Beauty: A Gentle Reminder

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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' work on grieving is a hallmark of psychological insight and remains a vital thesis on how people cope with loss. Her insight on how beauty 'happens' is striking for its uncompromising truth.

In a social landscape where standards of beauty - applied to any gender - focus almost exclusively on how people look, the idea of looking beyond into a person's soul is largely out of fashion. But, as William Goldman astutely observed in his book, The Princess Bride, true beauty comes with the ravages of time, experience, love and loss. What do we see when we look in the mirror and judge ourselves? What do we mean when we talk about 'beauty'?

Ms. Kubler-Ross' On Death & Dying famously introduced the 5 stages of grief, which posit a non-linear cycle of letting go and coming to terms with one's loss. In its clear-eyed examination of what people go through when they experience significant loss, it yields rich insight into the human psyche and what can be learnt about oneself in the process of letting go. Of particular relevance is her assertion that beauty is arrived at through the business of living a life that has known defeat, suffering, struggle and loss - a person who has gone through the wringer of life and emerged from the depths of despair with hope for the future and a will to live intact, carries with them a kind of beauty that cannot be measured in terms of physical attributes.

Intrinsically, we know this - just think of some of the most beautiful people you know in your own life, and carefully consider them by the standard Ms. Kubler-Ross outlines: Who is beautiful - and what about their lives do we love and appreciate? Follow that enquiry towards a view of life that is truly beautiful.