What Is “Real”? What is Ideal?

There was an interesting discussion after my last article, Welcome Back, Sandra Dee, regarding actresses, the roles they play, and who are they in “real life.”  There was mention of how who we are is often shaped by social expectations, and even a bit of philosophical discussion regarding our lives being an illusion and a play.

sandra-dee2As interesting as this discussion is, and I hope it continues, I think that in many ways the images are more important than the “reality,” or at least the “reality” in the sense of our physical existence.  I understand that this is contrary to the view of modern society.  We are fascinated by the “real lives” of celebrities, which generally consists of prying into the darkest and dirtiest parts of their lives.  We are particularly fascinated when the “real lives” of actresses, or other celebrities do not match the characters they play or the images they present.

I think that this fascination is a bit misguided, though, and I also think it is not really useful for those of us trying to clean and purify our Image Spheres for various reasons.

One of the reasons is that people are complicated.  We all play many different roles in our lives.  We play roles as parents, as students, as workers, as friends, and the list goes on and on.  Which one of these roles are “real”?  I think the answer to that is that they are all “real,” even though they are likely quite different.

People are also complicated in that we all have a True Self and a False Self.  On a basic level, our True Self is our better self, and our False Self is who we are when we succumb to temptation.  Using a popular media image, our True Self is the little angel on our shoulder, and our False Self is the little devil.  This idea is a bit foreign to modern, cynical thinking, which seems to operating under the belief that we are being “real” when we are at our worst.  Actually, it is interesting that there are currently many “reality shows” being produced that create artificial situations that often have the effect of bringing out the worst in people.

Aside from the complicated nature of people, when we are working to purify our Image Sphere, we are making choices as to what we are exposing ourselves to.  In our day to day interactions in the physical world, there are many situations that we do not have control over.  We can not always avoid ugly or poisonous things.  We are not always capable of creating a living environment that nurtures our soul.

Given that there are many things we do not have control over, when we do have control over our Image Sphere, it makes a lot of sense to choose good and healthy images.  Do these images represent the “reality” of the past or of another culture?  Some of the answer to that question depends on what one defines as “reality,” of course.  To avoid that difficulty, I think an easier question would be whether the images accurately depict the physical circumstances of the past or another culture.  If one phrases it that way, the answer is likely  that it does in some ways, and it does not in others.

On the other hand, when we get too much caught up in that analysis, I think we lose sight of what we are trying to do.  I think that the media we create and consume reflects our values and our ideals.  These are the stories we are choosing to tell and to listen to.

While the stories that we tell and hear may on some level reflect the physical, material circumstances that we find ourselves in, they also help shape and define our circumstances.  If we are trying to make changes in our lives to let our True Selves or our best selves shine forth, we need role models and examples.  I see nothing wrong with these role models being fictional characters.  I also see nothing wrong in allowing the actresses who bring these fictional characters to life being role models as well.

I think that this was understood in the past.  The images of actresses and movie stars were carefully preserved to hide their faults and their struggles.  Nowadays, there seems to be a great deal of effort spent on exposing the carefully hidden faults and struggles of the role models of the past and celebrating the bad behavior and faults of those who would be the role models of the present.  Much of the time, this is done in the name of “exposing the truth.”

VaseYet, is this really “exposing the truth,” or is it creating an illusion of an ugly and cynical world?  If our role models are celebrated for behaving badly, and if we are taught that this is “reality,” how will we ever aspire to, well, anything?

A metaphor to this might be a beautiful ceramic vase that has a flaw in it.  Does it make sense to turn the vase so that the flaw is visible and draw a black marker around the flaw to make the flaw more obvious?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to position the vase so the flaw can not be seen?

I think that all of us are beautiful vases with flaws, including celebrities.  The choice that we have is whether to highlight our beauty or highlight our flaws.  It seems an easy choice when looked at in this light, I think.

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17 thoughts on “What Is “Real”? What is Ideal?

  1. Well, of course, the obvious exception to the metaphor could be said to be kintsukuroi – the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold so that there are seams of gold running through it. However, the gold is actually transforming rather than highlighting the flaw, adding something better than the original vessel to it and making that vessel more beautiful as a result. As, one might say, God (or Dea as we prefer) does with us.

    In a way, I think the lovely kinnies and books and songs made by flawed people are a bit like that, too. They serve to elevate a more humble vessel. I’ve often found that I’d rather not have found something out about my favorite actress or someone like that – but somehow it doesn’t make me hate the things that came through them.

    Maybe we’d get better art again if we stopped poking at the artists with our magnifying glasses and let something come through them that was better than them.

    • I think that kintsukuroi is indeed an exception to this metaphor, and it is an instructive exception. There have been times when public role models have been broken and been transformed. An obvious example is recovery from alcoholism or other addiction. In those cases, they really are more beautiful for having been broken, and they are transformed into a new type of role model….one that inspires those going through similar struggles.

      Another nuance to this metaphor is that there are times we want to find our flaws, when we are in a position to correct them. Still, for the most part, I think that correcting our flaws is generally a private matter, to be shared with those people helping us to work on our flaws…friends, authority figures, or others helping us to heal. I do not think that having flaws publicly exposed is generally helpful for anyone.

  2. Miss Genevieve Falconer once criticized modern biographies and someone said “Don’t modern biographies reveal the facts traditional biographies swept under the carpet?” 

    Miss Falconer responded “If they did sweep them under the carpet it was very wrong of them. They should have taken them out and burned them.”

    Her meaning was that the true ideals represented by historic figures should not be dirtied by the (real or supposed) failings of the individuals who happened to embody them.

  3. Although modern standards would view this gem of a video as being “cheesy” and “campy”, I believe that this instructional film from the 1950’s that I watched yesterday regarding the observation of proper table manners demonstrates the healthy attitude the pre-Eclipse world had regarding putting forward one’s best appearance, manners, etc.:

    • What a wonderful video! Actually, there was a rather interesting point in the movie, which is also contrary to modern thinking.

      One of the arguments against exhibiting proper manners is that people feel they can not relax if they do. In this movie, it was brought forth that bad manners and selfish behavior made everyone around angry and irritable, and that good manners made it *easier* to relax!

      • Exactly! I see this idea expressed in many older etiquette manuals as well.
        I think that this video in particular does a wonderful job of explaining the important of politeness, which seems to be a lost art in modern society. There are even health benefits to observing proper etiquette!

  4. Dear Miss Hildotter,

    Thank you for two very thought-evoking articles, and blessings to you and your hestia on the Feast of Divine Life. Your analogy of the flawed vase is trenchant. If someone deliberately seeks out the flaws and magnifies them, they are indeed rejecting the principle of beauty. In the case of biography, some are written in just this way. Such works are false, though every statement may be factually correct.

    In thinking further about the meaning of “real”, it occurred to me that there’s one way in which the post-modern mind is closer to the traditional mind than the rationalist-modernist, and that is in regarding the world as we comprehend it as a series of stories or narratives. The traditional idea of stories however, is that they convey supernal truth and beauty, while the post-modern conception is that stories are power-narratives that function to privilege one way of seeing and being over another.

    I was also reminded of the verse in Thoughts of the Mind: “You have stripped away layer after layer of the world to seek what lies within, and have found nothing at the centre; but I was between each layer and every other.”

    So one way of understanding these layers, I think, is as layers of story and meaning. These layers are the veils that lie between maid and Dea. The goal is not to pull the layers apart, but rather that the layers should become transparent to reveal the world of light. We can understand these stories in terms of the triumph of darkness, but we can also choose always to see the light in the darkness.

    • Thank you! Blessings to you and your hestia on the Feast of Divine Life as well, Mr. Philemon.

      It it interesting that you mention the post-modern mind in this context in that I am working through my thoughts for an article on the Seed related to this in the context of astrology. I think it is helpful to consider the symbol of the cross in this analysis. Both the upward and the downward movement in the cross move away from the material. The difficulty with post modern thinking is that it is not rooted in either upward supernal truth and beauty OR outward material truth and beauty. Because there is no root, there is nowhere to go but downward.

