Essay No. 172:
Charm Strikes The Sight But Merit Wins The Soul: The meaning of the proverb is that things embodying physical charm and beauty strike the sight of an onlooker. It is the weakness of man to be overwhelmed with the beauty of things. A good-looking face attracts the young men. They are carried away by the charm of the lovely human face.
A young girl, embodying Hellenistic features, with a charming gait, is bound to impress the young men. Outwardly she strikes the sight of onlookers, but inwardly she may be the most ugliest on account of her bed moral deeds. On the other hand, a lady with an average beauty but with a sound character is bound to impact positively the mind of man.
The merit borne out of good, noble human deeds leaves permanent impression on man’s mind. Outward charm is transitory, while merit is permanent. That’s why Islam brings home to the believers to uphold law, merit in every walk of life, as a society founded on merit is beneficial for overall human growth. Societies upholding merit based on the rule of law are good societies.
They may have glaring outward captivating characteristics, but their sticking to the norms of merit is their real worth and charm. One should thus not go by the exterior pomp and show of societies but by their intrinsic worth lying in the acceptance and practice of merit values. It is not the exterior glaze that matters, but what counts is the stable footing of societies acting on merit.
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There is a building reflecting exterior decoration. Passers-by have a look at it and are impressed by the outer beauty of the building. It is revealed at a later stage that the material used in the construction of the building is defective and is of inferior quality. That reduces the durability of the building and that could pose a danger to the dwellers.
As the building is fragile owing to the defective material utilized in its construction, its value is depreciated in the market. The prospective buyers are not to be influenced by its outward glaze but by its overall stability. Stability is its merit and not its decoration.
Charm Strikes The Sight But Merit Wins The Soul”: The quotation means that physical charm of things—animate, inanimate, does strike the sight of an onlooker. Man cannot remain uninfluenced by the outer charm of things. If one looks at a beautiful human face one is impressed by the sparkling beauty. That is the weakness of man.
One rarely goes into the merit of physical beauty. It is the intrinsic beauty of man which appeals to the soul. The fact however, is that outer beauty is capable of shaking man to the hilt. It is Aristotle who advised Alexander, the great, to beware of the charm of a good-looking lady and avoid her company.
On a later occasion, Alexander saw Aristotle being bridled by a lady who was driving Alexander here and there. Aristotle ran as directed by the lady. He had no control over himself. When Alexander saw the position of his mentor he humbly said, “What is it please? It is not contrary to what you have suggested to me?” “Your are right.
The point to note is, where your mentor cannot stand the temptation of beautiful lady. I believe, you are too weak to withstand that. That is why I gave you the piece of advice to keep yourself away from the dalliances of a charming lady”. Once a person falls a prey to Keat’s ‘A Lady Without Mercy’ then he cannot lead an independent life. He is chained in slavery permanently.
The feminish charm is difficult for man to escape. No one can deny the charm of physical beauty. It strikes the human sight. The Taj Mahal has a great fascination of its own. It beauty, grandeur appeal to the human eye. But the merit of the building lies in the skill, dexterity of the artisans who perceived the architectural design of it. The well-designed structure has stood the test of time.
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While the outer beauty of the Taj Mahal spells bound an onlooker, the real beauty lying in its architecture cannot escape the attention of the truly reflective. Socrates did not possess a good-looking appearance. His outer beauty did not have any attraction for anyone, but the beauty of his rich thought endeared him to the intellectual.
Socrates laid down the foundation of ‘Dialectical reasoning”, which was made use of by Hegel and Karl Marx in their own way. In other words, merit lay not in the physical appearance of Socrates, but in his thought. Even today Socrates is alive of his conviction and rich thought, that he bequeathed to the succeeding generations.
Allama Iqbal, says about the present day sparkling civilization running in materialistic terms, that though apparently it looks captivating, but inwardly it is hollow. The following Urdu verse explains the phenomenon.
یہ تہزیب اپنے خنجر سے آپ ہی خودکشی کرے گی
جو شاخِ نازک پہ آشیانہ بے گا’ ناپائیدار ہو گا
[This civilization would commit suicide with its own dagger.
The nest built on a tender branch, would prove unstable.]
One may thus be carried away by the beauty of the modern civilization, but its real merit absent cannot guarantee about its continuity. Merit lies in intellectual beauty!