Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Knowing Ourselves

Taking a picture of our self  and uploading it to the internet so everybody can see how beautiful we are, and then listening to the comments, is not an uncommon occurrence these days. Writing in the Kyeongyang magazine a religious sister, whose specialty is the media, brings to our attention this kind of personal promotion, which reminded her of "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of all?"  As a result of this personal indulgence, the integrity of the self disappears, she says, and what remains is a desire for praise, concerned only with the way others see us.

To what extent should we be concerned with our physical appearance? she asks. Reading recently that it was considered trendy in Korea to have cosmetic jaw surgery, she admitted to feeling emotionally uncomfortable.  Why? Because having to chip away at the bones, there is always a danger of side effects; also because she became aware that so many of us are more concerned about external attractiveness than about the less noticeable spiritual qualities; and also because a woman's body has become a consumer item.

Life is like a drama, she says, being played out most noticeably on the social network service stage. The "I" of the actor  is taking over the real "I". There is no way to know how much of what is being communicated is real, and what is hypocrisy and deception. The boundaries between the real and the virtual are disappearing, she said.

We are so busy taking pictures that we forget what is beautiful and interesting, and what gives us joy. Before we have time even to appreciate the beauty of what we see, we take out our smart phone ready to capture what we see in a photograph. Even when going out to enjoy our leisure time, we are busy taking pictures and often promoting the self.

Is the satisfaction we get from virtual space more meaningful to us than what we get from family and friends? Have we become like actors on a stage, receiving the applause of the  audience and becoming entranced by the attention? she asks.

When we cannot  express our true selves and are manipulated by others, we become slaves, she says, controlled by the vision of others and not being true to who we are. We forget that as Christians we are God's creation, made to be like him and to be true to ourselves. True happiness wants to be shared with others. When one is happy there is no need for words, our happiness just naturally flows out to others.

She tells us about a study that showed that those who associate with happy people also tend to be happy, and those around unhappy people tend to be unhappy. So it's good to keep in mind, she says, the thought that if I'm happy, those around me are also likely to be happy.

However, she points out that this happiness usually does not result from having a large audience of admiring fans. "Happy the man who meditates on wisdom and reflects on knowledge, who ponders her ways in his heart and understands her pathways" (Sirach 14:20-21). Those who do, she says, will have their happiness extend naturally to their friends, and to friends of their friends.

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