The quest for beauty

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

"We do in two hours what a psychologist does in two years," commented a cosmetic surgeon on a television documentary that followed the fortunes of three people wanting a nip and a tuck. Warned of the possible dangers, each was willing to take the risk in order to look more perfect and therefore have a better self-image, more confidence, and like themselves more. The surgeons were skillful, and the results, at least to these patients, proved the investments worthwhile.

Tempting, isn't it? A quick fix that avoids all that dieting and exercise struggle or years of psychological analysis to deal with a mental hang-up. And the more so if you work in one of those industries where a strict code of beauty is a requirement, or perhaps a yardstick by which skill and talent are measured. Glossy magazines and television advertising bombard western society with images of glamorous people, and how easy it is by comparison to feel humdrum, ugly, depressed. "If only" creeps in. If only I were thinner, or taller, or had longer, blonder hair - or more hair. Or if bits of me were less lumpy!

Standards of beauty have changed throughout history. Medieval European ladies yearned for white sloping shoulders; today, broad, muscly, and tanned is preferred. Also, culturally defined, beauty has come at a price. In eighteenth-century Europe, lead-based make-up poisoned people, and in the nineteenth century, tight corsets injured lungs and caused respiratory ailments.

One nineteenth-century woman, however, offered this different view of beauty: "The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul...." She was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, and her statement is as relevant today as it was arresting in her day.

She continues with her recipe: "...to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 247-248).

This is neither a physical nor a psychological process. It involves inspiration, love, and selflessness. Concentra-ting less on our physical imperfections and more on our search for "more Soul" - a better understanding of God - frees us from the limitations of the physical senses and opens our hearts to opportunities for spiritual well-being, regeneration, and healing.

As a clothing designer, I frequently encountered clients who wished that their bodies were a different shape. Some felt that every failure or problem they had was due to their particular physical imperfection. From my professional point of view, few had problems that couldn't be disguised with a clever bit of tailoring. But careful cutting of cloth was as pointless as surgery - cutting the body - unless the client stopped obsessing about herself and her body and started identifying herself by her quality of thought, ideas, and spirit. Projecting our perceived inadequacies onto our bodies is neither helpful nor progressive. Buying new clothes or having a make-over or surgery may provide a short-term boost, but something deeper is needed.

Appreciating our own beauty involves reflection. Not so much a look in the mirror, but a deeper reflecting, a look into who we really are - beyond the physical form - to our God-created, inherent spiritual beauty. Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Anatomy, when conceived of spiritually, is mental self-knowledge, and consists in the dissection of thoughts to discover their quality, quantity, and origin" (pg. 462). Dissection of thoughts, not bodies. So, what is not beautiful - thoughts that are unloving or self-centered - can be recognized and replaced by letting the beautiful qualities of God shine through.

Knowing ourselves better as spiritual ideas obliterates the desire or need for physical perfection, which is, after all, a relative value. Armed with a recipe for beauty and a spiritual sense of anatomy, who needs the nip or the tuck?

Have a day filled with beauty!

Let the beauty

of the Lord our God

be upon us.

Psalms 90:17

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