Part 1 - Reconstructing Beauty
One of the most popular summaries I've heard in China in the last decade or so about whether young people can find good jobs is that this is an age of faces. And this stark and straightforward summary reveals a lot about today's society. Now that we've touched on the subject let's look at the age of the face.
I'm not sure about the situation in other countries, but in today's Chinese society, there are a large number of young people who, in order to survive in this materialistic society, have to make their appearance shine first. Whether male or female, it seems that there is a force that drives them to use their faces to take the lead in this highly competitive society. But, unfortunately, most of them have beauty without any characteristics at all.
The cosmetic companies and plastic surgery clinics are flourishing in this environment, and the "beauties" that come out of these institutions seem to be nothing more than soulless shells. Most young people who don't have money to buy cosmetics or plastic surgery have started to use their mobile phones to automatically beautify their photos and then put their unreal selves on the internet. Very ordinary boys and girls may find that if they don’t show themselves off all dress-up, even if their inner character and workability are excellent, it will be difficult to get recognized or discovered by the current society.
Check it out for yourself. I did a little experiment. When I posted a very ordinary-looking landscape on Instagram with a very profound text, the likes were unusually low. Then, when I put a photo of a made-up person posed with not very profound text, the likes were very high! I have repeated this little experiment countless times, and the truth is that most people have lost their exploration and patience. The lack and emptiness of aesthetics are unprecedented. Because of the flood of social media that fills people's eyeballs with an over-kill of information every day, most people have completely lost the virtue of discovering and researching truly inspiring things. It has become too time-consuming, and time-consuming things require patience. Everything is too easy to obtain, and there is too much garbage, so people naturally choose to passively accept and choose those things with intense sensory stimulation. They choose to ignore things that are not visually noticeable.
Echoing a phrase from AUGUSTE RODIN L'ART (Rodin's theory of art): "Beauty is everywhere, and for our eyes, it is not a lack of beauty but a lack of discovery. "
Perhaps I'm too old-fashioned in my outlook, but my family's traditional education has always taught us, young people, to focus on inner beauty and not focus too much on the outer. This notion sounds both old-fashioned and arguably trite. Some may even argue and ask, why can't people focus on both external and internal beauty? Is a person who is beautiful on the outside necessarily not beautiful on the inside? Such voices have been a constant source of human chatter about the definition of beauty since the dawn of time. I never think anyone is right or wrong. But the heart of the question I want to explore is: where should the focus of attention be?
If a time comes when most people focus too much on outward appearances and neglect the inner, I think it is a sign that society is going into decline. Because people are beginning to lack attention to the soul, this can lead to many problems. Let me give you an example by looking at how tea is made.
In Yunnan, China, since ancient times, there has been a traditional tea called Pu-erh or correctly called, Qizibing (七子饼). Its more traditional name would be Seven Pieces of Cake. It means that the tea leaves are pressed into the shape of a cake and wrapped in a bundle of seven tea cakes using the leaves of bamboo shoots. This traditional way of making and wrapping tea has the most practical and archaic meaning.
Pu-erh tea in ancient Yunnan usually had to be transported by donkeys or horses, which required very long and rugged mountain roads to get the tea to where it could be distributed worldwide. It was found that the loose leaves were not only difficult to transport but also took up too much space and were easily damaged during the long journey. It was then discovered that tea is a plant that could be stored for long periods of time and that it could be shaped at will during the production process. After the tea was pressed into cakes, the volume became smaller and easy to transport and save. All wrapped up in bamboo shoot leaves; it was quaint and beautiful. It allowed the tea to be naturally ventilated in transit, which also played a useful role in the natural fermentation and storage of the tea. Before using bamboo shoots, each tea cake was packaged with a unique handmade paper. The paper texture was basically the same as the paper used in Chinese painting, but more substantial in thickness and toughness.
The ancient Chinese study of paper is very profound. The textures of the paper, white density, toughness, wetness, whether naturally insect or moth-proof, and so on have been very deeply examined. The production of paper has become an art! It is not simply a matter of turning pulp into paper. The tea leaves wrapped in good paper will be preserved and stored better, and this plays a vital role in the natural fermentation and storage of Pu-erh tea in Yunnan. The ancient Chinese were not so much interested in the style of the package as they were in the quality of the paper, and of course, the most important thing was to taste the tea leaves with patience and care. This example can clearly show the inner examination of aesthetics by the ancient Chinese. It is in total contrast to the concept of modern aesthetics.
