I have always had a fondness for animals. Staring into the eyes of a dog, honesty and warmth stare back at me. Cats have been my favorite. I am not sure whether it is their grace or their independence of spirit. I love animals. However, when I turned on the nightly news and saw a deer with the proverbial "caught in the headlights" stare, I was a bit taken aback. Then, on second glance, I realized that this deer was not a nightly feature but was, rather (no pun intended) an anchorwoman. I looked incredulously at the wide-eyed female describing the usual mind numbing battery of innacuracies. What had happened to this woman?
A voice in the room replied "Botox"
I googled Botox and found it difficult to follow the information since the word "toxin" kept jumping off the page. Along with "toxin" was "paralysis" "corneal ulceration" and "spatial disorientation" Nowhere was "the deer look" mentioned.
I hope that I will not receive any hate mail from PETA. I love the deer and it pains me to see one occasionally riding on the top of the hood of the car or lying moribund by the side of the road. I have encountered Bambi on several occasions, motoring down a dark country road , and yes, I've admired the beauty of the animal. However, I must confess that I've never had the desire to look like him.
I stared at the anchorwoman in a combination of amusement and amazement. Something was terribly wrong. Why would anyone take a perfectly lovely face and twist it into a grotesque aberration? The answer was simple. Aging has become a crime in the U.S of A....... punishable by a lethal (?) shot of Botox or various and sundry tucks, snips and pulls. Your personal freedom determines your choice of sentence.
It is 2004 and the television is belching out an assortment of shows about supposedly ugly ducklings being transformed into gorgeous swans. Who was it that said "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." Had it always been this way?, I wondered. When did aging become a sin in the United States?
Simone de Beauvoir, the French Existentialist, writer and social essayist, in her book "The Second Sex" called our treatment of the aged "scandalous." And though Ms.Beauvoir was writing about women, men have also fallen prey to the disease. (the disease of "outlook" NOT "aging")
Interestingly, however, this was not always the case. The founding fathers, for example, viewed the elderly as indispensable in establishing the New World. The elderly were looked upon as paragons of virtue. In pre-civil war America, references to "venerable" old age were part of everyday parlance. Uncle Sam (not reputed to be a "hottie") became the symbol of the New Land.
With growing frequency, after the civil war, Americans began to change their favorable beliefs about the usefulness and merits of age. Instead of depicting seniors as stately and wise, more often than not, they were described as ugly and useless. Instead of extolling the virtues of the aged's wisdom and practical sagacity, people developed the mindset that the elderly were incapable of contributing anything of value to society. Ideas developed about the pathological disorders that weakened the intellectual capabilities and moral faculties at advanced stages of life. "Youth" were thought to be most "in sync" with the modern needs of our society.
And today, how many of our elderly people have been warehoused in Old Age facilities, doped up on a lengthy list of pharmaceuticals? How many people are waiting for the velvet darkness of death?
This turn of events is based, I believe, on our denial of death. Staring into the eyes of an old person, one no longer sees into the soul, with its vast wisdom and experience. Instead, the reflection of the viewer's own mortality obscures his vision and the scream of fear silences his humanity.
It is interesting that in other cultures, with a less materialistic perspective, people are not as terrified of aging. In Taoism, old age is taken as a virtue in itself. Lao Tzu's teachings set the age of 60 as the moment at which a man may free himself from his body and by ecstatic experience become a Holy Being. I contend that Lao was also talking about women, but who cares about political correctness when we are dealing with life and death issues.
Robert Browning wrote:
"Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
The last of life, for which the first was made......"
Those were optimistic words indeed. Perhaps Browning had not been subjected to the airbrushed, digitalized, nutrition starved and botoxed bevy of "beauties" that display their wares on the television, in movies and in magazines. Perhaps Browning's vision had not been dulled by the constant assault on our values that Madison Avenue has waged. Staying young is a large industry. The "best of life" is spent on a beach in a bikini surrounded by the adoring eyes of the opposite sex. Mr Browning has been spared this revulsion.
When my 22 year old was but a two year old, we spent each Friday morning delivering Meals on Wheels. One of our customers has deposited himself forever in my memory bank.
Fred was close to 90 and yet he would walk to the library everyday. He was an avid reader and writer. He dazzled me with stories about his boyhood in Wisconsin and told me of the various jobs he had performed along his path. He had even written a book, but stated, sadly, that there was no demand for it. I was delivering the meals and yet this gentlemen was nourishing me.
