vanity—leaving great works, having children, acting in such a way as to prevent one's name from being forgotten—I regard as the highest expression of human dignity.”

— Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Giftwrappings


At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything.

This is a world where gifts get judged by their wrappings. Far too many precious gifts lie unwrapped and thus unappreciated. Equally far too many precious gifts get misjudged because they dare to wear a shiny wrapping. A reverse bias.

Listen to what Nietzsche says: "Vanity is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality."

In this rock where billions dwell and perish in vain, is it vainglorious to attempt to leave one's mark in peoples minds and hearts?

Self-actualisation is the zenith that Abraham Maslow puts at the top of his hierarchy of needs. Does one need to have vanity to achieve such lofty goals?

Maybe over time people have forgotten my true meaning. They assume confidence, seeking validation, attention to detail, investing in one's appearance, reflecting on one's reflection - all as vanity.

As the man who sought youth as his portrait grew old and mottled with his sins realised, eventually all will fade. All will return to Gaia. So while there is hope and energy, vigour and vitality, perception and passion - there can be vanity too.

So enjoy me while I last.

Find a mirror. Fall in love. Feel free to ignore the naysayers.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything. I will again become meaningless.

Vanitas Vanitatum. Omnia Vanitas.


-Mohan Kumar-

Vanity : Frank Cadogan Cowper
Vanity : Frank Cadogan Cowper

More by this Author


Comments 34 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Mohan, wonderful hub, so detailed and interesting and I loved all of the pictures (especially the Pre-Raphaelite ones) ans your video. The magazine covers are clever conceits if you created them yourself? Very interesting part of this series, looking forward to reading more.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Fab video! Clever magazine cover, I bet you enjoyed that photo shoot! Outstanding hub! :)


MickeySr profile image

MickeySr 4 years ago from Hershey, Pa.

"The same people tell us that God is in all of us? If so how can loving oneself be an exclusion of the celestial power?"

Here 'vanity' clearly marks the distinction Christianity has with all the world's religions - Christianity teaches, the Bible teaches very exactly, that God is not "in all of us", that loving oneself is in fact not love at all and is just the opposite of what genuine love is, that to love God and our fellow man we very specifically have to learn to not love ourselves.

Docmo, here's what I love - I love how these 'Perspectives:' (just as I hoped) provide us not only 'perspectives' on the themes we give our attention to, but offer us 'perspectives:' on each other and humane nature in the process . . . had you published this independently of this series, most (I assume) would have counted you a good writer, very creative & insightful, etc - but as we move from 'perspective:' to 'perspective:' we can see the genius that everyone brings to their work . . . who else would have thought to speak about 'vanity' as 'vanity', in 'vanity's' own voice - brilliant. Thank you.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

I am positively preening with pride for you my proud pal...you sure did put a big ole smile on my face!

There is so much fanfare, creativity and all that jazz that I feel like revisiting with a bottle of champagne...! Dang, Doc... You da Bomb!

Super fabulous work...!!! Love, Maria


Vincent Moore 4 years ago

One does not have to be Vain to pen such wonderfully dressed, decorative and pretty words. In order to achieve one must believe and love oneself as well as knowing thyself. Humans have been looking into the ripples and mirrors of stately halls for centuries, admiring their beauty or ugliness. Being vain can be filled with utter joy or downright pain.

There has to be a balance to the extent one will go to be physically attractive and achieve an outward appearance of physical beauty. I have met in my lifetime many exterior physically beautifully, pretty and handsome peoples and never took into account the ugliness within many of their souls, yet to find the beauty in physical ugliness was a crowing reward and achievement for me and soon came to realize that beauty is only skin deep nothing more.

All things pretty or handsome are not what they truly appear to be. They fade in time like mist upon an early dawn caressing the lake. The pool ripples and disappears into the depths leaving nothing but a memory to those who sat on it's shore in love with themselves.

Bravo, I loved every word. A brilliant hub on this timely subject of Vanity.


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

This was great Docmo. I absolutely loved the magazine cover of you and your whole take on vanity itself. HAve of course voted up and share all over too!!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I always know Mohan, when I come to one of your hubs I am not only going to enjoy reading but I will be entertained both mentally and visually....writing about vanity in the first person is creatively intriguing, your art presentation and music was positively powerful, and your thoughts and quotes and ideas, superlative....now remember, no vanity allowed, pride but no vanity!

Voted up all the way across (except funny) and shared with my readers.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Mohan, this is well presented as usual. We have each taken a different pespective, which the the purpose of the series. This paragraph has brought the meaning, or should I say, interpretation of the word 'vanity' to new light.

"So enjoy me while I last.

Find a mirror. Fall in love. Feel free to ignore the naysayers.

