I don’t think anyone can ignore the reality that our culture is fixated on self-image. Commercials, advertisements, sports, businesses, are all focused on image. Even things that are good for us, such as getting in shape or meditation, have to be marketed to us in ways to promote self-image. Spend a couple of hours watching broadcast TV or thumb through magazines while at the doctor’s office, and you will understand what I mean.
So how do we square our obsession with image, with the concept that each and every one of us, man and woman, are created in God’s image. Or as Sufi master, Ibn’ Arabi, says, “all faces are His Face.” I believe that when we talk about image we are also talking about more than appearance and “six-pack abs.” Image includes the persona we have adopted to survive — The outgoing self, the shy self, the unconcerned about the world self, or the compassionate self, and all the combinations of self-image we portray to the world and ourselves. Yes, how do we square the unique face we put on every morning, with the concept that we are all created in God’s image.
I read recently that perhaps a way to begin is to imagine walking through a fog, everything is difficult to make out. Then off into the distance a glorious face begins to emerge walking toward you. Through the fog, the total image begins to be appear. It is magnificent in beauty, and as it approaches you realize it is human. You are awestruck by the splendor and radiance, and as it gets closer you realize it resembles yourself. Finally you realize it is your soul, your spiritual counterpart.
This story illustrates how our real self, usually is separate and apart from the image we have of ourselves. We have difficulty in identifying with our real selves. We have developed a negative self-image and that is the image we portray. This negative self-image is based on a limited concept of who we really are. Who can blame us. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we are too fat, slow, and need cosmetics, surgery, and pills. We all need a personal make-over regardless of our appearance, and that only scratches the surface. We are also told we need wealth, fame, drive, ambition, and passionate love to only “begin to reach our true potential.” Amongst all this “noise,” it is easy to lose sight of the image of our true self, very close by, but veiled by the fog of modern society’s obsession with their view of a glorious image. Our self-image is typically based on the limited concept of ourselves as no more than our body and the worldly persona we have fashioned to survive.
Yet, in truth our negative self-image is nothing in comparison to what we really are. Our true image, fashioned by God, is genuine, wonderful, and complete.
Your Sufi wisdom says our earthly face could be said to be a distortion of our true self. A true self that is unconcerned with adapting itself to the environment. They believe that just realizing this can transform our bodies, give energy to old age, joy in suffering, and insight into people. (Too bad it can’t be packaged in a pill, we would all be taking it and seeing it advertised on TV ). Unfortunately for Madison Avenue it is not available in the marketplace and its free. It simply takes a realization that our unique image comes from God and needs no enhancements or “makeovers.” All we need do is “awaken to our true nature” to experience wholeness and happiness.
Your friend. Webb