A Beautiful Woman of Substance in a Superficial World

Magazines in my home tend to arrive and land in a stack until I am in the mood to read or recycle them. However, as I looked down at the cover of one this month, I immediately thought, “What an absolutely beautiful woman that is.”

No, it isn’t Britney Spears, Taylor Swift or any one of entertainment’s current sensations. This woman has gray hair pulled back into her signature ponytail; long upwardly curled laugh lines going from the corners of her eyes all the way to her hairline; deeply wrinkled skin, including her hands, upon which she rests her chin; a slight smile; and a penetrating stare that indicates both wisdom and strength of character. An inside picture taken when she was younger has a similar pose, and another is a head-on shot of her with a wide grin as she and her large dog look out a truck window. The magazine isn’t People, Glamour or Time; it is All Animals, published by the Humane Society of the United States.

Attribution: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0   Rebecca Bollwitt

These pictures are of Jane Goodall and are more significant because of what they don’t show rather than what they do: a total absence of makeup or a stylish hairdo – the ponytail obviously the easier answer to keeping something bothersome out of her way. The animal print shirt she wears is obviously appropriate, and one might think that, when Kofi Annan draped the Medal of Peace around her neck, it was her first article of “jewelry.”

Her countenance is beautiful in a far different way than any of our iconic Hollywood actresses, television celebrities, or any other physically gorgeous women we may know. For quite a while I pondered why Jane had so captured my imagination and finally realized that so much of what we notice around us is superficial. There is the media, constantly but subtly force-feeding young people, especially girls, an unattainable fantasy of what they should be. If Taylor Swifts were running all over the place, there wouldn’t be millions of girls and young women attending their concerts. Eventually they would be viewed as commonplace.

One word summarizes very well what kinds of superficialities have been fed to our teenagers: SELFIE. The word says it all and represents more than a conjured- up photo; it also says a great deal about the state of minds that focus (pun!) on them. Posting selfies on line, especially ones that show more skin than they do cloth, is a sure way to say, “ME ME ME. I am the ONLY one in the world who is important. Look at my tattoos; aren’t they colorful?”

The selfie- fixated girls and young women, much impacted by the feminist movement, also are heard to complain about why they can’t find an intelligent, loving, hard-working man to date or marry. These insecurities have manifested themselves in more mental problems among the young than at any time in our country’s past.  I, an old woman who has seen a lot of life in her time, would like to give these fantasy-minded females a clue: The good men are all running the other way.

Also, to the superficial younger man who thinks he can make an impact with a hard-scrapple, boozy, drug-centered lifestyle: I think it likely there is a bimbo out there for you. Recent demographic studies have revealed how disoriented many young men in our society are. The age bracket from 19 – 30 or so has a greater number of men uncommitted and unmarried than any other time in our history. Suicide rates in that age bracket have also skyrocketed, as have substance abuse, unemployment and a footloose quality of life.

Self-centered in in their own way, these young men can be heard complaining about the raucous, vain, unmotivated women in their age bracket. Some vanity exists within almost everyone, and kept at a minimum, it creates no problems. It is only when it becomes so outsized that other people and goals are crowded out of people’s brains.  If both sides of the sexual divide would decide instead to take an outwardly centered life vision and begin to work with each other, they would accomplish much more together and be happier in real time than either group can be alone while staring for three hours a day at a Smart Phone. No electronic device gives love and support back to its owner.

In contrast to the problems so common in the younger age brackets, there is also a huge demographic of young people who are stable, hard-working, extremely intelligent, and committed to family and careers. They attest to how our rapidly changing society offers tremendous opportunities to make a positive difference in our world – one that cannot be accomplished without true effort and knowledge.

Attribution: AZQuotes.com at https://www.azquotes.com/quote/530070

A challenge in America now is to bring the “drifters” in our midst into the fold of our population’s best, a goal that no individual can achieve without cooperation and commitment from others. For hundreds of years, the best unit for achieving individual success has been a loving and cooperative family, by whatever definition of “family” one wants to adopt. In a complex world, few of us can achieve happiness and success by “going it” alone. Unfortunately, we have a huge demographic of young people unable or unwilling to learn the social skills needed to work as part of a loving, committed unit.

Jane Goodall’s early life story bears striking comparisons to certain aspects of our young, disoriented people. As a child in England, she says she was shy and withdrawn, when, at 10-years-old, she told her mother she wanted to someday go to Tanzania to study chimpanzee behavior. Her mother encouraged her. Jane accomplished that quest in the Gombe Stream National Park, where at age 26, she would have been described as “reclusive.” After realizing that the primates were slowly facing extinction, she said, “I realized I had to do something.” She became an activist for all animals’ welfare then, and with huge determination continued her goals to the present.

Certainly, the pictures of Jane Goodall so impressed me because the beauty of her character and life experiences are deeply etched in her face. The impact of her respect for all living things expanded into a massive animal welfare movement. There has never been time in her busy life for superficiality or vanity.  Meanwhile, many of our politicians have become “expounders” (blowhards) about environmental issues, but after leaving their respective podiums, they march off to see Dr. Liftoface or Dr. Tuckaneck.  Goodall is one of the most outwardly-thinking persons in the world, the antithesis of a self-centered lifestyle.

It is time to wish Dr. Jane a happy 90th birthday (on April 3) in recognizing her wisdom, self-sacrifice, intelligence, courage, and character. Her life of love shows through in her outward gaze – one that ironically is summed up, with one word added in her last name, “Good to All.”

Editor's Note: The Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand


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