Our determinations need constant reorientation. When labels start coming into our heads (loathsome, ugly, loser, winner), we should question them—recognize a label as the insubstantial thing it is, and let it go. It’s not helpful. It’s going to undermine our imaginations. Love something unusual. Kittens and lilies are fine, but maybe try the vulture or the dandelion …”

Debbie Blue

Love the dandelion. I like that. But vultures? I’m still working on the loveliness of vultures. Reorient your “determinations.” That’s sage advice.

Rather than “loser,” lover would be the healthy way to see ourselves. We are not ugly or ordinary or loathsome, even if our bodies or personalities don’t check all the beauty boxes society creates for being “hot” or “smart” or “handsome” or “attractive.”

Where do we get our sense of the beautiful or good looking? In many instances the fictions surrounding our concepts of beauty are crafted by culture. ”Beauty” is put on display by the power elite, by businesses, by media, advertisers, celebrities and influencers. They put “beauty” in front of us to sell things, to win attention, to manipulate public opinion — for gain.

And while there might be some innate sense of beauty based on size, morphology, proportion or symmetry, beauty is deeply subjective and as we commonly say, “in the eye of the beholder.”

An old man says his old wife, “To me you are the most beautiful person in the world “ and she is. A child says to her scruffy cat sitting on her lap, “I love you my cute kitty,” and the kitty is cute — named by love. These have gone beyond societies iron hoops of stigma and laurel.

One generation sees skinny and shiny as beautiful. Ours. Check out the ads. Another sees more flesh as beautiful. Look at the paintings of Rubens. Peter Paul Rubens (1577 -1640) was a seventeenth-century Flemish Baroque painter. He as a proponent of an exuberant Baroque style that emphasized color and sensuality. His nude paintings? Loads of fat! Layers of fat. Opulent, corpulent, rippling folds of fat — puffy knees and massive, bulging butts everywhere! Fleshy folds meant health, wealth, order and stability. A hilly, human landscape was in. Lean flesh and bones were for the poor and sick.

Things have changed. Plump is now déclassé. Or things haven’t changed. Manufactured images still rule our minds. Airbrushed and photoshopped pictures both reflect and rule our tastes. You know you are watching TV these days when everybody on the screen is freakishly beautiful by modern standards, ripped and royal, cartoonishly thin, perfectly plasticish, measuredly boobish and buttish with an amazing amount of thick, glossy hair and perfect skin.

Do this. Don’t buy that, an anemic, reductive, age-limited sense of the beautiful. Name yourself out of love for yourself. See your own worth to yourself and others. Engage in meta-consciousness. See yourself from above.

Here is the deal, a real deal. Be vatic; be self-prophetic. Be retromod. Look back on yourself with modern eyes. You are beautiful in ways that you can see and name. You are all you have ever been or done. Loyalty is beautiful. Servanthood, beautiful. Brave suffering is beautiful. Self-care is beautiful. Pregnant is beautiful. Old age is beautiful. Vultures are beautiful. They eat death, just as Christ eats death. Dandelions are beautiful. They feed bees. The more you know about something or someone often the more beautiful they become to you. Arachnologists think spiders are wonderful, even beautiful. They are.

Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, a French naturalist, entomologist, and author known for the lively style of his popular books on the lives of insects, is proof in the entomology pudding. I love his love of the tiny creatures, his appetency for Pine Caterpillars, peacock moths and the unsung burying beetles. I love this poet of insects. He once wrote, “What matters in learning is not to be taught, but to wake up.” …

Advice from the trenches: Wake up to unsung beauty. See what others have missed. Move beyond subjective, cultural aesthetics and labels. Be meta-cultural. Run beyond beauty stereotypes. Such thinking is apotropaic. An accurate and affirmative sense of self has the power to avert evil influences, particularly the evils of self-condemnation.

Awake to yourself. Name yourself. Name something of or in yourself beautiful today. Name something that is different beautiful today.

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