The legend of Narcissus I know, is this: a young man of astonishing beauty had never seen his own reflection, until one day he was wandering through a quiet forest and he came upon a still, clear lake. Gazing into the water, he saw himself for the first time and, captivated by his beauty, he sat there enchanted by his own reflection for so long that ages passed until one day, he had turned into a flower.
The danger of beauty? Of vanity? Of time wasted, of the passage of time? I see it, I’ve experienced it – hours, months, years spent in the pursuit of beauty, of vanity and popularity. The time passes. And what else might you achieve with your efforts?
But at the same time these two extremes: we are told it’s no good, pandering to the demands of vanity, it’s unbecoming, it’s a waste of time, and yet we are taught (women especially), over and over that beauty is one of our most valuable commodities.
If you don’t have your looks, what do you have? This sentiment was expressed over the loudspeaker one day by the Principal at the High School my brother attended. It reveals various truths, I think.
So how do we negotiate these things? What can we combat, what do we agree to? How much do we participate? What is fulfilling, and what is a waste of time? How far can we go, and what is the actual reward in the end, for our labours?
We are taught that health and beauty go hand in hand, so we can fool ourselves, we think the pursuit of beauty isn’t just about vanity because it’s about health. Yet concepts such as health and healthy choices – the choices themselves are sometimes quite different, and sometimes similar, to those we would make in the pursuit of beauty. But internally – the difference, the motivation, the desire – it’s quite different. Worlds apart.
You know, inside, what’s going on. Whether you’re afraid or ambitious or both. Whether the choices you make are good or bad, whether you feel powerless to choose or not. Whether your choices come from a place of confidence or fear, and how much that matters. Whether or not your actions are even the result of choices. I don’t know if I have answers in the end, but you know if you’re fooling yourself. You will resist your own delusions. If there’s anything you want to change, you need to find the right reasons, for you. Whatever they are, without judgement. Work from your own base, change on your own terms, or not, in the areas that are meaningful. This may mean more exercise or less, more structure or less, I cannot say.
In the end, it’s no surprise there’s so much confusion, doubt, fear. When it comes down to it, how shall we spend our time? On whose terms? In the pursuit of what goals and desires shall we work? Whose agenda shall we serve? What choices can we really make for the betterment of our own situation?
I’ve been thinking lately, of something Bruce Lee once said:
We tend to have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate. We often feel that we cannot derive a sense of absolute certitude from anything which has its roots in us. The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone: we are not alone when we imitate.
I am well aware of the irony that I am quoting someone else, but it’s been much food for my thoughts.