I recently noticed that two people had responded to blog posts of mine on their own blogs. I love it when that happens! The first was Hecate, who responded to my post “Courage” with her own post, “Who is Choosing to Lost the Fight?” In that post, she quoted from T. Thorn Coyle:
“And, where’s the struggle? Is it a struggle of not believing in yourself? Is it a struggle of feeling like you don’t have the resources you need? Is it a struggle of of lack of time, lack of energy? Is it a struggle of lack of support around you? Or lack of support from your daily practice? Is it the fear of success? The fear of failure? Where’s that struggle?
“My trainer, Carrie Rockland, with whom I do a trade that’s very fruitful for both of us – we end up teaching each other, which I greatly appreciate . That’s one of the ways I keep fire in my life is to seek out teaching from those who have skills or experiences that I don’t have – but Carrie is coming up on a big competition in which she is having to fight someone that she fought many years ago in order to go up a level in the belt system in her martial art. And in talking about this, she wrote something that was so clear that I want to share it with you. Carrie wrote, ‘More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight.’ I want us all to take that phrase in right now. ‘More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight.’
“We talk ourselves out of it before we even step on the mat, half the time. We talk ourselves out of it before we even gather the resources needed to see a project through. We talk ourselves out of it before we make that initial step or have that first conversation. We talk ourselves out of it before we even let ourselves brainstorm and dream.”
I think that’s such an important observation. And I think it’s sometimes true of me too, that when I lose, I’m choosing to do so. Sometimes it’s because I know in my heart that I’m not ready for that particular fight. If I won it, I wouldn’t be ready for the consequences of victory. Sometimes it’s just because I’m afraid that I’ll lose, and so I put in a half-hearted effort. Because if I didn’t really try that hard, it doesn’t matter as much that I lost. But most of the time, I’m in whole-heartedly. And those are the times that if I win, I know I deserved to, and if I lose, I’m still proud of myself for having made the attempt.
If you want to win at things in general, or to succeed at things since winning is a strange word to use for most of the things we want to do, you have to be willing to lose as well. I think it’s when you’re not afraid of losing that you can put your whole heart into the fight in the first place.
The second response was by Duncan Long, to my post “On Beauty.” Duncan’s post is called “The Beautiful Face.” About my post, he writes,
“This reminded me of some very different experiments using software to create ‘beauty’ by combining facial characteristics from a number of photos. The result was an ‘average’ of the various faces. And experimenting with such composite photos, researchers find that the more averaging is done, the more ‘beautiful’ the results are for most people looking at the photos.
“This suggests (to me at least) that most of us have a hardwired ‘picture’ or icon in our minds that we compare to any given real face. The closer the face to that hardwired icon, the more beautiful is our perception of it.
“This is also how the old trick of taking pictures of women through gauze or lens smeared with Vasoline works; their features become less pronounced – averaged – and they appear more attractive. Likewise digital artists now arm themselves with plugins that add a little light scatter to photos, blurring things in a special way to create a ‘beauty shot.'”
While I think that’s generally true, that we do tend to have a hardwired picture in our brains – or perhaps a hardwired series of mathematical relationships – one thing strikes me about Duncan’s post and the research he cites.
The actual averaged faces I’ve seen have always struck me as somewhat bland. They are attractive rather than what I would call beautiful. In terms of the theory I set forth in my post, they have too much unity, not quite enough variety. They are not Julia Roberts, whose face has the general symmetry of the composite face but also something more, something unusual about it. I think it’s what Edgar Allan Poe called a “strangeness in the proportion” in “Ligeia.”
Although I do notice, as Duncan pointed out, that when I use a little light scatter on my photos, they generally look better.
I’m going to end by including something I think is beautiful: Madame X, by John Singer Sargent.
Notice the interplay of unity and variety. And notice the Hogarthian serpentine lines. Plus, I think she has a great nose!