Who are our role models in this culture? Are they the super models and rock stars? How many little Brittany Spears wannabes do you know? (or is she already over the hill?) Does anyone on television ever age or do they just grow gracefully into alienhood, like Joan Rivers.
Lest me not give the impression that I have escaped the clutches of the youth culture. I am just as much a prisoner as anyone else and I do daily battle to escape the lure of the informercials and the call of the plastic surgeons knife.
I confessed my struggle to an Internet friend. He responded with a beautiful letter which referred to women who hang deperately onto their looks.
"A woman who clings to her sexual identity and wants to continue to be "attractive" is holding herself back from the next stage for her, which, traditionally, is the elder stage. What has she learned about being an illuminated woman and what does that portend for her younger sisters? If the answer is Not Much, then do a makeover and good luck.
Making oneself over and becoming "attractive" is an understandable strategy for a woman who feels uncertain and confused about real feminine power. It is a substitute for real power and merely continues the earlier, once appropriate attribute of the woman, which was to be beautiful and attractive to male interest. But now, it is up to her to be more deeply herself, to be fully realized beyond the biological imperative"
I thank my friend for his wisdom. Perhaps we can set an example for our children and help our brothers out of the trap in which they too are caught.
We are a warlike culture and, at this point in history, we are waging a battle with Mother Nature. And yet, Mother Nature has enlisted Father time and together they are a formidable pair. I am not a betting woman, but, unlike the upcoming election, I know who is going to win.
Let the Buyer Beware (October 21, 2004)
The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been eliminated to protect the innocent ...ME.
Attending the NYC Expo has become routine for this seeker. The Expo is a yearly gathering of holistic doctors, self - help experts, consciousness explorers, prophets and profits, psychics, mediums, and snake oil salesmen of all sizes and colors. My mission, should I choose to accept, is to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In exchange for a modest registration fee, I was given a brochure with the day's speakers. Should I attend the doctor lauding ozone therapy or the panel entitled Strange Universe?
It wasn't long before I realized that I had made the wrong choice. This universe was beyond strange. The facilitator opened by introducing the "esteemed" panel of channelers and psychics. Everyone introduced himself and waved his credentials like the American flag. Most brought a message of peace and love. Then a channeler began to demonstrate her gift She was in contact with an alien entity who had a message to bring to the eager earthlings. To prepare for the revelations, she gulped prodigious quantities of water. This , she explained, was to clear her channel. Clear Channel ? I should have suspected they would begin buying up alien entities. Without adequate warning, the channeler broke into a barrage of unintelligible sounds. If John Ashcroft had issued an Orange Alert, I probably would have been fleeing the building. During this somewhat disquieting routine, a large African American Queen, with red shoes, and a small blonde psychic left the panel. When they returned they explained that the energy had been so powerful that they were afraid their channels would not close for the rest of the day. My channel seemed to be stuck on Looney Tunes.
The Queen spoke next. With a mysterious giggle, he told the audience that he had been in the same room as Dick Cheney. My ears perked up in anticipation of some lascivious punch line. Nothing followed. The speaker then disclosed how the government does not want to scare the people and that is why they have not shared all the terrorist attacks that have been averted. HUH? Are those color alerts supposed to give us the warm fuzzies?
It was time for the blonde psychic to speak. She talked of her background with Jean Dixon and her numerous appearances on television. She had even, back in the day, been voted the number one psychic on Ripley's Believe it or Not. (giving me a choice was a mistake) She talked about working with the police on several cases. And now, she was gracing the New York Expo with her predictions. Hurdling the time loop, our psychic told a booing audience that George Bush was going to be reelected. Then she quickly comforted the crowd by saying that bin Laden would be found after the election and everything would be fine in this country. Another.... HUH? Had I left my logic at the registration booth? Maybe my chakras were clogged. I looked forward to the question and answer session.
The channeler broke into another round of messages from her alien invasion. Oddly, the Queen and the Princess did not exit this time. Perhaps their cable was down?
