What we define as beautiful depends on who sees it – the young or the old, through the Asian or Western eyes or the beauty gurus.
Let me give an illustration. The Kayans are a tribe living near Thailand and Myanmar. The women wear brass neck rings. The longer the neck rings, the more beautiful they are regarded. On the other hand, the Asian world regards fair porcelain skin as the ultimate definition of beauty. We are also influenced by the Hollywood idea of beauty. Look at Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, or Salma Hayek. All have fantastic skin, long silky hair, and huge sparkling eyes. This can also be used to describe Aishwarya Rai, the reigning Bollywood queen. This glazed blue-green-eyed beauty was once a Miss World.
Another criterion is she must be slim. An example is Keira Knightley. This beauty has become very slim. The idea of a beautiful person as slim is especially so in the world of fashion. Many models are slim to the point of being skinny. However, they have eating disorders. As a result, some countries have tried to put a stop to this. In 2006, Spain was the first country to ban models below a certain weight from Madrid’s Fashion Week. Italy has recently decided to keep models who are sickly thin off the catwalk.
This is done not just for the health of the models. Teenagers and young adults look to the models not just for fashion advice, but rather as the rules as to what fashion is. These young adults notice how all of the models are skinny and therefore try to follow them. They think that to be accepted and regarded as looking good, they too must be skinny. This may inadvertently cause health problems for young women and men around the world as they attempt to follow in the models’ footsteps. This leads to poor diet, poor self-esteem, and poor health.
Beauty is also related to youth or looking young. This has given rise to aesthetic therapy. All kinds of beauty treatments and miracle creams are on the market. Recently New Yorkers looking for a quick beauty fix risk death from unlicenced practitioners offering oil injections.
We have forgotten what Confucius said ‘Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. A good example is the anecdote of clay balls. A man found many clay balls in a cave. He just threw them into the sea. Eventually, he found out that there was a precious stone inside the hardened clay ball, but had thrown away many. Inner beauty is something that we seem to forget – because we do not see it.
The recent singing sensation who was dismissed by the audience and the judges before she could open her mouth is one such case. Susan Boyle is frumpy-looking, has bushy eyebrows and frizzy hair. In short, she is ‘ugly’ compared to the other young and beautiful participants. However, she has a beautiful and fabulous voice. When she sang, she was given a standing ovation by the audience and the judges.
Of course, looks should have absolutely nothing to do with talent. But people’s perception is such. We have placed so much importance on looks than character or qualities of compassion and kindness that are so important in our daily lives. One of the most beautiful persons in the world is Mother Teresa. She spent her life in the slums of India to take care of the sick and dying. There are many like her, going around helping the destitute and sick and needy their quiet little ways.
In short, we should open our eyes to the inner beauty of a person, and remember the story of the clay balls.