How we see beauty

During some of my most recent travels, I found myself rounding corners, turning my head, or looking up only to catch my breath and say, “Wow, that is beautiful.” 05CAA603-961D-4D2F-AEFD-2A4735676013

As I reflected on this though, I found myself resting on an epiphany: how is it that we can recognize with complete acceptance that inanimate and animate objects are beautiful without any additional expectation for them to improve…but we do not hold the same appreciation for human bodies?  I know that was a run-on sentence, but I’ll try and explain myself better as I go.

Look at the variety of plants and flowers.  All different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Each one with a uniqueness that makes it noteworthy.  Each one receives our appreciation.  And the most amazing part to me is three-fold:  (1) These plants, while beautiful and deserving of appreciation, do not need our appreciation in order to flourish.  (2) The fact that they are appreciated does not add to their beauty. (3) There is no expectation from the beholder that the plant needs to improve in order to be beautiful, and the plant itself does not feel an expectation to improve in order to be more beautiful.  They simply do that which what they were designed to do.  They grow, they bloom, and they die.

The same is true for animals.  Would we ever catch ourselves saying that one animal should look more like another animal in order to be beautiful?  Do animals feel the need to chase after resources that will keep them looking young and healthy?  Is there a panic when they reach a certain stage in their lives that their best years are gone?  No, the seal does not say to the cow, “I wish I had your legs.”  The penguin does not say to the blackbird, “I wish I could fly.” No, they live in the manner they were designed to live with complete acceptance.

I’m almost done.  Humans start off this way as well.  No baby is born and upon recognizing another baby immediately compares itself to that baby.  No baby sees its own reflection and assesses its flaws.  Babies can recognize differences, but they usually observe those differences with wonder and curiosity.  Why, as we grow older, do we form expectations to be something other than what we were designed to be?  Even worse, why, as we grow older, do we lose sight of our own beauty because we see that we do not have the same beauty as someone else?  Should the beauty of another lessen our own?  Somehow, we’ve come to believe it does.  Somehow, we’ve come to believe that we need to chase after, with all our might, the resources to remove our imperfections, improve our features, and mask what we cannot change.

I wonder if it’s possible to learn from the other animate and the inanimate things in the world and remove that expectation.  I wonder if it’s possible to preserve what we start with during our infancy.  Our beauty does not have to be something we chase.  The beauty of others does not add or take away from our own beauty.  And we do not need to live with an expectation that in order to become beautiful we have to work beyond our own design in order to achieve that end.

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