Being a model for half of my life, I’ve often thought about the concept of beauty. I make my living off the idea that a person can be beautiful, so what does it mean to be a beautiful person?
What does beauty contribute to the world and what beauty can we find within the world? While I’m still learning all of the complexities of the concept, I recently learned that beauty can hold tremendous power in inspiring kindness.
I watched a video by philosopher Jason Silva, called The Big Picture, in which he says that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight. So a person who lives their entire life in their hometown, will have empathy to others within their town limits, but not beyond. The further a person travels, the more they discover the beautiful aspects of other cultures, peoples and landscapes, and the bigger their “hometown” becomes. In extending their line of sight, people begin to realize the similarities in their lives and cultures and start to incorporate more people into their communities. You can extend this notion all the way to a global level. If you can broaden your gaze to look at the entire world in all of its beauty, you’ll see all people on Earth, together, as one community. This notion is known as the overview effect.
If everyone could take a step back — see the beautiful things in this world as their own beauty, the people in this world as their neighbors, and the Earth as their communal home — maybe we would have a world without discrimination or violence. Maybe we would have a world where we all worked together to embrace diversity, to empower each other and to preserve our planet.
Celine Semaan, the founder of fashion brand Slow Factory, set out to share this perspective with the masses. As a child, Celine’s family was uprooted from Lebanon in a war time and settled across seas in Montreal. Throughout the coming years, she bounced between Montreal, Lebanon and eventually, New York City. When we spoke, Celine told me that her travels gave her the opportunity to see beauty across borders, cultures and languages; she learned to make the world her home.
When Celine and I did this shoot together, I realized that she and I have this in common. I have lived in 7 different cities, and because of my career, have spent much of my life traveling. We talked about our experiences of seeing beauty from a global perspective; how we became a part of every place we’ve been and every place we’ve been became a part of us.
“Our planet is one speck in an infinite universe and everyone who inhabits it is part of one community.”
With this perspective in mind, Celine set out to find a way to inspire kindness by introducing people to the idea and power of the Overview Effect. She started printing images from NASA telescopes on silk scarves to inspire people to set aside their differences and feel more in touch with the planet as a whole. All of her materials are sustainable and every collection she creates helps fund organizations working to make the world a kinder place. Proceeds from the current collection funds skill training for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Businesses like hers should become the norm, not the exception. Physically the scarves are pretty, but their origin and power to prompt change make them even more beautiful.
Celine’s mission reminded me to consider a global perspective. Expand your community, consider other perspectives and see the beauty in all of it. Slow down, look at the big picture. Sounds pretty beautiful to me.