Sunday, February 24, 2013
Lenten Attitudes: 2 Attitudes To Ourselves
The kids have finally managed to persuade you to take them to Zeppo’s Amusement Arcade. You’ve navigated the Dodgems and the Teacups and you’ve sampled the local delicacies - toffee apples, ice cream, candy floss, popcorn and the like. Now, you are being persuaded to enter the Hall of Mirrors. How do you feel about going into the Hall of Mirrors, especially since you are full of all that food?
How do you feel about the Hall of Mirrors anyway?
As you know, the mirrors are designed to distort your reflection. As you walk through the hall, one mirror magnifies your head to make it look as if you’ve been blown up like a balloon. Another squashes your reflection and makes it look as if you’ve been sat on by a hippopotamus. Other mirrors make you tall and thin, or make your tummy protrude, or make your feet look like canoes!
Finally, you come to a mirror that makes you look normal. Actually, as you look a bit closer, you look a bit better than normal. Come to think of it, you do actually look drop-dead gorgeous in this mirror!
Is this mirror a proper mirror, or is there something wrong with it? It’s not as obviously distorted as the others, so perhaps it’s a normal mirror. But do you really think that it is a proper mirror? How would you know?
We are often presented with distortions of individuals as if they reflect reality. We can look at celebrities and get a very false idea about what they are like when they appear on camera. Television very rarely presents us with anything other than a caricature of a celebrity. Yet it is very interesting to see some celebrities start to live in order to fit their image. Why do we then buy shampoo on the strength that it is endorsed by a particularly stunning celebrity when we know that that celebrity is probably held together with gaffer tape and Polyfiller in order to achieve that look?
Not only are we presented with the idea that we are gorgeous, but we’re also presented with the idea that we can have anything that we want and it will only make us better. And why? Because we’re worth it, as L’Oreal would have us believe!
Fashionable Science, too, seems to suggest that we can be perfected with new organs, and plastic surgery, and injections and liposuction et c. Some scientists are even talking about the possibility of immortality!
It all seems rather worrying. The prospect of having our minds downloaded into a robotic lookalike of Kelly Brook or Tom Daley is horrid, principally because we would cease to be ourselves.
This idea of distortion lies at the centre of the sins of Gluttony and Pride. With Pride, we are accepting that a certain image that we have of ourselves is true. However, that image has been distorted by Sin, the World and the Devil. One of the effects of our Original Sin is that the view we have of ourselves is fundamentally distorted. We cease to see ourselves as we truly are. For many people this means seeing themselves as “better” than other people, even when it is meaningless to make any comparison in the first place. Yet for others, the same sin of pride makes them believe that they are irredeemably worse than anyone else. In both cases, the sin is to accept something as true which is actually not true. It makes God out to be, at best, mistaken and, at worst, an out and out liar!
It is God who sets the truth because God is true. He is the only being Who can be said to truly exist because He is the only source of all our being. God has searched us out and known us. He knows our downsitting and uprising and discerns our thoughts from afar. He has created us in His own image, but that image has been marred by our sin, and we need to be aware of it. Not one of us is irredeemable, for God sent not His Son into the World to condemn the World but that the World through Him might be saved. The whole World is capable of being redeemed through the Precious Blood of Christ.
While Gluttony is very much like Avarice in that it deprives other people of what they need, it is very much related to pride because it distorts our wants into our needs. We may be aware that we would like a large cappuccino with semi-skimmed steamed milk produced by cows on the south side of the Isle of Wight, but Gluttony convinces us that it is our right and a bodily need for us to have things our way. Witness the fuss in a restaurant when a diner orders gazpacho soup and, complaining that it is cold, sends it back to be heated! Not only is the diner a glutton for assuming that he can get what he wants, but the other diners who look down on him snobbishly with derision are full of pride and self-satisfaction because they know that gazpacho soup is to be served cold. Pride and Gluttony go hand in hand and reveal our attitudes to our very self.
If we are to enter into a true and loving relationship with God, then we have to base that relationship on truth. We cannot hide the truth from someone we love, nor would we want to. If we are absolutely honest, then we know that, we don’t really know ourselves at all well. We even have to rely on God to show us who we really are, and that’s not always a pleasant sight until we accept it in humility. We have to hold onto our trust in God. Indeed St John reminds us, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that, when He shall appear , we shall be like Him; for we shall see him as He is”.
If Life is our Hall of Mirrors, which mirror are you looking in now? How is it distorting you?