The crooked crown of falling down

May 12th, 2008


I’m holding steady this crooked crown
Knowing I’ll lose if I look down*

When my sisters and I were little – I mean really little – we used to gather around the TV on a sultry Saturday night in the late summer and watch the Miss America beauty pageant.

This is not a joke. This was in the days before we joked about such things.

We would sit inches from the screen, irradiated with anticipation, and choose our favorites even before all 50 girls had introduced themselves. Then we percolated through the rest of the program, through the talent and the evening gowns, through the arias and baton twirls, the sparkle, the suspense, the adoration and yearning, until a point of unbearable despair. A point that I discerned even at age 8 or 9, a point of tragic and humiliating desperation when I could watch no longer.

You see, there was a comic quiver in the girls’ outer thighs when they stalked the stage with mock pride and purpose (because what purpose could there be in wearing swimsuits with stilettos?) I turned my little-girl eyes aside and winced to see how earnestly they posed and yet how fraudulent they seemed, how tight and taut and twisted in pursuit of – what really? They were already pretty with perfect teeth and flat tummies and nice and friendly with bright futures and all, and here they were trying so hard to be something that they sure as heck weren’t going to be and we all knew it. We already knew it was going to be Miss Texas.

And although eventually the whole lot of us grew so smart and cynical about this kind of contest, I swear everything on TV today, everything in ads and magazines, everything on the Internet, everything in this country, everything in our lives, yes my life and yours, is just a reprise of this sad sport over and over every day. Not just about beauty, either. About fame, money, power, popularity, winning, losing and numbers, numbers, numbers. The desperate urging, chasing, yearning, selling. wishing, hoping, praying, prying, gnawing, groaning, clashing, crashing contest to be something more (or less) than what you are.

Not everyone sees this and weeps. But I do. To feel this very full and broken heart, to carry this unbearable sympathy and sadness, is to touch the very source of compassionate wisdom.

But to let go of the tortured striving for yourself? To let it all give way and lose nothing? That, dear Karen, is the path of enlightenment. What a refreshing topic to begin a new day, a new week, a new way. Which is the oldest way of all, the original unimproved, unretouched, you as you are way.

***
*Click here for more gospel.

9 Comments »

  1. As Rob Breszny says, Halle-fuckin-llujah. Now that’s medicine I can swallow.

    Comment by Jena Strong — May 12, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  2. Karen,
    Yes. Thank you for that breath of fresh air. I’m with you all the way.

    Comment by slanderwoman — May 12, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  3. i always learn so much here.
    (and i am finally reading your book…and coming home again.)

    Comment by jessamyn — May 12, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  4. Tis true.

    Run through the woods, collect bugs, build forts, and swing as high as you can, I say. There, it is nowhere to be found.

    Comment by denise — May 13, 2008 @ 3:06 am

  5. “The desperate urging, chasing, yearning, selling. wishing, hoping, praying, prying, gnawing, groaning, clashing, crashing contest to be something more (or less) than what you are.” This segment is right on for me right now. I find it easy to forget who I am sometimes, what I want, and how I want to live. Thanks for reminding me that so much of what I see and hear and read is false. That article on perfect pixel was disturbing and reassuring. I am not crazy in thinking that it’s all too much and too perfect and so wrong for our daughters and ourselves. Thanks again.

    Comment by GailNHB — May 13, 2008 @ 3:57 am

  6. I think I am not ready for enlightenment. And possibly incapable without therapy.

    Comment by marta — May 13, 2008 @ 4:16 am

  7. Marta,
    🙂 The power of thought.

    Comment by Karen — May 13, 2008 @ 4:31 am

  8. Yes! I was thinking about this “everything in this country, everything in our lives, yes my life and yours, is just a reprise of this sad sport over and over every day. Not just about beauty, either. About fame, money, power, popularity, winning, losing and numbers, numbers, numbers.” last week at the airport.

    There was a private company doing security screenings. If you paid for this service, you got to skip to the head of the TSA line. How many ways do we need to ‘prove’ that we’re better than others, more special? It really made me feel ill, and sad for our country. Everyone wants to be ‘the best.’

    Comment by nyjlm — May 13, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  9. Thank you. I needed this. I work hard not to join this sad sport, and I know just how sad it is. But sometimes, it is lonely on the sidelines. There’s that small part of me that wants to take part, to be part of. I guess I’m involved in the sad sport, even though I’m fighting not to get up and join. Every day. It’s hard.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 16, 2008 @ 12:16 am

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