Victims of Fashion

Not so long ago at all, a bride in Northern Europe would have been chosen because she had a strong upper body for churning butter. Today women are far compelled to feel equally concerned with their bodies but they also must add what they dress them in. There are few things that torture a teenage girl more than her wardrobe or lack thereof.

In trying to understand the illusion we all live under it is helpful to look at the idea of fashion itself. What is it to be fashionable? In the photo above a model shows work designed by students at Central Saint Martins Art and Design College, which is connected to the University of the Arts in London. These are some of the top design students anywhere.

These students are learning to be at the forefront of fashion. People would pay a lot to see these pieces shown. And yet most of the people reading this will look at the photo and deem tucking one’s suit coat into one’s athletic shorts is simply silly. It feels like that thing we all do when we’re young artists and we try to make ourselves distinct by trying to out-weird our classmates. And we’re right about that. But we’re also wrong.

The point is, fashion is just what’s in a magazine right now. I’ll change with the certainty that capitalism gives it. They can’t sell you a new shirt if you’re still satisfied with your old one. And so when we’re young and peacocking, the fashion seems worth it. Later when we’re juggling kids it falls to the wayside as other priorities dominate.

Some people stay in fashion and that’s wonderful. It’s an artful expression and like any field, only the very best and most dedicated and those most willing to make other life sacrifices make it to the top. But most people simply stop thinking , believing or caring that it’s more important than your happiness. Because there are a lot of people unhappy over their clothing and that just shows how paper thin our understanding of true happiness is. A wrinkled blouse can destroy it.

The fact is, every person you walk by will think different things about your hair, your face, your body, your clothes and any other identifying mark on you. No two people will react identically. We’re all snowflakes looking at snowflakes. It’s only words and language that forces us to group people together. If we looked more closely, we’d split most of those people apart for being so different. It all depends on what level you focus at.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good. It’s not unnatural. Even old-world people like the Wodaabe tribe have standards for beauty, although in their case they apply more to the men than women. They also don’t enact their most fashionable selves all the time and leave it instead for special occasions. The rest of the time you’re allowed to be human.

While enjoying fashion is fine, we also must remember that a six year old would be willing to give a speech with a giant soup stain on their shirt and there would be zero self-consciousness about it because they’d be focused on the microphone and their amplified voice and the podium and everyone watching them. They wouldn’t even consider the shirt. It wouldn’t enter their consciousness.

We should all try to be healthy like that. We should all hear any clothing judgments as being from one snowflake to another. It’s like one grain of wheat telling another grain of wheat how a grain of wheat should look. It’s silly we ever fall for it but that is a part of discovering ourselves. We start life trying to be like everyone else, and with any luck and some awareness, we leave it only wanting to be ourselves.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #66

675 FD Relax and Succeed - Spend your life doing strange things

Today’s Dose will start off with the photographic project Exactitudes, which looks at the real meanings behind our fashion choices. Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek demonstrate that our selections are ultimately far less about our own individual identity and much more about belonging to a group:

Exactitudes

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Next we’ll listen to the story of Suzanne Crocker and her husband Gerard Parsons who left the hustle and bustle of Dawson City (pop. 1400) because they never had enough time for their family and their own interests. The two doctors took their kids into the wilderness with no running water, no electricity but no shortage of time. This interview is a fascinating look into what the parents and the kids experienced by being so unplugged. In the end everyone got closer and no one wanted to go back to the city. Here’s why:

All The Time in the World

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Many years ago I was involved in some research on Sensory Deprivation Tanks. It’s funny that the word deprivation is in there because you get so much from being in a tank. It was the great Dr. John Lilly (one of the world’s leading experts on dolphin human communication) who pioneered a lot of the research into the value that changes in consciousness can bring through the tank process. They even made a movie that related loosely to Lilly’s research called Altered States. Here’s Joe Rogan (who swears a bit) explaining some of the value of floating:

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And we’ll end with a stunning display of calm and self control. How a flock of geese can emerge from this incredible act is amazing. But you’ll realize as she finishes just how amazing Miyoko Shida Rigolo’s delicate skills really are. Super wow. This is almost unbelievable:

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Told you. Incredible isn’t it? Have yourself a fantastic weekend and do it by ignoring all of the crap in the world because there are plenty of amazing things that deserve your attention instead.

