I don’t see my daughter very often because she lives in Toronto and in September she will be moving to the USA for further schooling. But when I do see her, she seems to create a learning experience for me each time. I remember once I moved her to tears by depicting someone as ugly because of their particular physical feature. Without knowing I was linking the persons feature to ugliness. Since then I’ve been careful not to fall pray to this common illusion of linking some aspect of physical appearance to ugliness. We as a society do this all the time; obesity and baldness for example are quite often viewed as bad and therefore ugly.
What moved my daughter to tears was my blindness to destructiveness when I thought I was pursing the pleasant, the beautiful and the good. Just as Hitler believed that he was pursuing the “good” by the creating a more perfect society with more perfect people and left millions suffering and dead. And he was a vegetarian because he hated cruelty to animals!
Indeed, that is the very nature of the problem, that in the name of seeking the best and the most beautiful, we became out of control. I don’t know of anyone who has become out of control by seeking “ugliness.” But surely, ugliness is just our conception; being overweight and being bald is just outward appearance; inside they could be the most beautiful people, we just have to look deeper.
Some cultures today believe that our Western society has become out of control in the name of pursuing the the “Good.” Indeed, they think our devouring, polluting and exploiting ways are evil. There may be element of truth in that but one has to be careful in making these kinds of sweeping judgement. There is also lot of good in the West.
The compassionate point is to focus on what is common to all of us: that we struggle with our own feelings and urges, that we can open our eyes and not be deluded by the false realities we are creating around us.
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert