Today, the negating of personal history and culture of a self-creating stifles us. Reinventing one’s self has moved from the exclusive fare of celebrities, politicians and authors and has gone mainstream. We see it on TV everyday. We all can have a makeover, and the cameras keep rolling. I must admit most of these stories bore me.
The self collapses into fashion. A frumpy librarian, pluck off the streets on her way home, becomes a sexy woman who looks like a movie star.
We see her get a new haircut, and a new wardrobe. In extreme cases, we see flesh hacked off her — nose reshaped by scalpel, chest expanded by silicone and her fat sucked out. She is revealed as a new woman in a moment of happy transformation. Her friends and family, surprised by her transformation, gawk over her as if she were a newborn.
Interviewed, she raves about how her new look changed her life. Men with six-pack abs swoon over her. Women find her fascinating and line up to befriend her. Style has finally shined on her and resurrected her life.
Presumably, her worldview has not changed. If she were a Catholic, then she remains a Catholic. If she were a Republican, then she remains a Republican. She has not fallen off an ass on the way to Damascus because the voice of God called her. She is not physically blind for a few days, needing the help of other believers and forced to reconsider all she held dear. Her beliefs are still intact, but she claims to be different, new.
No, her conversion comes from costumes and repackaging. She, with her new image, can now be shelved at eye level with the best products sold at the mall or online. Her salvation and new life arrive as a hip hairstyle and up-to-date wardrobe. Her thoughts and ideas, her story, and her passion, none of it matters in the creation of her new life. She is Jay Gatsby without the tragedy, a blockbuster movie with a feel-good ending. How sad that all she needed was so superficial. Could it mean her life was always superficial? And still is?
Hers is the final negation of story in preference for style. Her history is unimportant, and easily ignored like street people pleading for money or food. What matters is the moment of her reception as a new self. The source of her happiness lies with her packaging, and not her thoughts, feelings, faith, or anything classically conceived as a human being. Her life turns out to be less important than her happiness.
Supposedly we want to be like her, wait our turn when we will be swept away in black vans and have our history made irrelevant by slick hairdressers who know the secrets of ecstasy and eternal good hair days. All the while, the cameras roll capturing the only transformation left us. I, uninterested in being like her, find it worthless turning myself into the new and improved self, the new me.
To negate my story does nothing in affirming my life and engaging God. It is ugly in all of its seductive beauty.
Could this be humanities greatest challenge in the Brave New World emerging?*
If you could, would you change something about your body? Take the poll.
*This is an excerpt from a new book I am writing about the meaning of a preposition gives us insight into the nature of love, life and God.