Poetry Month Challenges Day 26: Value and Vanity

Value in Vanity by Maria L. Berg 2023

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.

Marcus Aurelius

Value & Vanity

I found the contradiction of value and vanity in the definition of vanity itself: excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness. Vanity is a lack of value, but what is value? When I talked about value last year, I talked about both relative worth which is value in outer control and its meaning as aspects of art and music. Then in August, I discovered Calvino’s Memos and his values of literature (Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency), with value meaning: something (as a principal or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable, which would be value in inner control. So does intrinsic value exist, or is it always relative worth? This is a question that intrigues me.

In The Mind at Mischief, Sadler sorts vanity and pride by gender:

5. Vanity—Vanity grows out of the primary emotions of elation and sex, plus those secondary feelings we commonly include in the term pride. We are vain because we enjoy the emotions of elation associated with the instinct of self-assertion, and vanity is peculiarly associated with the sex-instinct in the female. In fact, in a way we might say that vanity is peculiar to the human female, tho men may share this emotion to a lesser degree. Vanity also sometimes takes on the nature of self-directed pity, sympathy, and love; and when thus exercised it may become a source of much sorrow before we awaken to discover how much unhappiness can be generated by self-pity and overmuch introspection. The simple vanity of the average woman is certainly harmless and altogether wholesome as a promoter of happiness.

6. Pride—Pride is built upon the primary instinct foundation of elation and hoarding, plus the psychic state of egotism. We are proud of and enjoy the elation associated with self-assertion. We are proud of our ability to accumulate, to hoard, and are conscious of the poise and power that come with possession. This element of pride is more distinctly a male emotion as contrasted with the vanity of the female. It has more to do with the masculine egotism, self-confidence, courage, and chivalry that go with the male consciousness of superior physical power and endurance. We must not confuse the impulse of pride with normal and legitimate self-confidence—a sort of self-regarding sentiment. Again, we must not overlook the fact that pride of a certain sort may add much to the satisfaction of living; while if our ego becomes too highly exalted, we may find ourselves entangled in an unfortunate maze of psychic difficulties and social rebuffs that will effectively destroy our peace of mind and undermine our happiness.

William S. Sadler, M.D.

Though I disagree, and find the generalized gender ideas dated (the text is from 1929), I still find the ideas of vanity and pride interesting. Here’s a woman’s point of view on the difference between vanity and pride:

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.

Jane Austen

Today’s Images

When I first wrote about Calvino’s values, I had just come up with the idea to sew fabric sleeves for my pool-noodle floating studio. Today, the lake is up, the sun is out, and I pulled out the fabric-covered pool noodles and floating reflection balls. To find the vanity in value and the value in vanity, I looked past the vanity of appearance and thought about the vanity of qualities, abilities, and achievements. I selected images from this month’s posts to make printed transparencies to bring pattern and color to my floating studio. I ended my photo shoot by trying a Kandinsky-inspired sharpie on clear plastic filter. I am so excited to try all the filters I made over the winter, with the floating studio. I had so much fun today (except for the splinter in my big toe).

Vanity in Value by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to “write a portrait poem that focuses on or plays with the meaning of the subject’s name. This could be a self-portrait, a portrait of a family member or close friend, or even a portrait of a famous or historical person.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a response poem.

I tried the Melinda’s Whimsy form for the Nonce Scavenger Hunt.

The Poem

When Levi Follows

We join in harmony
an awkward family
twitchy like a bunny
a sudden itch then he’s gone

We buzz like honey bees
and vibrate harmony
bare feet and bony knees
in his softness I’m undone

With one bulged eye he sees
something in me that sings
Together, harmony,
we curl and calm in our song

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