Ruminations on the Concept of Beauty

There is a concept in Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) that has always resonated deeply with me. A parable that has had a profound impact on my concept of self and the way I see the world. The concept -  a word which I can pronounce in Hebrew, but not spell - roughly translates into "spark of the divine." But of course, like most translations, there is inevitably something special that gets lost. 

A simplified version of the concept, which is what I was first taught in my fledgling adolescent brush with spirituality, is that the earth was created when G-d imploded himself; shattering shards of the divine throughout the entire universe. What is so compelling about this particular tidbit of Judaism is two-fold. The first is that it eerily, presciently resembles my preferred explanation for Creation, aka The Big Bang Theory, which was grounded in science. Something deeply impressive considering it was introduced in the 16th century, especially to a teenager. 

The second is that I loved the visual image that the universe is literally filled with specks of glitter. Sparkles (because obviously imploded pieces of the Creator would be sparkly) scattered everywhere, in everything. The whole entire world shimmering with gorgeous pricks of light, if only I could adjust my eyes in the right way to see them. 

Later on, I was introduced to the concept of these sparks as a source of compassion, environmentalism, even sexual decision making. What would it mean to treat every person we meet with the respect entitled to a vessel containing a spark of holiness? Every single tree, plant, and animal? I could practically see that little drop of glitter when I looked hard enough, with the right level of intention and focus. 

Here's the thing about the way that we treat cancer right now - it inevitably involves the removal of things. Huge chunks of my body surgically cut away. Essential bodily functions (like reproduction) made to vanish as if by some magic curse (but really it's chemicals, I know it's chemicals.) Locks of hair let loose from their toothsome grip on my scalp and eyelids, noticeable more when the sensation is absent then it ever was when it was present. 

But do I think my glitter, my personal spark of the divine, lived in my breast tissue? In my nipple? In my hair? 

Of course not. 

That's not where my sparkle lives. 

To imagine it as such is blatantly ridiculous. 

Now to take it a step further, into the realm of belief. Imagine that sparkle, that glitter, is beautiful. It's magical, or holy, or whatever it is you chose to believe in. It is the purest, rawest form of beauty we all possess. Your, to be a total hippie, energy. It is the way the light hits a glazed donut, and how watching someone be kind to a child or hold a puppy makes them better looking. It is that aha moment when someone you never noticed before becomes utterly captivating, and by extension, beautiful. It is the reason glitter never quite goes away in the cosmetic industry, and why I personally own at least 20 highlighters, and why we describe someone who is indefinably, indisputably compelling as having "that sparkle." 

The thing about this glitter is that is doesn't need to be excavated. The whittling away of ones self, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, will never be the function that reveals it. It is something that shines brightest, is at it's glossiest, when we are in that hard to achieve status of being complete and whole unto ourselves. 

And if it doesn't live in our right breast, or our hair, our eyelashes, our ability to make babies with just the tissue in our bodies, then losing these things cannot make us less beautiful. 

**Drops the mike.**
**Walks away.**

P.S. This is my custom  shirt from Still here. What started as a sort of Lena Dunham, free the nipple, body acceptance wink, has proliferated into the "cool girl" fashion and beauty neo-feminist movement,  appearing on rugs, t-shirts, and even neon signs. And I desperately wanted one. But something felt off to me about having two heart shaped, embroidered nipples when the reality is that I only have one. Moreover, I am more than a little proud of how beautiful that scar-where-the-nipple-should-be. So working with the amazing, talented Sonia we came up with this concept of the single nipple shirt, with my own name emblazoned across my scar.


  1. Hi Dena,
    I've been following you for a while now and often I gind myself mesmerized by how you word things. I used your dad's story to remind my friends how rich we are and how lucky and how we should take care of others around us. But this time I felt the need to talk to you. Because even when I'm not religious nor will I ever be, the way you described your view on the world as you were taught to see it, hit me straight in the heart. It's beautiful and it makes me feel like i got to take a look inside your mind and soul. So thank you for this and take care! Love from
    The Netherlands, Liset

  2. Thank you so so much for reaching out - I'm not sure I have the words to express how much your comment means to me. Sending lots of love and good vibes to you xoxoxo Dena

    1. You are super welcome! Hope you are doing OK and hope to read a lot more from you! xoxo