The real meaning of education (and beauty)
I found this article today in Jewish World Review. Although it is about education, some of the ideas presented in it could also be applied to the concept of beauty -- more specifically, to what makes a person "beautiful." I have always believed that a person's true beauty comes from within rather than without -- which I know sounds like a worn cliche, but the author of this article would obviously agree with the notion, which is comprised in the concept of chen. (I leave it to him to explain it, which I hope gives you some incentive to read the article itself.) To illustrate the idea from my point of view, however: I find the actress Gwyneth Paltrow incredibly attractive from a purely physical standpoint. However, I know she has a potty mouth and an immoral lifestyle, so I also find her chen unappealing. Thus, from my perpective, Gwyneth Paltrow cannot be said to be "beautiful."
As I read the JWR article, I thought of some of the things I have seen during my now-frequent visits to Flickr. For instance, the picture of Agnieszka, which I recently posted on this blog, revealed her chen, which was why I found it so appealing. In this connection, it is worth mentioning that Agnieszka has posted dozens of self-portraits on the Flickr site, all of them carefully crafted and well-executed, without ever appearing to be conceited, self-centered, or narcissistic in any way. Not many people could manage to accomplish that, but she has. Again, it's her chen. What she has on the inside is well worth sharing with the world, and I think Agnieszka knows that somewhere in the core of her being, although she is far too modest to admit it. The feedback she gets for her pictures suggests that even people who only know her through the medium of cyberspace genuinely love her, which I understand because I share the feeling. I believe they are also attracted to Agnieszka's chen. (By the way, if the Flickr crowd ever decide to get together and designate one of their number as the official Flickr homecoming queen, I suspect it will be none other than Agnieszka herself. She has my vote, anyway.)
I had similar thoughts about this picture, also from Flickr. It is of the contributor's wife, who took this self-portrait while he was away on business. She was quite proud of her new hairdo, but what really struck me about the picture was how happy the young woman appeared. And it comes from inside her somewhere; her whole countenance just seems to glow. I wrote a comment to the contributor, which appears below the picture.