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Friday, August 13, 2010

youth and perfection

Our culture is a bit obsessed with these.  I suppose everyone knows that, but coming from a place where we still have people who scoot along the ground with limbs withered by polio, or are missing half their teeth, where used clothes are worn creatively until the holes outpace the fabric, where to call someone "mamba" (grandma) is a huge compliment, where elders are presumed to be wise and young people required to remain silent . . . well, this focus on looking young and perfect through the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th decade and beyond is somewhat surprising.  I'm spending a lot of time in doctors' offices these days.  Today I accompanied my mom to one, and we thumbed through the magazine in the waiting room, which gave us an eyeful of what is considered desirable here.  Yesterday at the gynecologist, of all places, underneath my insurance form was a paper which said "Are you interested in our spa services?  May we call you to discuss what we have to offer?" followed by a list of procedures for injecting gel into facial fold-lines, or ridding legs of visible veins.  The dermatologist office went further, showing actual videos with before-and-after pictures in the EXAM room.  So while you wait in a paper-thin-gapping hospital gown to get the prognosis on a potentially cancerous mole, you are reminded that the REAL problem is not a little cancer here or there but looking like you've lived 48 years.  These are two very legitimate medical practices where real life-and-death problems are seen, and they are both promoting cosmetic procedures.  Money-makers I am sure, and once a tipping-point quorum of people avail themselves of this resource, it becomes the symbol of wealth, and then the and the lack of availability makes the rest of the society feel deprived.  Of course we've also been in the mall once, and to a few other stores, where the volume of STUFF to buy to look good is unreal.  A vicious circle of bombardment with images that emphasize an ideal, leave the viewer feeling inadequate and hungry for more, while business prospers.

Our God is a lover of beauty.  God THOUGHT of beauty, to begin with.  I have no problem with color and style and uniqueness and symmetry and the total art form of the human body.  But somehow we've gone further than that, from a balanced attempt to display the glory of who we are, to a paranoid drive to change ourselves into never-aging always-in-style homogenous perfection.  

And interestingly, we rented a movie tonight that shows the endgame of that trend (have I mentioned the REDBOX as one of my new America-favorites?  What a deal! Right there in the grocery store, one dollar for a movie, it pops out of a vending machine, and you return it the same way the next day).  "Surrogates" is not great cinema.  Mediocre writing and acting.  But the concept is fascinating.  An entire society of sculpted perfect robots, with the real people hiding in dark bedrooms and living virtually.  Every surrogate is a beautiful person, without blemish.  But our hero Bruce Willis longs for the reality of connecting as an aging, grieving, imperfect human, with his similar wife.  He also of course saves the world in the process, but don't let me spoil it.  After watching the movie, one feels glad that not everyone has had plastic surgery, that the world is a bit scarred, and real.

A friend wrote today that by October we won't even notice this anymore, so keep processing while it's fresh.


Bethany said...

Becky and I just rented from Redbox today! Praying for all your comings and goings. Miss you, B

Margot said...

Melissa Hartemink sent me a link to this post.

Promise me that you'll still be horrified in October. Some of us are.

Bless your & your ministry on both continents.