A very good friend of mine posted one of those feel-good internet memes to Facebook yesterday, and it inspired me to write. While I hate bumper-sticker theology, philosophy or psychology, it’s been a while, so I’ll take the inspiration.
Here is what she posted.
Now…I have never heard of Thich Nhat Hanh. But that’s okay. Because Thich Nhat Hanh has obviously never heard of Merriam Webster. So, here then is the definition of beautiful:
1 : having beauty: such as
a beautiful young woman/child
You have the most beautiful smile/eyes.
The film tells a beautiful story about two young lovers.
a beautiful song
a beautiful dress/color/garden/house
Our hotel room had a beautiful view of the ocean.
The sunsets here are absolutely beautiful.
We’ve been having such beautiful [=excellent, fine] weather lately.
a beautiful sunny day
What a beautiful day for a picnic!
What Mr. Hahn is describing here is more accurately the definition of confidence, rather than beauty. Mixed with some feel good nonsense with no practical application in western living.
Man is a social animal. Man is a pack animal. It is absolutely, 100% definitely, critical that we be accepted by others. People who are not accepted by others develop disorders, anti-social feelings, destructive behaviors, and the like.
For more on the subject, from someone who more likely knows what they are talking about, please read: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110510WilliamsOstracism.html
Even rugged individualists (like me) need friends (like Thaeda). This notion that if you can accept yourself all will be well, is utter bullshit. This is akin to R. Kelly singing “I believe I can fly”. Really? Care to walk to the top of a building and test that theory?
I will grant that a person who does not like who they are is not likely to like who other people are either. But I do not subscribe to all this psycho-babble about learning to love yourself. Let me propose rather, that you transform yourself in to someone worth loving, you’ll find loving yourself easier if you do so.
This philosophy is an extension of our no-fault modern thinking. Rather than take the input from our conscience, assess the things about ourselves that need to be changed and change them, we are encouraged to love ourselves as we are. Thus, as an example, the morbidly obese, dying from high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments; unable to navigate a flight of stairs; having to shop for specially made clothing; and unable to fit behind the wheel of a mid-sized passenger vehicle; are not encouraged to look in the mirror, see a fat bitch and lose weight. They are rather encouraged to look in the mirror, see someone worth loving, and love themselves as they are. And die…
Our entire way of life is dependent on being accepted by others. It’s why we wear nice clothes to church, job interviews, and ceremonies of all sorts. It’s why we pursue things. It’s why we form friendships, crave loving relationships, join social clubs, etc.
I find most often that the people who say these sorts of things are people who desperately want or need to believe them. But in practice most fall far short of the ideal they claim to believe.
Mr. Hanh for example. When I looked him up this is what the brief profile said:
“Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He lives in the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France, travelling internationally to give retreats and talks.”
Really? You travel internationally to give talks…to others…from whom you need no acceptance? But of course, there must be some acceptance, or the lecture hall would be empty…would it not?
Take it from me, as someone who actually does the things other people claim to do. As someone who has stood up at an all hands meeting and told the entire company “I’m here to make money, not friends. You do your job, I’ll do mine. Other than that stay out of my face.” As someone who has told my direct supervisor, “I have no goals or objectives as it pertains to this company or workplace. I’m here to finance my life, that’s it.” As someone who routinely writes off friends, colleagues, and even family members. Because I truly do like who I am, and I truly am confident in what I can do and honest about what I cannot. And I truly will not suffer fools, liars, cheats or fair-weather friends.
Even I, a person who actually lives this stuff, in a moment of honesty (this is that moment) will admit I need the acceptance of others. I need my wife to love and support me. I need my kids to love and support me. I need the time and attention of a few (very few) loved and respected friends. I need a certain level of cooperation, respect, and support from my workplace colleagues. Without these things I cannot function…and neither can you. And neither can Mr. Thich Nhat Hahn.
A writer, poet and speaker cannot do any of those things if there is no audience. And there is no audience without acceptance.
I think we all need to just wake up, stop trying to live our lives by bumper-sticker, and start dealing with reality. In my personal opinion, much of what is wrong with the world today stems from a lack of willingness to deal with things as they are, rather than as we’d like them to be.
You are not beautiful because you think you are. By definition, you are beautiful because someone else thinks you are. You can be ugly and confident…but your confidence doesn’t change your appearance.
As far as people who do not need to be accepted by others, let me give you some synonyms for those types of people. Unemployed. Homeless. Lonely. Suicidal.
PhD. psychologists should not need to be informed of these things…