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About attractiveness

We wrote earlier that the Royal Society has evidence that we find another person attractive when he or she really looks at us. As the OED helpfully explains, this “Gaze of Beauty” is embodied in the word for respect, which comes from respicere and means to look (back) at, to regard.

As I have mentioned, I spent some time at a cathedral helping people who came for food. I think they often came in equal need of someone who would really look at them, and see them. They wanted me to look and truly see them. On the street, many people never saw them, and if they did, immediately turned away. When I did truly look and see them, beauty and affection surprised me.

In the very different world of successful politicians, some presidents and prime ministers seem to have a knack for really seeing each one of us. Others are not looking at us but at a mirror of themselves. One, much in the news lately, does not appear to be looking at anyone, but at ghosts. He hears, perhaps, the footfalls of his failed policies.

In an entirely different case, many people once looked at a politician and instead of seeing him saw a mirror. In that mirror, they saw an image of themselves as young, successful, honest and energetic. They voted for him, and were disillusioned.

This looking is a curious business. Gaze as I might, looking at myself in the mirror does not increase my attractiveness to myself. . .the gaze of beauty is not narcissistic.