There was once this old Greek dude named Plato who claimed to be very knowledgeable on the topic of knowledge. His plethora of books and essays proved to be so influential to his fellow scholars and followers that they are still studied today. Matter of fact, I’m learning about them in my Intro to Philosophy class right now. One of his most famous works goes by the name of Allegory of the Cave, and is widely known as one of the most, if not the most popular form of persuasive storytelling known to man. The premise of this story begins with a collection of prisoners who are chained up in an old, dark cave. They are being forcibly held in a way that they are unable to move their heads, and therefore have no choice but to look at the back of the cave in front of them. The opening of the cave behind them lets the light of the sun in and it shines directly onto that wall. The people, animals and other real life items that pass by the cave cast clear silhouettes onto this wall, and in the eyes of the prisoners who have never known anything but the cave, the shadows are the real deal. The sounds that the outer beings create are associated with the shadows for the prisoners and they truly believe that what they see in front of them is the only other form of life beside themselves.
One day, a lucky prisoner is released from his chains and is able to escape the cave. He enters the world and is shocked to see that there is more to life than an old, dark room and shadows, and is bewildered by the things he sees. The warm sun shines down on his face, the trees rustle in the very real wind and the people in town are filled with color and life. The home that he had once known was now nothing but a black and white box that never made him feel any of the emotions he could feel now. He runs back to the cave to tell his prisoner buds of the miraculous discovery that he had made, but in return, is given a shrug of a shoulder and many teenage-angst-like eye rolls. Because these prisoners still stuck in the cave have never known anything but what they have physically seen with their own two eyes, they don’t believe what the lucky one is trying to tell them. Just because his ideas were different than what they were used to, they didn’t believe what he was saying.
You may be wondering why I’m restating a story that happened so many years ago. Well, I’ll tell you. The idea behind this story is that there is more to what meets the eye. Although you may see something one way, someone else may see the same exact thing in a dramatically different way. That’s what makes life such a crazy place.
To actually get to the point of this article, I think this allegory perfectly describes “beauty” in this day and age; the quotation marks are essential in providing the very real notion that beauty is different for everyone. What I mean by this is the idea of beauty as a thing is fixed, but the examples of that original form are ever changing. (Thanks Plato for that nugget of wisdom). There are things in the world that people find beautiful, and obviously there are also things that people find ugly or not as beautiful as that perfect thing they have seen before. This is 1000% percent normal and shouldn’t be neglected because your opinions ultimately make up your personality and shape who you are as a human being. But, what I do find sad about this, is the fact that many things in life that are not considered “beautiful” are only recognized as ugly.
In my opinion, I believe there is no such thing as something being physically unsightly. These things are just different. And that makes them all the more beautiful. For sure, there are ugly thoughts and unfortunately, ugly actions, but to me, there is beauty in everything that you can physically hold.
I challenge you all to find the beauty in things that are not normally viewed as desirable or wanted and instead look at those things as unique and special. Your crooked nose? It’s gorgeous. The stained sidewalk on your way to the subway? Picture perfect. What about the stretch marks on your thighs? Those tiger stripes are absolutely fierce. There are so many physical things in the world that go unrecognized and are then put into a box of “what not to have”. It’s up to us to find the beauty in the flaws that we see every single day: In the world, in other people and in ourselves.
You may have viewed beauty in one distinct way your entire life up until this point, and that’s fine. But I think being able to recognize all things as beautiful is an amazing quality to have. Don’t be one of those prisoners who won’t even stop to consider the other point of view and instead, be open to all forms of beauty. Even if they don’t fit tradition. Be able to find the ordinary, extraordinary. The “cave” a lot of people live in prevent them from seeing everything that the world has to offer. So if you think you are one of those people, step outside of your beauty bubble every once in a while and see what’s goin’ on out there. Trust me, the view is great.