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Ugliness Is Skin Deep

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“Ugliness is a both a learned concept and skin deep,” said Khambatta, one of my teachers while I grew up in London.

I’d reached the ripe age of 11 and had started writing on a typewriter as yet another milestone of being serious about the writing vice.

Admittedly, I started off with the idea of wanting to be a writer from an old UK TV series called Jason King, now clearly seen as a wild fantasy of the writer’s luxurious lifestyle. Writers who wanted their work to be seriously-considered were told to focus on the grit in life.

“Yes, the grit is there, but so is the beauty within the grit. Grit, after all, is a creation of the divine. Crap is what man reduces creation to,” said Khambatta. He even ended with a preposition just show how ugly prose can be.

Khambatta continued, “Beauty is the essence behind all things because it derives from the creative principle…call it God, Divine Mother or a trillion other names used in the galaxies.”

Wow, I said. Come back to planet Earth.

“True.The word “god” is dynamite enough for the meagre levels at which we think,” he said.

At the time of course like most kids I shared this view of humankind. I saw things in black and white with greater confidence, back then.

Greatness, expertly hidden

“Much as that may be true on many levels, humanity has greatness hidden expertly away in millenia of laziness, and selfishness. Selfishness is laziness,” Khambatta told me.

His phrases had a way of infiltrating themselves into my brain cells.

He continued, “If everything that exists is from the creator – then everything is beautiful. From where did the idea of ugliness come?

“From the idea that there is separation. Beauty is oneness. We are vitally connected to every manifest and unmanifest aspect of everything that is, ever was, every will be.”

Ugliness is a lie

When I see someone maimed from an accident, when I see someone with his brains living outside his skull from birth, I have to say my mind thinks yuck! But I of course never voice this. With that attitude, it naturally took me a while to realise that interesting writing needed to be bold and honest.

“It is your perception that is at fault. Whether you see a leprous face or an insect who wants to bite you: it is beautiful.”

Even if the bite of a cobra kills you? I said.

He laughed, “Lets not get carried away. Yes – in theory – all is beautiful but it depends on the level you choose to operate. If confronted by a cobra, you may choose to come down a few levels and run – or kill.”

But…

“But that is the joy of dilemma!” said Khambatta. “Horseshit makes flowers.”

Obssession with dilemmas

“Humankind loves dilemma. Daily, they invent it, They see only dilemma. If they do not see something to fight about – they have no choice but to clearly see reality,” he said.

What is reality? This was a question I asked him daily, until he told me to shut up and to address such questions to the only person that matters. He tapped me on the chest.

“In any case. No words will describe reality. It is many levels above speech. Oneness is a word which comes fairly close to the fruitful path.”

So is there an answer to whether ugliness exists? I said.

Khambatta repeated: “Ugliness exists only as a perception. But there are beings in the cosmos who would easily meet your definition of ugliness.

So I am in a bind.

“On one level, the eternal viewpoint: there is no ugliness. On the temporary level: yes, there is…but hopefully it will not be perceived as ugliness forever: transmutation of all things is an inevitable force towards evolution…” he ended the talk as darkness had fallen and he was needed elsewhere.

Often, I feel that Khambatta lives on levels unrelated to gritty tube trains, traffic jams, drug addicts lying around on streets, but then again he may have a point.

As a writer, I want to see deeply as possible to the living essence within all life. I fail many times to reach the level of experiencing the beauty, most especially when I look at myself. But then Khambatta would say I am not looking deeply enough!

— Kuala Lumpur, 5th May 2008

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