Musings: A World of Beauty
For a culture obsessed with appearances and glamour, it is ironic how little value we place on beauty. Far from the beauty industry’s icon of the young, thin, white, female body which we are groomed from birth to covetously adore, beauty is a blissful experience we feel in our hearts when moved by something we encounter through our senses.
I recently stepped outside one evening at dusk where a wild thunder and lightening storm had just passed by. The air was sparkling fresh and crystal clean, the atmosphere bathed in a soft yellow light so dense I could almost feel it wrap around my shoulders. The intoxicating scents of flowers, trees and earth heavy with rain delivered instant aromatherapy refreshment to my tired nerves, while the pitter-patter and sucking sounds of water dripping from every blade, leaf and branch invited me to share in the joyful radiance of vibrant life. I absorbed the sensations twinkling around me like little bits of stardust filtering through the air until I was aware of only beauty at that moment, both inside and out. I was grateful to be alive, grateful to be beautiful.
When just the right combination of sights, sounds, smells or sensations come together and we recognize beauty in that instant, we experience an uplifting feeling of happiness and love, a sense that life is good and things are just as they should be. We are glad to be alive. This is because beauty is a reflection of the spark of divine perfection within each of our own souls, a sense of “coming home.” No matter how dirty, cracked or distorted our mirrors on the outside may be, beauty is always there to remind us of our true nature deep inside. Beauty, like love, makes our human lives worth living. Whether it’s the colors of the sunset or the warmth of a beloved’s smile or an exquisite piece of handiwork we admire for the artist’s vision and talent, how fortunate we are to live in a world of so much inspiring natural and manmade beauty!
Yet, as so often happens with blessings abundantly available to us, we take such things for granted or even spoil, degrade and waste them. Our natural beauty on the planet, for instance, is no longer considered valuable enough to keep around if a profit can be made from the land instead. It makes no difference that the destruction of a habitat not only destroys the beauty of an area but also threatens our planetary survival; making a profit and providing plenty of cheap goods to hungry consumers has become our number one priority. I recently came across a moving account of one Oklahoma oilman’s trek through The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska on assignment for Big Oil. He is stunned by the unexpected beauty he finds there, calling it “heaven on Earth…and achingly beautiful,” and concludes that while there are many, many places we can drill, “that’s not one of them; the price is too high.” He describes vast areas of wilderness land completely untouched by man (“it’s 19 million acres and there ain’t no visitor center”) bordered by state land where oil exploration has already begun and writes, “All this time, I noticed more and more garbage on the left bank. Most of the animals were on the right bank…In this day and age, I would think that BP-Amoco, Exxon, and Phillips would clean up after themselves…it was one of the filthiest locations I have ever seen in my 15 years working in the oil industry.” (And this is just the exploratory stage of the drilling.) Because so very few people will actually go there and see this paradise for themselves, his mission is now “to grab you by the lapels and tell you a few things that are true because I have seen them.”
But will we believe what this oilman says and do we care? As our culture has become more and more obsessed with all the stuff we can own and things we can do, we’ve moved further away from knowing ourselves, and further away from what can be most beautiful in our lives. We don’t even seem to realize how ugly we’ve become because we’re so busy trying to buy beautiful lives through all the things we can purchase. The beauty industry, for instance, heightens feelings of shame and self-loathing for hundreds of millions of women worldwide by promoting an impossible standard of appearance that women should attain — thin, young and white — because they know the seduction of their false promises and glossy advertising keeps us buying, trying and coming back for more. There is nothing beautiful in the staggering waste of human potential and financial resources caused by chasing after this illusion; Americans spend over $40 billion a year just on products that promise weight loss, not to mention the cosmetics, clothing, surgeries, etc. How else might we choose to spend our efforts and resources to create real and lasting beauty around us if we weren’t chasing after some manufactured ideal?
Most people will tell you they are concerned about the state of the world today — terrorism, violence, poverty, crime, pollution, stress — yet fail to realize that it’s our own choices which are creating these ugly scenarios. Rejecting our own unique natural beauty in favor of the commercial ideal is only one example. The loss of strong community and family ties in our lives is another. Our nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” reflects the sense of loss we feel because we now spend our time with computers, TVs, catalogs and shopping malls instead of nurturing our inner beauty and radiance in the company of each other or outdoors in the natural world.
Our children are perhaps most endangered by the erosion of real beauty in our lives. Children spend less and less time just being kids these days — playing, pretending, being outdoors. Instead, just like the adults in their lives, they are hooked up to electronic boxes, dependent upon external sources of entertainment and lacking imagination. They are dissatisfied, bored and frustrated and don’t even know why. I believe it is because our children are lacking a strong connection to the source of their beauty within and are having a hard time finding that beauty in the outside world as well. The false advertising industry, the breakdown of families and communities, the endangered environment and threatened survival of humanity as a whole are not secrets even to children in our information age. “What’s the point?” they can be heard asking at younger and younger ages. Stressed out parents, in an attempt to ease their children’s’ anxiety, try to fill that void with what is “best” in our culture — more stuff — instead of spending more time with their kids, lovingly guiding them towards developing characters of moral strength and beauty.
Alarmingly, over the past fifteen years, we’ve watched our culture evolve the mechanism for its own demise through the growth of the video game industry. It saddens and shocks me at how pervasive is the trend to allow our children (and adults!) to “play” violent video games as a form of entertainment, glamorizing what is most vile in our human nature as fun. By filling our children’s’ brains and nervous systems with cues that trigger and predispose them to violence, chaos, competition and detachment, we are literally cultivating a whole new race of humans with little appreciation for beauty and even less experience in creating it. How can we not see the connection between what we are feeding our kids now and the future they will create in the world? That such a savage streak could settle so easily into our schools and homes without protest from the general population speaks volumes about how ugly and unaware our society has become, how far off “the beauty path” we have strayed.
Yet as long as the human heart beats, the spark shines within giving humans a co-creative hand in the quality of the world we live in. The choice is ours to create a world of beauty or horrors depending upon where we place our vision and what our priorities will be. We have life-altering choices to make and follow through on now if we wish to revise the nightmares we have created on the planet and begin anew. Change is possible — it’s inevitable — but in what direction is still our choice to make. We can release our addiction to buying, consuming and wasting; we can downsize the busy-ness of our lives so we have less things to do and more time to spend with people; we can say no to violent entertainment for ourselves and our children; and we can simply enjoy ourselves and our lives on Mother Earth in peace, respect and beauty. Sometimes it is the most mundane things we do that make all the difference in the world, but little by little those things do make a difference and the world becomes a little bit lighter. You are your truest self — beautiful — when you smile. Spread the light.
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine .