“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Thursday, 29 March 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (I know not by whom, I've just looked it up in both my Dictionaries of Quotations, and it isn't there, to my surprise). However.

What does this mean? I think that it is reminding us that there is no one standard of beauty in the world, no matter what the celebrity press might tell us. For example, it is a truism that every new parent thinks that his or her baby is the most beautiful creature in the world, when an objective view might think otherwise (to say the least). So maybe if we can believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we might be able to avoid making snap judgements about people based on how "pleasing" their appearance is to us, because we will understand that our standard of beauty may not be shared by others.

The importance attributed by many in our society to  having a particular type of body or set of features worries me. I am not immune to this - I look at pictures of the great and the good (or even the merely famous) and compare myself unfavourably to them. This even though I KNOW that the photos I am seeing are often airbrushed impossibilities.

Perhaps the real meaning of the phrase is that when you look at someone with love in your heart, they are beautiful, because you are looking at the whole person, not just at their physical appearance. Perhaps we should train ourselves to look at others in this way, so that we may, in the words of the Quakers, "refrain from making prejudiced judgements about the life journeys of others" and "Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God."

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