The Wrong Idols

I guess we’ve always needed idols: things beyond our ken or ability to achieve; things for which we strive but are just out of reach. They’re more than goals; they’re so desirable we almost worship them. They are what we are not -or at least not any more- but because they are so prized, they assume a disproportionate worth.

And the surprising thing about these idols is that they are more subjective than objective, more evanescent than real. They are often societally engendered, and culturally perpetuated. And there are temporal (and maybe geographic) boundaries beyond which they lose their meaning. Fashion is perhaps the most obvious and pervasive of these: despite its obvious, albeit transient importance, time strips it of significance fairly quickly. We all know this, expect this, accept this.

We are fickle and easily besotted creatures and our tastes are subject to random currents that tangle us together and carry us en masse to ever changing shores. You’d think we’d learn -or at least step back occasionally to wonder where we’re going. Or why. Insight is a gift that most of us leave unwrapped.

Beauty, like fashion, is built on shifting sands. Things that even a moment’s reflection would forever embed in the camp of the sacred are sometimes ignored, seldom mentioned -or worse: denigrated. I’ve always felt that the post partum abdomen is one of these. So I was pleasantly surprised to find an article about it in the BBC News in an article entitled Are Women’s Bodies Still Beautiful After Pregnancy?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23276432

The idea that stretch marks are more like wrinkles than merit badges has always rankled me. The very notion of a need to hide them rather than celebrate them is anathema. Counterintuitive. They are earned credits to be displayed proudly.

Perhaps what may be distressing is the thought that the changes herald a phase-shift; that the abdomen will forevermore advertise a loss of innocence, a recognition for all (maybe) to  see that the bearer is no longer inter regnum in society. A different stratum has been enjoined.

Change is fraught with anxiety and inlaid with traps for the unwary. It is a new dress that looked good in the store, but in a later mirror, arouses doubts as to how or when to wear it -whether it was even a good choice. But a moment’s breath, and the beauty surfaces again. And again. There is nothing that unfolds from that recognition but awe; I suspect that little stays the same in life that is truly worthwhile. We are not the creatures even we remember…

I wrote a poem about this once -it captures some of what I mean in metaphor:

There was a time,

I think,

When colours splashed me

As I walked along the street-

Not playfully

But in earnest

As colours are when they dance among the leaves

Flirting lightly with the wind.

I thought

I heard some whispers from the grass

Where dark things stretched

And shopped for light

Like tiny bathers on a cloudy beach.

I even listened to the summer waves

Breaking,

Falling exhausted on the shore

With messages from somewhere

That wished them well on every tide.

I suppose it once made sense

To worship everything that moved-

Or might-

And find divinity in a tree;

Those were days when people laughed

Not once

But often in the night

With no one near.

It doesn’t matter any more,

Of course:

The world was different

Then

And so was I,

I guess.

But sometimes

When the shadow of a cloud

Consumes the footsteps that I follow,

I wonder

Where do all the colours go

When I close my eyes?