I have a friend who took tests in college to determine what career choice would best suit her interest, abilities and temperament. Upon completion of this extensive battery of tests she was told that she should be a cosmologist. Every time she tells me that story I say, “You mean a cosmetologist?”. She sometimes gets my joke and on other occasions she corrects me and says, “no, no, a cosmologist.” Most recently she reminded me of her gifts for cosmology as we walked through the makeup section of CVS pharmacy.
According to Wikipedia a cosmologist partakes in the study of the physical universe considered as a totality of phenomena in time and space and they try to find answers to questions regarding the origins and fate of the universe. That said I am still not sure what cosmologists really do and my friend isn’t sure either. When I think of my friend as a cosmologist, I get this image of a cosmologist’s office, it’s right next door to the metaphor store and just down the street from the philosophy shack. It is a place that people come to visit when their cosmology is broken, damaged or otherwise in need of re-alignment. People come in and drop off their old cosmology and come back in two weeks and find that their cosmology has disappeared into a black hole or was re-made into an unrecognizable string theory that is far too big to get into their minivan.
As a person who is fascinated by words and as a person who loves cosmetics, I am a bit baffled that I never before realized that one of the mains root words of cosmetics is cosmos. According to Dictionary.com the origin of “cosmetic” is the Greek word “kosmētikos”which derived from the word “kosmos” or κόσμος which means an “ordered world”. Cosmos is the antithesis of chaos. Today the word is generally used as a synonym of the word ‘Universe’ or an orderly or harmonious system.
Therefore cosmetics are a means of making order and arrangement to one’s appearance, perhaps as a means of controlling the impact of time and space—and one’s personal universe in the form of their face or body. Cosmetology may be a system of fighting against the chaos of time, attempting to arrange oneself, remain well-ordered and study black holes(i.e. age spots).
When I talk about having a cosmology what I mean is how I make sense of the world, what I believe about how the world works and not in the way Stephen Hawkings talks about cosmology, i.e. black holes, space and other things that make my headache. To me cosmology is more of a philosophical or even mythological understanding of the world and how it works and not so much about big bangs.
In my personal cosmology I believe that life has two impulses: eros (growth/expansion/love) and thanatos(destruction/death/chaos). We don’t just grow, evolve and expand—we decay and we die. And truth be told we spend only from birth to 25 growing and then we spend the rest of our life degenerating and decaying. I know this isn’t cheerful or happy or anything those in the New Age movement would agree with me on—but this is my cosmology and sadly it affects my cosmetology. Because life has both eros and thanatos we require both makeup(which would be the eros aspect of my cosmetic cosmology) and anti-aging products( which deal with the reality of thanatos and my desire not to face the truth of my decays and ultimate death).
I have lots of friends who have a cosmology in which the world is all good, all positive and which everything is always growing, expanding and where everything works our for the best( I don’t live in that world). If one was to extrapolate this kind of cosmology into a cosmetic-cosmology, this kind of person might not believe in the need for any anti-aging products as lines are just illusions and if you think positively they might even go away. It is my hunch that this kind of eros cosmos-cosmetologist would use only organic and vegan products that one can buy at Whole Foods and they would stay far away from my friends Mr. Botox and Mrs. Retin-A.
My personal cosmetic-cosmology allows me to understand that because of the big shiny ball in the sky and my Irish skin and the teen years in which I tried to be tan with the help of a toxic cocktail of one part cocoa butter, one part baby oil and one part Hawaiian Tropic oil—that radiation, decay and dermal erosion have all occurred on the surface of my personal universe. Hence I require all the science of skincare that my dermatologist can provide as a means of protecting my skin from looking like the surface of the moon. I also require the assistance of sales associates, makeup artists and whoever else can help keep my skin looking more Milky Way and less Rings of Saturn.
I feel sure that if any student of physics were to read this post that their head might explode into gazillions of tiny particles at my attempting to connect these seemingly unrelated sciences—or, if they were feeling more intellectually generous( or just pitying me) they might explain how there are only particles and how their head was never made of solid matter anyways so it really doesn’t matter.
In response to a physicist whose face is falling apart, a cosmetologist might suggest a good firming cream that might allow the physicist’s face to reconstruct—if only they would use this amazing five step La Mer skin-care system that was in fact created by a NASA aerospace physicist. You see my point. If there is no mass then there is no place that cosmology stops and cosmetics start. So the next time I am reading reviews on Makeupalley.com or considering the merits of a given cosmetic, I am going to call myself a cosmetic cosmologist and not merely a cosmetic junkie. Please, I implore you, do not suggest I am rationalizing. Rationalizing belongs to the science of psychology—today we are focusing on cosmology.
*There is no bibliography or quoting of academics in the making of this highly scientific blog post—although some may be harmed in the reading of this blog post.
**I am available to give this speech to science clubs and/or cosmetology schools.
***My 8th grade science teacher was right, science can be fun.