Me on Coelho on Inner Beauty
A friend pointed me at this link, the way I imagine a hunter points his dog towards prey. Go hunt, he said. Bring ‘em down! Although not in so many words. “What do you think?”, was his actual question. My answer? “I want to tear it apart, sentence by sentence.”
And so I will.
People always say: ‘It’s inner beauty that matters, not outer beauty.’
Well, that’s not true.
No, it really isn’t. A lot of people are unabashedly superficial. I know more than one person who will admit that they only like to hang out with people who are at least as good-looking as themselves.
If it were, why would flowers put so much energy into attracting bees?
If the ability to attract bees is our new definition of “beauty”, I guess none of us are beautiful. Unless we wear flower prints or spill honey all over ourselves.
Flowers put energy into attracting pollinators because the flowers that don’t end up nudged out of the gene pool. That some flowers look beautiful to us is merely testament to the fact that our brains work in very strange ways.
And why would raindrops transform themselves into a rainbow when they encounter the sun?
This is even worse than the flower analogy. The flowers (the ones that are pollinated by animals, at any rate) actually do “try” to look attractive. Atmospheric drops of water are just floating there. The fact that rainbows occur and that we can see them is a happy coincidence, a result of physics and biology working the way they do.
Because nature longs for beauty, and is only satisfied when beauty can be exalted.
Which is why nature made it so that shit smells like flowers and looks like rainbows? Oh, and also it’s why nature made ebola viruses to sing people to sleep with gentle lullabies.
outer beauty is inner beauty made visible, and it manifests itself in the light that flows from our eyes.
There is no light flowing from our eyes. Eyes are for detecting light, if they emitted it they would rather be counteracting their own purpose. What’s that, you say? Metaphorical light? Okay, I’ll deal with that later on.
It doesn’t matter if a person is badly dressed or doesn’t conform to our idea of elegance, or isn’t even concerned about impressing other people.
Okay, this I actually agree with, mostly. A person can be perfectly delightful to be around regardless of how s/he dresses. And people who aren’t concerned with impressing others are usually quite a lot more fun to be around than those who are. I do tend to appreciate people who dress nicely, though. Being a poor dresser often goes hand in hand with being clueless in other ways as well.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and, like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them.
So if the person looking into someone’s eyes has a dark soul, he will see only his own ugliness.
So, meatphorical light emanating from the mirror of our soul, we meet again.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves of prose. Eyes are not mirrors of the soul. Eyes don’t shine with kindness or love. They don’t emanate hate. The eyes are mostly expressionless globes. The area around the eyes might tell you something about how the person you’re looking at is feeling, but unless you can also see her/his mouth, there’s no telling if your guess is correct.
I know. I’m ruining every romantic scene ever written. I don’t care. You can write about depth of emotion without resorting to tired clichés with no bearing on reality.
Beauty is present in all creation, but the danger lies in the fact that, because we human beings are often cut off from the Divine Energy, we allow ourselves to be influenced by what other people think.
We deny our own beauty because others can’t or won’t recognise it.
Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we try to imitate what we see around us.
Divine Energy? I guess there’s more to this than I can be bothered looking into. These sentences presume you agree that Divine Energy exists, and I don’t even know what that means. Needless to say, I don’t think it does. And so being cut off from it certainly can’t be to blame for our tendency to worry about what other people think.
We are social creatures. We need to conform. We instinctively feel weird when we don’t. And it’s no one’s fault. If I enter a party where everyone’s dressed to the teeth and I’m wearing a onepiece, it’s not their judgment that makes me feel weird, it’s that I understand that I stick out. It takes a very special kind of person to not mind this at all.
I’m not saying it’s bad to worry about what other’s think, and I’m not saying it’s bad not to. Each person must find its own way to handle the various intricacies of human interation.
We try to be what other people think of as ‘pretty’ and, little by little, our soul fades, our will weakens, and all the potential we had to make the world a more beautiful place withers away.
Because anyone who is intrested in their appearance is necessarily a weak-willed, soulless shell of a human. Or maybe they just like looking pretty? I know I do. I don’t take this interest to such extremes as others do, but I do like to feel beautiful. I do like to be admired sometimes.
I used to look down on people who, in my mind, cared about their looks too much. Then I grew up. I realised that not everyone has to be the same, and that having a deep interest in painting your face or nails is not so different from having a deep interest in any other craft. Of course everything can be taken to extremes. Of course it’s bad to let insecurity and the drive to conform rule your life.
I get the feeling Coelho — and I admit I have yet to read a single work of his except this excerpt on his blog — is trying to say something profound, to help people accept themselves. But to not recognise that most of us do carry these feelings of needing to fit in somewhere, or to have our superficial traits appreciated, and accept this as something natural and profoundly human, is to do ourselves a disservice.
And as for what he says about nature: Can we not simply agree that it’s fortuitous that we happen to think a lot of the natural phenomena we see around us are beautiful? Do we have to ascribe agency to the universe? The world is as it is. It’s beautiful and terrifying and full of both pleasure and danger. (Frankly, for us, mostly danger.) To speak of it as if it strives for our entirely subjective concept of “beauty” is to make it out to be less than it is.