How often does your thought turn to how you look or how you appear to others? How often do you imagine yourself as looking a certain way or coming across with a certain air or as having a certain style? How often, in a day, do you posture to yourself?
There is a telling and powerful scene in Milton’s Paradise Lost where Eve discovers her own beauty as she looks into a river. Seeing herself reflected she nearly falls in love with herself. Considering that she is seeing such a form of womanhood – an innocent and primal womanhood coming forth fresh from God’s hand at the radiant dawn of creation – one can hardly blame her for being so infatuated. But the scene is so penetrating because Eve does not fall in love with her own reflection simply because what she sees is beautiful. She falls in love because the beautiful thing she sees is HERSELF.
We are vain and sadly humorous creatures. We make ourselves the center of the universe and then become self-conscious and anxious and insecure about that fact. When we are around others we stifle our deepest curiosities by asking questions that we do not care about: how are you… do you like the weather… what did you do today? Then we complain about feeling alone and being disconnected from people.
Does fear drive us into this crabbed, self-obsessed, guarded behavior? Are we afraid to just BE because we think that if we do, we will be looked at funny, or that people will take us too seriously, or that we will be seen as “odd”? How infinitely small in courage we must be if the reason we do not act like our true selves is because we are afraid of what another person will think.
I am convinced that many people live in a state of intellectual and emotional isolation from those they care for the most. We have become professionals at stifling and strangling what we are REALLY interested in and what we REALLY care about. Imagine being in a room with the people you love more than anyone else in the world and feeling that not a single one of them truly knows you… Scary thought.
How can we fix this situation? How can we get out of this claustrophobia of self into the air of freedom? Well here is my suggestion. Let us quit posturing to ourselves. Let us quit thinking with a “what does the mirror say I look like right now” mentality. Let us stop THINKING about ourselves so we can go on and just BE ourselves. Would it not be nice to get rid of that nagging shadow of self-awareness? Would it not be nice to be so turned outward that the idea of yourself just sort of blends in to everything else?
To anyone reading this: try to see how many times today you posture to yourself. Try to watch your mind and see how much work you are doing and what sort of show you are putting on for others. The sad truth is you are probably acting for a crowd of one; and the sooner you give up the gig the better. For true freedom, I think, lies more in looking “out there” than “in here.”