You’re much stronger than you think you are.
—Superman from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman
Behold, I teach you the superman. The superman is the meaning of the earth.
Superheroes you ask? Yes. And I mean it. Bear with me; it’s not as crazy as it sounds, or maybe it is. I’ll let you decide. The 20th century gave birth to many things—the airplane, telephones, television, computers, the internet, but one of the few things that rarely gets mentioned, one of the best things human beings have ever created, is superheroes. They are the archetypal reminders of humanity’s highest aspirations manifested in fictional form.
Superheroes were born with the publication of Action Comics #1 in June 1938 written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Joe Shuster, which featured the first appearance of Superman, the father of all superheroes. Superman could not yet fly nor was he as strong as he would eventually become, but his appearance in Action Comics was the birth of the superhero as superheroes are currently thought of today. He was “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. . . .” There had never been a character so powerful in comic books or novels outside of religious texts.
When Superman burst on the comics scene in 1938, the world changed. All the mythical gods of the past may have been declared dead, but here was a new kind of god, an American god almost literally draped in the American flag, who represented not only democratic ideals, but truth and justice. Sure, there had been heroes of the past, gods that human beings aspired to be like, but never had there been a secular metaphor so powerful, so uniquely American whose popularity rivaled that of religious icons. You show a picture of Superman’s chest anywhere in the world and people will tell you exactly who he is. He may have begun as purely an American icon, but he now belongs to the world.
There has never been a character quite like Superman. He is the physical expression of a higher way of being, a totem if you will, symbolizing humanity’s tendency to evolve. His sense of morality and justice is unerring in its acuity. Jerry Siegel, in describing how he created Superman, says, “All of a sudden it hits me. I conceive of a character like Samson, Hercules, and all the strong men I had ever heard of rolled into one—only more so.” It’s the “only more so” part that is interesting because Siegel and Shuster created Superman with mythological archetypes in mind in terms of super strength (as well as borrowing elements from Moses’s and Jesus’s own literary origins), but they took their character a step further and eventually imbued him with an unerring sense of morality and justice aided with almost god-like powers and near invulnerability. They created Superman with the evolved ethical and moral codes that the best of humanity exhibited and others attempted to exemplify. Superman is a new kind of myth; he is a god on earth come to protect the weak and the powerless and to show human beings that we can become more than we are. He embodies humanity’s greatest ideals so deeply that he has internalized them, becoming humanity’s living conscience.
On the website The Best Article Every Day, a young woman posted a short article titled, “You Don’t Need to Exist to Inspire People: Why Superman Is My Hero,” describing her personal experience with the Man of Tomorrow as he appears in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman. Her experience, perhaps not so different than many readers in her valuing of superheroes, is a profound example of why Superman and superheroes are important to readers and why they remain ever popular in not just American culture, but human culture.
I have struggled with depression ever since I was ten years old. It had crippled me emotionally. I was 27 years old, no college degree, no job and no will to live. I decided to kill myself after Christmas. And then my sister’s boyfriend loaned me these comics. Superman is dying of radiation poisoning and is trying to complete all of his tasks before he dies, but he still takes the time to save a young girl who is about to jump off a building. I cried for hours after reading this. I identified with that girl so much, and I could almost hear Superman telling me that I’m stronger than I think. Now every time my depressesion [sic] starts to rear its ugly head, I just repeat his words and imagine him hugging me when I’m standing on the edge. It works better than any medication or therapy I’ve ever had. Now I’m in college and top of my class. I have friends. I have a life. And I don’t care that he’s a fictional comic book character. He still saved me.
Superman has remained the brightest star in comics for over seventy years not only because he was the first and greatest superhero, but because he represents the highest human potential. Over the last seventy years institutions have changed, politics have changed, governments have changed, cultures have changed, but Superman has remained virtually constant. He remains the idealized human being absent of any moral or spiritual flaws. Superman is human perfection incarnate and represents the evolutionary impulse in human beings to become better, more complex, more ethical, more spiritual, more loving, more compassionate, and more whole. He invites us to evolve. He invites us to become like him—to become a superhero.
