About a year ago now, I attended a Landmark Forum weekend at which those of us in attendance were encouraged to articulate what we see as the central underlying or organizing principle of our lives (& those of everyone we know).
After we all hemmed & hawed & beat around the bush for quite some time, our fearless leader said two words: looking good.
So much of what we spend our lives engaged in is really an endless attempt at “looking good.” Is it not so??
Oh, of course we do all kinds of wonderful, worthwhile, laudable, lovely & necessary things too. We do great jobs & are devoted parents & we do great socially-minded projects.
But at bottom, the single major preoccupation of most of us in western civilization is “looking good.” Our houses & cars, our clothes & vacations, our yards, & certainly our public face is mostly about “looking good.”
Madison Avenue (by which I mean the advertising business) realized this decades ago. Advertising & television & media in general have spent decades making a bazillion dollars out of pushing product – all of it designed to make us … look good.
The way we dress, the make-up we wear, the obsessive zeal with which we look after those “perfect” lawns & houses – the way we go around in society, always asking “How are you?” & answering “Good thanks…and you?” – we are all very, very busy doing our best to hide – & hide from – those dysfunctional childhoods & families & our (often) currently dysfunctional relationships…& world…
And our pain & our loss & our loneliness & the deep, deep holes inside us, & our gnawing homelessness (yes, I believe many of us who have very comfy homes do indeed feel somewhat homeless…).
We live in a world that worships style over substance – appearance over reality – & by the time we are…hmmm….about seven years old or so? – we’ve grasped that the really big game here on Planet Earth is “Looking Good.”
So we work hard at it. Very hard…
Most of us are pretty good at the game; some of us are experts! We certainly all look up to those celebrities & sports figures & Big Business types who seem to have it all together; after all, they have lots of money & for sure they…look good.
“Looking good” can hide a multitude of sins: sadness, broken hearts, pain, loss & loneliness.
But we don’t really want to know what’s underneath; it’s only the packaging that matters.
Don’t take my word on this. Think about it. Poke & prod at it & see what it yields up for you.
Think too about the kind of world we might be living in if we could all begin to re-direct all that energy we expend on “looking good” into pursuits such as being good – being strong, & resourceful, & helping others, & maybe even “changing the world” (which means changing ourselves as well, of course).
There is magic all around us – we human beings truly are capable of quite amazing feats! But when we spend all of our energy & time on money-related pursuits that are really aimed primarily at making us “look good,” the magic is not so very easy to invoke...
p.s. If you don’t think you’re one of those people who is obsessed with “looking good,” could be you’re right. But muse on the way most of us spend buckets of money on clothes that are, frankly, mostly about “looking good.” Hairdos. Women (& men) not wearing hats when it’s 30 degrees below zero (for one small example). What are these things about, if not trying really hard to “look good”? There’s also the way we are all so afraid of being caught making a mistake, & “looking stupid.” Why are we so afraid to look stupid? Because if we look stupid, we’re not “looking good”…