Culture, Art, and the Future of the Human Race
What contains our beauty? Is it our hearts, our minds, the depths of our souls? Or does it merely consist of the face, the hair, the flesh? In the western world, we define so much by sight. If we cannot see the scientific processes or the words on a page or the shape of body, we will be unimpressed and disinterested. We have been told what beauty is by every pillar in society: by government, by business, by family, and by religion. It is no wonder that our generation feels, as they say, “a mile wide and an inch deep”. Everyone is telling us what beauty is. We are understandably perplexed and frequently only skin- deep in our perspectives.
Yet, I find hope in our unembellished, everyday actions. When we see someone crying, we are moved to help them, or when someone trusts a deeply vulnerable part of themselves to us, we only grow more fond of them. I would argue that no matter how much we are told about beauty or knowledge by the sight of our eyes, our truest selves remain. We know the beauty of life travels much deeper. I find such a thought immensely beautiful.
As a dance artist, these questions have often plagued my mind, for what I see in a body’s movement innately reveals the intrinsic parts of a human soul. When viewing dance, I often find myself captivated by someone’s body, and yet these moments rarely come from the individual living up to my subconscious standards of physical beauty. It goes beyond such fantasies to the point where this being is revealing the depth of themselves without words. Rather, the flesh speaks of what is beyond it. The muscles speak of the heart’s tension and release. The eyes see or refuse to encounter the hearts or thoughts of those in front of or beside them. The knees bend to draw closer to the earth or to jump away from the earth in desperation or longing.
I have a friend. She is thirty- four years- old. She has long, blonde hair. She wears the finest clothes. She is tall and thin. Her personality is bubbly and vibrant. On the first encounter, she is the epitome of what many call a “rich white woman”. I’ve seen many automatically resolve her to be ignorant, selfish, inauthentic, and unparalleled in her privilege. But then you get to know her. You consistently find her taking care of people, letting those in need stay in her home, mentoring young people, and nursing sick or injured people back to health. You begin to wonder if she does anything besides take care of those in need. Later, you hear that she was born with a
deformed skeleton, has had 5 surgeries on her hip, and battles an extremely serious autoimmune disease. You learn that, though she has beautiful things, she doesn’t have many, and much of what she does have she gives away. This woman, who I have so often seen rejected by those in my university is actually one of the greatest women I know. And yet her integrity does not have her trying to change her outward appearance in order to be accepted by those of us who despise makeup and love Birkenstocks. She simply loves the beauty in every individual, and she longs to nurture it. But she will not compromise herself.
My fellow women, let us be careful to retain ourselves from judging any other woman(or man for that matter) by her(or his) outward appearance. Let us vow not to define someone as unlovely because she does not look like us or act like us. We must be extremely careful not to do so. Don’t you know? History clearly shows that misanthropy, or hatred of the “other”, has only lead to what is horrific. Look at slavery and racism in America, the Holocaust, human trafficking, and every war that has ever occurred.
On the inverse side of this, imagine if we sought to call forth the beauty and dignity in every single individual. Would women be forced against their own free will to sell their sexuality? Would the Hitlers of the world have any way to convince a nation into an act of genocide? Would shame come off white Americans as we called forth the equal and unique beauty within our black, Hispanic, Asian, and native- American fellow citizens?
And would you, beloved reader, be able to fully come alive in all your own distinct beauty? Would you be able to give honor to the beauty of “others” who surround you? Might you find that they, in all their splendid and unique beauty, are not too different from you?
Essay by: Katie Summers
Field of Study: Dance
Institution: University of California, Irvine
Katie Summers is an inspiring dance artist and poet who seeks to further the development of the arts wherever she lives. She believes that art has the power to uplift, inspire, and provoke meaningful thought within the culture it is consumed by, and she is passionate about using art to speak on important cultural issues and successes. Katie is in her fourth year of receiving a BFA in Dance Performance at the University of California, Irvine, and she looks forward to receiving her Masters of Arts at the London School of Contemporary Dance and her Masters in Creative Writing in the future.
ⒸGirlterest Scholarship Program 2016