"How does Hen determine which is most beautiful cock?" wondered Darwin as early as in his thirties. How do females of different animal species attract and select which male to mate with? This is a question many an evolutionary scientist has pondered on for long hours.
What determines what we find attractive, or not?
Does it depend on genes?
Does it depend on cultural coding?
Does it depend on environmental conditions?
Or, does it depend on how own awareness and sensibilities?
What is beauty?
Like us, insects have colour vision. Unlike us, insects can also perceive ultraviolet light. Many plants have evolved flower parts that absorb or reflect ultraviolet light, forming patterns like rings, bull’s-eyes and starbursts. The way we see floral beauty is completely different from the way most pollinators see it.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Literally!
Why are flowers beautiful? Or, more precisely: Why are flowers beautiful to us?
Let's think about this question for a while.
Is it because they are bright?
Is it because they are rare? (as compared to leaves)
Is it because they are delicate?
Is it because they have a fragrance?
In fact, why are flowers more attractive to us than leaves? Or for that matter that the bark, or the root of the plant? What makes flowers more special?
150 million years ago many pollen-producing plants depended on the wind to spread their pollen and reproduce. But certain insects, perhaps beetles and flies, began to eat those protein-rich pollen grains, inadvertently transporting them from one plant to another. This proved to be a much more efficient means of fertilisation than air currents. Plants with the richest and most obvious sources of pollen were more successful. Likewise, insects that were particularly adept at finding pollen had an advantage over their peers.
Perhaps more than any other object of aesthetic obsession, flowers expose the futility of trying to codify and define beauty.
So then, is beauty just nature's way of making evolution more efficient?
Why do we think little hummingbirds are so cute, but the poor crow is an ugly pest?
In India, we perform 'pitra puja' to venerate our dead ancestors. The crow has been even given the place of God. Jayant, the son of Indra, once embraced the form of a crow. In Greek mythology, the raven (or crow) is considered a symbol of good luck.
But, how many of us would say that a crow is the epitome of beauty?
Is it possible to change how we think so we may find beauty in everything?
The idea of beauty has been codified and commercialised.
A slender build.
A generous bosom and narrow waist.
A sharp jawline.
Thick and flowing hair.
These have long been considered the parameters of beauty. This has been the standard set by magazines and publications, and now social media.
For many of us (men and women), we spend a huge portion of our time and emotional energy attempting to look beautiful.
In the early part of the 1990s, the definition of beauty as it applied to women began to loosen thanks to the arrival of Kate Moss, with her slight figure and vaguely ragamuffin aesthetic. Standing five feet seven inches, she was short for a runway walker. The British teenager was not particularly graceful, and she lacked the noble bearing that gave many other models their regal air. Moss’s star turn in advertisements for Calvin Klein signified a major departure from the long-legged gazelles of years past.
Moss was disruptive to the beauty system, but she was still well within the industry’s comfort zone of defining beauty as a white, European conceit.
Even the early black models who broke barriers were relatively safe: women such as Beverly Johnson, the first African-American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue, the Somali-born Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Tyra Banks. They had keen features and flowing hair— or wigs or weaves to give the illusion that they did. Iman had a luxuriously long neck that made legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland gasp. Campbell was—and is—all va-va-voom legs and hips, and Banks rose to fame as the girl next door in a polka dot bikini on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Enter Alek Wek - a Sudanese born British model. We stunned and defied the perception of beauty in the fashion industry.
Wek was a revelation. Her beauty was something entirely different.
Her tightly coiled hair was sheared close to her scalp. Her seemingly poreless skin was the colour of dark chocolate. Her nose was broad; her lips were full. Her legs were impossibly long and incredibly thin. Indeed, her entire body had the stretched-out sinewiness of an African stick figure brought to life.
To eyes that had been trained to understand beauty through the lens of Western culture, Wek was jarring. Most did not consider her beautiful.
Everything now and then, we should question and reshape our idea of beauty!
There may be no absolute and permanent definition of beauty. Beauty is marketing. Beauty is what we believe, or rather beauty is what we are made to believe.
More importantly, beauty can be torturous. If you are 'beautiful', you may end up spending huge amounts of time and energy attempting to stay that way. And if you are not, you may be spending a crazy amount of energy trying to get that way.
Is it really worth it?
What could be a more everlasting definition of beauty in a human being?
Can we redefine for ourselves we it means to be beautiful?
Can we fill ourselves with beauty?
Can we return to innocence?
Here are some thoughts which I'd like to share with you about being beautiful.
Be healthy and fit.
Eat smart. Sleep well. Work out and be strong. Nature is beautiful. You and I are nature. Nature meant us to be as healthy and fit as we can. Make this a part of your life.
Think beautiful thoughts.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you can good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams.
(From The Twits, by Roald Dahl)
There is nothing more beautiful than kindness and respect. It shows strength. Only truly strong people can be truly kind and respectful to all. Strength used well is always attractive.
Learn and grow.
Nature is never stagnant. It grows and evolves. Live a life of lifelong learning and development. It is our destiny to evolve.
Be ready to change. Be ready to let go of ideas that are not working anymore.
Stop being shy.
Step out of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid of failure and rejection. Secretly everyone craves to be bold and free. Nature is bold and free. It's beautiful.
Give and receive.
I never tire of saying this. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Give freely what you can, and receive freely what comes to us. Then there will be flow in your life. Anything that flows is always beautiful.
Open your heart. Love is inside you. You don't need an object or a person or an idea to love. Just feel the love that is already inside you.
So much of what we consider beautiful is inspired by nature. Nature is beautiful, even when it is hot and scary like an erupting volcano. And even when is it calm and serene like a frozen lake.
Find your own beauty in your own nature.
Before you go, here is one more song for you.
You should know you're beautiful just the way you are
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful
We're stars and we're beautiful
I read and reply to every email I receive. Would love to hear back from you whenever you feel like it!