I often write about how we see ourselves and how strongly that is impacted by the intersection of our individuality and the ridiculous narrowness of popular media where everyone must strive for the same identities. The media only wants that because it lives off sales and it has something to sell. When a friend send me this exchange I immediately loved it because here was what I thought I couldn’t readily find: someone who is living a life that defies that social programming.
This piece speaks for itself, so I will simply say that I am very, very pleased to bring you my choice for the 2nd Best Re-Blog of the Year:
Reddit is a large, popular discussion hub that is based on posts by registered users. There have been many intelligent, informed and illuminating discussions on Reddit and it’s generally an excellent community. But even excellent communities have their hiccups.
When human beings are in motion they are thinking about what they are doing. They are rationalizing their behaviours either reasonably or not. In the case I’m going to refer to the poster was hoping for a laugh. He was attempting to draw himself closer to others through humour—through a shared experience. Unfortunately that experience was at someone else’s expense.
A Reddit user that goes under the name european_douchebag, posted a photo he secretly took of a woman at an airport. The reason he took the photo was because the woman stood out in a way he thought others might find funny. The reason she stood out was that she is a devout Sikh, and as such she believes her body to be sacred and unalterable. To change it would be to offend the creator/creative process. And so she has her long hair under her turban that has never been cut. And she has facial hair and body hair that’s also never been cut. Far from being strange, she may be the first truly natural person you’ve ever seen. And natural people look so strange today that—for some people—they look funny.
Some people defended the woman. Some people laughed. A lot of people attacked her. And then the woman showed up herself:
“Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told me on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled 🙂 However, I’m not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positive] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am.
“Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, we must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.
“Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions.
“My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. 🙂
“So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together t-shirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. 🙂 I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.”
Those are the words of an extremely healthy person. She doesn’t argue with anyone. She sees no opponent. She sees what is true: only confusion. She is happy with her life and she understands that others cannot comprehend this form of happiness because they have been indoctrinated into a profit-based model. Certainly Balpreet won’t be making Max Factor any richer.
I would submit that Balpreet’s focus on her inner life is paying off. She’s open, considerate, intelligent, informative, reasonable, caring and compassionate. And her appreciation for the innocence of the ignorance is as charming as it is wonderful. It was so effective it gently shook- awake the original poster, who offered this response to Balpreet’s message:
“I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.
“Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe racism or douchebagsofreddit or intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news a lot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.
“I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.
“So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity. Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am. Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life. Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.”
And so goes the power of love. These two people—seemingly so different—come to an awareness that they respect each other. Thank goodness european_douchebag had Balpreet to lead him out of the darkness of ignorance. Out of the darkness of not-love. And she did it with compassion and generosity.
If you’re looking to expand your ability to love and stay open to the world around you, then consider your surroundings. Not so much your physical ones. Think more about your mental ones. Because your friends and co-workers build your psychological landscape. So hang around people like Balpreet. Hang around people that use the power of their creativity to actually make the world into a better place. Because those people might look like they are always serving others, but in fact they are they are the freest people among us. And from that perspective, Balpreet is certainly and easily one of the most beautiful women in the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.