Once upon a time the world was diverse. A huge panoramic collage of colorful snowflakes. Each one unique, with all sharing a common basic form. People went about their lives in droves, each according to their bent. And every one of these people shone with the beauty that can only come from being in tune with their own selves, resonating perfectly as what they are.|
Any time two or more of these distinct individuals interacted, their differences would create a harmonic pattern which could not be duplicated, an infinite number of precious symphonies, some beautiful and melodic, others harsh and discordant, but all unique. A woman might happen to see a mirror, and meeting herself eye to eye, smile and nod approval thinking "yes, this is who I am and I'm doing very well at it today, thank you very much.". Someone else might meet this particular woman and discover affinity or aversion to any varying degree, all according to their individual preferences.
Yet not all the world was colorful and bright. Long ago a group of like minded individuals embraced their similarities and locked themselves away in a grey stone fortress to preserve those traits against outside influence. Over time they became mired in their sameness and let their senses dull from lack of use. Eventually the original group had children and brought them up in the ways of their common bond. Occasionally one or another of them would suspect that something was lacking, but these feelings were quickly dismissed and they would settle back into the bland progression of uneventful years.
Then one day there came a knock on the front door of the fortress. At first no one moved to answer, but then they all got up at once, crashing into each other in their uniform rush to see who or what was calling. As the door opened they all stepped back in puzzlement. For there in the doorway was a woman from outside who was not at all like any of them. She explained that she lived in a small house nearby the fortress and asked if she could possibly borrow a cup of sugar for some cookies she was baking. And then she smiled.
She smiled the smile of someone in tune and in balance, the easy smile that happens of its own accord. And that smile shone so bright against the stark contrast of monotony that for a single instant everyone in the fortress had their eyes opened and saw clearly. They became aware of the awesome beauty of the spirit behind that smile, the freedom and confidence of being. They were all so dazzled that they hardly noticed when the woman collected the sugar and left. They sat in stunned silence for a long while after.
Eventually everyone noticed the woman had left, for the fortress had returned to it's normal sterile sameness. Something had changed, had been, and then was not, but no one was sure quite what. They all began to speak at once. "Did you see that woman?" "What WAS that?" "...incredible beauty..." "She just lit the place up!" and so on. They realized that she had brought, and then left with, something special none of them had ever experienced before. They craved more.
But their senses had closed as surely as the front door behind the exiting spirit. Try as they may they could not understand. Then one man said "She was so beautiful. Remember what she looked like?" And they all nodded. Someone picked up a pencil and started sketching. "Yes! That's it! She was tall and thin!" "Oh yeah, and her hair was long and straight" "...and blond". They continued on this way until the sketch was complete.
But something was missing. "I know!" shouted a woman from the back of the room "She had this SMILE!". They all nodded. The artist drew a curved line on the sketch's face. "Oh yes, that's her!" they all agreed as they looked upon the image "She's BEAUTIFUL!". And they duplicated the picture over and over again, hanging it on walls, putting it into wallets, even stamping the smiling face onto their coins. Soon their goddess filled the fortress, soulless image meeting the eye no matter which way it be turned. But try as they may the original feeling eluded them.
"How can this be?" they wailed. "We have surrounded ourselves with beauty and still it isn't enough". Then one of them hit upon the answer. They couldn't feel the rapture because their tiny little fortress of beauty was just a mote in the world. Obviously it was being overcome by all the chaos outside. And so they devised a plan.
For a long time they labored. Using plastic they crafted a statue of the image of the woman of the spirit. Using paint they gave it a smile. At last the craftsmen were satisfied and displayed the object proudly. "See" they said "it is her! It is beauty! We shall call her 'Barbie'". They all nodded their approval and so the craftsmen set out to mass produce the doll. Soon every corner of the fortress was filled with identical plastic figurines.
Then the next part of the plan commenced. Leaving their fortress for the first time in centuries the Grey People began to distribute the dolls along with a message that she was beautiful. They used every means at their disposal to preach the beauty of their plastic icon.
At first the people of the world were mildly amused. Here was a small likeness of a person, a child's toy. Many children had dolls of all varieties, mirroring the people who played with them. After all, who had ever heard of people being the same, why should dolls be? Even so, many of these dolls found their way into children's toy collections. It wasn't long before every child wanted one. The other dolls just didn't seem the same any more. How could they hope to stand with such perfect beauty. After all, the words on the box said that Barbie was beautiful. Wasn't she?
And these children grew up. And they grew up knowing what was beautiful. Soon they began to look at one another in a different way. You aren't as thin as Barbie. Your hair is curlier than Barbie's and it's too dark. You don't have that perfectly curved painted smile like Barbie. You are not as beautiful as Barbie.
Women began to look into the mirror and instead of seeing their balanced tuned in self looking back they saw someone who was not Barbie. Someone who wasn't beautiful. Instead of that knowing confident self appraisal there was this haunted look in the reflected eyes. I want to be beautiful. Men began looking at the women around them noticing just how unBarbielike they were. They complained "Why can't you be as beautiful as Barbie?"
And so the women devised great mechanisms and procedures to change themselves. They created something of a press mold to make them over in the image of Barbie. They starved themselves, stretched themselves, straightened and bleached their hair, painted on smiles. They looked in the mirror and Barbie looked back. "Yes" they thought "Now I look like Barbie, I must be beautiful". And the men approved.
This human revisionism spread like a virus, packaged with a harmless little plastic girl. Soon it was everywhere. Where once was a glorious kaliedescope of humanity, now stood an ocean of Barbies, their long straight hair like a blond foam on the waves. Each unique precious snowflake had melted into a typical drop of water and now the tidal wave of their sameness threatened to wipe out all in its way.
Yes, the disease which came from the grey fortress had spread. And with it spread the nagging doubt that something wasn't quite right. No one could put a finger on exactly what was missing. No one tried. After all the world was now full of beauty, was it not? Full of Barbie.
And if you took a million of these Barbies and put them in a room for a million years, not one of them would ever realize that had a certain cookie baking high spirited girl been short and pudgy with big frizzy hair and a nose ring, the entire million of them would look like Troll Dolls.