The Concept of Beauty

There are a whole lot of ways to be perfect, and not one of them is attained through punishment.

From the Essay Dogs, Cats, and Dancers, Thoughts about Beauty, by Ursula K. Le Guin

In this essay, Usula not only talks about the concept of perfection, but also about society’s expectations of beauty, and how we’ve created rules, how we play with those rules, like a game to create ourselves as beautiful in the eyes of society. The thing is, we don’t have the follow the rules to be beautiful. We just are. All of us.

The fun bits of the game are where we express who we really are by our choices, not what the game or society “expects” of us.

People have decorated themselves as long as they’ve been people. Flowers in the hair, tattoo lines on the face, kohl on the eyelids, pretty silk shirts— things that make you feel good. Things that suit you. Like a white pillow suits a lazy black cat… . That’s the fun part of the game.

From the Essay Dogs, Cats, and Dancers, Thoughts about Beauty, by Ursula K. Le Guin

There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup if you like doing it. Buy and wear that fun shirt. Tattoo your face or body. Do whatever pleases you, that makes you feel good, that you enjoy. That’s beautiful. That’s perfect for you.

As the essay continues, there is a great part where she talks about her mom walking down the street seeing a blonde woman coming towards her wearing the same jacket, only to realize it’s her own reflection, but she doesn’t see herself as blonde. She always thought of herself as a redhead.

It reminded me of a story my dad used to tell me, of when he was just a kid. His mom was talking about his eye color, saying he had brown eyes. But he was adamant that his eyes were green. He didn’t just mean it as a joke, he really meant they were green. And to this day he remembers that moment. He thought his eyes were green. He believed they were green. To him, they were green.

Does it all come back to how we perceive ourselves? Is there anything wrong with perceiving yourself differently than others do? I don’t think so. That’s your sense of self. And as long as you are beautiful to yourself, as long as you see yourself as you want to be seen, then hopefully you are comfortable with who you are.

Keep being you, because you are beautiful.

Towards the end of the essay Ursula mentions that she considers her body to be a very distinct part of herself. And doesn’t envision what I would call her consciousness as separate from her body. And yet, says that she cannot be lost as long as she has her memory.

I think it would be interesting to sit down and ask her then if she were to loose her body would she loose her sense of self. Because she seems tied to the body, but not lost as long as she has her mind. Would she feel the same if she only had her body and no mind?

In the end, she quotes Yeats…

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Among School Children, William Butler Yeats

Without the mind to control the body, there would be no dance. Without the mind to control the concept of ourselves, of our own beauty, we wouldn’t be beautiful. Remember you control who you are. And you need only to make yourself beautiful your eyes to be beautiful.

You are beautiful.

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