Have you ever seen the Family Guy episode when baby Stewie stands in the mirror spewing vitriol at his own reflection? He curses the rolls of fat spilling over his diaper, his chubby thighs and ugly face. Then he runs to the toilet, hysterical, and sticks his finger down his throat. Sorry if a bit of humor is lost in my re-telling but it was pretty funny. Our obsession with physical perfection is now officially absurd.
I think the reasons for it go much deeper than mere vanity. It’s a kind of spiritual laziness, a fatal logic, that assumes that because we are lovers of beauty, beauty will bring us love. We participate in this belief-illusion to varying degrees. We laugh at the Real Housewives of Atlanta. We covet their excess while simultaneously being disgusted by it all. It’s similar to that queer combination of feeling one experiences at the zoo.
I love beauty. I love fashion. I love a pretty face and body. And lipstick. I want those things for myself, but I see the ones who have lost themselves for the sake of the lie and wonder where the plum-line is. I guess it’s one of those things that each heart has to decide individually, but the plastic surgery mask-face makes me wonder where we are headed collectively. There’s a growing army of people that are waging a war against time by attempting to freeze their faces to a single moment. A moment when they looked their best. A moment of youth. It’s like extinguishing your life for the sake of a memory. It makes nature and time out to be the enemy, when they are our greatest teachers.
We are afraid.
We are afraid that we won’t be loved. Won’t be seen. Will stop being seen. Ignored.
We are afraid of change and death and we have lost the life-line of ritual to help us through.
But change is.
Now, please permit me a metaphysical moment here. (I often preface certain statements I make during my classes this way. Everyone seems enthusiastic for them. No, really. The students don’t even roll their eyes, and many of them are in high school.) Anyway, it’s not that deep. One of my spiritual names is “Changing Woman.” The subject of how I got that name is for a later post. But, as Changing Woman, I’d like to say that, golly, change can be fun. I like to change. Ok. Sometimes I hate it. And sometimes I am lost and alone in my fears. But coming from a place of Now, when I’m not lost and alone in my fears, having just eaten a homemade pumpkin muffin with my mate right behind me reading a magazine and my puppy at my feet, I know the not-lost place is the truth of me.
Actually, sitting here writing this, doing what I love with those I love within arm’s reach, I am amazed to be able to access such joy after so much pain and heartache. It’s awesome, how the heart heals to rally again. And this leads me to believe that no matter what: heartache, sickness, fear, loneliness, ugliness, poverty and old-age, we can be Here-Now-Happy. Instead of fighting time (for what is a face, a boob, a waistline, against that force?) our energy might best be applied to the practice of letting go of the things we’ve outgrown. It is a practice, a discipline, and it’s harder than making yourself go to the gym three times a week.
Last year or so, I had the pleasure of meeting the great Danish ballerina, Sorella England. She is the opposite of spiritual laziness. She is, for me, an example of the spiritual beauty that we many attain when we have mastered the practice of letting go. I have never met anyone like her. She is old now, but maintains the regal bearing of a ballerina. Her presence is commanding, though warm and sexily mysterious. Her eyes are a tunnel of light. This is what awaits us, but we cannot get to there from here, behind the mask of frozen time.
A shining light in the eyes and a bag full of wrinkles might seem less appealing to some than the illusion of perpetual youth. But, you just have to see one person that’s transformed in this way to put things into perspective. Alas, forgive me, but it’s hard to write about transformation. It’s one of those things, like Family Guy, that you just have to experience.