She’s so beautiful,
Well, look at me!
– The Beast
(from Beauty and the Beast)
Written originally as a French Fairy Tale in the mid-1700’s, the story has undergone a number of adaptations; both in written form and in film. Wrapped in the guise of a love story, the mystery woven into the fabric is the paradox of self-acceptance vs ego. The lovely young Belle is strikingly beautiful, charming and hence outwardly desirable to any and all who might see her. The beast is anything but acceptable on the surface. Hideous in appearance, gruff in manners, he is feared and ridiculed. Unable to accept the manifestation of his own outer shell, he recuses himself to solitude.
Ego deters the beast at every turn as he wrestles with his feelings for Belle. As much as he accepts her – how could anyone NOT be drawn to her beauty – he is stymied by the inner conviction that he is beyond acceptance.
This same ironic absurdity seeds our actions and motives at times, as we are convinced that we have within us the grace and presence to accept someone else for who they are: faults and failures dismissed and overlooked. But the mirror presents overwhelming evidence that we, ourselves, would not be worthy or welcome to that same measure of approval. Hence, we herd the skeletons towards the last closet door on the left and lock them away.
* * * * * * *
His given name is Henry Phillip McCoy. His resume reflects his brilliant intellect, showcasing achievement in the realm of science, bio-physics, genetics and the arts. He quotes Shakespeare, toys with perplexing mathematical equations, and realizes astonishing breakthroughs in the world of medicine. He is a political activist with keen understanding and perception of the human spirit. He is the recipient of an earned doctorate. Friends call him Hank.
Although gifted with a chart-topping IQ and keen wisdom to interpret the world around him, Dr. Henry McCoy is hopelessly shackled to one closeted skeleton that burdens him heavily. Hank is a mutant. Fate has altered his DNA just enough to make him a classic aberration of the norm. He has a physical deformity and an emotional dysfunction as a result. Hank was born with ape-like feet and body hair, as well as the physical strength and agility of a primate. He has learned to hide the physical appearance with proper shoes and clothing, but lives much of his private life in solitude.
Hank McCoy is a fictional character, as is the Beast who would long to see himself as acceptable in the eyes of sweet Belle. Hank is also known as “Beast” and wrestles with the same demons of public acceptance. Although both are fictional characters, each has the ability to walk us behind a curtain that we fight to keep drawn ever so tightly – a curtain that hides the beastly imperfections that we are so thoroughly convinced no one could possibly understand or fully accept. We harbor that beast and have convinced ourselves that it must never see the light of day.
Forgive the reference to Fairy Tale and Comic Book illustration, but at times the parallels are most easily examined with the buffer of reality kept at arm’s length. X-Men is a very well written chronicle, spanning generations and spotlighting such topics as: Racism, Genocide and Self-Acceptance. Other, more subtle, emotional dragons are carefully woven into the underpinnings of the story line and character development throughout.
Our Beast, Hank McCoy, wrestles heavily with his mutation. Hiding behind glasses and intellect, he excels among peers; but underneath he struggles with the constant pain of hiding from the truth that he is woefully different and the paralyzing fear that he will be treated as an outcast if the truth ever comes to light.
We possess an incredible gift to accept the people in our lives with the natural caveat that “no one is perfect”. To hold those around us to such a requirement would be to quickly and completely eliminate our entire circle of friendship and acquaintance. But for some reason, we are convinced that we must ascend to a higher idealized standard if we are to find complete acceptance from others. We are compelled to mask the flaws and hide the warts, fearing that if some things – some deep, dark, secretive, hideous things – were known. . . well, the fallout would be devastating.
We believe that we are defined based on:
- What we Have – Our financial status and possessions
- What we Do – Our career, hobby or role in life
- What they Think – Our reputation and the respect of others
We are more accurately defined by:
- What we Think – Perception is as individualistic as snowflakes and fingerprints. Your opinion is borne from your catalogue of experiences and values. It is incredibly YOU-nique.
- What we Dream – Thoughts and aspirations run through your heart and mind for a reason. They are the life-pulse of the person inside, straining to find a way to the surface. Hopes, Dreams and Desires define us very clearly, yet we wrestle with how they will be perceived if not kept in check.
- How we Respond – Life happens around us and we react. Sometimes the natural instinct comes to the surface. Sometimes we catch our default behavior as it rises and modify the end result. Reaction is learned and triggered. It is also a conduit of our values and beliefs.
* * * * * * *
Desiring to rid himself of the physical abnormality, our Beast works tirelessly on a genetic antidote designed to resolve his physical curse. In the recently released, X-Men: First Class, it is revealed where this pathway leads. Blood is extracted from another mutant who possesses the ability to manifest her appearance as the mirror image of any other human being she encounters. Hank feels this may be the key that will unlock the door to “normal”. It serves only to magnify his mutation to the point where it can no longer be concealed.
There are times when the skeletons pound loudly on the closet door in their effort to escape. There are moments when we feel the desire to open that door to those who know us best, trusting their ability to cope with the truth (regardless of how ugly we have convinced ourselves that it is).
Most will know and define us by what they see on the surface. They are not being superficial. They just are not privileged to see deeper.
But for those who influence our lives, the knowledge runs much deeper. They deserve to experience the honesty of what we think, the reality of what we dream and the natural instinct of how we respond. For it is there that love and acceptance can thrive. And it is there that self-esteem can be fostered. If they cannot embrace the contents of the last closet on the left, then they are not worthy to walk the hallway.