The Perniciousness of Pulchritude
by S. M. Chen | 25 July 2019 |
“Beauty is not about having a beautiful face. It is about having a beautiful mind, a beautiful heart and, most importantly, a beautiful soul.” —Anonymous
In a recent BBC interview, the 14th Dalai Lama told female reporter Rajini Vaidyanathan that, were his successor to be female, she should be attractive. Furthermore, she should be prepared to wear makeup. He stated no such qualifications should his successor be male.
The above is consistent with an earlier interview he gave in 2015. You can watch the brief interview here.
I wish to go on record and say I have nothing against beauty (however one defines that; like obscenity, it is often in the mind of the beholder) or makeup – in reasonable (again, who is to define what is reasonable?) amount.
However, some found the Lama’s expressed opinion offensive. So much so that Twitter threatened to cancel his account. He has a posting dated June 28, so I don’t know when or if that will happen.
Twitter is entitled to cancel the account of any of its users, I suppose. I do find it of interest that they have maintained the account of the current POTUS, whose invitation for men to “grab the genitalia” (my word) of (presumably attractive) women was apparently somehow considered less offensive than the lama’s opinion about a female successor.
The more crude or graphic, the more acceptable, it seems. Or perhaps the tired excuse “boys will be boys” applies only to white men of the West.
Recently, another woman came forward with a rape allegation against the POTUS. Whether true or not (he of the Orange coif denied it, as he has other rape allegations in the past), the POTUS used an interesting defense: the accuser wasn’t attractive enough for him to have attacked her. In other words, only the attractive become victims. If you’re ugly enough (or insufficiently pulchritudinous), this kind of crime will not happen to you. One of the unanticipated benefits of being an average citizen.
It does seem that, since antiquity, those endowed with greater physical appeal have generated more interest. Or at least mention in Holy Writ.
Rachel was more attractive than Leah, her older sister. Both married Jacob, albeit Leah seven years sooner. Rachel remained more favored, however.
I have a longtime friend who befriended two younger women – sisters – overseas. He finally got to meet them and found one more attractive, the other of more pleasing personality.
Bathsheba was notoriously beautiful. But her beauty did not necessarily bring happiness. Her first husband, Uriah, was killed because of it (albeit indirectly; the Law of Unintended Consequences at work).
Sarah, Abraham’s wife and half-sister, was a looker. So much so that he used deception to (ostensibly) save their lives when abroad. Not once, but twice.
Tamar, a pretty young woman, half-sister of Amnon, was, in a fit of passion, raped by him. Unlike Dinah, daughter of Jacob, who was raped by Shechem (who then, with decency, sought to marry her), Tamar was, after the rape, rejected by Amnon. That sordid tale, as recounted in II Samuel, did not end well. For neither Amnon nor Absalom, avenger of Tamar and aspirer to the throne of his father, David.
No less distasteful is what happened to the Shechemites as a consequence of the rape of Dinah. If anything, their tale is more shameful, its resulting from the deceit of two of Jacob’s sons.
And then there was Delilah. Her appeal to Samson, strongest of men, likely lay in her physicality. She led to the downfall of Samson and ultimately that of some 3,000 of her countrymen in the temple whose roof blind prisoner Samson brought down after, hair regrown, his strength was restored.
I believe part of the appeal of Salome, stepdaughter of Herod, lay in her physical appeal as well as dancing ability.
Little did Herod know, when he promised her anything, up to half his kingdom, that Salome would ask for the head of John the Baptist – on a platter.
John was not the first (nor last) to lose his head for a woman, but was likely one of the few to do so literally.
Regardless, with justification, people, particularly women, are offended by the lama’s remarks about a potential female successor. One would have hoped for more light from one presumably representing the embodiment of enlightenment.
By the way, being sort of an amateur etymologist, I’m reminded of this, written by Ogden Nash:
“The one-L lama,
He’s a priest;
The two-L llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
a silk pajama
There isn’t any
It seems true, and ever so, that man looks at the outside, but God looks on the inside. That should be a source of comfort to some of us.
We may have been created in the image of the Almighty, but, over time and for a variety of reasons, most of us look (and are) quite ordinary. We fall under the large shade of the bell curve.
Contrary to advice, the Israelites wanted a king of their own. They chose Saul, a fine-looking physical specimen.
But, in the end, facing defeat in battle, he couldn’t even get his armor bearer to kill him. He had to fall on his own sword.
Looks are transitory – and deceptive.
In modern times, some die trying to improve their appearance. A woman perished getting her bottom lifted.
Countless perish while taking selfies. Some of these individuals qualify for the Darwin Award, given to those most creative in cleansing the gene pool – of themselves.
So, if we can do little to alter our appearance (Botox, collagen, and the claims of cosmetic surgery to the contrary), what can we do?
- Allow our hearts of stone to be transformed into hearts of flesh.
- Be soft, not hard (headed or hearted).
- Be of contrite mind and spirit.
- Be attuned to the still small voice, the quickening of the Spirit.
- Be aware of the cracks. For, as singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen opined, those are what let the light in.
- Be grateful for what you have been given. For who you are.
I encountered a recent op-ed by Madeline Fry in the Washington Examiner, which urged Twitter not to cancel the account of the Dalai Lama.
Although Twitter likely wants to send a message worth heeding, I’m inclined to agree with Ms. Fry.
As the saying went in a largely Islamic country in which I lived a long time ago: “Only Allah is perfect.”
S.M. Chen writes from California.