How can I relate Beauty to Advocacy? I mean, besides pointing out that getting involved in political and charitable causes is a great way to meet celebrity hotties looking to show their social consciousness? Or that it’s a great way to meet mister or missus right, bonding over a shared passion?
Perhaps by talking about the beauty that is inherent in working to make the world a more just and gentle place. Indeed, why else would one engage in activism, much less make it a full-time commitment? To do so means forfeiting the surest paths to power and money, and all the traditional trappings of personal gratification. The only real true motivation has to be the desire to make your life better by making the lives of others better – to find satisfaction in making the world a better place.
I’m reminded of when I conducted admissions interviews for my alma mater, Johns Hopkins. Naturally, a disproportionate number of kids were applying with dreams of eventually going to the medical school and becoming doctors, and it became nearly a joke with me that the professed reason for wanting to do so was always “Um… well… I want to help people.”
But in many cases, that reason would disolve under scrutiny. I’d start talking about the work of Doctors Without Borders, community health initiatives in poor and rural communities, and many of the interviewees would shy away, or mention that they might do something like that “for the experience.” At the core, it always came down to a desire to make money and/or fulfill parental expectations, than a real desire to help people, or even the intellectual challenge of solving exciting and complex problems.
So why then did so many of my interviewees feel a need to profess a desire to do good as their true motivation? Why do so many corporations feel a need to tout their charitable giving almost as much as their products? Why do so many of us as individuals feel a need to at least play-act the part of concerned member of society? Why did George W. Bush call himself a “compassionate conservative”, or David Cameron defend many of the social programs that a previous generation of Tories had faught to abolish?
I think because we all recognize the beauty in doing good deeds for others. Even the most cynical of us recognize that at least everyone else sees the beauty in it. We all want to be recognized as beautiful, both inside and out. So next time you plunk down time and money on a spa treatment, give a thought to taking at least the same amount of time to volunteer for a cause you care about, and work to make the world as beautiful as you try to make yourself!