Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Skin deep

I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want -- an adorable pancreas?

These words keep ringing in my ears. They hit right smack in the middle of my groin. I happen to think that the reason why some men (and women) end up alone even if they want to get married is because of the fact that human beings can't see beyong the skin. Forget the what's-essential-is-invisible-to-the-eye BS of that poor dogfight pilot Antoine.

Men and -- to a greater extent -- women, too, value nothing beyond the epidermis, both in real and reel life, in social relations and, even more so, in romantic dalliances. Can it be said that society feeds off its ignorance, blind for looking only on the surface.

Prone to fall into the folly of putting disproportionate value to what's seen only on the face? For valuing -- to borrow Martin Luther Jr's words -- the color of one's skin more than the weight of his character? You'd perhaps realise by now that this beauty-is-everything rule holds as much water as 'the-West-is-evil' mantra of Al Qaeda or 'the axis-of-evil' triumvirate defined by George W Bush.

We live with extremism in our daily lives. Or maybe it's just a simplistic understanding of the terra-firma. In the romantic realm, this extremism is like a vicious beast that preys on both the male and female species.

Most couple end up living miserable lives together because what they thought were unsavoury manifestations of inner qualities of their partner, which they initially ignored in favor of skin-deep considerations, will be resolved with time, with love. But even if time heals all wounds, or the usual love-conquers-all clichŽ, no amount of loving will tame an inner beast which Freuds thinks lies in the inner recesses of the consciousness of every "normal" person who can read up to this line.

I've always suspected that there are at least two ways of looking at things; part of the so-called thesis-antithesis equation. Call it dialectics, the unity of opposites, yin-yang, duality, positive-negative, Feng-Shui, good-evil equation, presence and absence, whatever.

Since I started pondering on this point, I was convinced that reality comes with a dual face. Otherwise, we wouldn't have any need for the millions of lawyers or judges to argue or rule in favor of one side against the other.

A dialogue or an argument can be likened to having two sides of the same coin, or rivers flowing separately. One comes from the wellsprings of wisdom, filtered by experience. The other comes from practical, University of Hard Knocks kind of logic. Either way, they end up in a murky, skin-deep mangrove before being washed away into the deep-blue sea. Salty as the taste of my armpits after a long walk on the Creekside.

No matter how long and winding their waters flow separately -- from the brooks and tributaries up in the mountains of incomprehension -- they usually end up in the same huge body of water... a giant mass of reality that embraces everything all at once.

But this reality becomes so humongous so as to be incomprehensible. A mighty creature that one becomes totally clueless of the origins of individual "truths" that together make the giant mass.

And when these snippets of reality have become intermingled in a colorless collection of liquid, only then can we see that it's just a part of an even bigger picture. Call it the interconnectedness of existence, if you will. We're all overwhelmed by our Lilliputian understanding. Who can characterise the whole body according to spare parts, quadrangles or nano-level composition? Even if that were possible, for what purpose?

But I digress.

Let's go back to the question of beauty being only skin-deep. In my book, it may well be. I tend to agree with the people who say that character counts too. A lot. That's the key to living in peace. Skin is only good for 10 or 15 years, max. After a woman goes through the ravages of child-bearing, child-rearing and building a family, beauty gives in to the years. Skin wrinkles, as old Giordano jeans do after the 1,000th spin.

But not character. It assumes more beauty with the years, honed by everyday lessons. Between the river and the deep blue see, every person's character is a reality that is both simple and mysterious. The difference between life and death, practicality and stupidity. Character goes right through the pancreas -- even if you take that phrase in a more biological than figurative sense.

I just woke up this morning realising that I will be 32 soon, in another 20 days or so. That thought scared me. Does that reflect vanity? Ah, but every human being has a share of that. Question is: should I go for the skin or the pancreas?

08.28.02 11.15am

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