Monday, December 19, 2005

True Beauty.

First rant. (Deep breath).
Mike and I were talking about what exactly true beauty is. It seems that there is some discrepancy between what many people view as "beautiful" and what a healthy view of beautiful is.
First - there is a large difference between beautiful and hot. The word "hot" is a physical description - pleasing to the eyes and to the senses. "Hot" is a temporal, societal descriptor - it is defined by a certain time and society. Case in point - what Victorian society would define as "hot", or visually pleasing, is far different from what we would call "hot". What is hot changes from minute to minute, and is subject to the whims of popular culture.
So, then, what is beauty if it is not physical and sensual attractiveness? Beauty is far more complex than a pretty face, or properly proportioned body. Beauty, in fact, does not have anything to do with being "hot" as society defines it. In fact, some things are beautiful even though they are not physically pleasing. For example, a newborn child is beautiful, but not very pretty.
Beauty is timeless. What was beautiful five hundred years ago will be beautiful today. It is important to note that beauty and "hot" can coexist, although they are not necessarily linked. So, if beauty is timeless, and does not necessarily have anything to do with physical things, then what is beauty?
In actuality, beauty truly comes from the inside. It is almost like an aura around a person - the person will exude beauty all the time. It is not necessarily anything that a person consciously does that will cause beauty, but it is almost the product of many choices.
So what makes a person beautiful? Obviously one usually needs to know someone at least a little before beauty can be assessed. However, I believe that Beauty, like Truth, will show itself. Beauty and inner ugliness can often be assessed through first impressions. Somehow, beauty gives itself away immediately. It cannot be hidden easily.
So then what is truly beautiful if it is not skin and clothing? Here are several short lists of what came to mind:
Things that are beautiful: Honesty, purity, love, grace, faithfulness, compassion, faith, humility, temperance, and patience.
Things that are ugly: Dishonesty, impurity, hatred, lust, faithlessness, apathy, avarice, gluttony, faithlessness, and impatience.
It would seem that the list of beautiful things follows closely with 1 Corinthians' views on love and Galatians 5's sayings on the Fruits of the Spirit. Maybe these three are connected.
A common Christian saying is that Jesus came to be the servant of all. We know that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, something that was unexpected and somewhat improper for a leader. However, Jesus showed his love for his disciples by serving them, by making himself lower than they were. This was a beautiful act. And I think that this may be getting to the heart of the issue of true beauty. Jesus' washing of his disciples' feet was a selfless act of love (as well as an object lesson), and it endures to today as a lesson in servanthood. So...could true beauty be found in the most selfless acts?
Going back to the list of beautiful things, most of them are actually selfless acts. They are putting one person ahead of yourself. The ugly things are the opposite: selfish acts that bring good to no one but themself.
If true beauty comes out of selflessness, then that would explain why beauty is timeless - acts of selflessness and heroism are remembered. Jesus' death is one example. Mother Teresa is remembered for her lifetime of sacrifice for India's poor. We remember our soldiers every November 11 for the sacrifice of their lives in trade for our freedom. Selfless acts remain, and the beauty in them is apparent.
The nature of beauty is selflessness. This is why someone can be physically attractive and yet be repulsive at the same time. Also, someone can be physically unattractive and be beautiful. Oddly enough, true beauty seems to counteract physical unattractiveness - good people are always attractive.
In conclusion, true beauty is something that we should strive for. However, we must remember that it is our actions and our attitude that makes us beautiful - not how we look. Looks fade, and "hot" will change, but true beauty will stand out.


Blogger ty said...

I'm a fan of your new blog. you are a beautiful person my friend, love you bro :)

2:58 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Thanks, Tyler! I hope sojourn works out.

9:07 PM  
Blogger JAnie & DAve said...

Hey Matt,

Two thoughts:
I really never liked the word "hot". It seems to be far too sexualized. People seem to use it as "That/she/he makes me think naughty, sexy thoguhts", which is not cool.

And I don't like that people are attracted to strangers, such as movie stars and celebrities. How can a stranger be hot? You don't know them!

Maybe it comes back to what you were saying, that beauty comes from something not captured in photos.

I also was thinking that all beautiful people still have ugly parts, so be careful with first impressions. Everyone has bad days.

Was that two thoughts or three? Whatever.


12:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

In regards to the word "hot" - it is sexual - it only refers to a person's physical characteristics. This is why "hot" is different from "beautiful", but the two can coexist.
That's a very good point about beautiful people having ugly parts too - we need to be careful.

7:12 PM  
Blogger steph said...

here maybe you have some thoughts on this:

pain is beautiful

i think it can be at least. but that doesn't really fit with anything you were writing about, because to you it seems like beauty is always a positive thing. and i am not sure i think that it always is. things like pain, and sacrifice, and all that...that is beauty to me as well. what do you think...

