Monday, 23 September 2013

Beneath the surface

Perhaps it is the pervasiveness of the visual world or the power of visual media or just convenient, easily consumed and profitable shorthand for what is deemed good in us, but the way we look is held as our supreme social capital. A spurious "ideal" body type is constructed in magazines, movies and on television and our value is how similar we are to this "ideal".

I find this curious; because my Parkinson's is separating the thin layer of control I have over my body, it has demonstrated to me the value of what is initially hidden from view yet invaluable; my mind.

The way I look, my body type, facial characteristics, skin colour, gender, Parkinson's symptoms etc were determined before I was born and therefore wasn't my choice. The ability to choose emerges only when we are in the world; this means we can choose only when the process that determined our visual appearance has come to an end. Yet we take the way we look, relative to the "ideal", as who we are.

However, the one thing that remains closest to who we are throughout our life is not the surface, it is our mind. We have more control over the way we think than what happens to our body. But we judge each other by the way we look, something we didn't choose.

Therefore, when we judge based on appearance alone (and not on the contents of a person's mind) we are likely to miss the person being judged.

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