Prelude: Last night I gleefully tucked into a few past issues of National Geographic (after artfully ignoring its faithful arrival in my mailbox every month for almost a year) and later, still in a magazine mood, flipped through an entire issue of Woman’s Day, which I wholeheartedly despise for it’s hearkening-back-to-the-50’s crap. I have no idea why it shows up every month; I never ordered it and usually it goes straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin. But, I thought, what the heck, I’m on vacation, lemme see what’s up in a supposedly typical “Woman’s Day”. Big Bang: the two periodicals together unexpectedly sparked a hailstorm of neural impulses that eventually reassembled themselves into this post. So, from my brain to yours, happy holidays–here you go!
I’ve blogged before about the perceptual disconnect between Man and Nature; and it’s my opinion that were we to perceive on a critical-mass scale and begin to repair this fissure, that we’d begin to mend our relationship with the Earth (and thus ourselves), which we rely on for everything, from which we arise and are a part of, and which we currently continue to carelessly destroy, pollute and otherwise disregard.
However, I also see Hope. And so:
Flipping through Woman’s Day, the disconnect between our perception of ourselves (in the—apparently—average American’s life) and How Things Really Are revealed itself overwhelmingly and idiotically obviously, once again. Woman’s Day features articles (as they have for approximately seven thousand years) on the tiny tiny world of weight loss, beauty, cooking, and house-keeping (maybe there’s a market here for Bedazzled horse-blinders—just a thought). The advertising, aimed of course at the target audience (who ARE you people? And exactly which woman’s day does this magazine speak to? Not mine), focuses on same. Page 40 exemplifies the largely unrecognized disconnect I’m talking about: we look and feel the way we do—emotionally, physically, intellectually et al—precisely due to our perceptions of ourselves and the resulting anti-health (read: unnatural) lifestyle choices we consistently make—zooming out further—because of our relationships with Nature (e.g., ourselves and our planet). The zippy pg. 40 article addresses “looking younger,” offering tips for correcting “droopy cheeks,” looking tired all the time, lines around the mouth and (tiny pout), “I miss my youthful glow.” The solutions? Duh, MAKEUP!!!! (although please don’t get the idea that I’m anti-makeup. God knows I’ve got days when I love it). But by all means (buy all means), don’t take the time to actually address the problem (what problem??); Spackle it over, dust on some sparkle and cover it right up! Consume, medicate, place the head more deeply into the sand (you are feeling sleepy, very sleepy…..)…meanwhile the crevasse, unseen, widens (more Barbie butterfly Band-Aids please!!).
I honestly doubt that it bothers or occurs to the avid readers (should you actually exist) of Woman’s Day (let alone the writers and editors—I’m letting them off with “lame” instead of “evil” here, but you decide for yourself), that people who live a healthy lifestyle don’t HAVE droopy cheeks, puffy eyes, washed out sallow skin, nor do they generally feel tired all the time (unless you’re a new mom…please take the pass of all passes). People who exercise, spend time in Nature, eat the way our bodies are designed to eat and enjoy a healthy relationship with themselves tend overwhelmingly to experience loads of energy, rosy cheeks, stay at a healthy weight and just feel good. They also don’t generally succumb to most common diseases. Conversely, those who don’t exercise enough, ignore their body’s signals, live a life of stress and eat packaged, processed, nutrition-less crap, will generally, eventually look and feel like crap. Period. Eat, breathe in and absorb toxic chemicals thru your food, beauty and cleaning products, and you will look and feel even worse and most likely will die of any number of very popular diet and lifestyle-induced diseases. These “Beauty” issues, dear Woman’s Day readers, are actually signs of ill-health (more makeup please!!). But then, like I mentioned, we’ve created a market for a lot prescription drugs and “health” products, so at least not everyone’s losing out…
**I’m really dying to bore you with THIS: an account of Woman’s Day articles and ads page by page, which I’ll include at the conclusion of this post, in case you’re not just going to take my word that our culture continues to promote ill-health through pop-culture diet and lifestyle recommendations despite scientific (e.g., research-based), easily accessed and even widely-recognized information clearly detailing the deleterious effects of those recommendations (I’m talking ads here, yes, but also articles promoting “healthy eating,” for example, that feature and often provide photos of recommended packaged, processed, disease-promoting foods). While specific articles may advocate at least seemingly healthier choices, the advertisements on the next page often promote their exact opposites, or cheerfully recommend the “cure” for poor health issues resulting directly from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Why the disconnect? Well, we’re USED (and thus desensitized) to what we’re seeing, so it doesn’t set off alarms. It’s also one thing to know something, and quite another to apply it. On the darker side, if you sell a product, you make money, and if your target market is educated and applying healthful living strategies and living healthy lives, well, they won’t simply need your products anymore. You do the math. Analyzing the breakdown of articles and advertisements, one might assume that while the readers of Woman’s Day magazine may aspire to healthier lifestyles, they’re either misled by what this actually entails, or perhaps just aren’t making the hard choices.
But Westward Ho! (Ho no!) On to National Geographic! I’m not going to compare the two magazines, obviously; thank God they’ve got very different target audiences, with National Geographic often featuring articles addressing climate change and other environmental issues (and I won’t go into their advertisers either, which are somewhat—whispered theatrical aside: “coin collectors”—a bit on the, er, eclectic side—are we noting that maybe intelligence may correlate with being a little different from the norm??). Anyway. Moving on. Starting on page 20 of this month’s NG, the Visions Photo Journal section highlights internationally acclaimed eco-artist Jason deCaires Taylor, based out of Mexico, who submerges life-sized concrete sculptures that fantastically, “show what a sustainable, symbiotic relationship with nature might look like.” Hallelujah. Statues of humans hugging giraffes? No. They’re, well, us. Taylor’s life-like sculptures represent the undirected, blind aura of the human/nature relationship, and underwater, appear all the more isolated, disconnected and lost. We’ve lost our way, he seems to pronounce, napping in our cars at the end of cul de sacs going nowhere, alone and burning out. Taylor’s figures stand statically in crowds, one in front of a television surrounded by fast food, another curled up on a car. One man kneels with his head buried in the sand, another stands writing at his desk full of books, his dog beside him. Several bombs menace, and a boy sits, apparently contemplating a pile of garbage at his feet; all Taylor’s figures’ eyes? Shut. The art, haunting and surreal, is at the same time achingly familiar. Together, alone, disconnected from our world, we stand, blind to Nature, our mother, our father, our child, our home, ourselves . Underwater poetry.
But here’s where I live, and where Taylor rises aloft while he sinks his figures: Hope. Many, many people get this stuff, and the information is becoming more mainstream. Conscious artists like Jason deCairnes Taylor prod us to open our eyes and step out of our tiny tiny worlds into the bigger picture. He not only plans for and includes Nature integrally in his art, but, by his work’s existence, encourages others to do the same. Taylor provides homes for lobsters in his concrete car sculpture, and casts his sculptures from coral-friendly, pH-neutral marine concrete. The sculptures’ designs purposely encourage coral growth and home-making for fish and other marine life. From his website (http://www.underwatersculpture.com/pages/artist/overview.htm),
Taylor’s sculptures change over time with the effects of their environment. These factors create a living aspect to the works, which would be impossible to reproduce artificially. As time passes and the works develop biological growth, they redefine the underwater landscape, evolving within the narrative of nature.
And we too, are living works. We can change with time, we can wake up, we can change what we’ve made our destiny. And if we don’t, in a maybe-not-worst-case-scenario, we burn our species out, and Nature, quite literally slowly, persistently, and resourcefully, always wiser than we are, heals, grows over, and renews; the coral over Taylor’s sculptures.
