Friday, March 9, 2012

The Week of March 11—Getting Real

NOTE: Images removed from original post for copyright reasons. 

I wish I'd had my camera with me, because out on my back deck this morning I saw the weirdest, freakiest thing....

The animals were being animals. I'd even go so far as to say they were doing animal things. I know. Shocking. But it's true. The squirrels weren't playing with light sabers. Harvey, the cat next door, wasn't snuggling up with a parakeet. And the bunnies that live under my shed weren't rolling around in the grass with tiger cubs. Instead, the squirrels were chasing each other up and down the tree, Harvey was stalking the neighborhood for prey and the bunnies were hiding for dear life. 

I'm not saying heartwarming scenes between species don't happen. There are the famous dog and elephant friends. And there are plenty of other odd couples out there. One of my favorite memories of my dog, Kizzie, is when he jumped into the river, right into the middle of a bunch of geese. After everyone got over the shock, they all had a good laugh about it. It could have been an uglier scene, but everyone gave each other the benefit of the doubt before they resorted to violence of any sort. I have a similar story that occurred between my dog Passion and a deer. There are great messages of cooperation in these stories and I'm not saying it doesn't happen.

What I am saying, though, is this—many of these pictures that people pass around on Facebook and in mail are fake. They're photoshopped versions of reality and we're all just gullible enough to take it for granted that they're true. After all, it's nearly impossible to know whether or not a photo is for real these days. And that goes beyond animal friends, of course. We all know about the airbrushed photos of models and celebrities. Yet we still hold ourselves to those standards.

Then there are the "news" photos—fake photos masquerading as real. For example, how many people might have thought President Bush was really holding a book upside down?

While all this seems non-consequential and even humorous, there are lot of things going on under the surface. We know this from girls who starve themselves to match an ideal they see in a magazine—an ideal that is airbrushed, or took three hours in hair and makeup to achieve. Or we see all these wild animals play with domesticated animals and we make dangerous miscalculations about what is and is not acceptable in nature.

One of the most damaging examples of this kind of thing predates photography, however. Long before we could capture images, we were projecting false images of ourselves for the world to see. There's the woman who has it all. The couple that is perfectly happy. The son that can do no wrong. We peer into others' lives from the outside and wonder why we can't achieve what they have. Then we waste time trying to be something that simply does not exist. This kind of comparison—whether it's a photo or an image someone is projecting—erodes our confidence and stalls our own personal growth. 

From a dog performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a cat to the idyllic life going on next door, what's presented to us is rarely what is true. Part of it is a false image that's intentionally or subconsciously being put forth to steer us off course. And part of it is our projection on others—our own desire to believe these things can be possible...or, more likely, our own desire to believe there's something wrong with us that's so right with someone else.

So this week consider what is real and what is airbrushed reality. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I comparing myself or my relationship up to an image I can't possibly know the reality of?
  • Am I guilty of holding myself up to a liposuctioned, botoxed and airbrushed view of what beauty is?
  • Am I being less than honest with the image I put forth to the world—am I projecting the full story of who I am?
  • When I hide my true self from others, what am I really accomplishing?
  • And if people aren't seeing the reality of me, can I honestly expect that I'm seeing the reality of them?
The truth is that reality's not such a bad thing. We don't have to salve ourselves with a fantasy world where everyone gets along or where perfect love exists. The world where lions eat wildebeest and "perfect" couples argue teaches us so much more about who we are and where we can heal than the airbrushed reality does. And yes, reality includes many ugly things. But I'd rather know the truth than have it pounce on me from behind in the midst of an idealistic dream. 

And I'm not saying there's not room for fantasy in our world. There is. The occasional escape provides a valuable respite. But if we're on a path to personal and spiritual growth—as many who are reading this are—we're wasting what little time we have by building on a false foundation. We can learn a lot about fantasy and denial by holding on to false realities. But the only way we can truly know who we, be valued for who we are and grow from there is to drop the rose colored glasses, see beyond the airbrushing and have the courage to be who we truly are. Flaws and all.

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