Is beauty skin deep?

Beauty and the beast

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle.  Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind.  But then, one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.  The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast (- Narration that introduces the film Beauty and the beast)

Conversations

1) Media primarily informs our notions of what is beautiful. Our idea of beauty is (re)defined by what is (re)presented and promoted in the Media. How is beauty understood in our contemporary world? What do you think about these?

2) Would you agree that beauty is to be truly found in the inner self? Why?

3) Would you agree that we are increasingly being defined by our looks? Why do you think so many girls and boys are undergoing cosmetic surgery to improve their looks?

4) There are many people who are not happy about themselves, particularly about the way they look. In what ways do we contribute to their low self-image?

5 ) The prince was turned into a beast because there was no love in his heart.  It symbolizes his loss of humanity. Why do you think ‘love’ is such a key aspect of being human?

6) What do you think makes us ‘repulsive’ to the idea of good, true and beautiful? Why can’t we see ‘the good’, ‘the true’ and ‘the beautiful’ when it stares us in the eye?

7) How do we (re)capture the idea of ‘beauty’ in a world that (mis)understands it purely in physical terms – ‘good looks’, ‘great body’ and ‘winsome persona’? How do we grow love in our hearts so as to reach out to those who don’t make it to our ‘bold and beautiful’ list?

8) What is the one thing that you don’t like about yourself? What is the one thing you wish you had?

9) What is the one thing you learnt about what is true, good and the beautiful from our conversations ?

Personal Reflection

God has a radically different idea about what is ‘beautiful’.  For God, beauty is not skin deep. He looks deep into  our hearts.  The LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7).  We must challenge the ‘look-good, feel-good’ understanding of beauty.

We must let love grow in our hearts so that we would embrace those who don’t make it to our ‘bold and beautiful’ list. To challenge popular notions of beauty is easier said than done. It is really a formidable challenge.

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Beauty and the Beast – Conversation3

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Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.  As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?

( Beauty and the Beast, Walt Disney, 1999) 

Conversations

  1. Why does it get so difficult to face the animal we have become? And yet despite this, why is it so difficult to seek our salvation?
  2. What would it take to learn to love and be loved for who you are?
  3. Is it possible to love a person who has no love in his heart? How do we then help those who are in despair, shame and hopelessness? Wherein lies their redemption?

Beauty and the Beast – Conversations 2

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And when he dismissed her again, the old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there. ( Beauty and the Beast, Walt Disney, 1999) 

CONVERSATIONS

  1. Some people Have never loved and so they have never lived at all! Why is love important for wellness?
  2. Can we continue to human if we don’t have love in our hearts?
  3. It’s love that makes the world go round! How do we help people who have no love in their hearts (and live as hideous beasts) to love and be loved?

Beauty and the Beast – Conversations

wexford-beauty-and-the-beast

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.

Conversations

1)What is (y) our idea of beauty? In what ways has this been shaped by Media?

2)”Beauty is found within”. Do you agree with this? Why?

3)Why is there so much of ‘attention’ for the ” good-looking” and worse, a mad craze for “looking good” within our culture?

4) Why do you think it is so difficult for us to accept the fact that beauty is not skin deep?

KANKY marriage – what does it take to say ” I still do”

A faith commentary on Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna by Samuel Thambusamy

There’s surely a fracturing in relationships, particularly marriage relationships. We get to hear stories of jealousy, unfaithfulness, abuse, and betrayal within marriage relationships and we wonder why a working marriage is a rarity. The question: “ Is the institution of marriage relevant to our times?” is unconsciously wired into our everyday conversations.

Karan Johar’s message in KANK is: Getting married is easy but staying so is difficult. Karan contends the ‘failing marriage’ scenario had sown the seeds for KANK. Is a KANKY marriage a solution to the problem?

Hindi cinema has addressed the question of relationships, often times portraying marriage and relationships in negative shades. But why must films show marriage in a very bad light? And interestingly, the blame is always on the woman, urban space and modernity. The formulaic myths of patriarchy, rural values, and tradition are (re) played at regular intervals to uphold societal values.

It is sad that the recent Salman Khan starrer Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar endorses the ‘stay-at-home’ submissive woman’ gender stereotype. Any legitimate question for ‘space within the yesteryear traditional framework of the Indian family is rubbished by the portrayal of the woman as – arrogant, modern and vampish. Worse, maleness is reinforced through violence (by a slap) on the woman. What does it take a marriage to work? Usually, it works if the woman has the courage to be silent, submissive and subdued. But, is this an answer to happy, healthy and holistic home?

