Beauty

“Hello, I’m a fat person, fat, fat, fat,” gibes a six-year-old girl playing with the new concept curvy Barbie doll at Mattel headquarters. The girl’s focus group peers bolster her audacity with laughter.

“She didn’t like going to school because she was bullied. She was telling me that girls were saying she was fat and talking about her scars from her transplant.” The mother of Nicole Lovell, a thirteen year old girl murdered by an accused Virginia Tech student whom she had met online, added that Nicole often cried, asking to stay home from school.

We have been duped. The usurpation of Beauty by our obsession with physical beauty is insanity. We have bowed to the moon and proclaimed it the Universe, living in darkness sans perspective, worshipping the tiny moon of a single planet, unconscious of stars and galaxies, estranged even from the warmth and light of our own Sun. We have made the temporal flesh our master and under its relentless rule our children suffer; we all suffer.

I intend neither to deride nor dismiss physical beauty. Archaeological evidence indicates that humans have used cosmetics for thousands of years, the application of makeup depicted even in the Old Testament: “Now when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window” (2 Kings 9:30). Beautifying our bodies and our surroundings is an ancient human impulse. The tragedy is that we have been entranced by the gleam of the gilt frame; relinquishing our inheritance of the priceless painting the frame surrounds, we are severed from the fullness that is Beauty.

Too often…the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation.
~Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Artists”, 1999

Poor, dear Nicole. Poor, dear six-year-old girls. Poor, dear unseeing humans. Our diminution of Beauty has rendered us loveless strangers to one another and to ourselves and I am sad. I look out at a society that is so lost that it cannot recognize its own sadness. We grasp for more in the physical realm, seeking for contentment and power and love in the barren promises of friends and followers and likes, finding but a wasteland of disconnection and isolation. Unaware of alternatives, we recast our lines into the same lifeless ponds.

Most of us have experienced meeting someone whom we do not immediately judge to be physically attractive. Yet as we listen to him, commune with him and experience his goodness, Beauty beams from him, as if his physical appearance has been alchemized before our eyes. But, it is we who have been converted, our true sight restored, for the spiritual realm is the master of the physical realm.

Authentic beauty…unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.
~Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Artists”, 1999

I want for us excavation and expansion, a revelation. Physical beauty sparks our attention and excites our imagination, but this seen beauty is but a hint, a single gold coin signaling untold treasures ahead. Continue onward. There is more.

The Beauty of service, giving to others, we discover that it is we who are blessed.

The Beauty of accomplishment, our internal gold star shines for a job well-done.

The Beauty of persevering, making the decision to rise and try again today.

The Beauty of friendship, people we like who like us right back (from my favorite elementary school Ziggy t-shirt).

The Beauty of laughter, King Laugh “who come like the sunshine, and he ease off the strain again, and we bear to go on,” in the words of Dracula’s Dr. Van Helsing.

The Beauty of diversity, not all is roses, for we have been blessed with peonies and orchids and irises and daises and dandelions.

The Beauty of learning, our conscious decision to invite in the light.

The Beauty of art, our human attempt to reach the Divine.

The Beauty of freedom, the gift to be.

The Beauty of connection, the realization that there is no separation.

The Beauty of courage, saying that which must be said, doing that which must be done.

The Beauty of sadness, brought to our knees, we are the primed recipients of grace.

The Beauty of love, that sustaining selflessness.

The Beauty of mystery, the inevitable pull toward that Something greater than ourselves.

Ours is a nation of heartsick vagabonds, adrift from the power and joy of Beauty. We must teach our children the fuller meaning of Beauty so that we may learn the lesson ourselves. I am not referring to ritual church or temple attendance, nor the propagation of impotent political correctness, nor the chanting of superficial self-esteem affirmations. No, I am pleading the case for the Beauty of loving and laughing, the Beauty of discipline and deep experience, the Beauty that leads us to the Truth that suffices.

Photography:
Kristina” by Andrey Shalaev is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.