Wednesday, April 21, 2010

from a greater distance

On the radio, there was an interesting story about plastic surgery. I gather there is a popular TV show called "Nip/Tuck" that combines the insatiable desire for doctor shows with the insatiable desire to remain youthful ... or if not youthful, at least looking youthful. Apparently, the TV show was part of the impetus for the radio examination.

Mostly plastic surgery is thought of as dealing with the skin -- how to make it smoother or fuller or something. But according to the radio show, a study showed that after 40, there is a natural wearing away of bone and that without addressing that issue, the results of plastic surgery leave individuals looking strange -- sort of like androids who are trying to look human. A concocted look ... odd to the on-looker. So plastic surgeons are forced, when they are any good, to deal with matters of the bone -- as for example the sunken look that can attack the eye sockets.

In one of his didactic novels, the French writer Albert Camus once observed that people are willing to climb onto the cross ... in order to be seen from a greater distance. And plastic surgery may be one version of that cross ... a revising that allows people to be seen from a greater distance.

But no matter what success anyone might choose, from plastic surgery to the accumulation of wealth to the improving of intellectual skills to the weaving of spiritual litanies ... still there is a loss of bone that cannot be reversed forever. And this indisputable fact infuses or undermines all the efforts anyone might make to be seen from a greater distance. Distances tend to disappear over time and it is then that the question can rise up like a great tsunami -- after you have done everything you could do ... well, now what?

Embalmers and plastic surgeons may make their best effort to make their subjects look "natural," but without addressing the question of what "natural" might consist in, how could anyone be at ease?

And don't we often find ourselves sucked into the realm of embalmers and plastic surgeons when it comes to our own lives? We nip here and tuck there -- mentally, emotionally, spiritually -- and what is the result? Yes, perhaps we can be seen from a greater distance, but the uncertainty implicit in our efforts nags and gnaws ... what's wrong with the natural that occurs before we imagine or elevate something called "natural?"

It's spring around here. Across the street, my neighbor's daffodils and a few tulips are in their full glory. Beautiful, alluring, playing their role in nature's production. They have no need to be seen from a greater distance and what do they know of crosses or crucifixions? The earth from which they grow knows no distances.

Beautiful today. Beautiful tomorrow.

Just beautiful ... how could that be unnatural?

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