Ironically, gangster movies present the family and marriage relationships very differently. The family stays together (although there may be an odd black sheep) through out the movie. The mafia don is shown at the dining table having meals with the family. He seeks justice for women and also chides the men who falter in their family responsibilities. The wife, for her part, is supportive of the don who saves all his hatred, violence, and killing for the outside world. Who or what gives the glue for the gangster family to stay together? Is it fear or the need for emotional cushioning? (Perhaps, RGV can enlighten us on this issue).

Some Bollywood movies present the cure outside of the troubled marriage. KANK is supposedly about such explorations for fulfillment outside of a ‘lifeless’ marriage. Jism (and its clones and distant cousins) brought some legitimacy to extra marital affairs. I know movies do reflect the troubled nature of our society (although not in its entirety). KANK, with its trademark ensemble star cast, good songs, humor, big budget dharma production, supposedly portrays a realistic picture of modern human relationships.

It is so easy to ‘recoil’ and either uphold traditional values or dump tradition altogether. I found Karan Johar’s take on modern human relationships in a recent interview very interesting. He says, “ Basically there is no black-and-white areas in relationship. We all live in the grey. There is no right and wrong in relationship”. Ideas have consequences. If we believe that there are no absolutes, then we come to believe that the solution to life’s questions lies in the search for answers rather than in finding the answers.

What keeps a marriage going? I think, the answers are quite simple: Mutual acceptance, Mutual love and mutual respect between two people committing to one another. Marriage is not finding the right partner, it is being the right partner. Ayaan in SKPGY fails to be the right person. He is not in love with Ahana (shilpa Shetty) but he is in love with himself. The characters in KANK (Dev, Rhea, Rishi and Maya) also fail to be the right kind of people within a marriage relationship.

Interestingly, Salaam Namaste gets to resolve the puzzle of a failing marriage (although there is no marriage relationship in the first place). Nick (played by Saif) and Amby (played by Preity) recognize the need and significance of passion, intimacy, and commitment in a man-woman relationship. Young people are cynical about marriage and this cynicism is turned into a commercial opportunity in the guise of entertainment. Marriage is such a beautiful thing. It provides sense of belonging, emotional security and sexual intimacy to two people in love.

The joy of togetherness can be found if like Nikhil Arora ( Saif) we begin to see ourselves as we truly are and accept the other person as they are. I found these lines very perceptive:

“ You were pretty, smart and perfect. You were perfect. And I fell in love with your perfection. Then, I saw your other side. Your anger, mood swings and stupidity…fighting without provocation. I’ve seen you double-sided…but my love never lessened. I don’t love you in spite of all this. I started loving you because of this. I just keep loving you even more. I am not perfect Ambar. Neither are you and life is never going to be perfect. But you will always be perfect for me. I love you Amby. Please, will you marry me?”

Many years back, in exchanging our marriage vows, we had said, “ I do”. Now, there’s no need to fall out of love. It takes acceptance, love and respect to say “ I still do”. May be we can say the same Saif lines and we can discover the joy of being married.

Paul and Popular Culture

It is interesting to see St. Paul picking up ‘word-pictures’ from the world of sport and entertainment. Read these passages from Paul’s letters to the Church at Corinth and to Timothy:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.(1 Cor 9:24-27)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4 : 7-8)

Games (read blood sport) and Sports were  an important aspect of entertainment in the Roman Empire. The Ismithian Games were held at Corinth every two years, and apostle Paul drew from the world of sports and entertainment to speak to his audience (at Corinth and elsewhere). May be, he was a sport lover. May be, he himself was at the Ismithian games. Perhaps, may be not. But nonetheless, he uses sports to connect with his audience and help them grasp a spiritual truth.

Paul draws insights from important aspects of the games such as the race, atheletes, the prize, winning, training that goes along to make it a possiblity, the rules of the game, the skill and tact required etc to explain christian life. Apostle Paul does use the ordinary aspects of everyday life, perhaps the popular culture of his day to speak divine truths. What strikes me in this passage is Paul connecting with the ‘longing’ to win the prize that is present in the (not-so-spiritual) atheletic event (and in all of Corinth by extention) and uses it to speak about ‘be-longing’ to Christ.

The bible does offer us ways of connecting to the urban ‘longing and belonging’. Using aspects of popular culture is not something allien to the followers of Jesus, and definitely not to Apostle Paul. We must likewise pick up aspects of popular culture to speak to contemporary urban audience.