peace. s

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Other Perspectives #42

540 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Dress every day

The implication of this quote is that you should be dressing so that you look good for others. Hey, it’s nice if that happens. It’s nice if people look at what you chose and they choose to appreciate it. Appreciation always feels good. But you should also be dressing so that you appreciate yourself. Not because you’ll look good to others, but because you feel good yourself. Life isn’t a show, it isn’t a competition. It isn’t something we’re supposed to necessarily look good for. Just go live. If you don’t feel like dressing up, then don’t—otherwise you have less freedom than a four year old. If you live by people’s praise you’ll die by their rejection. Create art for the sake of creating it, not for the reaction. Cook for your own palate, dress to your own comfort and taste. Stop trying to use all of these things to be accepted. You don’t need to be accepted. You were born perfect and every step you take is taken within the profound holiness of the universe’s infiniteness. Trust me, the universe is big enough that it can accommodate anything you’ll choose to wear on any given day. So don’t worry about what the rest of us think. Don’t even worry much about what you think. Just be instead. If you do that you’ll be more beautiful than even the most talented designer in the world could make you.

peace. s

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Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offence to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Backing Into Happiness

162 Relax and Succeed - It doesn't matter
Not long after high school I moved to Australia with a girlfriend and four other good friends. We started off being generously hosted by my fabulous aunt and uncle, and none of us worked for a few months. But even with all of that freedom we eventually felt a desire to be productive and we all elected to get jobs.

I was managing a high fashion men’s wear boutique where we sold $20 Indian cotton shirts for $400—in the 80’s. One day I got home early because I had been at some meetings that ended ahead of schedule. I decided to make my now-ex-wife dinner. As I was preparing it she came home. Below is a rough transcription of the conversation that followed.

“Hi Sweetheart! How was your day???”

“It was fantastic. REALLY fantastic. It seemed like everyone I talked to was in a great mood. Everyone was so incredibly nice.”

“Were they?” I said. “Were you at a busy place today?”

“Super. Hospital administration. Lots of staff, lots of the public coming through.”

“And everyone was in a good mood?”

162 Relax and Succeed - The primary cause of unhappiness

“Literally everyone. I know it sounds dumb, but there really was a great vibe about today. I really mean it. Everyone was smiling. Huge smiles. From everyone. I think it was maybe the best day of my entire life!”

“Wow. That’s quite the testament.  And did you leave work at lunch? Did you go to the beach to work on your tan?”

My now-ex-wife was a professional office administrator in Canada, so she did some specialized office work in Australia, but her beauty and enviable figure also got her work primarily as a swimsuit model. It’s a busy business in that part of the world, so she was always working on evening out her tan lines so she could look good in any kind of suit. So it wasn’t odd for her to duck down to the beach on lunch hours from an office, in order to grab some quick sun for a shoot the next day.

“No, it was too hot, so I went to their cafeteria and ate.”

“Wow. Was there a line-up?”

“Huge. But even there, everyone I talked to was super happy.”

“I’ve got a theory about that,” I told her.

“About why everyone was so happy today?”

162 Relax and Succeed - Everything that scares you

“Yeah. Come on.” I lead her toward our bathroom. “I think I might have an idea….”

“What?” she asked with intense interest.

I pointed at the bathroom mirror. She looked at her reflection. It took a moment before she realized that her button-up collared shirt was on inside out and backwards!

“Oh my God! It must have been like that all day!!!” This isn’t great husband advice, but that’s where I exploded laughing. “Oh my God this is the worst day of my life!”

Now here’s one of those ideas that has never made any sense to me at all.

Maybe it’s because of my accident, or maybe it’s because of what sort of questions my accident caused me to ask, but I have never been confused about the fact that the present does not change the past. What has happened has happened. You only have the moment you’re in. All else is within our minds. So because my girlfriend finds out at 6pm that she rode the bus in a backwards, inside out shirt, that does not erase the wonderful day she had right up until she looked at that mirror. The experience of her life was a day filled with the happiest people she had ever encountered and that reality was the truth for her.

Experiences are experiences. Your life is a collection of them. It’s not a road to somewhere. It’s just a collection of pieces of lifetime. So remember that you, the world around you, and other people too, are all reflections of your own mind; your own thinking. So there really aren’t many jerks in the world. You just met some nice people while either they were temporarily grumpy, or you were.

My ex-wife did have a great day that day. What happened later is a separate event. Otherwise that would be like saying that just because we got divorced, that our marriage had no value. That’s absurd. We had fun. We travelled the world together. We laughed and danced and hung out with friends. There was a lot of good life in there. Us ending it doesn’t erase history.

Your life very simply is whatever you think it is. Stop mocking that idea as too simple, and try executing it instead. Because if you meditate on it, you will pretty easily come to the conclusion that I’m simply noting a fact. Our lives aren’t our lives. They are stories we tell ourselves. Tell yourself a good one, where you’re the hero. Or you could always just put your shirt on backwards….

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.