This morning while on our walk, Sophie and I saw an eagle standing on the lake ice. Adjectives like beautiful and majestic came to mind in describing what I saw. As we walked I started thinking about beauty and why it is important to us. Beauty is important after all, let no one tell you different. But why? Why is one person beautiful to me, while not so to someone else. There is a whole science out there that studies beauty and can surely give us those answers. So why write about it, you ask? Because I think it’s interesting.
When I first met my wife, I knew nothing about her. I was attracted to her by her beauty. She’s a redhead with freckles and the way she styled her hair and her smile attracted me. It was only later that her personality and love of art and music enticed me to get to know her better. Her initial beauty was important. Now people will tell you that beauty is not important to them but without my wife’s look to attract me, I may never have taken a second look. She has a lot of inner beauty that is equally attractive but it was the way she looked the first time I saw her that brought her to my attention. And I’m sure that I’m not the only one that this happens to.
In the animal world, beauty is important. Many animals go through mating rituals of flashing bright feathers or intricate dances to attract a mate. Science tells us that this is important because we, and animals wish to procreate and the strongest most attractive mate will produce the best offspring. So nature has a lot to do with our love of beauty. It is fascinating however, that two people can have such different views on what beauty is. I guess our likes and dislikes go all the way back to our childhood, to things we were exposed to, to what our parents taught us, to what our friends liked and disliked. And some of it must be genetic because I remember being attracted to the little red haired girl, way back in grade school. (And Peppermint Patty was my favorite Peanuts character.)
Unfortunately today, I think the idea of beauty has been distorted out of proportion by an industry that makes a lot of money on what you think is beautiful. Every time I stand at the checkout counter in the grocery store I can’t help (and it’s designed this way) but see all the magazines that tell you what health and beauty are. People are getting butt lifts and boob jobs and pumping their lips full of unnatural things because we are told that this is beautiful. Covering their faces and bodies in make-up and coloring their hair to appear more attractive is a huge business and people are told that this is important. My wife rarely wears make-up. Once in a while when we go out or at the holidays she’ll put on eye shadow and liner and a little rouge. It’s tasteful and simple and she likes doing it, but only once in a while. She’s confident enough in how she looks to not have to do that everyday.
So beauty is important. However the kind of beauty that is important today has changed much over the years. I think we should be encouraging young people to believe that their natural beauty is good enough rather than telling them that it is not but there are things they can do to improve themselves. We have a lot of insecure young people today because they are being told that their natural beauty is not good enough and they grow into adults with low self esteem who think they need a boob job or fuller lips. The eagle I saw on the ice this morning didn’t give a damn what I thought about how it looked and I think we could all take a lesson from that.