Everything changes. Our lives are constantly being updated, revised and rescripted, creating and deleting paragraphs in the blink of an eye.
Among all the reducing, reusing and recycling that we’ve been experiencing as a global alley for the past few decades, three of the most elemental questions in history still resurface:
1.) What is a woman?
2.) What is a man?
3.) What do they eat?
Countless attempts have been made to answer each question and on a common ground, most of us would agree that:
1.) Being a woman is more complex than burning your angry bra, more beautiful than any brand of cosmetics would have you believe, more intelligent than trying to lift the same amount of weight as a man and more creative than hating or loving a kitchen.
2.) Being a man has more to do with a peaceful warrior than a barbaric brute, with a yin and yang of vigor and vulnerability; with responsible action more than hopeless testosterone and with not depriving your masculinity of its necessary feminism.
3.) Eating is more than counting calories and less than torturing animals and mutating plants. It can kill and it can also heal, if used as intended by nature.
This is not news. Most people would nod. And those who don’t, they can at least meet me half way. What’s still not widespread news yet is a mental picture of the above combined; we need more visual representations of the sustainable reality so many of us are trying to build.
So let’s go back to the basics. The sign is the smallest unit of thought, just as the atom is the most basic unit of matter (or so it was yesterday). Our brain is set up in such a way that we cannot understand or see the world unless it is through signs.
A letter, a sound, a word, a number, a picture and basically anything that can be objectified (if only by assigning it a name) can count as a sign. Hundreds of them run through our mind every day. We can’t know, understand or process thought unless we point at it.
A sign that carries an idea becomes a symbol. Truth is not available to us except through representation. Symbols are our human currency, our ancient language, from the smallest to the highest and most evolved communication tool.
These ideas with faces, these symbols are communicated and assimilated through repetition. If this sounds like a foreign language to you, you’re probably not alone. We should all have taken Introduction to Semiotics in college.
The outdated sexy
Faced with a global awakening and a refreshed understanding of our interconnectivity, we are lacking new, more suitable social icons to refresh our imagination and reverse the concepts that though already obsolete, are still somehow decorating our minds. If we renew ourselves, we must also repaint the house.
As femininity, masculinity and food are inevitably being redefined, we need to hang new pictures on our walls; healthier pictures that our children can grow up with, just as we grew up with the corporate lies of mass complacency (a.k.a. mass murder).
It is these lies of happiness through possession and self-destruction that made us disembody our ideals and turn them into empty words, separating ourselves from the whole; polluting our bodies with chemicals and our minds with noise; filling our iris with artificial light and our homes with plastic; loading our hearts with disappointment and drawing expensive wrinkles on our faces.
The most dangerous lies are the ones we can’t perceive, the ones that have been intertwined with our deepest desires. They are the hardest ones to pull out of our system, like a rotten tooth gone underground.
These lies are hard to detect because they aren’t reasonable, they didn’t pass through the filter of judgment. They were thrown straight into the tenderness of the heart and even if our mind has managed some healing over time, these false arrows have never been properly pulled out. Social imagination is more powerful than reason or science.
If celebrities get paid millions to say that a shampoo filled with the most obnoxious chemicals is good “because they say so”, then everyone can say anything, as long as they are sexy and famous “enough” to say so. I think that is an aberration of democracy in its deepest meaning:
“Democracy is not only a political system—a set of normative rules, and legal and political institutions, constituted in accord with those rules. It is an ideal, an aspiration, really, intimately connected to and dependent upon a picture of what it is to be human—of what it is a human should be to be fully human […]. If we become more aware that in living out the practices of our form of life we are also living out a certain idea or ideas of what it is to be a human being, we will see more clearly that, whether we like it or not, intend it or not, we are fatefully defining what it is to be human through our practices.”
~ Nikolas Kompridis
I guess the highway to fame often overlooks this little detail. But being a social icon witnessed by millions also increases the level of social responsibility, if only in its iconic dimension. Because if most celebrities – who are sadly more influential than presidents and intellectuals and social activists and real world savers – are miseducating tomorrow’s children, who will ever be able to save them back into reality?
No matter how great the damage, most of us still underestimate the power of media. Maybe if you hadn’t seen your favorite star smoking Marlboro when you were 16, you wouldn’t have started with the cancer sticks in the first place, because it would have never occurred to you that in order to be a man, in order to denote your rebelliousness and connote your newly discovered masculinity, you’d have to inhale more than 4,000 chemicals.
Maybe there would have been no closets or the need to hide.
Maybe if you had not seen it in Barbie and every other movie since you were 5, it would have never occurred to you that your beauty and femininity has to be validated by men, that being sexy equals empty sex; that in order to be a woman you must buy all kinds of products, please everyone and have a Super attached to your name. Maybe you wouldn’t know that your breasts are too small, your ass too big, your lips not hot enough, your anus not bleached.
Maybe if your parents had introduced you to broccoli as superhero food and you were not bullied at school for drinking water instead of soda, your teeth wouldn’t be falling out and you’d now be chewing on chlorophyll instead of sugarphyll.
Ideas can be small and insignificant but when they are big and greed-driven, they can destroy an entire society. Mentality is more powerful than reason because it extends beyond reason, and reason itself is based on – guess what – arbitrary beliefs.
There is no point in pointing at the root of evil – although if we did, corporations would fit the profile – because evil is always social, never fruit of one single action, human being or even institution. Instead of wasting time accusing – although, if we did, corporations would be at the end of our finger – we could instead replace our symbols.
But how do you change reality, when most of what you are experiencing at the moment are the fruits of past decisions – yours or someone else’s, occurred minutes or decades ago? And even when you do let go, what do you place on that empty spot swept by forgiveness and mopped by forgetfulness?
Changing the past
They say that the past can’t be changed, but what is the past more exactly? Where is it located? Is it locked away in a distant land? If it wasn’t still incubating somewhere inside our throat like a silent virus, it’d have no power over us.
It is said that many of the ancient tribes and civilizations changed facts in their historical records, especially when it came to the battles they lost.
I’m not talking about changing your name or your birth date, erasing historical documents or forgetting about that inconvenient relative you’d rather not know. Memory is part of your identity and your first aid kit against present infections. Memory cannot be changed but it can be healed. And we can attempt that by changing our tools of meaning, our ideas, represented by unhealthy symbols.
I’m not saying “be like the ancients” but apply that “ancient creativity” to the damaging beliefs from the past that still subconsciously dictate your life: in this case, beliefs reinforced for decades by the influence of our unhealthy and irresponsible (that is, human) social icons.
They were also victims and it’s not their fault altogether, but neither is it ours. So, if historians have no objection and in a world where everyone can reproduce and sell their own version of reality, we can also turn the past’s faults into virtues.
The fact that a distorted version of reality, replayed in someone’s mind theatre with faithful persistency, can influence and even determine the outcome of an entire life is nothing less than terrifying. As Milton said,
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell out of heaven and a heaven out of hell.”
The same Photoshop that prepares teenagers for a lifetime of insecurities and poor health, can also put the sexy back in the broccoli – where it belongs in the first place – and make them eat more wholesome food, show them what a real man and a real woman look like, show ourselves who we are in truth.
So what are a man and a woman to do with themselves and their food? Well, if you want to know about a baby, you usually ask the mother.
Nature is our oldest and most faithful mother. Maybe she knows the truth about us better than anyone, even ourselves. And as we begin to understand her peaceful language, we can try to reenact the story she tells us, with the original creativity we’ve inherited from her.
Because when you understand that reality is not bound in any way, except by our own perception and the limits we ourselves have imposed upon a magnificent mind, your eyes are opened and you know that everyone and everything can be changed.