Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 8, 2013

Lion and the Lamb: In the eye of the beholder

CROSSVILLE — The May 5 issue of People magazine appeared with an astonishing cover. It proclaimed in big letters "World's Most Beautiful Woman!" and featured 40-year-old actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The issue also included the facial pictures of over a hundred other American beauties from age 15 to 70.

There are two problems, however, with a title such as "World's Most Beautiful Woman." The first is with the last three words. Beauty is a culturally conditioned perception that has changed over the years. Fullness, roundness, and curves were prized when Rubens painted beautiful women. Today, "thin is in," even to the point of prizing anorexic-appearing fashion models. In days of racial segregation and bias, black women often tried to straighten their hair and lighten their skin. Then came a new perception, at least among them, that "Black is beautiful."

Today in our nation the default setting for beauty is still whiteness, or in the case of African-Americans, a lighter brown color. The pictures in People magazine, when including a few people of color, show primarily light-skinned persons, the result of racial mixing over the years. North Americans who travel to the Caribbean area often find the mulatto color quite attractive. In fact, Canadian and U.S. tourists can often be found on Caribbean beaches trying to acquire a tan and become more mulatto, even if temporarily.

Over time standards of beauty have changed, depending on changing cultural values. It is important to remember, however, that there are always two components to human beauty: inner beauty (personality, intelligence, grace, integrity, kindness, empathy) and outer beauty (physical attractiveness). Each person can discover such beauty in other people. To a husband, a wife can be for him the most beautiful woman in the world. Beauty is thus always in the eye of the beholder.

In the magazine title "World's Most Beautiful Woman," there is also a problem with the first word. The global presumption is astonishing. This is not just a People magazine or American title, but a world title! It's the same kind of thinking that assigns a global title to the baseball team that wins the World Series.

This presumption also points to an arrogance that undergirds the imperial pretensions of our American empire. Through our growing fleet of drones, with the power to kill anyone, anywhere, we are now in the process of establishing control over the rest of our planet. In this context and mindset, to call someone in the metropolitan center of this expanding empire the "world's most beautiful woman" doesn't seem out of place, despite the fact that other countries in this world may have different perceptions of beauty.

We hear many comments today about how our nation is the best one in the world. Even our president has mentioned how exceptional it is. Yet people in other nations often think of their own as the best. Back in 1934 Lloyd Stone wrote a hymn, "This Is My Song" (set to the tune of Finlandia), that has been included in some hymnals. It refers to this perception about one's own nation. But it can also apply to one's perception of another person as the "most beautiful woman in the world":

"This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

"My country's skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine. But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine. O hear my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine."

The view from the eye of a beholder is always a crucial one.

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Holder: Americans Stand With KC Mourners Obama Greets Wounded Warriors Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice