Surface Beauty vs. Deep Beauty

There it was, a stunning sunset that smeared the sky with a pink explosion. The clouds looked like scoops of guava sherbet as the last remnants of the sun shimmered in a trail towards the shore. In front of this scene in paradise was a woman’s butt. The camera man knelt down so that he could get a closer shot. The woman made various model-like facial expressions as she pushed her hips towards the lens. Her buttocks appeared to be wrestling with a thong that was far too skimpy to do its job. The butt was clearly winning its freedom.

This daily occurrence on social media really highlights two different forms of beauty. The toned physique of the aspiring model was an example of surface beauty. The radiant rays of the sunset behind her displayed deep beauty. Surface beauty often happens when we artificially separate ourselves from the moment so that we stand out from other people or from our environment. Deep beauty invites us to be part of a greater moment that unifies the artist, subject and audience together.

The woman on the social media photo wasn’t looking at the glorious sunset happening behind her. She wasn’t becoming one with that spectacular moment and melding into the art of the photograph. Instead, she was gazing at the camera with an expression that pleaded “please look at me”. Rather than unifying with the sunset and being a gorgeous creature in that scenery, she was separating herself from the moment, hoping that the flattering rays of the sunset would make her look prettier so that people would pay attention to her.

Another person could have been at the same beach, at the exact same time, and played in the sand while a photographer happened to snap the shot. The difference would have been that she/he would be completely present in the moment, connected to the greater beauty of the scenery, perhaps never even noticing the camera. In this scenario, they wouldn’t separate themselves from the background, nor would she ask the viewers of her photograph to “look at me”. The message of deep beauty is “be with me”. True art invites us to be in the moment of whatever we are witnessing.   

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, however the depth of beauty is something that is sensed and not just seen. This is why art is preserved, so that it can touch others. A flower doesn’t ask to be separate from its stem, yet it still manages to capture the eye of bees, birds, and human beings.

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