So I went to visit the chateaux of the Loire valley this weekend.
Our first stop was at Cheverny, a palace that has been continuously lived in by the same family for more than 600 years. Pictures of the family and their family tree (where it was quite clear that they continued to marry within the French nobility) were proudly on display. The guide was dressed as one might expect in a smart, neutral conservative outfit and seemed happy to say that she was employed directly by the family.
I felt a strong desire to be part of such a circle, to embody the elegance and yes, dare I say, nobility of such a beautiful place and people who were clearly cultured, whose manners would be impeccable, and who would know all the rules and when and how to break them. Or so I think. Not being from an equivalent sphere in America, I can only imagine what the French of that not just income strata, but also social class are like.
I was seized with thoughts of doing a finishing school, trying to find ways to penetrate such a circle, and feeling like in a way, all my desires to speak French, read classics, and become a person of high culture and class kind of made sense through this lens. It seemed rather sinister and social climbing to want that.
Let it be known in any case that in the US it is generally easier to amass a fortune and generally background matters less when becoming part of the elite. So if it was just money or to be nouveau riche I was after, I probably would not be in France.
My ex boyfriend’s family had Picassos, and traveled, and shared books with me. I was rather charmed by their way of life and felt that I did prefer their occupations more than those of the average American hotwings, beer, and football, which have never held any appeal for me at all. I think it is fair to say that American society is fairly anti intellectual, and that money does not mean someone is smart although typically, education to achieve a certain “class” often follows someone in the family having money, so they seem to go together. While I am sure and do know of struggling artists and music teachers and the like, I think it is fair to say that in general, upper classes are perhaps more accepting of the arts and all than is the vast bloc of middle class American people.
But anyway, I broke up with that guy, and am happy I did. I do want a man of character, culture and ambition. The money can come later.
And yes, money. It feels so grimy to say taht I want it, and that I have made some life choices influenced by what was a mostly unconscious desire to have more of it, that when unearthed, I buried and self-sabotaged in some ways out of shame.
But yeah, having nice things is nice. Being able to afford to go on trips and go out for dinner and have a nice apartment is nice. Amassing wealth is not my primary motivation in life, though for some people it is and it is wrong of me to judge or look down on them. We all play our games. Today travel is in vogue tomorrow it will be pinterest crafts. No one is served by denying their desire for money.
And the other thing that I want that feels really shameful? To be thin.
It seems really wrong not to want it purely on the basis of health, or to say I am anything but curvy and proud. But I am tired of having people tell me I have a pretty face and it’s a shame I am overweight, much as it is none of their damn business. It wouldn’t hurt unless I thought that way too.
To a certain extent I thought my weight gain was due to wanting to protect myself from the gaze of men at a vulnerable period of my life, and I think also feeling as though I was undeserving at a core level of my many blessings.
Guess what? Life is a gift.
And it’s not wrong or shameful to put down a snickers bar in part because you care about how you look. Because part of showing you and successful and determined and in control in today’s world of abundant food is not being overweight.
I have followed my impulses and not put my best footforward in many ways- in the way I dress, eat, etc- out of shame that I should try in anyway to manipulate my image to influence others. To claim that seemingly dark power. To accept that life is not as idealistic as we woud hope, and to coorporate with the so called machine.
To admit I want more power- socially, economically, and yes, through beauty.
To admit that my best self is in some way motivated by how others perceive me and contemporary values, and that sometimes virtue alone is not enough to motivate me to do things that are actually good for me.
To realize that I can make authenticity- power on my own terms, to use as I see fit- the basis of these actions.
And most of all, that I am only human, and these urges are not sinful or wrong, it is that carrying them to excess and using power to hurt others to benefit oneself, or letting the quest for these things overpower our better instincts, is wrong.
THe movie Mean Girls is really interesting. Those uncool people who call themselves out of the circle of power and go out of their way to make themselves out of the game rather than compete in it actually covet power the most.
They want it so badly, they don’t even try.
They push others away through their appearance and unwillingness to change a bit to fit the herd, and then use a spy to infiltrate the popular, powerful group- also engaging in manipulation and trickery, even if not the horrible antics of the power plastic crowd.
I think it is better to acknowledge these influences in ourselves to better understand why and how we are subconsciously being controlled by them- when we may really be mean without realizing why, and why we want things so much that seem pretty arbitrary. Because group dnamics is pretty strange.
I do think that power and authenticity are compatible, if one adopts a definition of powerthat requires authenticity and an understanding of aunethenticity that encompasses understanding using one’s infleunce over others.
But no, it is not wrong to want those things.
Denying we want them won’t make us better, and will probably on ly makeus self sabotaging and worse.
And most of all, as long as our desire for power goes hand in hand with our higher nature, it’s all good.
Human beings are not always pretty, but we are real. ANd without accepting our base instincts, we are controlled by them. Without acknowledging and owning our so-called demons, we can’t be true and authentic.
We need to acknowledge these desires to reach our full humanity, and yes , wish for their fulfillment and much more.
Because none of these things will bring meaning or purpose to your life, but they can help you get the things that will. And they do make life easier. Theres’ no nobility in chooosing weakness over strength as long as that strrength is not at the expnese of another.
Of course, if we do buy into the machine, we are in real ways strngthening it. If you diye yor hair blonde, well, that’s another confirmist on the planet,and you are only streghenting the trend towards blondes.
But you are also strengthening yourself.
And if you feel good, why not?
I don’t know, I haven’t figured out all these things.
But I do know that honesty wins.
So namaste- after having admitted some things I am trying not to feel ashamed of but seem so un-yoga like- and let us embrace the non-duality of life.