Monday, February 21, 2011

Pretty Faces Everywhere

I have on my desk an invitation to a conference for women to encourage them with the Word of God, the joy of music, and the spirit of friendship.

Three very good reasons to get together, no doubt about it.

For a multiplicity of reasons, I no longer attend these types of conferences, but I have gone to them before and found them quite enjoyable and often very helpful. Women, often isolated from deep and nurturing friendships by the demands of job and family, need to get away periodically and reconnect with themselves and these close to them.

However, as I was looking through the conference bulletin, I was struck by something: A multitude of female speakers were featured.  With two exceptions, the photos show young, beautiful, slim, Caucasian women. One older Caucasian woman looked a bit hefty (as in: normal), and she is a well-known writer. The other older woman, also with more normal body size, is a woman of color, and is also nationally known.

So, here are the role models for Christian women: holders of impossible-to-reach standards by the masses, yet much of the emphasis of these types of conferences are, "You, too, can be better."

Presenting high accomplishments and beauty standards as attainable to all taps into some sort of particularly American consciousness of self-improvement that often ends up leaving many feeling like failures. Now, I know that is not in any sense the goal of these who are promoting these conferences, but it may be an unintended consequence.

This push for self-improvement and attendant questions of personal failure spawn untold numbers of basically useless self-help books (useless except to make money for the writer).  A important fact to know: any time someone pronounces something like "Seven steps to . . . " be assured of a set of easy answers to very, very complex problems.

Actually, there are easy answers to hard questions. They just don't work.

An example: weight-loss solutions.  Easy answer: Exercise a lot, a whole lot; eat only real foods and minimal carbs, get plenty of sleep at night, avoid all artificial or modified sweeteners, and quit eating three hours before bedtime.  Trust me, you will lose weight doing that. 

However, even with that easy answer readily available, obesity has taken over the nation. Why? This easy answer is very difficult to implement. 

Societal forces, work and entertainment habits mean most of us are growing increasingly sedentary. Buying only "real foods" is an expensive proposition, plus those foods are not readily available in areas where people most beset with weight issues live, i.e., people with lower to poverty income levels. 

As for getting enough sleep, note this: during the four days of iced-in isolation that many experienced the first week of February this year, a lot of families reported that they spent much of the time sleeping.  Almost no one gets the amount of sleep needed for good health anymore. We are a nation of sleep-deprived people and that is not getting any better.

So, in order to follow through the "easy answers" to weight problems, we have to change the entire culture in which we live.  Not so easy, after all, is it?

This is why I say in a complex world where so many forces work against easy answers and simple living, and where very few are magazine-cover beautiful and nationally known for their accomplishments, anyone who wakes up and manages to live another day, caring for themselves and serving anyone else in any way, even just offering a smile of gratitude, is a hero to me.  That's success. I think the angels rejoice even at those small acts--they are victories. Let's savor them for this one day.

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