    • The phenomenon you mention is one example of what Miss Trent called the Tamasic Dialectic. Ie – Rajasic forms diverge from Sattwic forms while Tamasic forms often return to some resembance of Sattwic forms but in an inverted or “diabolic” manner.

      This is because in a sense Tamas returns from the Rajasic horizontal plne to e vertical. But this time to that which is below rather than above the worldly plane. In this case the chaos of universl distrust and the shattering of all bonds.

  5. Speaking of hiding flaws, it seems that in Japan, such practice is commonplace. Take for example, Johny’s Entertainment. Being a company catered to women, the boys are not allowed to have girlfriends, and cannot be seen with a girl or woman in public. Violation of the rule, even if only once, often leads to expulsion.

    • Hmmm…I don’t think the practice you are referring to is quite the same thing. What you are referring to in the instance of this particular company, seems like the Tamasic Dialectic Mr. Philemon and Tadashiku-san are referring to above. Often Tamasic, or downwardly focused forms can resemble Sattwic, or upwardly focused, forms. I really do not know though, as this is not a company I am familiar with.

      Japan is a really interesting case, though. It is probably the closest thing to a Traditional (Sattwic) techologically advanced culture that we will find on this planet. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Japan is one of the few places in which there are Traditional/Sattwic forms that have survived relatively intact despite technological advancement and heavy Western influence. A really interesting article (with even more interesting comments) on this subject can be found here: http://happyinnocentmusumesenshi.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/japanese-culture-dragon-ball-anglo-saxonism-wabisabi/

      • Basically it’s about maintaining an image of purity. Impurity is seen as a flaw by the public and culture as a whole. One should also note the more traditional ideals that the Japanese hold when it comes to relationships, although they have recently become more diluted, possibly due to Western influence.

        Yes, a downward trend does occur sometimes. When one exerts control over something, it is possible that one exerts TOO MUCH control. But in my opinion, it is a necessary stage towards finding the right balance to control and release.

      • Oh, thank you. That is VERY interesting!

        What you are saying makes sense. Like I said, I really don’t know anything about that company. I had to do a quick Google Search to even know what you were talking about. My knowledge of modern popular culture is *very* limited. It was limited *before* I began this journey, and now, I purposely avoid it as much as I absolutely can! I think I tend to assume if something was produced after the mid-1960’s, it tends towards Tamas. With VERY few exceptions, I think that this is true of Western media. As I talked about in my last article, even shows that seemed fine, like Grease from 1978 have Tamasic overtones.

        Actually, it seems like Japan is the only place producing media that is relatively wholesome. Of course, there is a lot of Tamasic media produced there too, but almost anything good that can be found seems to be produced there. A friend pointed out that all of the nice video games that I liked have been produced in Japan, and there are some very lovely Anime series, such as Aria and the Precure series, that are not only wholesome, but are fabulous teaching tools for those learning basic metaphysics!

        My Little Pony was recommended as a Western wholesome children’s show, My Little Pony. I have only watched the first 3 episodes, and I was rather shocked. The rather normal behavior of the ponies resembled the behavior of the VILLIANS in Precure in terms of their manners and self-centeredness! Oh, please, do not get me wrong. I thought My Little Pony did indeed teach good things and had good values. Still, it is interesting the difference between children’s media produced by the two very different cultures!

  6. These is also a tendency by several of my coworkers in my line of work in caring for Alzheimer’s residents to view the ones who exhibit rude, ugly behaviours as showing their “true” selves and nature, and that the self they were all their life was a mere product of social conditioning.

    • That is very interesting, and quite sad, Miss De Rosa.

      I think this is a perfect example of why it really does matter where we think we came from. If we think we have evolved from apes, then it is our animal natures that are really who we are; if we think we have fallen from the angels, then it is our higher selves that really represent who we are. I think that this is why Freudian psychology goes hand in hand with Darwinian evolution.

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