Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is it True That Beauty Is Only Skin Deep?

A columnist in the Catholic Times discusses a popular new remedy, among the younger generation, for an old complaint . He was riding the bus on his way home and overheard the conversation of three high school girls. "For me it will be the nose," said one. "I also will have the nose done," said another. "I will have the double eye-lid done along with the  nose," said the third girl. They looked to be first-year high school students, said the columnist, and here they were talking about cosmetic surgery; that  they could treat such a topic with such naturalness surprised him. In their tone of voice, he heard no fear and no reservations on what was required, just concern for their outward appearance. He wondered if they had the same concern for their inner beauty.

The  desire we have to appear attractive to others is a basic instinct. We cannot  criticize the desire to make ourselves attractive to others. However, the columnist feels that many in our society have gone beyond what is reasonable and normal, adding to our vocabulary such terms as cosmetic-addict and cosmetic beauty. The importance we put on appearance has made the waiting rooms of cosmetic hospitals bustle with new customers.

This new emphasis on physical beauty can be attributed to the mass media, the 'beautiful people' seen in TV dramas and advertising, the thin bodies and beautiful faces in fashion magazines; even in books and animations, we have the prince charming and beautiful princess ideal--an unrealistic new look, the look of physical perfection, and it's taking hold of the young in our society.

A research team from Seoul Medical, in a survey of 1500 women college students, found that half would like to have cosmetic surgery; of that number 82 percent are planning to have surgery and 95 percent of those who have had surgery plan to have it done again.

The poet Khalil Gilbran says:

"And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy...  
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes
And a song you hear though you shut your ears."

The columnist reminds us that we are all beautiful, that we all have hidden beauty. Beauty, as we so often say, is in the eye of the beholder; it's something relative, something  not seen in the same place but is like a movable feast. For a Christian, he believes it's most often seen in acts of love and sacrifice. In Korea, it is often said of someone: more than a beautiful face, a beautiful heart. Physical  beauty changes with a change in time and place, with the changing cultural standards of a particular society; not so with internal beauty. 

That we have so many who do  not  see more than what is reflected in  a mirror is a reason for great sadness. What is needed is for all of us to become reflecting mirrors, seeing in others their internal beauty, and responding to that beauty so they can begin to see it for themselves.