I have never used a blog post to publicize a YouTube video, and with more than 7.5 million views, the video below scarcely needs my help. That said, it’s impossible for too many people — especially Westerners — to see this short film by Chicago high school student Shea Glover. And if you’ve already seen it, it won’t hurt to watch again.
Beneath the superficial gloss, a deep sense of personal unworthiness — ugliness, even — insinuates Western society. Several well-known American Buddhists observed the Dalai Lama’s puzzlement at a conference 25 years ago when teacher Sharon Salzberg asked about the self-hatred that afflicts so many Westerners.
“Looking startled, he turned to his translator and asked pointedly in Tibetan again and again for an explanation,” Salzberg recalls. “Finally, looking back at me, the Dalai Lama tilted his head, his eyes narrowed in confusion. ‘Self-hatred?’ he repeated in English, as though trying out the words. ‘But you have Buddha nature. How could you think of yourself that way?’ ”
The concept was strange to him; there was no counterpart in Eastern culture.
“He simply didn’t understand,” says teacher Jack Kornfield, who also was present. “Then, he asked not only whether we knew what she was talking about but also if we ourselves experienced this self-hatred. And almost all the Buddhist teachers there, representing an entire generation, said ‘yes’.”
An entire generation — my parents’ — and certainly also my own. And now, as this five-minute film makes evident, yet another, even while youth bestows on its subjects a physical beauty they cannot see.
It’s starkly revealing, and not just of the people it features. Observe your feelings as you watch; note what stirs in your own heart as each person’s face registers surprise. Surprise — to think that anyone could find them beautiful. And then, a sweetly embarrassed delight, though one young woman is so sure she is being scammed — already so certain that no one could see her that way — that she can respond only with aggression.
I wonder not only at how others break our hearts, but at how we break our own, every day, with what we believe about ourselves. And I marvel at how little effort it takes for one person to banish that ugliness — if only for a moment — by mirroring to others the beauty to which they themselves are blind.