Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All Things Bright and Beautiful

IndiBlogger is currently holding a writing contest, open to all members of the Indian Blogging Community. The topic is - What does real beauty mean to you?

I glanced through a few submitted posts, and was blown away by the immense talent and the wonderful writers. All these bloggers have done a great job at defining what beauty is, and I am humbled by their posts. I really hope all these people believe in their words and hold true to them always :). In this obsessed era of physical perfection, such reflections are indeed necessary from time to time.  I have often thought about what beauty is, and have even rambled on my thoughts now and then, but I have nothing spectacularly different or insightful to add to the burgeoning views on beauty that IndiBlogger has garnered. However, I was still tempted to write about it - more as an exercise in writing and expressing my thoughts on a topic that always feels incomplete and hard to verbalize. But I don’t plan on submitting the post for fear of marring the beauty of my imperfect expression with the pressure of competition :)

Nature has wired our basic instinct to notice and appreciate that which is helpful to our survival and to the proliferation of our genes. We love flowers because flowers help bees, bees help flowers, and the flowers, the delicate, helpless looking wonders help the ecosystem, and in turn, us. This delicate, yet robust and marvelous chain of support that sustains the planet is beautiful. The unfailing rhythm of Nature that masterfully orchestrates so many interconnected cycles of energy transfer is beautiful. Everything about Nature and its wired instincts in us follow symmetry as the benchmark of beauty. The symmetry of seasons, of night and day, of shapes and sizes, of colors and textures, of movements and sounds, even the fury of disasters - is beautiful. The lesson that Nature teaches, that of Karma, of the unforgivably generous effect of every single minuscule activity - is a beautiful lesson to ingrain. Nature - its specimens, its rhythms, its harmony, its symmetry, its evolution, and its endurance - embodies real beauty. Nature is as is - truthful, quiet, elegant, simple, unadorned, and yet gorgeous.

But this definition is an ethereal one, one that cannot be used in every day practical scenarios, when one tries to understand beauty to live life contently and meaningfully. We often grapple with the question - what makes a person beautiful? When I was very young - as a kid of six or seven, I believed that anyone with fair, creamy skin was beautiful. Cliched, yes. But it was a revelation to me, then. It was my first ever comprehension of the term “beautiful”. Going by the remarks of family, friends, and teachers, I narrowed it down to skin color (or lack of one). And realizing the absence of that precious attribute in me, I spent the following few years retreating into shadows of self-doubt and vanity as I became keenly aware of the unspoken attitudes of those around me. I started hearing this phrase far too often - “This color will not suit you”. So I found myself shrinking into subdued colors, slinking behind vibrant girls who could wear bold colors. But surprisingly, I accepted myself more easily and readily back then - the beauty of being a child. Thanks to my parents for nurturing my interests, and teaching me the value of inner-beauty. Good manners, grace, piety, and purity, my mom said. Intelligence, hard work, undying spirit, and altruism, my dad said. And I clung onto these values, which were mere words to me, hoping I will one day come to understand them and their beauty better.

Today, I do wholeheartedly realize the value of those words. A person is most beautiful for the humility, kindness, empathy, compassion, and generosity they exude - both within themselves, and outside themselves, showering others in their brilliant radiance. They are even more beautiful human beings if their minds are sharp, intelligent, curious, and most importantly, open. The human body can never be perfect in terms of the shallow definition of physical symmetry and flawless skin. But one might still keep aspiring for these in little ways, for somewhere buried in our subconscious, Nature’s instinct lingers, and it flares up now and then. Such mild feelings are harmless, I say, even inevitable really. The need to present oneself as a clean, sheen, and fit individual will always reside. But it is not a quest for beauty, it is an expression of the self to indulge in fleeting “feel-good” moments, when the task of beautifying the soul gets too difficult and abstract at times. Those who have conquered the difficult task of beautifying their inner-self are magnificently beautiful people for sure. Such beautiful individuals learn to accept and love themselves and those around them, for who they are.

Finally, when it comes to my perception of beauty in inanimate objects, I have two metrics - one is color, and the other is emotion. I love colors, and cannot live without them. I’m mesmerized by everything that reflects a bright or pastel glow. I’m glad I’m born a female, for I can lavish myself in so many colors without being scorned or judged. Why color is associated with gender, I don't know. But I live and breathe in colors. They are my reprieve in the daily routine of stress and work. They define beauty in a very materialistic, at the same time, ethereal sense.

Finally, anything that evokes a pleasant feeling, emotion, thought or memory, is beautiful to me. I love Art for the beauty of its varied expressions. And some objects, no matter how ragged and decrepit they turn with age, are souvenirs of memories and feelings we want to hold on forever. Their beauty increases with the number of experiences they share with us in life. These objects become keepers of the treasures of our life experiences. But sentimentalizing on material aspects should be kept on check. It’s beautiful if the mind develops sufficient detachment to merely outwardly recognize the beauty of these objects without getting sentimentally attached to them.

It’s beautiful to see how we coexist with Nature and with each other; that despite the squabbles, the violence, the intolerance, the competition, the greed for power, control, and the immense amounts of ignorance, we connect over the need for love and survival.


Karthik said...

Beautifully written !! I agree 100% with your definition of what makes a person beautiful !:-) For inanimate objects too, I mostly agree with what you say here:-) I really think you should submit an entry to the contest, whether or not you end up winning !

Anonymous said...

"It’s beautiful to see how we coexist with Nature and with each other; that despite the squabbles, the violence, the intolerance, the competition, the greed for power, control, and the immense amounts of ignorance, we connect over the need for love and survival." - thats such a beautiful, beautifully articulated thought :)

Neeraja said...

Thanks a lot Karthik and Anonymous for your ever kind and encouraging words! But I am not inclined to submit it to the contest, for I don't believe I'm adding a different point of view :). Most of it is cliched, but it served as a good writing exercise for me! :)

Both of you should consider writing on this topic too! :)