Friday, February 22, 2013

Modeling Insecurity -- Writer's Poke #423

Cameron Russell is an underwear model, and after being an underwear model for ten years, she claims that she will always be perceived as being an underwear model. If she wanted to run for President of the United States, who would vote for her? After all, she is an underwear model, and that's all she can be.

Her advice to young girls? Don’t become an underwear model. Instead, try to become the underwear model’s boss, or work hard and do something that takes education and skill. Being an underwear model, she claims, only requires knowing how to follow the posing directions of the photographer – something that apparently anyone can do. 

Other than that, there’s not much to modeling other than being lucky. Russell claims to have won the “genetic lottery”; she is fortunate enough to have the right “look” at the right time. She’s skinny, she’s white (but properly tanned), and she’s young. These three characteristics are enough to make her attractive in our society, and she takes her attractiveness to the bank. It’s how she makes her money.

As Russell admits all of this, her words form a confession. Models, she says, are the most insecure people you will ever meet. By this, she is intending to focus on the insecurities that models feel from constantly needing to maintain the fantasy of physical perfection. Why models are so preoccupied with physical perfection remains at least somewhat unclear, though, because she also notes that the photos of her image on the page aren’t really her. They are the product of pre-production – lighting, make-up, setting, etc. –  and post-production – air-brushing, digitally enhancing, image manipulating, etc. 

To listen to her speak, the model herself isn’t all that important, and might not be important at all. Should we, however, believe her, or should we remember the main “take away” of her message, which is just how insecure models actually are? Perhaps Russell’s insecurities go deeper than worrying about physical imperfections. Perhaps her willingness to confess her unworthiness is a prime example of the deeper insecurities she has. And, if she’s so unhappy with herself or her profession, why is she so eager to confess, but so unwilling to change professions?

Why are people willing to belittle themselves?

“I’ve always seen modeling as a stepping stone.” – Tyra Banks

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where Are You Headed? -- Writer's Poke #422

Newly-hatched green sea turtles immediately head toward the ocean. How do they know to do that? The answer is “instinct,” but then the question becomes, “Where does instinct come from?" Is instinct encoded in the green sea turtles’ DNA? Could scientists, for example, somehow manipulate the green sea turtles’ DNA so that it headed away from the ocean? 

The green sea turtles aren’t the only animals born with an innate knowledge of what they need to do to survive. Another powerful example that comes to mind is the salmon, which may travel a thousand miles or more to spawn in the same location as it was born. First, how does it recall specifically where it was born, and what compels it to swim past a gauntlet of obstacles to reach its destination? Again, instinct, right? But again, where is instinct located? 

Human beings are animals, too, of course, and we have instincts. But do we have anything like the instincts of green sea turtles and salmon? Unlike these and other animals, we obviously have the advantage of learning what we need to know. That advantage may also be a detriment, however, as our ability to learn may cover and even block our natural instincts. Might we, in fact, learn that following our instincts is “wrong” or “sinful” or “animalistic”? 

Humans sometimes seem to acknowledge their animal natures, but for the most part, they attempt to hide behind the idea that they are more than animal. Perhaps that is true, but in claiming to be more than animal, is it wise or even necessary to ignore the amazing gifts we, like the green sea turtles and salmon and our other animal cousins, possess?

What about human instinct?

“Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Live Your Dash -- Writer's Poke #421

So much of life is wasted, but does it make sense to argue that you should “make every moment count?” I’m not sure how a person could actually make more out of the time it takes to brush one’s teeth, or balance the checkbook, or mow the yard, or complete one’s taxes, etc. Next time you brush your teeth, tell yourself, "I'm really going to make this count!" and tell me how that works for you.

The idea behind “Live your dash” isn't necessarily as silly as what I've described above. Instead, it is the inspirational idea of living a meaningful life. So, think about your tombstone. On your tombstone is the date you were born and the date you died. The dash in between the two dates is your life. What do you want that dash to signify?

Would thinking about your mortality on a daily basis help you to live a better life? The question reminds me about the Misfit’s observation in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” “She would have been a good woman,” the Misfit said, “if there had been someone to shoot her every day of her life.” It’s a great line, but is it true? Do we need to marinate in our mortality to comprehend how we should live our lives?

If you’ve visited a cemetery recently, you probably noticed how many people have died – row after row. In fact, one guesstimate I discovered in a quick Google search suggests that over 100 billion people have died since the beginning of the human race. Most of these lives have been long forgotten. Only a handful, really, even have grave markers or any written records to indicate that a real person ever existed. Does it even matter what you do in this life if nothing you do is remembered? If, once dead, you are quickly forgotten? If 100 billion people live and die and nobody knows or cares, what makes your life any more special?

Does it matter how you live your dash? If so, why? If not, why not?

“Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” – Kurt Vonnegut