Of course, we can’t match the Man of Steel’s physical superpowers (although in the future who knows?), but we can aspire to match his spiritual superpowers. To live up to our fullest human expression would indeed be superheroic. To treat one’s life with the serious care and concern necessary to develop oneself along many of the major lines of development from moral, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, even kinesthetic, is an engagement with the world on such an intimate level that one not only transforms oneself but changes the world as well. What Superman suggests is fully alive transcendent human beings engaged in the world at a high level of consciousness. The world needs us to be evolutionaries. The world needs us to be superheroes.
If the 20th century gave birth to fictional superheroes, the 21st century will give birth to real ones, men and women who are not afraid to grab evolution by the head and lead it; who will make a commitment to Spirit and see that it unfolds through humans into higher states of being and better ways of becoming; who will sacrifice their lower selves on the altar of their highest selves; who will have enough divine pride to stand where they are and say, “I am what the world has been waiting for. I can help. And I begin with making myself the best I can possibly be.” The world needs to be reminded that giants still walk the earth, that human beings possess almost limitless power, that on our best day we accomplish miracles. The world needs to be reminded that the power and responsibility to make our lives better is ours and always has been.
Superheroes derive their strength from inner authority, their superpowers metaphorically representing their spiritual strength. This is why they will never go out of style or be so deconstructed they collapse as the cultural symbols and moral signifiers they are. Superheroes, in their transformative and moral dimensions, are like Superman—bulletproof. They inspire readers to become more than what they are. They inspire us to take responsibility for our lives and cultivate the necessary human agency that will bring about our mutual liberation. The time for superheroes is now.
We must remember what Nietzsche implored us to do: “But by my love and hope I beseech you: Do not throw away the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!” Superheroes are the cultural seeds of transformation. It is superheroes as transformative catalysts that inspire readers to live their own heroic lives of self-actualization, service, and truth and justice too.
Capes are optional. Becoming a superhero is not.
“I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”
― Emily Dickinson
“Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.
I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
The whole aim of the world is to be known, to be seen. We all want to be held in another’s gaze, recognized, considered, affirmed, and acknowledged. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and even Myspace. All the likes, the status updates, the comments, the notifications, all are simply a means to see and to be seen. This human need is taken to a pathological degree in our celebrity culture where people will do just about anything to be seen, to be acknowledged, no matter what the reason, whether notorious or ignoble. In 2019 the individual, which once was at the forefront of American ideals, has been overwhelmed. The individual, that fundamental building block of democracy, has been silenced, ignored by the corporate-owned media, kept in poverty by corporations in league with our corrupt politicians, robbed by insurance companies, and bankrupted by the higher education system and the healthcare industry. The rise of “reality” television has charted the disenfranchisement of the individual. The very name “reality” show is an attempt to further undermine the dignity of the everyday lives of people, who begin to think that if they are not the star of their own show, feel they may be doing something wrong. Why are they not rich? Why are they not living in a mansion? Or in the words of the Talking Heads, “Where is that large automobile? You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house. You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife…”
If we are not rich and famous we MUST be failures.
The last refuge of the self in the midst of all this denial of self is to flail, to whimper, to cry out on some tasteless reality television show either competing against other contestants for a husband or eating cow testicles from a glass tank. This is what we have been reduced to: sad and empty beings devoid of higher values, our humanity reduced, commodified, sold to the lowest bidder, often given away for free. We live in a society where corporations are made into people and people are reduced to numbers. What once was a virtue is now made vice. In our heightened obscurity, we grow desperate. We grow needy. We want to be SEEN. We want to be known. We want to be famous. How else will our individuality be known in the cacophony of voices vying for prime time? It is not enough to be known by our families, our loved ones, our friends. In a culture where excess is the norm, escalation is the rule. We want to be stars. And now.