11:54 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Pain is beautiful...interesting. I agree, but only partially. Some pain is beautiful. Pain and suffering when they lead to something greater is beautiful - such as the pains of childbirth, or the suffering of persecuted Christians. In a sense, even physical pain is beautiful because it is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong. However, some pain is not beautiful. The pain caused when someone is wronged is not beautiful. Like I said in my original post, selfishness is not beautiful. In fact, it causes grief to everyone it touches. I think that pain caused by sin is not beautiful.
Maybe purposeful pain and suffering is beautiful. What do you think?

12:08 PM  
Blogger steph said...

why can't grief be beautiful? grief teaches us how to appreciate. i guess the way i see life is that everything has its own beauty...even if it is not positive. Not on its own, not in the least. But because God touches even the worst of our lives...even the worse of this world and all the pain and suffering in it...and colors it beautiful.
i wonder if you understand what i am trying to say. i think it would be easier if i didnt have to write it all.
i guess i am not sure yet what to think of your thoughts that only the outcomes of pain are beautiful.
i want to think that...but i am seeing it a little differently.

Merry Christmas friend!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Thanks, Steph!
I think I understand what you're getting at - there is beauty in tragedy, or beauty in pain/grief - that the pain itself is beautiful. Hmmm. I'm not too sure what to say about that. I think that beauty is something we usually want to experience, or strive for, or admire. I know people usually don't want to experience pain or grief, or strive for it. Can you elaborate some more on what you're thinking - give some examples?
Merry Christmas, too!

11:14 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Just to clarify, you said: i guess i am not sure yet what to think of your thoughts that only the outcomes of pain are beautiful.
I think that suffering in of itself is beautiful sometimes - for example, Christ's suffering and death for us. The question I'm working with is why is it beautiful? I still think that because Christ's sufferings were selfless (they were for us), that made them beautiful. What He accomplished is certainly beautiful, but his suffering is also beautiful. I don't think that pain and suffering and grief is always beautiful, though - why would Christians be looking forward to a day where God will "wipe every tear from our eye"?

12:56 AM  
Blogger steph said...

i will elaborate on the rest later, i just wanted to write about the following for now.
that is something that i have been struggling with for awhile. the promise that heaven will not have pain, and like you said "every tear will be wiped away..."
i know this may sound messed up, but sometimes that part about heaven scares me. the part where we won't experience pain or hurt or anything like that. i find a certain completeness in feeling the pain of this world, and i find it wierd to think that will be no longer...yet all the happiness and joy will be...
its like only half will be there.
what if in heaven there will still be pain? what if we will just react to it differently there? i said, this may sound messed up. and it's not that i necissarily believe all the above, it is just thoughts i have.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Maybe the pain that will be gone is the type of pain that comes from people being separated from God. We will be put right with God, so the pain that results from our being torn apart from God will be healed.
Just a side thought - I wonder if physical pain is pre-fall - that is, not a result or consequence of Adam and Eve's sin. Physical pain, after all, is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong.

1:25 AM  
Blogger steph said...

i think that was what i originally began thinking too, that physical pain was pre-fall. And that lead into my thinking that emotional pain might have been too...
And that we just respond to it differently now cause of the fall...
i dunno
i love how we have very excellently managed to get completely off topic, even off topic of what we started talking about it the first place! hah.
but its all good...

3:11 AM  
Blogger ty said...

Its very nice to see that you and steph have started your own blog. 12 posts, wow...matt shantz could say that he hates u2 and and he still wouldn't get that many posts.

hope you had a wonderful Christmas

5:32 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Tyler - thanks! I'm glad you enjoy my and Steph's blog! You're welcome to join in anytime, though!
Steph - It's still slightly on-topic ( :) )
You said that you think that emotional pain might be pre-fall. My thoughts: where does emotional pain come from? Emotional pain comes from torn bonds between people. This type of pain is caused when two people who were close rip themselves apart, or one person rips away. I think that this is the worst kind of pain. As always, this pain shows us that there is something that is not right with us - in this case, we have been split from another person.
You know, the pain from broken relationships is pretty awful - but I can't begin to imagine what type of pain Adam and Eve (and God) experienced when Adam and Eve rebelled.
I'm still not sure if I can call emotional pain "beautiful". It serves a purpose, but I'm not sure if it reconciles with my original definition.
I said that these things that are beautiful: Honesty, purity, love, grace, faithfulness, compassion, faith, humility, temperance, and patience. This was referring to beauty in people, so it doesn't apply completely to non-human things, but I'm still not convinced pain is anything more than useful.

9:06 PM  
Blogger steph said...

well looks like we actually got to talk about all this now...
well done.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Thanks, Steph!

11:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home