I’m going to be unabashedly honest, because it’s my blog and I can do that.
There is a voice that creeps around inside the mind. It goes by many names. If you’re familiar with the musical Title of Show, you may know it as Vampire. If you suffered from anorexia, bulimia, or disordered eating, God Bless You, you know it as the hated Ed. If you’re Christian, you may call it a demon. I am Christian, but I don’t think it’s demons. I just picked up a copy of The Screwtape Letters last night, so who knows, my opinion may change.
No one knows the origin of this voice. No one knows when, in psychological or physiological development that it first appears. Surely it’s different for each individual person. For some, it may appear as early as five years old, in ballet class, when your daughter notices that her belly protrudes further out in front of her than the other girls’ bellies. Congratulations, she just felt not good enough.
Why? I can’t understand. It’s easy to point blame: the media is an obvious target. The perpetual images crammed in front of our faces, on billboards, in newspapers, on the computer, everywhere we look that isn’t outside at a tree or flower, can stick in our minds like glue to rough skin. But if you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you know that these images manufactured by companies “selling something” did not just appear out of thin air. Advertising companies, product companies, have been catering to populations since they had the tools and the means to, and they took, and continue to take, careful notice as to what consumers are willing and wanting to buy–sex, beauty, love, and companionship, to name a few. These are not recent inventions.
Study antiquity. Study Shakespeare. Study any work of art worth its salt and you will find that it caters to the emotions, the mind, the parts of ourselves that make us uniquely human, the desires that separate us from apes and chimpanzees. I read an article recently that referred to it as the “foolish gene.” It’s the part of us that wants what we cannot see; because, as our logic dictates, there must be something better than what we have in front of us, because if we had it, we would be satisfied. And we are never satisfied.
This gene is not all evil–well, maybe it is, but it has lead to remarkable things. Discoveries. The world isn’t flat, it’s actually round, and there are these giant balls of gas burning millions of miles away from us that give light to our entire planet, which is simultaneously spinning around itself around the most giant ball of gas, and so if I am here and you’re in Antartica, you have one season and I have another, yet we’re both on the same little rock that’s spinning and spinning madly in space, which is, oddly enough, a feat of matter that is too big for our small brains (and yes, they are small) to comprehend, and we cannot survive in it because there is no oxygen and we need oxygen to keep on living.
Phew. That’s a lot to wrap our tiny brains around!
So how is it that the voice in the human mind that encourages us to measure the speed of light and launch huge heaping metal ships into space can be the same voice that can convince us that we are worthless without a certain title of power or a bicep akin to steel, for example?
How is it that some people can smoke all their lives and die at ninety-eight while others contract pneumonia and are dead within twenty four hours?
Life is so not fair.
And it can’t be. I know that. I’m sure you know that, too. Every time I ever relented the fact to my parents, I heard “Well life’s not fair,” and I could never understand why! If we have control over our actions, surely we can even out the playing field?! But sometimes we just can’t. There is no other explanation for it. Oh sure, we’ll keep on trying to find one. It’s engrained in our “foolish gene.” Just as the great big ball of gas keeps burning, giving me winter while Australians play in the sand, the evil voices will climb all around our brains, working with chisels and ropes and things to try and capture us and keep us prisoner.
Fortunately, or maybe not so fortunately, we have other people’s mistakes to learn from. We have old wives tales and Pilgrim’s Progress and children’s stories, songs, plays, paintings, poetry, oral tradition, religious tradition, parenting traditions. These things have been going on far longer than you or I have spent on this rock. In fact, they’ve been going on longer than any one person has spent on this rock. It’s foolish to think otherwise, and I know that, and you know that, though we’re so damn stubborn when it comes to admitting it. Because, somehow, for some reason, like our hair and our smiles, it’s in our genes.