That Damn Stick
Some women I know sell makeup online and post videos of pretty eye shadow or special liner or whatever and damn it looks good. But when I take a minute to notice the age of the model, her flawless skin and wide-set eyes? It’s not the make up. It’s the face. (Or Photoshop?) The jarring truth is that no way will anyone else buying that makeup look like that beautiful model! Still, I’m tempted.
I occasionally give haircuts to friends and family. Sometimes, one will come to me with a photo of an actress and want her hairstyle. Some have the hair for the cut so I will oblige, but I have to warn them! The final look in the photo always comes with a professional stylist and scads of product and lots of time to perfect. Sometimes I have to bluntly say, “No. Your hair will not do that.”
Pema Chodron, a Buddist nun and prolific author on human ideals such as courage, compassion and inspiration states, “The happiness we seek cannot be found through grasping, trying to hold on to things. It cannot be found through getting serious and uptight about wanting things to go in the direction we think will bring happiness. We are always taking hold of the wrong end of the stick.”
I love this idea, that grasping is a backwards way to find peace. I believe this idea. Yet it has taken me years to see all the times I believed in the truth of an idea, but lived out of some other reality. I translate the “taking hold of the wrong end of the stick,” as sometimes ignoring instinct over teaching. And the flip side, ignoring truth over wanting. My hair clients, generally speaking, know when their hair won’t hold a particular cut or style. Or they know, they won’t use the time and products to make a style work. I know a makeup product won’t erase the years off my face. But we still want them to.
I love Madeleine L’Engle. The book, A Wrinkle in Time, was my first exposure to faith. It was middle or high school, I don’t know, but I do remember scouring the library for any other books of hers. This quote from Madeleine L’Engle, agrees with Ms Chodron’s words, “It’s hard to let go of anything we love. We live in a world which teaches us to clutch. But when we clutch we’re left with a fistful of ashes.” (A Ring of Endless Light.)
This world “teaches us to clutch.” It is one example of how cultural, familial, political, social and religious messages can enter our minds and run like a computer virus. Always in the background, not revealing themselves until we search for them. Over time, I have personally realized ideas like “grasping,” were not taught to me outright, but I absorbed them anyway. Other principles I have been taught and accepted, even though my better instincts tried to warn me otherwise.
In order to live an authentic life, checking for viruses is a must. It can be as simple as believing I am not afraid of the unknown, then recognizing a stomach churning anxiety telling a different story. Or as difficult as valuing individuality, yet taking a judgemental stance towards something or someone instead.
I love how Ms Pendron said “we” are always taking hold of the wrong end of the stick. I hope she means that I’m not the only person trying to open my hand to life and sometimes finding a pile of ashes inside?
“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”