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Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

The Whole Thing is Always Beautiful

If you have a fully functional parietal lobe, then you’ll be able to recognize and appreciate faces. Facial recognition in humans functions differently than other forms of object recognition. We usually don’t identify the individual pieces of a face, but its gestalt.

Any face, no matter how ugly, is whole and complete in itself. We don’t look at just the eyes, or just the nose, or just the mouth. We take in the whole face, and we appreciate not only the pieces in themselves but mostly how the pieces relate to each other. All the elements of the faces we know come together into complete and inseparable representations of the people we love. In the face, we see character and history.

This quality of seeing the whole as more than the sum of its parts is analogous to the way that all of what is happening can be perceived as being whole and complete in itself. The face is the perfect analogy because there is nothing missing and there is nothing wrong with it.

As anyone who struggles with body dysmorphia can tell you, spending hours obsessing about parts of the body as not being “right” can be exhausting. Some people look in the mirror and, missing the overall wholeness of the face, observe only the nose and judge it to be too large, or focus only on the bags under the eyes and wish they would go away.

This way of breaking the face into pieces and then judging each piece on its own merits is perfectly analogous to how we break apart what appears to be happening to judge the parts that we like and the parts that we don’t like. For example, we might separate out a feeling of pain from the context in which it rests, the larger experience which complements it.

When we resist, or grasp at, any element of what seems to be happening, we break the completeness of the gestalt and then suffer from not receiving the whole and complete beauty (including the beautifully ugly) that is presenting itself to us.

Written by

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives |

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