by Mike Pyatt
Given a culture driven by glamour, pretense, pomposity, Facebook, Instagram, and selfies, it’s inexpedient to ignore externality. Like it or not, from birth, genetics play an irreversible role in one’s predominant endomorphic, ectomorphic, or mesomorphic physique. With slight variation, we’ll drag that basic frame to the grave. A quick glance in the mirror’s a reminder of reality. Gravity’s coming our way-sooner or later. It’s a matter of time. Mortals battle an age-old nemesis. Vanity. It infects the entire Fallen race. Unchecked, over time, leads to conceit and self-obsession. Developmentally the onset of pubescence prompts a legitimate “self-consciousness” that’s simultaneously fueled by inordinate social pressure magnifying the external, and subsequent delusion of self-aggrandizement that doesn’t automatically dissipate with age. From the cradle offspring are fed perpetually adulating words reinforcing the outward from family, friends, and nearly every social institution. Why are we shocked with this “me generation?”
Weight loss’s a billion dollar industry and growing. Cool sculpting, cosmetic Botox, and laser surgery promote that elusive “fountain of youth” that’s often nothing more than a “quick fix” or worse overtime. Looking one’s best is an admirable trait. Shedding excess weight is undeniably good for one’s welfare. Adults obsequiously compensate for the aging process in various forms with equanimity. Some pursue a nearly obsessive work-out regimen to mitigate the ravenous effects on one’s aging frame. Others turn to frippery. Bulging buttocks eclipse brains. What’s sadder than an adult, of either gender, dressing like their offspring? Compensation masquerades itself in unforeseen ways. Our cherubic stature as a child understandably looses its appeal in adulthood. An elixir of insincere flattery fogs reality. The unvarnished truth from the mirror screams back loudly. Shouldn’t there be a social prohibition on speedos? Thongs should only be for feet. Fatuity drives such sophomoric behavior.
That old cliche “putting one’s best foot forward” has fallen on hard times. Attended a wedding or funeral lately? Sandals, coveralls, nose rings, bare midriff, rainbow hair, and tattoos from head to toe. That line betwixt “looking one’s best” and trying to “fool the mirror” is razor thin. Some recall those zany mirrors found at carnivals or fairs, that distort one’s image, causing one to appear very thin and elongated, or wide as a barn, short and thickset. Fortunately we know that isn’t reality-merely a “trick of the mirror.” It’s just for fun. There’s a famous, pertinent phrase, from the Brothers Grimm “Snow White” tale, uttered by the enraged wicked witch, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” A question best left to the witch and Beto O’Roarke.
Consider we can’t see our face. With the possible exception of gazing down either side of our nose, absent a mirror or similar object that casts a reflection, we’re limited to the frontal part of our body, and a small portion of our backside and limbs. We rely on a mirror or someone to describe what they think we look like, albeit in a facile manner. A quick survey by one’s own hand can only estimate the curve of our face; the soft or rough lines of one’s cheek or brow; or plumb the depth of the inset of one’s eye socket, for example. Such facial scans are an incomplete picture. Ask one who’s blind. Anyone attended a high school reunion lately? There’s a load of feigned flattery exchanged there. “You haven’t changed since high school!” A quick glance at one’s high school year book says otherwise. For a variety of reasons-chiefly genetics, some withstand aging better than others. Your’s truly’s next reunion will likely be held in an 5 X 7 storage unit. Mirrors and reunions are gut-checks on reality.
Easily obscured, we’ve known intuitively for years it’s the inner person that should matter. In the winter season of life, we’re begrudgingly compelled to confront the truth. That skimpy cheerleader outfit of yesteryear no longer fits, even with spandex. His reputation as a “hunk” has morphed into a “chunk.” Some have more chins than a Chinese telephone directory. We capitulate to the mirror, and we’re entrapped by the inward. We needn’t loose heart. Evangelicals understand 2 Corinthians 4:16, encourages us with the reality that even though this “earthen vessel” begins to crumble, for which we strive desperately to halt its inevitability. We’re remiss ignoring the good news that the “inner self” is renewed daily. The mirror isn’t our enemy. It reveals the truth. Outward flaws and blemishes. It’s alright to glance. It’s shouldn’t be a dwelling place. C.S. Lewis thoughtfully eschews false humility, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” That conflict between the seen and unseen has no surcease.
Facing a dominating intrusion from the 24/7 social media emphasizing external glitz, one’s vexed by constant comparisons to others. It’s a formidable challenge to discover a balance between the internal and external. It appears some are blessed by a more modest and less pretentious disposition. Thank God for that gene. Most aren’t. Which dress size is best? Two or twenty-two? Tall or short? Plump lips or not? Nip or tuck? How often the cringeworthy question, “What if I looked like her or him?” Even Friedrich Nietzsche, the prophet of nihilism, believed that the category of beauty was symptomatic of decadence and weakness of modernity.
Augustine believed Christians uniquely understand that the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real, are one. Our culture hastily labels someone “beautiful” despite an absence of truth, genuineness or goodness. Renounce the vacuous and ignoble. Extol verity. Aging gracefully isn’t for the faint-hearted. With God’s grace, joy’s possible as we inch ever closer to our eternal domicile. Value can’t be based on the external. Perhaps faith, legacy, sagacity, virtue, a storehouse of memories, and indefatigable sense of humor. Reduced mirror time is recommended. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org