I have a confession. I think scars are beautiful.
In between two stages of my early life, I spent a few years working as a set and model builder in Hollywood. I did a lot of commercials and a few moves. If you remember the movie Beetlejuice, I worked on the model town in the attic. In fact, one of the tiny tombstones in the miniature graveyard sports my name.
When a model or prop was completed it was moved to a sound stage for filming and us model builders would hang out in case there was a problem with our work. There was never a problem, so I spent such days raiding the food station, thinking of ideas for my bad screenplay and watching people. I watched the way they moved, how they held themselves and how they interacted with others, all very instructive for the amateur anthropologist.
Once I built a model bridge that was used in a car commercial. I was the lone representative of the model crew so I killed time alone, trying to stay out of the way as the film crew worked the shots. I noticed a woman who hung back in the crew’s periphery. She was slender and graceful, a fit women in her early thirties or so. My boredom disappeared as I watched her twist and turn positioning lights and cables. Then, as she walked into a pool of stage lighting and turned toward me, I saw the scar.
The scar ran down the right side of her face. It started as a thin line above her eyebrow, jumped the eye socket and continued, a bold pink line down her cheek, stopping just short of her jaw-line. I wondered what had happened to her – maybe a car accident. In any case it was a prominent and angry scar.
At first I thought the scar marred what would otherwise be a lovely face. “Too bad,” I said to myself. Still I watched her. I was compelled to watcher her.
An actress/model, dressed in a tight, low-cut dress was giving the commercial pitch. I hardly noticed her.
The woman with the scar stood in the background away from the lights and camera but she held my attention, she was the most interesting and attractive person on that stage.
At first I thought her fit, trim figure triggered a primal attraction (we men are, after all, simple creatures) but there was something more, something deeper.
The way she held herself, the way she moved was almost defiant. She pushed her presence into the workspace, filling it with energy and grit. She was bold and strong, a survivor.
That was it.
Scars are, at once, proof of adversity and proof of survival. Scars prove strength. The dead make no scars and the living who bear them have met trauma and pushed through it.
Children and young adults are beautiful. They have perfect, unmarred, pain-free bodies. Their hearts are full of life and their heads full of half-baked ideas and naive, sunny views of the world. They are filled with spirit, but lack soul.
Soul is earned through adversity, through trials of pain and sorrow, loss and blinding tears. Soul is spirit run through the grinder of life and finding the strength to stand. Soul is texture, depth and hard won perspective. Soul is why we’re here and soul is beautiful.
Many of the people I’ve know who were privileged, who had everything handed to them have failed souls. They lose vitality of spirit over time, fading year after year becoming jaded, hollow people who find pleasure in nothing. They were deprived the gift of struggle.
You can’t appreciate the deeper qualities of life without soul and you can’t develop soul without adversity, struggle and survival.
We were made to struggle, to toil and face the hazards of life. Our scars instruct us and mark our passages through the fire. The process demands our strength, tests our will and shapes our soul. This is how we grow, how we cultivate what is best in us and how we become great.
Greatness is action leveraged through the strength and wisdom of soul. Soul knows the world’s secrets and more importantly, it knows the secrets of self. Knowing yourself – not what you want to be or how you see yourself – but how you fare in a storm, how you pick yourself up and move against the wind is the stuff of personal wisdom, the kind of wisdom you gain with scars.
My day on the sound stage was uneventful and I never had the opportunity to talk to that strong, attractive woman. At the end of the day, I packed up my tools and walked out to my motorcycle parked on the street. As I stood there, lashing my toolbox to the back of my bike, a car stopped at the light across the street. I looked up and saw the scared woman in her car. Spontaneously, I waved my helmet over my head. She turned to me.
“You’re beautiful!” I yelled. She was startled for a moment and then she smiled. As the light changed, her lips mouthed a silent thank you. She drove away with that smile and I never saw her again.
She was beautiful; no doubt about it, but it took years and the maturing of my own soul to know the depth and the source of her beauty.