I recently was told one of the myths of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, who is loosely the goddess of beauty (old world deities tend to be quite complex, not neatly categorized, but this is an aspect of Lakshmi which is very important, so excuse the simplification for now). The premise of the story was that when Lakshmi was ignored than beauty began to vanish from the world, fewer scented flowers, less sweet fruit on the vines, sunlight shined less brightly, and colors were less rich. This reminded me of a similar mythology regarding the African diety Oshun, who also rules and represents beauty and sweetness and pleasures in life. Oshun also is said to deeply desire to be noticed and when she is ignored, beauty fades from the world.
When I was younger I might have heard these stories as morality tales about the frivolity and insecurity of beauty. I would have seen them as a way to shame, specifically women, about wanting attention and reassurance that they were desirable. I would have heard in my head the male voice, lamenting that they had to keep telling their girlfriend that she was beautiful, as though this was work and shouldn’t be required of them. I would have drawn away from these archetypes thinking that they represented a weakness, rather than a gift.
But now I read this differently. Now I see two dieties, both bringing something vital to humanity – Beauty. Both wanting to be noticed. Or else. And it is the or else that matters. We need to notice or else we suffer without beauty in our life. We need to honor the beauty around us, or else we will miss it.
Now I see that stories tell us is if we do not make a point of honoring and acknowledging Beauty in our lives, we will have less of it. That beauty requires attention. Not for its own gain, but to exist. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truly. It is there for us when we notice it.
We can choose each day to notice beauty in our life, or not. To notice beauty in our partner, or not. To act on what beauty inspires in us, or not. To celebrate and revel in the pleasures of life, or not.
And now, as a couple’s therapist, I see the request to be noticed, to be seen, to be complimented as something much fundamental than frivolous. The request to be noticed, is a request to feed that energy, to keep it alive. It is a way of saying “give energy to the beauty I bring to your life, and this will help me keep this part of myself alive”. It is a way of saying, “I can give generously but you need to let me know what you want more of.” And I hope for my committed readers it goes without saying, that this is something men, women, and all genders need. Beauty is not exclusive to women. Beauty is a whole lot of things, as many unique possibilities as there are unique people to witness it.
Oh yeah baby, do you want more of that? Tell me…show me…
Energy needs to be replenished; apparently even for gods. All we have to do to nourish it, is notice and acknowledge what we see. How lucky for us. And our noticing and bringing attention and celebrating, brings more energy to the Beauty around us, and on and on. So as we enter this season of gratitude, I invite you to express yourself when you witness beauty of all kinds. Tell someone that they are beautiful to you. Touch your partner where they are so amazingly soft or so appealingly firm. Make some noise of appreciation. Stop and watch the colors of the sunset shift into the night sky, and point it out to someone so that they notice it too. And in this way, we keep Beauty alive and blessing us with more.