Our present state of affairs is scandalous. Everyday people are famous. Largely unjustified—Andy Warhol’s prediction come true. We fight, scrape, scramble our way to the top of the trash heap for 15 minutes of fame in an ephemeral culture that is incapable of long-term memory (a kind of cultural alzheimer’s), a culture that values escapism, frivolity, and distraction. But reality television is not the only phenomenon to chronicle the de-valuing of the individual—the rise of spectator sports also provides testimony. Noam Chomsky writes, "And what all these things look like is that people just want to use their intelligence somehow, and if you don't have a lot of technology and so on, you do other things. Well, in our society, we have things that you might use your intelligence on, like politics, but people really can't get involved in them in a very serious way -- so what they do is they put their minds into other things, such as sports. You're trained to be obedient; you don't have an interesting job; there's no work around for you that's creative; in the cultural environment you're a passive observer of usually pretty tawdry stuff; political and social life are out of your range, they're in the hands of the rich folks. So what's left? Well, one thing that's left is sports -- so you put a lot of the intelligence and the thought and the self-confidence into that. And I suppose that's also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter." We are cogs in a corporate wheel—expendable. Numbers on a ledger. Kant’s nightmare come true: we are merely a means to an end. Tools. Tools in the hands of immoral or amoral monsters.
So what’s left to do? Become famous or infamous, retreat obsessively into social media, abandon the culture altogether, or perhaps the healthiest option of all: Temet nosce... know thyself.
It seems to me the kind of knowing that social media and celebrity culture often offer is a poor sort of knowing. All surface, no depth. Is it being seen? Is it seeing? Is it truly holding others in our gaze? There are certainly ways to authentically connect with social media. I’m not sure the same can be said for celebrity culture. But we can certainly be skillful about the ways in which we connect online. But more importantly what I see in our current culture of unjustified fame and celebrity is a reminder of who I am. I’m brought into relief more clearly the more I see the extravagance of celebrity culture and the demi-gods of social media. I do not see them clearly and they do not see me. Shows like Catfish are popular because who really knows who it is behind a face, an image, a profile? It is always uncertain. We all are a little uneasy about who we connect with virtually. But one thing we can be certain of, and one thing that our culture seems to be preventing, is knowledge of self. Instead, we retreat into fantasy both of our own making and that of others’ making. We stare out through the only eyes that will ever know us, and instead of delving deeper into ourselves, we disappear online into that hall of mirrors distorting all of our realities.
The serial killer. The socialite. The celebrity. Those famous for being famous. All placed on the same altar of fame. Ours is a culture turned upside down. As Howard Zinn writes, “I start from the supposition that the world is topsy turvy. That things are all wrong…I start with the supposition that we don’t have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down.” Our culture is dis-eased. We are diseased from the inside out, and the outside in. We are bombarded from all fronts. Merit starves while mania prospers. Infamy is equated with achievement. It doesn’t matter how or why we are famous, so long as we are. It doesn’t matter how we become rich, only that we are. Jiddu Krishnamurti reminds us, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." We are indeed sick.
Exhausted by celebrity culture and social media, I have opted to minimize my time spent on social media. I no longer have cable, so celebrity culture is less of an influence, and I ignore most news reports about the life of stars. How does knowing that some celebrity has broken up with her boyfriend or has once again been arrested add meaning to my life? It doesn’t. I don’t need that kind of distraction. The more time I spend consuming information like that the less time I spend living and experiencing my own life in a constructive and meaningful way.
Philip Seymour Hoffman died several years ago, an actor whose body of work I followed from the very beginning. I loved his acting and his ability to create a character that both repelled and attracted the viewer. His commitment to a character was workman like, and yet, at the same time, transcendent. But as much as I love his work, his tragic death really does not affect my life. Will I miss his films? Yes. Will I lament in some fleeting moment in the future, perhaps over a glass of wine with friends, the films and characters he might have created? Undoubtedly. But I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman. And he didn’t know me. And this is crux of the matter: knowing. I would much rather know myself intimately for one single moment than be distracted or entertained by the lives of other people for ten thousand years. My life is inherently more valuable to me as is yours to you. Being truly known and truly knowing others is beautiful and one of the most wonderful parts of being alive.
Knowing ourselves is the whole point of living. If we do not engage in knowing ourselves, we risk missing the whole journey of life, which is essentially becoming who you are. In the poem, “In the End,” Tara Sophia Mohr writes:
“In the end
you won’t be known
for the things you did
or what you built,
or what you said.
You won’t even be known
for the love given
or the hearts saved,
because in the end you won’t be known.
You won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light:
What did you do to be known?
You will be asked: Did you know it,
this place, this journey…”
Do you know your life? Do you know your place in the world? Are you alive to every step of your miraculous human journey?
Do you know yourself?
