Friday, December 31, 2010

Who's really rich?

You know when you read something that really hits you, even though you knew what it says and believed in it all the way, but it's something about the way it's expressed that makes you feel all warm inside?

I love the way John Steinbeck describes wealth in 'The Grapes of Wrath'. There are countless other messages in there but I'd like to talk about this one now.

"If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothing he can do'll make him feel rich- not rich like Mis' Wilson was when she gave her tent when Grampa died.

I think it's really important for all of us to look at any things we own/possess in this life as tools that can help us do something better- food that makes us be stronger, houses that make us more comfortable, cars to get around places, phones to stay in touch....

And then comes a deeper level where you see everything in terms of how it contributes to serving your Creator. You think of the food as helping you stay fit to worship Him, the money you get as a tool for helping others and pleasing Him.... that's not easy to reach- it requires many years of self-supervision and self-discipline, but it's what we should aim for at least.

Because when we feel no attachment to anything worldly, that's when we will truely be free. That's the only time we can honestly tell ourselves we're prepared for the death that looms over each of us and is out to get us all.

The worst case is when you think of objects in terms of your own worth, your own position... "Let me get a blackberry because I can't be the odd one out; I need to stay up to date with the latest phones in style, because that determines how in style I am"..."I need a Lexus car to show everyone at work I command some respect"...."My wedding dress has to be designed by her: so many people are going to be there and this day only comes once- it has to be perfect"

These pathetic statements are words I have actually heard- I'm not making up anything. Don't get me wrong. It is not the act of purchasing or possessing anything that I'm criticizing. It's thinking that this object determines your own value: that it's your phone that makes you popular, your car that makes you respected, your dress that makes you lovable...

Friday, December 10, 2010

My New-Found Obsession to research the ingredients of any cosmetics I use online. And the results I'm getting are so discouraging. :( Why did I have to pick this topic for my environmental science report? Now it's sealed and submitted and graded, but I'll never be able to shampoo my hair or moisturize my face again without thinking of all the chemicals entering my body. Those terrorizing liquids seeping through my pores and trying to destroy my organs. Refusing to budge.

Over the past week, I've discovered that I've been regularly exposing myself to methylparaben, PEG-8, propylene glycol, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, iodopropynl butylcarbamate, benzyl salicylate, ethylparaben, retinyl palmitate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium laureth sulfate, isopropyl alcohol, all known to cause cancer, immunotoxicity, reproductive hazards, endocrine disruption, irritation.... Okay I admit I kind of included that whole list of complicated chemical names to make it seem more frightening, but these concerns are valid!

I feel like a less extreme female version of Catch-22's Yossarian. If anyone hasn't read this hilarious book, they must, immediately:

There were too many dangers for Yossarian to keep track of. There was Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, for example, and they were all out to kill him. There was Lieutenant Scheisskopf with his fanaticism for parades and there was the bloated colonel with his big fat mustache and his fanaticism for retribution, and they wanted to kill him, too. There was Appleby, Havermeyer, Black and Korn. There was Nurse Cramer and Nurse Duckett, who he was almost certain wanted him dead, and there was the Texan and the C.I.D. man, about whom he had no doubt. There were bartenders, brick-layers and bus conductors all over the world who wanted him dead, landlords and tenants, traitors and patriots, lynchers, leeches and lackeys, and they were all out to bump him off. That was the secret Snowden had spilled to him on the mission to Avignon -- there were out to get him; and Snowden had spilled it all over the back of the plane.

There were lymph glands that might do him in. There were kidneys, nerve sheaths and corpuscles. There were tumors of the brain. There was Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There were fertile red meadows of epithelial tissue to catch and coddle a cancer cell. There were diseases of the skin, diseases of the heart, blood and arteries. There were diseases of the head, diseases of the neck, diseases of the chest, diseases of the intestines, diseases of the crotch. There even were diseases of the feet. There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and every one was a potential traitor and foe. There were so many diseases that it took a truly diseased mind to think about them as often as he and Hungry Joe did.

Hungry Joe collected lists of fatal diseases and arranged them in alphabetical order so that he could put his finger without delay on any one he wanted to worry about. He grew very upset whenever he misplaced some or when he could not add to his list, and he would go rushing in a cold sweat to Doc Daneeka for help.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Beauty Myth

This is a book I read by Naomi Wolf, which I'd recommend to any woman concerned about the place of her gender, her rights and real freedom. Although I can't say I agree to all the ideas highlighted, I would say that everything mentioned is a valid thought to muse over and an issue to be addressed.

With the feminist wave brought about that gave women the rights to pursue careers freely and the laws to protect those rights, there came a threat to our all-time male-dominated society of the dangers in allowing women to control the workings of this world alongside men. I don't know if I would attribute this to the creation of The Beauty Myth, but according to Wolf, it's the perfect political solution.

What is this preoccupation with beauty that has engulfed all of us these years? Who defines beauty anyway, and who gave it the weight of importance it has today?

At work, women are expected to look as glamorous as glossy front-page models alongside with perfecting her career and keeping up with housework. Beauty has slowly entered the requirements of professional posts- starting with modelling but slowly expanding to include anyone with any sort of interaction with others. Beauty can even be used as an excuse to hire or fire. In popular culture, books and films rarely portray the heroine as the ugly one. The author makes a resemblance of this whole move with a religion- the beauty tips in magazines become divine laws, being imperfect an original sin that must be annihilated through a painful cycle of purification- denying themselves the food they crave, the sunlight they yearn for- as if a punishment for being created a woman.

The amount of exposure of female sexuality in media is nothing compared to that of males- it is the females who have a constant "standard" to work towards. It is only in the female world where sex is linked to beauty- women's beauty are always "rated" in regards to how well they compare to the media's idea of her body; men are rarely judged by their sexual attraction. The beauty myth leaves a woman feeling unloved no matter what she does: if she conforms to society and achieves the "beauty" watermark, the love she receives she will always feel is due to her achievement in copying the ideal; if she doesn't, she is left feeling ugly compared to the rest of the millions of women in this beauty competition. The myth has gone as far as to let the hundreds of girls starving themselves to silence. A hungry girl cannot rebel or think of herself as competent or feel effective. Why is popular media filled with articles on weight loss? When can women start thinking of their own bodies as their own true property, rather than the property of society?

The media tells us aging is a disease- it must be combated- with anti-aging creams and electric shocks and handing ourselves to the knives of cosmetic surgeons. Yes, maybe this can kill, but it "hurts to be beautiful".

I say, the only way we can consider ourselves free is when we are accepted the way we are created. And that begins with accepting ourselves the way we are, the different forms we become as we experience life. Aging is beautiful- stretch marks tell the world of the children we gave to it, wrinkles speak of the different worries we took for others....

I don't need to paint my face to be beautiful, nor starve or fill myself up with the food others tell me to. The standard keeps changing anyway. No-one will reach it. Who wants perfection in appearance? If we are going to aim for perfection, let's aim for flawless characters and habits.

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