The beholder filter

I went on a wander yesterday morning with a couple of friends. We wandered in amongst the tress of a shady garden, fighting off mosquitos but finding such beauties as I have attached in this email.

The spectacular coloring of the Peacock and the vivid magnificence of the Parrot ( who incidentally, greeted us with a wonderful “Hello there”) were easy to take away as evidence of their beauty. The giant grasshopper that blocked our narrow path presented his structural beauty against the soft greenery around him. But as I stood and chatted with this wonderful pig and admired his beauty, I began to think about the whole concept of beauty  and how it shapes our interaction.

The phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” first appeared in Greek literature in the 3rd Century BC and yet while it is therefore not a new concept, many of us still strive to create absolute definitions rather than admit its subjectiveness.

I crouched down before the pig and he came over to say hi. He was full of chat and curiosity and we had a wonderful exchange, There was little doubt in my mind, as I stood up to walk away that this was indeed a beautiful creature.  He may not have been adorned with red or blue feathers, but his character shone right through his ruffled exterior and melted my heart.

Those we define as beautiful are generally given special treatment in our lives; beautiful people tend to get paid more, succeed more in business, and even their opinions are more listened to. Those we regard as ugly are generally derided, treated poorly, and are assigned little or no value. In the natural world, “ugliness” is often even more costly as creatures are killed just because we look at them with disdain or disgust. Cockroaches make most of us recoil and we feel justified in spraying them with toxic chemicals or just stomping on them.

But it beggars the question; when they look at us, do they see a beautiful creature? And do they validate their own ugliness? Unlikely …

I remember a wonderful movie from the 80’s with John Hurt as the lead character. It is called The Elephant Man. It was based on the true life of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man from the late 1800’s in London. If you haven’t seen it, do! It creates a stunning reflection of man’s inhumanity to man. It has the one line from a movie that I will always remember… as he gets cornered by an angry mob, bent on hurting him because of his deformities. His “I am not an animal. I am a human being” gives pause to the angry crowd and should also give us pause.

All creatures (human or not) have a right to life and whenever we take away that right, we should do so for a stronger reason than something just not satisfying our own definition of beauty.

So next time you witness an insult of being called a disgusting pig, understand that this is more a reflection of the person saying it than for whom it is aimed at. Pigs are truly wonderful creatures… intelligent, social, and beautiful. If a Munro-detractor called you a disgusting Marylin, would you be overly insulted?

I love the natural world we live in and find beauty everywhere. By widening my “beholder” filter, I welcome more beauty into my life. Try it …

Hope you have a beautiful week!

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