Taylor’s work then, emphasizes not only the loss of our relationship with our natural world, but the hope of a possibility of a return to a symbiotic relationship with Nature, and a return, finally, to Health. Not only do I find hope in the symbolism of the symbiosis of marine life and the sculptures, and in the fact that the sculptures’ very existence encourages and leaves space for Nature, but also in the photos on Taylor’s website, of live, real people diving down to view the sculptures—sometimes sans wetsuits or masks—eyes wide open. Hope arises in the juxtaposition of the sculpture and the human—maybe we can open our eyes, see what’s really there, and come alive. This won’t happen, however, if we continue to gum the pap pop-culture (in a middle-America sense) minions (Woman’s Day, umhmm?) would have us believe is “healthy living,” but which actually offers only tiny and ultimately meaningless nibbles of health (“eat pineapple!”), while at the same time actively promoting a model of “normal,” characterized by a blind universe of unhealthy choices culminating, finally, in a big-picture breakdown of real health—and then offers us a cheap (but oh-so-expensive) and faux panacea of drugs and “remedies.” Gullible, anyone? The trouble is, we’re brought up from the get-go, frogs in slowly warming water, in this environment, where stepping outside of the norm and heading in a more nature-intended direction (even just by making a choice to eat vegan, for example), will get you branded, “weirdo,” and thus disregarded. A most efficient system. Baaaa…..wake up and smell the money stench, World. Jump out of the pot before we’ve cooked ourselves and everyone else. I believe we can help each other wake up and eventually drag ourselves to critical mass—but it takes courage, wisdom, and the willingness to be different.
Jason de Caires Taylor’s art is an example of generative human intervention in the ecosystem, showing what can be accomplished by individual imagination and collective effort. Taylor’s strategy of conserving reefs, opposes the “land as commodity” mentality of Capitalism. His creation of underwater sculpture parks attracts tourists away from natural reefs, allowing them to recover, and taps into tourism revenue, showing how activists might be able to use the system’s rapacious tendencies against itself. His exceptional works are designed “to promote the regeneration of marine life and to use sculpture as a means of conveying hope and awareness of the plight of our oceans” before it is too late.
Indeed, Women’s Day readers, before it’s too late.
Woman’s Day Page by Page Analysis Summary, January Issue, 2012 (unscientific, I know):
Note: Beauty, Home Products & Accessories/Clothing and Pets are not counted in the list below, but do note, as mentioned above, that many “beauty” products are meant to camouflage possible signs of ill-health such as dark under-eye circles, puffy skin, etc., and often contain toxins.
Processed Foods: 28
Chemical Cleaning Agents (often faux natural scented): 5
Prescription Meds: 4 (COPD, overactive bladder, chronic dry eye, depression)
Dieting/Weight-loss/Supplement Related: 16
OTC Ill-Health Products (creams for discomfort “down there”, sleeplessness, heartburn etc.): 15
Health/Cooking: Little Changes to a Healthier You/In the Know (scents can help weight loss, how to fight a cold sore, party appetizers–processed food–etc)/Burn 200 Calories in 10 Minutes!/Delicious New Chicken Dinners/75 Simple Ways to Boost Your Energy/Low Calorie Blueberry Cake/Valerie Bertinelli (makes lasagna and popcorn)/Weight Loss Winners!/How Do I Beat the Winter Blahs?/Negate What You Ate: Nachos/Tone in 10 Minutes/Eat Smart (packaged foods)/Crazy for (ready made) Dough!/Change Up Your Chicken!/Pineapple/Baked Alaska/Everyday Meals
Home: Get it Now!/5 Tricks to Improve Your Luck/Turn Clutter into Cash/Party Time/Living Room Makeover/7 Things Your Salesperson Wants You to Know/Pet Tales/Support Your Kids/
Beauty/Style: look younger now!/Erase Wrinkles and Dark Circles (e.g., ill-health signs)/Good Hair Day/Best Beauty Buys/Wear Green!/
NOTE: If you’re the kook who proudly presented me with the pestilential subscription of Woman’s Day as a fun “surprise gift,” I appreciate the effort and your thoughtfulness, but question whether or not you have ANY idea of who I am….mom??
Sidebar rant: Real women? Hello? I’m as guilty of stealing InStyle tips as the next person, but is anyone really interested in the dumbed-down, dated banal blathering Woman’s Day continues to regurgitate? I’m finally committing to spending the probable hour on the phone with Woman’s Day having the “for-God’s-sake-stop-sending-me-your-effing-trash” conversation.
I just hope they can extricate themselves fromtheir chairs, leave their kitchens/bathroom mirrors and ignore their feminine itching long enough to process my request. Wish me luck!