Occupy Beauty

How many people are actually as beautiful as the media ideal?  Not too many, I dare say.  A very small percentage, I expect.  I actually don’t know what that percentage might be, but I’m betting if we looked at the worldwide population (and especially if we do something daft like limit the “media ideal” to the North American/European ideal), it might be around 1%.

This of course makes me think about the Occupy movement and the idea of the 1% vs. the 99%.  (I know this is an imperfect analogy, but bear with me.)  The way I see it, the 99% of human beings who are not considered beautiful by the media aren’t therefore automatically ugly, even if that is what the beauty/dieting industries would like us to believe.

So I think the 99% of non-media-beauties need to Occupy Beauty.

Own your own beauty.  Recognize it.  Embrace it.  Celebrate it.

Better yet, learn to own the beauty in others as well.  Recognize the beauty in other human beings.  Embrace it.  Celebrate it.

Because all human beings have beauty in them—and I’m not just talking about “inner beauty,” either, whatever that’s supposed to be. I’m talking about physical beauty.  I truly believe that if we open up our eyes and really look at one another, we will see the beauty in every human being.

People of every age, every race, every ability, every size, every health level are beautiful.  People with scars, people with skin conditions, people who are tall, people who are short, those who are fat, those who are thin, those who have four limbs, those who have less: we are all beautiful.

I’m not talking about some kind of philosophical aesthetics here.  There are people who have spilled a lot of ink on the nature of Beauty.  Psychologists will tell you about how babies prefer pictures of faces that are more symmetrical than others.  I’m not trying to deny that there are people who are aesthetically more pleasing to look at than others.

What I’m trying to say is that human beings aren’t art objects.  We shouldn’t be judged by the philosophies of aesthetics.  A sculpture that lacks aesthetic qualities can be called ugly or deemed to be “not art.”  But a human being should never have their worth demeaned simply because they didn’t have the genetic good fortune to be symmetrical and have, I don’t know, “great bone structure” or something.

As a follower of Jesus, I find human value in the fact that we are all made in the image of God.  When you think about that, it’s pretty neat.  Despite the absolutely mind-boggling amount of diversity in human appearances, each one of us is made in the image of God (which probably says something amazing about the nature of God).  In my mind, that automatically makes us all beautiful.

Here’s the really neat part: in the Occupy Beauty movement, there is no “us” and “them.”  In many cases, being a part of the 1% isn’t the great privilege that it’s supposed to be.  Those who look like media beauties are often subject to more criticism about their appearances, and they especially suffer from the fear that that privilege of Being Beautiful might at any time be taken away from them (cue the Keats poetry).

But the 1% have the same right to Occupy Beauty as the 99%.  They, too, are—of course—made in the image of God and therefore are beautiful according to that standard.  When we recognize and celebrate the beauty in one another, we brush away the differences that are meant to keep us apart.

For I believe that it is not actually the 1% who are trying to maintain their position of privilege over and above the 99%.  I believe it is the beauty/dieting industry that is trying to keep the 99% in a place where we are always striving after that illusive 1% ideal, for the simple reason that they want to profit by our pain.

So, I implore you to fight any message that tells you, “You aren’t beautiful.”  Fight it with every fibre of your being.  Because you are beautiful, just as you are.  You don’t need anything—clothes, cosmetics, diets, anti-aging creams, muscle-building powders, hair dyes, whatever—to make you beautiful.

Today and every day, then, find a way to Occupy Beauty.

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The Joy of Good Food

Like most people in North America, I don’t always make great choices about the food I eat.  Convenience foods make it too easy to eat things that are filling and strongly-flavoured but not necessarily nourishing.  When my husband and I are stressed or feeling lazy, we quickly fall back on frozen pizzas, oven fries and chicken strips, and other “easy foods,” as we call them.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I like those foods!  I also do consider them food.  I base this on the definition provided by one of my all-time favourite bloggers, The Fat Nutritionist.  She writes:

ALL FOOD CONTAINS NUTRIENTS. NUTRIENTS ARE GOOD FOR YOU. NO, REALLY. I’M SERIOUS.

I mean, how can  you not love her for that?  Now, stop giving me that face.  She also promotes intuitive eating, which at its core encourages people to listen to the cues their bodies are giving them about hunger, fullness, and what foods make them feel good and what foods make them feel bad.  Eat more of the foods that make you feel good.  Eat less of the foods that make you feel bad.

So, eating “easy foods” for a week usually burns us out.  We start feeling less-than-good as our bodies get too much salt, fat, and preservatives.  Usually that prompts a swing the other way, to eating foods that make us feel good.

This past week was a “good food” week.  We prepared and ate foods that made us feel good.  We made a kick-butt (and butt-kicking) crockpot full of spicy chili for supper last night, for example.  If it hadn’t been too hot for baking, we would have whipped up some homemade cheese biscuits to go with it.  Because…yum!

Honestly, eating good food prompts worship in me.  It reminds me of something said by one of my favourite preachers, Jonathan Martin.  He said that if you follow beauty, it leads you to Jesus.  Well, that’s my paraphrase of it, anyway.  One day about a week ago we were eating a great steak that we had marinated all day and it occurred to me that beautiful tastes are no different than beautiful sounds, beautiful pieces of art, or beautiful words.  The delicious steak, the juicy strawberry, the fresh-baked bread, the Thanksgiving turkey, the butter chicken, the mouth-watering kalbi ribs, the mashed potatoes, the mess of greens, the primavera sauce (are you hungry, yet?), the steaming soup, the bowl of pho, the toothsome spanakopita, the poutine with fresh cheese curds, or the delicately arranged sushi: good foods with great tastes are found all over the world.  They are beautiful.

That beauty leads me to Jesus.  It leads me to the one who created a world full of diversity—not only of edible animals and plants, but of cultures who find different delicious ways to prepare them.  It makes me praise the one who gave me a tongue to taste and a nose to smell these delicious foods, and who wired me to enjoy them.  No matter what “they” might say, food is so much more than just fuel.  If it was, cultures all over the world would not have spent so much creativity on making foods that are beautiful to see, smell, and taste.

I encourage you to plan to make a food you love sometime soon.  Think about the foods that make you want to stop and savour every bite.  Pick one out and go shopping.  Spend time with the people you love preparing that food and sit down at the table with them to eat it together with no interruptions from TV, cell phones, or computers.  If you are a believer, think about the way this food reflects the goodness of its Creator.  Think about all the people who worked hard to bring that food to your table.  Be thankful.  Be joyful.  You were made for this.

Now, you will have to excuse me, because I have to go make lunch. 🙂

If you feel like it, share YOUR favourite food in the comments section!