The question and answer period followed, and my hand waved wildly in the air. The facilitator called on me. "Yes?" I directed my comment to the psychic. I questioned her statement that everything would be OK in this country when bin Laden was captured. I mentioned the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, as well as the wars in Iran, Syria, and North Korea warming up in the bullpen. How would the capture of bin Laden put an end to the devastation and carnage that is being done in our name. How would the capture of bin Laden help our flailing economy and our loss of jobs. How would the capture of bin Laden help our polluted air and our polluted food and our polluted minds. She responded by telling me that she has been on NBC and has worked with the Jean Dixon and the police. And don't forget Ripley's Believe it or NOT. Well...I had made a decision. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was getting this woman's resume. I did not remember placing an ad for a psychic (or a psycho)
"Next question" the facilitator came to the rescue of the damnedsel in distress. This sounded like a cue to exit. My cynicism was clashing with the love decor.
I recalled a time in the mid 80's when a cynical friend had remarked "If Adolf Hitler were alive today, he'd probably be reading Scott Peck and lecturing on transformation "
How much truth lay in his hyperbolic statement, I wondered. How much power tripping was masquerading as transformational guidance in the New Age. How many self-appointed gurus and healers were using nothing more than the gift of gab to manipulate the searchers.
People are desperate for answers. They bring their suffering and confusion to lectures and workshops where the charismatic leader stands confidently in front of the flock. He has found the route to enlightenment and is generously mapping out the spiritual path for all to follow. But who is that lecturer when he leaves the podium? Who is that man with the wide open heart chakra?
In the summer of 1984 I attended a New Age Peace Effort. Love was in the air as we discussed our true unity on the planetary logos. The man presiding could not have been better cast. He was loving and open and genuinely interested in everyone's ideas. A well-known psychotherapist, he proclaimed to be a living embodiment of unitary consciousness.
During a break, I found myself at his side. "You are a very attractive young lady." He massaged my muscular armature as he launched his private "piece" effort.
We played our final scene in his palatial apartment where I was invited to dine.
"Welcome home, darling," the greeting at the door seemed premature. He gave me a tour of his playpen. What had happened to voluntary simplicity in the New Age?
He looked at me adoringly. "There's no need to speak. I'll never hurt you. I want you in my life forever." He puffed hungrily on a joint.
"Have you ever made love to a woman?" I confessed that I had not.
"It's what you need for a healing. I will be present when you do."
The gay experience had never tempted me, but I was having difficulty keeping a straight face.
Another cue to exit. I was always good at knowing when to exit. It was knowing when to enter that had been my problem
As I left Manhattan, that night, I wondered what had happened to this man who lectured on integrity and intimacy. Had he been possessed by Saturday Night Live? Carlos Castenada talks about "The Path with a Heart" If he'd inserted the prefix "socio" I'd have known to whom he was referring.
I recalled an article I'd read by Idries Shah, a well-known leader of the Sufi community. Shah stated that it was time somebody took the lid off the guru racket. In an interview with Elizabeth Hall, that appeared in a past issue of Psychology Today, he'd revealed how gurus approached him assuming he was as phony as they.
"They want to know how I get my money, how I control people and so on."
Suddenly, with a thud, I was back at the Expo, exploring the plethora of vitamins, potions, tonics, and crystals. People seated in chairs were getting treatments that ranged from Reiki to Pranic Healing. I was back in the state of confusion, a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.
I am not saying unequivocally that treachery and deceit are the rampant rulers of the New Age, but ofttimes it is the love of power and money and the need for public adulation that motivate the mentors and the healers. Spirituality is suffering from word abuse in the millennium. The true healers and sincere helpers are being upstaged by the greed and agile intellectualism of the fraudulent. Perhaps a caveat would best be issued to anyone seeking guidance to higher consciousness. Caution and discernment should be an integral part of any spiritual exercise program.
We are in desperate need of viable alternatives. We cannot keep drowning our pains, both physical and emotional, in the sea of pharmaceuticals. We cannot continue to subjugate our will to the dogma and doctrine of religious institutions that have usurped both our power and our money. But can our alternative be found amongst the New Age messiahs?
With all its promise of instant cures and instant enlightenment, the New Age runs the risk of being retitled the "Age of AssHolism."
The Rescue Net (October 6, 2004)
Nobody asked me at what stop I wanted to get off. But.....here I am on Planet Earth and it's the year 2004. There are wars and rumors of wars. The food supply is being contaminated with Genetically Engineered Organisms and the air we are breathing contains "particulate matter." What the hell is particulate matter? Sure....I know what "they" mean, but why do "they" always make it sound so desirable. Particulate is a cute word. The air is vile.