At first I was meaningless. Then I became everything. I will again become meaningless."

You have such a brilliant, poetic mind. You grace us daily. Thank you Mohan!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Wow, Docmo, you've blown me away with your perspective on vanity. A scripture came to mind: Ephesians 4:26: Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

And then I thought what about: "Be ye vain, AND SIN NOT: let not the sun go down upon your VANITY."

In other words, my own conclusion on vanity: "Vanity, or call it Pride if you wish, is a normal human characteristic. Controlling it in such a way that we don't bereave others from the privilege to be proud of themselves, is the challenge to be met."

We MUST love others as much as we love ourselves. Can we do this on the level of our vanity?

Interesting: We've picked the same quotes :)

Excellent hub!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Andrea Bocelli plays in the background of my home and in my car...I love the man.....his music brings me to another plane..seriously.

Some vanity is necessary...for without it, we have no interest nor concern for our self......without that.....it would be impossible to care about others.......

The brilliance of your article has left my spirit floating on air....as in a fairy tale....


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

This egotist really enjoyed this. Thank you. I love the opening picture. I have tried hard to curb my vanity. But it seems I even clean up and take out garbage (of 300 and more) better than most.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

A brilliant perspective on vanity, presented in it's true meaning. Enjoyed reading. Vanity consumes everything and becomes the sole center of life -

first I was meaningless, then I became everything. Awesome, voted up and shared.


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas

Docmo, it's brilliant and so amusing. Your magazine, what did narcisuss see~ You are too clever. I love your picture "Docmo, the most interesting man in the world.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Beautiful Docmo, I know that vanity is a type of self-Idolatry and when you spend most of your time looking in the mirror and thinking you are the most beautiful person alive, is pitiful, but having pride is a good thing, just don't go overboard. You my friend belong on the magazine cover. You are one handsome Dude...Hee..Bravo..


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I loved the cultural experience through the video and your message on self actualization clearly states the truth on achieving the purpose of being. Until you know who you are, you cannot love others, even God. My inner reflection is one that attributes the character of God as the guide in achieving this higher state of actualization. Very well done and voted way up!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Jools99: Julie, thank you for your visit and comments. when I was reading up on vanity, the paintings and allegories stood out as meaningful artistic endeavours where the artist tried to show the ephemeral nature of things that make us vain... Glad you enjoyed the paintings.

@Linda: I knew you'd enjoy the 'vanity' magazine cover and glad you liked the video. Thank you, as always for your visit.

@MickeySr.: I am indebted to your vision in allowing us to create and ponder such perspectives on various subjects that are close to our heart and stretches our ability to reflect. Like you what I like most about this project in the various nuances each author brings to the subject that is a delight to read. thanks again.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Mar: I'm proud to make you proud! I was stuck for a while on what to write about vanity and inspiration only stuck me few days before deadline on writing 'as vanity' itself. I'm glad you enjoyed my attempt...Thank you, m'dear.

@Vincent: coming for a consummate wordsmith such as yourself - your comment and reflection are a delight to read. Your poetic insights are a constant delight to the reader and I am glad I'm able to create a few ripples of thoughts myself... Thank you!

@Janine: I like to add some visual accompaniments to my hubs and it is nice to be able to create something that represents the subject matter. I'm glad you enjoyed the magazine covers and the hub. Thanks as ever for sharing.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Mary: Its always a delight to see you in my comments section. You are the writer's delight. You read, pay attention to the content, provide your insights and review the work fairly and positively. Thank you for being here and appreciating my efforts.

@Sha: It's the 'company' I keep that makes me write better. this collaborative writing exercise is something I am enjoying so much and learning from others too... thank you so much!

@Martie: I love the fact we both used similar quotes and themes to illustrate our take on vanity yet managed to keep the individuality distinct . This is the strength of this group, even in similarity we find our unique voice. I'm glad you enjoyed my work here. thank you so much!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Paula: Bocelli's voice takes me to places that transcend terrestrial confines... I am glad I was able to make something here that accentuates such enjoyment. What more can a writer ask of his reader? and you, Paula are a writer's dream!

@MHatter: you are entitled to more than a fair share of vanity for your brilliance, Mhatter. in everything you do!

@Nithya: That sentence was the first thing that cropped into my mind when I was trying to formulate my thoughts on vanity. Vanitas vanitatum, Omnia vanitas. That can mean both 'meaningless, meaningless everything is meaningless' or 'vanity, vanity , everything is vanity' So I just combined the two! thank you so much.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@eHealer: thank you for your kind words. It does wonders to my vanity! lol.

@Ruby: thank you so much. I agree about the fine line between self idolatry excesses and self belief... You always make me believe in me better with your comments.

