True beauty is ageless, timeless, intangible. It is evident at every age and stage of life and inherent in every human being, male or female, young or old. Deep within ourselves we hold this knowledge and yet we forget. We struggle with exquisitely painful feelings of inadequacy, failure and abandonment because we do not live up to the ideal of a mere physical beauty imposed upon us from the external world.
Women in particular, who are valued almost solely for their looks, suffer immeasurably, becoming consumed by the attainment of this one thing, beauty. Yet, the hierarchy that has been created in our material world is an illusion. In reality, there is no objective measure of beauty, no better or best, no gradation of beauty from plain to pretty to perfect. We are beautiful according to our uniqueness, because there is no other human exactly like we are, no soul whose journey and purpose is quite like ours. No one is more valuable or worthy of love and respect because of the nuances of bone structure, skin tone or physical measurements of any kind.
These illusions are built on shifting sands; our culture raises the bar, changing the criteria of desirability so that ultimately, no one can win. The trick is to understand that there is no competition.
I have spoken with many women who, like me, are trying to integrate their inner and outer experiences. We need to somehow survive, emotionally and spiritually intact, in a world that relentlessly throws poison darts at our self esteem. We need to shed a little light on this dark aspect of femininity. We need to do what women have done throughout history – worked alongside one another to stitch together a rich tapestry of truth and experience to reveal something far more beautiful and powerful than any individual icon of our time.
I’m an idealist and in my own quiet way, a warrior. If I could find a way to open the eyes of the world to the illusion, to reveal the truth that is truly beautiful, I would do it. I would remove the pain from our sisters, daughters and mothers – if I was able to change the world.
Instead, I drop my pebbles into the pond, hoping the ripples will span out and make a difference.
Recently, I heard a radio talk-back program in which the Buddha was discussed. Scratchy reception meant that I missed most of what was said but I did manage to catch a pearl of wisdom that is particularly significant for me. After living as an ascetic in the wilderness for many, many years, the Buddha reached a point of true enlightenment. The story goes that at this point, he had a conversation with the devil, who said something like, ‘Well, you made it. You’ve reached the point of true enlightenment. And now no-one will understand what you’re talking about.’ The Buddha responded that ‘someone will understand.’ His point was that all his effort and pain were worth it if only one human being understood the message he came to bring to the world.
I am no Buddha and my path to enlightenment is yet in its early stages. Yet if only one other person understands and benefits from the insights I bring to this blog, and to my life in general, then my job is done.
This thing called ‘beauty’ is a burden, a two-edged sword that must be handled carefully until the illusion is lifted and truth becomes our reality. I don’t expect this to happen in my lifetime, or in my daughters’ lifetime, or even in my daughters’ daughters’ – but I do intend to be instrumental in the process. When enough people understand, change will take place.