Thursday, May 8, 2014

What is True Beauty?

What is true beauty? I always thought of it as an illusion. When I was a teenager I figured out the pretty thing. I learned what society deemed was attractive. I dieted, exercised, got thin. Then I learned the subtle magic of makeup. I learned to paint my face as an artist paints his canvas. I learned what glamour truly was. It was glimmer, sparkles, a flattering dress, a wink, a slight tilt of the head, just the right pose and smile. It was a magic. It wasn’t necessarily the magic of beauty but the magic of being able to manipulate something into seeming beautiful and use that illusion to one’s advantage. I always think back to that time as the time I blossomed, the time when the awkward nerd became pretty. But it wasn’t that at all. I just figured out the game of beauty and how it worked. I still wore sun glasses and pajamas too school when I felt like it, but if I wanted to look smoking hot, I could pull it off. Anyone can.

According to Celtic folklore, faeries are magical creatures that live in the woods. They have all kinds of magical abilities called faery glamour. But what they are best at is creating illusions, playing tricks on humans, and tempting them into a world of intoxication where time has no influence. When anyone mentions faery glamour, I think of human glamour. I think air brushing, photo shopping, plastic surgery, hair dressing, fashion and everything else that makes an ordinary person look extra ordinary.
Women work very hard trying to look like fashion models, until one day they realize that no one looks like a fashion model. Not even fashion models look like fashion models. That point is well made in this video:

And this one:

This need for beauty is puzzling to me. Marketing experts, advertising experts and even motivational experts espouse the power of glamour. Make something look pretty and people follow. It doesn't matter what you’re selling, but the down side is this horrible sense of insecurity that comes with being targeted with beauty. You start to want something that doesn’t exist and when you realize it was never real, it leaves you feeling empty. When the glimmer and lights fade away, you’re left with the drab and boring truth. It was all an illusion.

There’s a great car commercial where a smoking hot girl starts off a drag race and it takes you through the ride of your life. You want to be in that car. You think if you buy that car, you’ll get to win that race and get the girl. So you buy the car and you are so ecstatic. But after a while, you realize that you spent all that money on a vehicle that will take you from place to place. That’s it. Drag races are illegal. You’ll get a speeding ticket or risk the reality check of a car accident if you speed,  and just because you have that car, it’s not an automatic ticket to getting the girl. Now what? The faery dust has worn off. Time to move on to the next big thing. After a while all that beautiful stuff society told you to buy becomes like a prison in itself and you end up like that guy in the book and movie "Fight Club"

I always thought it was one big lie and even felt a bit cynical and bitter towards the masses for falling for it. Many years back, it inspired me to write this verse:

There’s a world of people
Who laugh in darkness,
In peeping walls
Of empty starkness,
Then beauty comes
And flashes its strength
Over the masses
And blinds them forever
To truth,
To decay,
And dies as fast
As it comes their way.

As I grow wiser in my years, I have learned to see past the smoke and mirrors. I ask myself, what is real beauty? I start to find myself a bit repulsed by the glamour, the lights, the pretty words, the pictures that are used to make me feel something, buy something or like something.

As I grow older, my children age, my friends and family go through poverty, illness, ups and downs and I’m starting to realize that if I can still see the beauty in all of these things, then maybe I won’t feel empty and disappointed by the glamour people try to escape into. True beauty, I think, is truth. It’s gratitude. It’s looking at something that hasn’t been photoshopped and loving it anyway. It’s feeling that sense of pride in what is imperfect. It’s compassion. It’s meaning. It’s realizing that nothing is permanent and appreciating all the little moments.

There is an old Native American story about a Chief who is dying. He summons his three greatest warriors and tells them that the one who can bring back the most beautiful object will become the new Chief.
The first warrior sees the brightest and most beautiful flower. He brings it back to the chief but once he arrives, the flower is withered.
The second warrior sees a shimmering rock at the bottom of a stream which catches his eye. He brings it back to the chief but once it arrives, the shimmer is gone because the stone is no longer in the water.
The third warrior sees a magnificent sunset over the mountains. He goes back to the chief shaking his head. He tells the chief that he did see the most beautiful thing in the world but he couldn’t bring it back. The sunset could not be moved, nor could it be frozen in time.
The chief tells the man that he learned the most important lesson of all. You can’t bottle true beauty and expect it to last forever. Because he understood this truth, the third warrior was chosen to be the Chief.

So love all the little things whether or not they are perfect, then everything will look beautiful.