Ugly ducklings and human beauty

A few nights ago I was reading to my daughters “The Ugly Duckling” story by Hans Christian Andersen. The girls were immediately appaled by the treatment the swan-to-be got by its adoptive brothers and sisters and all-around neighbors. The verdict was simple: “This is not good!”. Yet I’ve been reflecting for several days now on how we are trained to recognize beauty. My own experience of beauty has evolved over time:

I remember yeas ago while I was on a business trip to a certain West European country, how appalled I was at not seeing a single attractive face in the crowds of the airports, trains and office buildings I was passing through. Who knows what filter had been clouding my vision…

Nowadays — this morning included — I marvel at the beauty of every single face I see in the packed Metro. From the Muslim lady who clearly does not want to turn heads but is so beautiful in her self-respect to the young punk with more needles than I have in my sewing kit to the balding man whose shiny head just begs to be kissed (no doubt reminding me of my dad and of the hairdo that is coming to me sooner than I wish) to the office beauty that just startles with poise and attractiveness. I look at all them and I tell myself, My God, you are indeed masterful in creating such diverse beauty!

Thou shalt behold the lights of beauty upon their faces and the mysteries of glory in their human temples.
(Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 64)

Now I have to admit what I have noticed — that my ability to see the beauty of each and every one of the human beings around me is directly related to my ability to be in the present moment, to be looking at them with a divine eye.

With the ear of God he heareth, with the eye of God he beholdeth the mysteries of divine creation.
(Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 17)

For I am very familiar with the alternative too — when my eyes glide only through those “swan” faces — and then I know that my brain has gone into a dimension where only those that are acceptable (whatever that might be) are appreciated. Which brings me back to the tale of the ugly duckling that was appreciated only when it blossomed into a beautiful swan. Perhaps that is a tale from a different world that is fading away into the past; perhaps that is a tale that has still lessons to teach us. I am grateful, though, that we live in the days of “Shrek” with its most touching moment being when Princess Fiona turned into her un-swan self, and still lived happily-ever-after 😉

By the way, tonight is a Friday Movie Night; I bet we will watch “Shrek” for the nth time!

Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form, and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm, and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape, enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas, and convictions of the children of men.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 103)

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