To take what we see when we look into a mirror and somehow leave that experience with a positive feeling just doesn’t make any sense at all. The mirror reveals every blemish, every imperfection, and every bit of well-worn evidence of our age and of our aging. All that is required to see the truth is that we take a realistic look.
But we don’t.
Instead, something odd happens. We see the faults, but quickly go through the exercise of covering them up, as if by the application of some mysterious mental concealer. Our perspective easily warps what our eyes can plainly see. Our minds excuse the faults and focus on the more pleasing aspects of our appearance. It’s a pretty neat trick.
We walk away feeling confident that the world sees us as we see ourselves.
The world doesn’t see us that way.
This is not to say that we are hideous creatures who should wear masks to spare others from glimpsing our decaying selves. It’s simply a commentary on how suspect and malleable our powers of perception can be.
We may be okay with the way that we look – overall, but the sad truth is that we probably looked better yesterday than we do today. Tomorrow will likely be worse. And so it goes.
This reality is counter to our impulse to be better than we were before.
We try to reverse the process of aging, but all attempts are futile; temporary at best. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wishing that these transitory vessels of ours would hold up against the strain of living. Fortunately, our weather-beaten exteriors are only part of our story. We would all do well to focus more on improving our minds, souls, and spirits than on the outward representation of ourselves.
Nature has its own rules.
This misconstruction of evidence continues when we interpret the world. Since we are looking outward, we are absent from this view. We are observers. Our placement in the world is of our own imagining. Only this skewed image of ourselves – contrived from our filtered reflection – occupies the world that we can see.
When I look out of my bedroom window, I don’t see homelessness. I don’t see hunger. I don’t see blight. I see trees stripped of their foliage, swaying in the wind, yearning for the end of winter. Some of the naked branches will succumb to the heavy ice that pulls them downward until they are snapped from the tree. Other, stronger branches withstand nature’s assaults, but are damaged to such a degree that they will never sprout leaves again. Those bare branches will look out of place come spring – awkwardly sticking out among their leaved equals. Their bareness provides other living things with neither shelter nor nourishment.
They’re still part of the tree, but they are essentially dead. Only they did not have the courtesy to fall to the ground – their decaying remnants providing nutrients to the soil.
People are not trees.
The homeless, the hungry, and those who live in blight may not be in my field of view, but they are there – either on the next street, in the next town, or in a city across the river.
We ought not to leave to nature the things that we can address ourselves.
When people need help, they should receive it. When people are hungry, they should be fed. All factors that contribute to blight, like the dark side of capitalism, should be among the things that are discussed and addressed by our leaders and by us.
To fail to see what is happening is a choice – a cynical choice to garble what your eyes can plainly see. To offer as explanation that, “There will always be poor,” is to deny your own culpability. To endorse the politics of disenfranchisement is a contemptuous way to live. To claim that the U.S. cannot afford to do more for its citizens is to be telling a lie.
Hold up your mirror. Look past your reflection and see the world beyond yourself. People are hurting. If the Supreme Court can regard corporations as people, then I surely can’t be faulted for insisting that governments are people too – as in of, by, and for the people.
My government, if it were truly a reflection of me, would almost always choose butter over guns. What about yours?
How much suffering over the last twelve years (here and abroad) could have been averted if we were to have spent these amounts elsewhere?
“No refunds allowed,” says Halliburton.
“No more money for killing,” say I.