I’m still thinking about Shayne Silvers’ Silver Tongue, one of the Nate Temple supernatural thriller series. The book explores some deep themes, as I wrote about last week, and I’m still exploring its depths. In this post, I’d like to discuss reliance on one aspect of our power—whether that be supernatural power or the more mundane like beauty, brains or brawn. It’s an interesting issue, and a bad habit to which many of us succumb. As Nate Temple tells us, “When you know you can use your powers to get what you want, you can very easily find that you are using it for every single situation. You need to use your mind, values, morals. Your power isn’t the be-all, end-all.” From the mouths of fictional characters… easier said than done, Master Temple.
I was a physically unattractive child, all gangly limbs, sharp angles and a nose that earned me the lovely epithet, “Pinocchio.” My childhood was super fun. Not. Anyway, as an ugly duckling, it fell to me to observe the pretty girls, the petite beauties with upturned noses and perfect hair, who knew from an early age how to work their looks to achieve their goals. A bat of an eyelash here, big puppy dog eyes there, a flirtatious grin, a seductive glance. These girls knew exactly what they were doing to capitalize on their assets. I envied them so much it hurt.
But I noticed something else as the green-eyed monster was devouring me from the inside out. I noticed that because I wasn’t so pretty, and therefore somewhat invisible to boys and many adults as well, I was forced to rely on other assets. I didn’t have beauty, but I was smart. My intelligence garnered me all sorts of accolades, leading to achievement and success. I slowly realized that if I had to choose, I was much more content with brains over beauty, because I could use my mind to get what I wanted. And I did.
Athletes rely on their bodies to go where they otherwise couldn’t (I’m watching my sons’ friends earn admittance to colleges well beyond their intellectual capacity as a result of their skill on a lacrosse field). These boys and girls and men and women are learning that their physicality is the golden ticket and they work it. I totally get it.
But each of us—beauty, brains and brawn—can be more unbalanced than Donald Trump talking about the mayor of London. Speaking from my own experience, I’m usually convinced that everything is “figure-out-able,” as Marie Forleo claims. I can attack any problem with my big brain and it will bow down to my intellectual superiority. Well, maybe not so much. I’ve gotten into serious trouble by using only the top twelve inches of my body. I forget about my heart, my values, my morals, as Nate Temple warns. This can be a problem and lead to ridiculous and dangerous outcomes.
I can think myself into justifying anything. I’m very persuasive, especially in the confines of my own head: just one more cookie; that street looks kosher; I don’t need to study anymore for that exam; just this once. We’ve all been there, done that, some with better results than others. The biggest problem with only having a hammer, be that beauty, brains or brawn, is that everything looks like a nail. Even if it’s a fragile flower. Over reliance on one characteristic or attribute leads to laziness and mediocrity, if not worse.
It also leads to our building up one set of muscles at the expense of all the rest. Imagine what we’d look like if we only did biceps curls at the gym. Or we only did squats. Eventually, we would look weird or even grotesque. Here, like so many other places, balance is the special sauce on the Big Mac of our lives. Without it, we taste like shit.
For me, I had to make the perilous eighteen inch drop from my head to my heart, allowing more than the facts to influence my actions. I also learned rather late, unfortunately, that even a big brain is housed in a decaying body, and if I only paid attention to developing my intellect, the flesh that housed it was going to go the way of all of it.
For those who rely on their looks, well, I’ll just mention Cher, Ellen Barkin, Melanie Griffith and Barry Manilow and let you draw your own conclusions. That shit don’t last, people, and having your eyes close when you sit down is not attractive. Just say no.
Ditto for the athletes trying to maintain their youth and its attendant strength and endurance. Also ephemeral. And if that is all you have, then you need to plan well. I always feel bad for athletes who claw their way out of poverty with their athleticism, only to burn brightly for a short time with no plan for a future that doesn’t include multi-million dollar contracts. Very sad, because like everything else in life, this too shall pass.
And maybe that is the point. Every dog has its day, and all of us have attributes with planned obsolescence. Therefore, it’s important to cultivate the characteristics that last, like values and morals. That Nate Temple dude knows from whence he speaks. We should listen. And read. And think. And exercise. And take pride in our appearance even if we’re not as beautiful as Venus and Adonis. We should cast our net widely and use all that we have, staying balanced in our approach to life and in pursuit of our goals. It’s the way to use our power for good.