A Facebook photo and commentary on the "Perfect Life" by gifted adventure photographer, John Price, woke me up this morning. His candor is refreshing and echoes what many have felt but could not articulate about social media.
The disturbing reality of photography (and social media) is that it can lie or tell the truth (and everything in between). In art, as in life, we strive for excellence, to find and showcase our best selves, our best work, in the best light. But as much as we try to hide our flaws behind appearances, carefully crafted eloquence or post-processing, some of the post powerful lessons and imagery comes from the shadows.
While we want to live in the infinite spectrum of colour, there is nothing more powerful than facing the stark contrast of black and white. While we pursue the adrenalin rush of hanging from a cliff face, we also desperately require the silent stillness of black night to sleep and restore our bodies. All darkness and desire with no light produces Gollum. All sun and no rain produces drought. The true artist must acknowledge that it all matters, that we cannot deny any part of ourselves, but we also cannot dwell only in one arena. Cover it, discover it, uncover it all and bravo for finding a way to share your real self. It gives us permission to do the same.
It is in naming our fear that we take away its power. One underlying human fear is that we will never be enough, have enough, do enough, attain enough. Or perhaps our fear is that we will succeed, and lose ourselves in the process.
I spent more than half my life with a dear man who both feared he was not enough yet succeeded in every goal he set. The effort it took to maintain appearances was completely exhausting. He was an endearing, humorous and entertaining man, yet was unwilling or unable to be open and vulnerable about his fears and shadows. This meant he struggled alone, emotionally disconnected from others, not realizing that many have walked the same path and that there is hope and help in community.
As David Whyte says in his essay, Friendship, we need someone to walk with us, believe in us, and sometimes just to accompany us "for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone." He continues:
We encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves. Through the eyes of a real friendship an individual is larger than their everyday actions, and through the eyes of another we receive a greater sense of a self we can aspire to, the one in whom they have most faith. Friendship is a moving frontier of understanding, not only of self and other but of a possible and as yet unlived future.Yet as much as we can have those who are a mirror for us, a testament to forgiveness, we still must receive the gift of being ourselves with all that it entails. Dr. David G. Benner writes about this as the spirituality of desire:
Our deepest desires call us to both soar on the winds of spirit and be grounded in the realities of body and soul. They point us toward the self-transcendent but encourage us to remain anchored in the mundane and immanent. They invite us to honor both longing and belonging. Soulful SpiritualitySo, as John Price writes, most of us are guilty of falling for the myth of "Perfect Lives". In our search for longing and belonging, we scroll through social media platforms while judging our own lives, moments, achievements and work against others.
Bottom line? It’s not a perfect life. For me, for you, for anyone else. I continue each day to work at telling myself the truth, to be a friend who is present, forgiving. To stop the deadly sin of comparing myself to others. To search out ways to fulfill my longing to be healthier in mind and body while accepting myself as I am in this moment. To be willing to stand in front of the camera instead of hiding behind it. To name my fear in a safe place so that it loses just a little bit of its power every time I call it out. To share my wounds with merciful friends so I can heal just a little bit more every time I talk about it. To accept others as they are, flaws along with glory. To encourage the better part of themselves to rise. To always be aware that life is amazing, and then it’s awful, and in between it’s just daily and mundane and I can live and breathe and love through it, because I am loved. I belong here, in this life, doing what I’m meant to do.
Come with me?