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Body Sculpting?

Why are some people so very beautiful to look at?

Having four different children has given me much insight into how bodies are built, and what our part is in the process.

Pregnancy, building a body

At the 12 week scan, one can see a tiny little being - 6cm long, completely formed! A beating heart, arms, legs, feet - you can even count 5 toes on each foot. The process has been set in motion - out of two single cells, a new person is being formed. Genetic information is complete from the beginning. A child’s DNA is like a set of blueprints that will determine how it will be put together. How tall he or she will be when he/she has reaches maturity has already been determined. The width of the jawbone, the shape of the nose, the hairline and colour, whether he/she will be have a relatively muscular, hard body type or a softer, rounder build, or something in between, big or small feet, wide or narrow hips etc.

Despite current knowledge of genetics, the belief that human weight and shape are first and foremost determined by what and how much we eat, and whether we exercise, has become deeply imbedded in our culture. One can hear it in the language used by some fitness gurus and other experts that seem to think they have magical powers. They speak of “body sculpting”.

Body sculpting!

These words create the impression that the human body is like a ball of clay. That we can shape it the way we want to - pinch a bit off here, add some more over there, smooth out the rough bits. The message is that we can do this, and that those that do not have the ideal body, according to the standard of the day, have only themselves to blame.

Each body is seen as an artwork - the result of prudently eating the right diet, executing the right moves and using the right lotions and potions.

Each body is an artwork, but it is not our handiwork! We are responsible to take good care of the bodies that we have, but beyond that, it is not in our hands.

Why so beautiful?

Each body is marvellously designed - intricately put together, but I can’t deny that some people have a natural physical beauty that is appealing to the eye. I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling some people beautiful or attractive - it’s just when the emphasis is in the wrong place, when it is seen as a superior gift, or as a requirement for acceptance or worth in some way, or within everybody’s reach, that we get into trouble. Leo Tolstoy is known to have said It is amazing how complete the delusion is that beauty is goodness.” Beauty is a good thing, but it is not goodness. There are many human traits that are far more laudable.

A passage from “The Painted Veil” by Somerset Maugham illustrates what I think is a healthy way to look at beauty. The scene plays out in a convent. Kitty, a volunteer, has been enjoying a lively game with some orphans when the Mother Superior comes in:

The Mother Superior came forward, and as usual the children clustered around her. She put her hands round their narrow shoulders and playfully pulled their little ears. She looked at Kitty with a long, soft look. Kitty was flushed and she was breathing quickly. Her liquid eyes were shining and her lovely hair, disarranged in all the struggling and the laughter, was in adorable confusion. “It does the heart good to look at you” said the Mother Superior. Kitty blushed deeply and covered her face with her hands. “Oh Mother, you make me ashamed!” “Come, do not be silly. Beauty is also a gift of God, one of the most rare and precious, and we should be thankful if we are happy enough to possess it and thankful, if we are not, that others possess it for our pleasure.” She smiled again, and as though Kitty was a child too, gently patted her soft cheek.

Is that not wonderful? A gift, for the enjoyment of others. What gift do you have, for others? Do you make music? Are you funny? Do you write stories? Can you draw?

We have diverse gifts; beauty is but one of them.

Sound Bite

Those who got the luck of the draw got a body type that is currently fashionable. The rest have had to learn to live with it." Ellyn Satter
Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering. Saunt Augustine
Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked. Saint Augustine

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