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Society’s Worship of Youth

four shadow figures jumping youthfully

In recent years, reality shows have been flourishing on TV. One kind is the “profession” show, featuring a group of people as they go about doing their jobs and daily lives: manufacturing cars, bikes, and guns, gold digging, restoration, baking, pawnshop and auctioning . Or even about nothing special, for example “The Jersey Shore”.

The second kind would be the different talent contests and hands-on competitions, such as said “Fear Factor”, “Survivor”, “Get Out Alive with Bear Grills”, “Face Off”, “The Next Great Baker”, “Project Runway”, “Next Top Model”, “The X Factor”, “MasterChef”… just to name a few.

In my opinion, reality shows may be questionable on multiple aspects, but they have one good thing to them: as far as TV content goes, they are one step further from the fictional materials and stereotypical action figures that preceded them.

Bringing actual people into the screen, and showing them interacting with each other (either in a big-brother-esque competition or following their daily lives) at least contributed to dissolve a little some of the stereotypes about human beings and their behavior that were portrayed in the 80s and 90s.

Today, the fictional material on TV is also blooming in the form of the TV series, but you’ll struggle to find black-and-white situations, or the one-dimensional, superficial characters of before. You won’t find the all-good nice guy, victim of terrible injustice early in life and fighting for the good side. Instead, you’ll mostly have grey-area morality characters characterized by dubious decisions and questionable behavior, such as Jack Bauer, Walter White, or Dexter Morgan.

In my mind, this represents the willingness of the audiences (therefore, the common folk) in coming closer to real life with what they see in television. Because real life is not an idealization, nor can its issues be handled with simple black-and-white, good-vs-bad, us-vs-them viewpoints. It’s a sign of an evolving awareness, the willingness to pose ourselves with complicated issues, both in a collective larger-than-life sense, as well as the simple, individual and mundane.

However, one thing we’re still struggling with, is that as an audience, we’re greatly worshiping youth, on its multiple aspects.

Worship Of The Youthful and Fertile Physical Bodies

As you watch the The Fear Factor show on TV, notice how the camera takes its time, at every possible opportunity, to get really nice close-ups of the contestant’s bodies, as they undress to equip for the next stunt. Hardly anyone participating is ugly, nor past its 40s. Contestants are dressed in as few pieces of clothing as possible, as they strut towards the next stunt.

We’re obsessively giving far too much value to ultra-fit “tight” bodies, to slender and big-breasted women. The Fear Factor pattern is nothing short of body porn. It’s made specifically to stimulate your sexual and emotional appetites in order to grab the audience.

I have nothing against sex, sexual impulse, or being physically fit and healthy. But if you stimulate the human lower impulses by constantly pulling your focus to the physical attraction and sexual urge, you’re that much closer to functioning as a human animal.

Animals have primary instincts, one of which is procreating. The raw biological impulse to procreate can be extremely strong and nearly overwhelming, including on us. This is an animal instinct. By operating mainly from lower impulses, the individual is reacting to its emotional, social, and sexual urges, on a daily basis. It uses its intellect merely to justify it, to negotiate and rationalize it. To place words and reasons on top of what is emotionally driving its behavior: fucking. This is the human animal.

Humans do have a sexual and emotional center, yes, and the desire for coupling, sex, and parenting may be natural, yes. But humans can also operate from the higher perspective. Being a better person, wondering what is my passion in life, the acts of generosity, kindness, change, innovation, and paying forward, the will and choice to serve others and make its surroundings a better place; all of these come from higher perspectives than the lower sexual centers.

You can live from these higher positions within yourself, and still perfectly enjoy the healthy and fulfilling sexual and emotional circumstances you happen to chose — they just won’t dictate your behavior anymore. You’re not their slave. However if you’re operating from the lower centers, nothing will feel better and be more important than the eternal striving for the perfect body, the perfect mate, the perfect genes.

These are two wildly different perspectives. You can harbor both within you, as different aspects of you. But you’ll easily notice that one keeps you tightly bound and enslaved, while the other brings you peace and fulfillment. One feels like an addiction, while the other frees you. You are as limited as the degree to which you feed the perspective of operating from the lower centers, and as long as you look at it as being ‘normal’.

Living with focus primarily on your raw emotions and sexual impulses has more ramifications. Those who do will be much more prone to ego-based competition and “alpha-male” behavior among each other, since it’s all about the physical fitness. You’ll also be valued by your relationships and fertility, being constantly conditioned by the rest of society into marrying and having children, even if that happens not to be your first priority. You’ll have whole swats of population focused primarily on satisfying their immediate emotional needs, promoting addictive and obsessive behavior, and reckless and irresponsible decision-making.