It seems as if everyday I read about a new virus, or rather a "KILLER VIRUS." Are these megabugs or merely the design of some Dr. Strangelove in a lab somewhere? Why does the HIV virus contain Islandic Sheep genes? How did they land in the Green Monkey? I think my questions get on most peoples nerves. Just bend over, like a good little girl, and take your vaccine. Watch out for bigger and badder TB, lepers invading our communities and people sneezing flesh eating bacteria at you. Put on your mosquito netting, or, better yet, a full CDC suit, practice abstinence (how does one practice that?) and, in the infamous words of Dr. Laura, "go take on the day." It seems as if the day has gotten the better of me.
I live in a sleepy little town called Suffern. However, two towns away, early on Saturday morning, Mexicans line the streets looking for a day's work and a day's pay. Pay? Well.....it's more like the allowance I got as a child, and I was not overly indulged.
I work for Social Services trying to help high risk families. Is it my imagination or do high risk families have a high intake of pharmaceuticals? The children of the families I service are most often classified as ADHD, Bi-polar or Oppositionally Defiant. They are prescribed Ritalin, Prozac, Depacote, Effexor or all of the above. Some of them become obedient. "More serotonin, Mom." Others develop new problems like "cutting" themselves. The answer to most side effects is more pharmaceuticals. It doesn't take much to be classified as ADHD. Squirming in your seat at school will qualify you. Never does it occur to the powers that be that the squirming may be related to the intensely boring curriculum or the monotonous style of the teacher.
Thirteen year old females have an easy time being tagged as bipolar. It used to be PMS or just plain moody, but now it is far more dramatic. One is not allowed to get "the blues."
How ironic, in a world that inspires "the blues" . If you ask me, to be numbed down and dumbed down is far more of a psychiatric disorder. But nobody asked me.
Life has become a bad trip. I was a hippy in the 60's so I know from whence I speak.
Most houses contain an escape clause. It is a large screen called the Television. Newton Minow once called the television a Vast Wasteland. That was an understatement. I guess if your name is minow, you would tend to see things in "less than" terms. Occasionally when I can no longer stand listening to the bad news, I attempt to escape into the world of the television. For the "housewife, " there's always the Lifetime Movie. Oh no, not eating disorder week again. Or, if I hit it correctly, a husband has murdered his wife who just happens to have a huge inheritance. These movies are based on REAL LIFE, folks.
Another channel finds me watching a couple of pundits yelling about the l-i-b-e-r-a-l-s. You know who those guys are, right? They're the ones who have ruined our country. I CLICK on by to some perky little anorexic female showing women how they can have more desirable bodies. (or have I inadvertantly tuned back into eating disorder week on Lifetime?) No, there is no escape on the television.
I try the radio. This box has been infected with screaming males explaining what's gone wrong with our country. Oh my God....it's the liberals again. These people are everywhere.
However, the shrill voice coming into my room has the answer and it's not "blowing in the wind" (though it is being carried by a lot of hot air) The answer, my friends, is invading countries who have oil. After all, countries with oil are countries with terrorists. And, if you think that's unfair, you are not supporting our troops. I have trouble understanding the logic, but then again, I may have burned out some brain cells during the 60's. All we were saying was "give peace a chance."
My last bastion of refuge is the Internet. I navigate my way through the morass of information and disinformation. I am practicing discernment. It's more fun than practicing abstinence.
It is on the Internet that I begin to find sites and programs that are validating my observations. Through the Internet I am communicating with other like minded souls who are aware that something has gone drastically wrong in our country and in the world. The Internet becomes my pipeline to the oil that lubricates my brain. I have entered a parallel universe where wars are not just sanitized events occurring elsewhere against less than human people. There are pictures of burned and deformed babies and articles explaining the injustices our country has been perpetrating. There are articles about the dumbing down of our young people and the destruction of the education system. Some articles talk about how the greedy pharmaceutical cartels are medicating the populace and the devastating effects that result. The Internet exposes the lies that have brought us into the present war as well as past wars. It shares information that has been silenced by the controlled media and the revised history curriculum. The Internet talks about the global elite, the New World Order, a nefarious, unconscionable cabal, who care little for the vast majority of the people and thrive on power, greed and control.
The Internet brings me into a parallel universe where discovering the truth becomes my passion. I watch icons smash and belief systems shatter and the illusions which have poisoned my mind begin to retreat. I bid them a fond adieu.
I toss away my xanax with a vengeance, and go out to "take on the day."
Copyright Judy Andreas 2004