The ancients hardly saw themselves. Today we see ourselves in all positions. Hence our self-horror and self-disgust.
Every man, to be able to live and love, needs to idealize himself (and, ultimately, those he loves). That’s why we love. But as soon as I see myself and compare what I see to an ideal—not high, even low—of human beauty, I give up on real life and on love.
The false aesthetic sensibility of the Greeks . . . How unhappy it must make a people to conceive such statues and be (inevitably) so imperfect physically, like all real humans!
That is, it would have made the Greeks unhappy if that’s how they’d felt. But there’s no sign of that feeling in their literature. It is, in fact, a purely modern feeling.
Even a beautiful woman does not satisfy like a statue. Because a woman is beautiful as well as other physical and moral things that are not beauty. A statue is only beauty. (It is also stone, but the stone is nothing for us, and so we ignore it, looking only at the beauty.)
From a Notebook That Never Was
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Richard Zenith