What I see most prevalent in today's market is that the paper patterns used to wrap the tea cakes go to great lengths to create all sorts of bizarre design patterns designed to catch the consumer’s eye. Of course, most consumers are attracted to the packaging because of the odd design patterns. Almost no one will do more to examine the materials used in the paper or for the tea itself; I can clearly say that most consumers just rely on propaganda to make a judgment. Through this judgment, there is no fair understanding of the real beauty of tea. Such an aesthetic or discriminatory approach will inevitably cause society to develop in another direction.
Consumers have less and less patience to search for the beauty of the tea itself but instead make passive choices among the flood of businesses, which can stimulate people's eyes more strongly in the promotion and packaging. This cycle leads to no one doing more research and exploration into the quality of the tea itself but instead putting more effort into marketing and advertising. And so, the consumer continues to make frivolous and irresponsible choices in this empty world of tea. Let us now turn to people.
The purpose of the tea ceremony is not merely to make tea, but to cultivate the mind, learn to shed impatience, rid oneself of messy worldly thoughts, and to calm down in the process of making a cup of tea. This ritual removes all kinds of dishonorable thoughts from the world so that one can recognize the vital connection between man and nature and learn from nature how to follow its laws to live a peaceful life.
However, these fundamental aspects of the tea ceremony are not understood by people today. People come up with all kinds of weird tea-making tricks. When making tea, they don’t respect the tea itself but keep showing off all sorts of bizarre actions of making tea in order to be seen.
Many women have violated the principle of being a real tea master. Instead of following the quaint beauty, they spend a lot of time on their appearances, completely obliterating the principle of using tea to cultivate peace of mind. Instead, they cultivate their own body and mind and dance with the complex and secularism through various strange tricks, fidgety furnishings, and even exposing their bodies to attract people's attention. What's even sadder is that there are people worldwide who organize so-called "tea master" competitions. To win, people come up with all kinds of strange tricks to attract people's attention; it is a deep insult to tea. As tea drinkers, people have almost completely lost their sanity. People have lost the real reason for pouring and drinking tea; they drink tea like water. They never really focus on the tea itself but pay attention to the tea packaging, the tea brewers’ movements, appearance, and other external factors that stimulate the physical senses. This is all contradictory to the true principle of pure and simple beauty.
Having said tea, let's go back to the issue of young people looking for jobs. The problem is actually the same as the problem of tea being over-packaged. Many companies select their employees based on appearance, which is bound to cause harm to real talent. This harm is bound to cause the hollowing out of society, leading people to no longer believe that relying on their skills and efforts can achieve the corresponding social recognition. This kind of society is not sustainable.
Most people in the world don't know that patience with aesthetics and the search for true inner beauty is not just the cultivation of one's aesthetic ability, but that the practice of silence, exploration, and patience is used to aestheticize. Keeping one's nature at peace is essential. Once the nature remains peaceful, virtue will be at rest in its proper place, so that the blood is not depressed, the five organs are not diseased, misfortunes cannot disturb, criticism cannot defile, and so one can also attain the highest state of life.
Such a person can be said to have achieved true freedom. And if the whole of society were to make an effort to practice this and discover and judge things patiently and fairly, such a society would develop towards a higher quality of inner practice. I believe that if every individual were to follow this steadfast practice, the chances of various crises and declines in human society would also be less. The benefit of such an approach also lies in the fact that it will change each individual and society's tendency towards aesthetics. It will allow each of us to calm down and think about what kind of beauty can have real meaning in life for each of us.
In the Tea Sutra, there is a description of what constitutes good tea: “The color of tea is as different as people's appearance. It is difficult to explain the nuances and similarities of appearance, and it is also difficult to explain the various colors of tea leaves. In short, the color is pure and unmixed, the texture is dense and not undisciplined, the clumps form when grasped, and the sound is crisp when crushed.” To quote La Fontaine (French allegorical poet, 1621-1695), “Never judge a man by his appearance.”
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