@Dianna: The Paulo Coelho quote made me think of Maslow's hierarchy and how one needs a sense of pride and uniqueness to achieve self-actualisation it is a beneficial vanity that makes one believe they can make a difference and create something unique... Thank you so much.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

“In all we do, and hear, and see,

Is restless Toil, and Vanity.

While yet the rolling earth abides,

Men come and go like ocean tides…”

-- Anne Bronte

There is a demarcation in vanity and pride…when it becomes all consuming; the meaning of life’s purpose; the fixation of self. I loved your eloquent, poetic style and perspective; the ways in which you incorporated the arts so beautifully. (I loved the Vanity Fair ‘cover.’ :-) ) There is a profound question within the lines and the shadows that, as Shakespeare once said, “Must give us pause.” Brilliant and creative perspective, Doc!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, in “Soldier in the Rain”, “It’s not easy being a fat narcissist.” Your essay is a work of art.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

You brought a brillliant new dimension to the perspective of vanity, Docmo, with this ingenious hub. Bravo for the prose you chose, the graphics you included and the outstanding videos. All is perfection. Voted up 'n away.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What a visually beautiful hub you craft here! I like the link between music, words, and artwork. Vote up and sharing as well.


DanaTeresa profile image

DanaTeresa 4 years ago from Ohio

Brilliant. You have perfected the incorporation of image, words, and sound into a masterpiece to be enjoyed by mind and body alike.... I especially like how you wrote this from the perspective of vanity. And how you explore so beautifully the fine line that is walked between confidence and overconfidence.... There is nothing wrong with recognizing that we are beautiful and capable beings. It is a shame that today's society puts such pressure on us to look perfect and be great, but then criticizes those that rightfully sing their own praises.

I adore the images you chose. The myth of Echo and Narcissus is one of my favorites. And skulls are one of my favorite things. I think they are absolutely beautiful and speak volumes.

Thank you for another beautiful, educational, and thought provoking hub.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Genna: loved that Anne Bronte quote. I was worried about my attempts to make vanity speak for itself. From the comments thus far I'm pleased the conceit worked. Thank you so much for your visit and the wonderful comment Genna.

@mcbirdbks: thank you kindly for your visit and comments. Love the Gleason quote.

@drbj: you spoil me, dear drbj, with your adorable comments and appreciation. But I love every word of it!

@christy- thank you so much for your comments and share. Much appreciated.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Dana: I'm delighted this hub is worthy of such praise. As Michael J Fox once said ' I aim for excellence, perfection is God's business'. I like striving for excellence in things I write to make a reader's visit worthy as they give me their most precious commodity- time. Thank you for your wonderful comments, Dana.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

This was absolutely fabulous, I really did not expect to like a hub about vanity, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, there was a time when I became everything, but alas, I'm meaningless again, time tends to bring perspective, so why not enjoy it while you can, I must certainly did.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Docmo-this is a brilliant creation. You have such a flair for the artistry in presenting your hubs! I'm not sure how long it takes you to complete something like this but it would take me days. Rated up/A I love that music selection-is it Andrea Bocelli? I once had the privilege of hearing him in concert.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

One fantastic hub. Thought provoking and explicit. Love the creativity in your pics and the video fascinates. That picture of the lady in front of the mirror and the skull image have always really spooked me. Loved this and well done. For the vain there is nothing else but vanity.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Your genius can't help but show through with your writing. This is a wonderful hub and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the info. I just hope these compliments don't go to your head.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Oh what a masterpiece of a hub dear one, on so many levels!!!

I am in awe of its sheer truth and beauty. I love how you included the fall of Lucifer due to his pride in wanting to be God. Yes, as He tells us in His word, that we should die to self.

Love that magazine cover - how clever!!! And all of your imagery is stunning and perfect here. You are a brilliant writer, and I am so glad I am blessed to read your gifted writing here.

I believe we are all beautiful in our own unique way, as we are created in His image, and God makes no mistakes, whether or not we are lovely on the outside in the eyes of the world's view, it is the heart that determines just how beautiful one really is, indeed!

I am just blown away with this write and the how beautifully it is written.

Voted Way up to the Heavens.

God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

I don't know how I missed this, but glad I found it. My wife walked in while I was reviewing the wonderful video and swooned, a big fan of Bocelli. She agrees, this is an amazing piece of work. The writing goes deep and exposes much. I love how each stanza begins and ends. Really a fantastic Hub!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 weeks ago from UK Author

Better late than never - @tobusiness, Denise Handlon, Gypsy Rose Lee, toknowinfo, Faith Reaper, and xstatic mighty thanks to all of you for your time, appreciation and heartwarming comments. I am humbled and honoured to be the recipient of such goodwill.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working