Commentary on Culture | Midrash Blog

Double Beauty

At last month’s Theology at the Bottleworks (TATB) we contemplated “The Power and Problem of Human Beauty”. As I was discussing the topic with a friend, she commented,

“It’s not that people aren’t beautiful, but I think we’re losing the skill to see it.”

Her comment highlighted our culture’s blurred vision when it comes to recognizing beauty in all its forms.My friend’s comment reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Shallow Hal. In this movie, Jack Black plays a guy (Hal) who only cares about a girls’ outward appearance.  Then, he is hypnotized and no longer sees people’s typical appearances, but rather an outward manifestation of how they are inside. While Hal thinks he’s dating a woman who looks like Gwenyth Paltrow, everyone else sees that he’s dating someone lacking in outward beauty but radiating inner beauty. I love this idea of being able to see an outward expression of a person’s character and soul.  There is a connection between inner and outer beauty, although not as direct as in the movie, but the two beauties are inexplicably intertwined.  

At TATB, we discussed how we have a subconscious expectation that outwardly beautiful people are perfect and charming all the way through. Equally, we want for people who are kind, generous and sacrificing to be “appealing to the senses”. We noted that the more you get to know a person who is kind, patient, accepting, the more beautiful he or she becomes. As one character in Shallow Hal remarks “Inner beauty's the easiest thing in the world to see when you're looking for it...”  

What makes humans uniquely beautiful is that we have “double beauty”. We can have aesthetic beauty, and we can have inner beauty. The sunrise is physically lovely, but it does not show kindness. The Eiffel Tower at night is gorgeous, but it will never be generous or giving. But humans, we have the capability of delighting the senses and the soul; we have double beauty. Take time to recognize and appreciate the doubly beautiful people in your life and community.

Kristin Guilliams