It is in the youth stage of life that the pure sexual urges and desires take a leap forward and have a major role in your life. It’s normal. Hormones are bouncing around in your body, and your desire to explore the world, especially relationships with people other than your closer family aggregate, grows in you. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And you do need a degree of rebelliousness and carelessness to explore, to make mistakes and learn, ultimately in order to learn.

But the youthful phase passes — or it’s supposed to pass. At some point in life, the concerns with the degree of aesthetic beauty of the physical body, and the urge to fit in the social molds,they become secondary, as the individual wonders if there is something more. If there’s more to life, about other individuals, relationships, and new values, that is worth noticing and valuing. But by being stuck in the focus on physical perfection, we’re also stuck to a youthful and naive perspective: the one that say’s “I am my body” and “My value is my body’s”.

This is not only superficial and shallow, it’s simply not true. It’s an extremely unfair and punishing belief to have, particularly (but not only) to women.

Fitting to Standard Body Types

Women have naturally occurring, different, body types and shapes. Obviously, males too. It’s natural. It’s how it’s supposed to be. How silly would it be to label one as “correct” (or better), implicitly undervaluing all others?

But that’s exactly what we, unconsciously, are doing.

What if you don’t have a perfectly standard body to work with? What if you naturally develop a few “no-perfections” even at a young age? Does this mean we all need to go to the gym to have standardized and perfectly toned bodies? What if you don’t actually enjoy the gym, or working out?

What if, as you hit your 40s, your body starts getting a little less tight and fit here and there? What if it starts cooperating a little less with you? Does that mean you value less as a person because of that? Are you obliged to work harder and harder to stay youthful?

One thing is you needing to feel healthy and well about yourself. That’s important and perfectly valid. I think you need to do whatever you must, on an individual level, to get there. You’ll easily come across many life stories of people who were struggling with their weight and health, before they decided to take charge of their lives and do something about it, and be where they wanted to be.

But another quite different thing, is to keep looking at other’s people’s body formats and shapes and feel awful for not keeping up with the “norm”. This is extremely superficial and dismissive of yourself as a person. There is no norm. As soon as you have a “norm”, there’s already a concept and an idea outside of yourself, an idea that is maintained and fed by a group. But that idea does nothing to notice human personal qualities and values. Therefore, you won’t value those qualities in yourself either.

My opinion is that you must strive to feel well with that you have,with the body type that you’ve been given, and take it from there. Feeling well is a subjective, individual proposition, and it involves not just your body, but everything about yourself. It’s about liking yourself and all your multiple aspects as a human being. You know you can see beauty in a person when the person feels good about herself — regardless of age or body format. Beauty is not about the physical.

The Value of Wisdom

Keeping the focus of the populace on youthful perspectives is nearly a criminal proposition. The human being starts getting its actual wisdom(the practical know-how of how to live life) when it gets to its 40s and 50s — on personal, emotional, and professional levels. But if we keep focusing on youthful values, we are missing all of that. We’ll miss wisdom and deeper thinking. We are neglecting our own value as we get less-than-young, and we are neglecting what the elders have accumulated and can teach. And this has consequences on multiple levels of society.

How many have trouble finding a job at an older age, comparing to when they’re young? Do you believe you’re doomed if you lose your middle-class job on your 40s? If so, that is an aspect of a society that is all about youth, visual, performance, action and competition, and much less about wisdom, kindness, honesty, and open-heartedness. Do you actually think a person above 40s is professionally worthless? Of course not — much to the contrary.

We are evolving very rapidly as a society, and this can make for wide generation gaps. A 40-year-old is living in a world that the 60-year-old doesn’t know about; the 20-year-old is living in a world the 40-year-old never saw. In some circumstances it will be inevitable that the awareness and values of the oldest will lag behind, their beliefs visibly becoming outdated and not applicable. However, I still think we can help this. It’s not just the individual who has to “fight” by itself to stay up-to-date and adapt; I think that as a whole we should appreciate the value of acquired experience, which is priceless. I think we should wholeheartedly look at age and be in awe with it, stop for a second and appreciate what the person already has gone through — and so many times for the benefit of ourselves. Putting that aside is an act of simple immaturity.

Wisdom is priceless. You can’t rush it, fake it, or produce it in a factory. You got to live through life, individually, make the most out of it, and hopefully, learn something along the way. Doesn’t mean that every belief of every person is accurate or valuable; but each person has reasons to believe in what it does.

Therefore, in my mind, the next step in our awareness is to explicitly acknowledge and value wisdom.

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