Since 2011 the character Doctor Strange created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko became very important to me. He’s a rather odd sort of character that really should NOT work in narrative form. His only power is his magic. He doesn’t possess super strength and he’s not terribly flashy by today’s superhero standards. Last but not least, writers always run the risk of making his magical powers a deus ex machina, which makes him a difficult character to write for, hence his rather sporadic publication history. All the things most people dislike about him, I actually love. I love weird characters. He’s not an easy character to love, mind you. You have to have a rather eclectic background to have an appreciation for Doctor Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. I for one probably love him for very different reasons than most readers. For me, it comes down to magic. Real magic.
My interest in magic came pretty early in life, perhaps 12 or 13. Now, I wasn’t one of those kids who pulled rabbits out of hats or tried to wow friends with cards tricks that only worked half of the time and were still boring whether they worked or not. I was more of a Platonic magician, which is to say, I loved the IDEA of magic. But more precisely, I loved the idea of magicians. I loved Houdini first and foremost. His absolute and unswerving commitment to his craft was inspiring to that poor farm boy in North Carolina who was learning how to wade into the world of ideas. But what most people would call his magic was secondary to me. For me, the real magic took place BEFORE he performed his magic tricks. The real magic happened during all the solitary years he prepared himself to become arguably the world’s greatest (and certainly most famous) magician. To see his will expressed so elegantly, to witness his keen mind manifested in death-defying feats of physical and spiritual skill, was nothing short of sublime. I checked out every book from the local public library and even managed once to watch a documentary about him at my cousin’s house (who lived in town and had cable). Here was a man who through his will and sustained commitment transformed himself from Erik Weisz, one of seven children born in Budapest to Harry Houdini, magician-superhero. Becoming Harry Houdini was in many ways his greatest magic trick. Who he became was his highest creative act and a genuine work of art. All one has to do is look at a photograph of him at the height of his powers displaying his chiseled physique and his palpable grace and power, the external referents to his inner magic. So, magic and self-creation was linked in my mind from an early age.
Later when I was maybe twenty or twenty-one I discovered Doctor Strange. I can’t say for sure how I became aware of Doctor Strange, it’s one of the (pardon the pun) strange phenomenons where once you are aware of something it seems you were never NOT aware of it. If memory serves I thought he was a quirky character, one of Marvel’s B-listers for sure, and certainly very different from my most beloved DC superheroes like Batman and Superman. But there was an instant appeal, most of it on an intuitive level. Something about him spoke to me. Part of it I know now was Steve Ditko’s otherworldly artwork.
Ditko’s art was beautiful and unlike any I had ever seen. It was almost surrealistic with his depiction of the mystical worlds Doctor Strange travelled in. Shapes were twisted and space itself imbued with a shifting nature that it became almost a psychedelic experience to look at it. Many readers just KNEW Ditko was tripping on acid or mushrooms (this was the early 60s), and so, Ditko and Doctor Strange became a kind of symbolic hero for the hippie counterculture (of course, little did they know that Ditko was a staunch conservative who avoided all things remotely trippy). But his artwork was the stuff of magic itself—it created a space where the surrealistic beauty of the art alone was enjoyable. For me, his work became archetypal in its symbolic roots, and the formal qualities of his art represented in pictorial form what the inner worlds of consciousness vying with itself looked like.
He depicted the inner life of the mind as it sought enlightenment.
Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts was the enlightened mind warring with its own shadow elements manifested as demons, monsters, extradimensional warlords, wraiths, and even Death itself. Each adventure was the enlightened mind overcoming the stumbling blocks of illusion, human frailty, ignorance, and even evil. The landscape of Doctor Strange was for me always the inner life of the mind. It was psychology (the psyche-soul) played out in the superhero genre. But as I said, Doctor Strange also represented magic itself. Real magic.
The kind of magic I’m talking about is the kind that many artists of the past have used, artists like Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Harry Smith, Austin Osman Spare, Kenneth Anger, Marcel Duchamp, and recently Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Real magic as I understand it is the manipulation of symbols, language, to bring about a result in the world. It’s a process of manifesting the will of the magician into the world by means of interacting with the subtle and largely mysterious metaphysical version of the morphogenetic and probability fields. One of the greatest magicians working right now is Alan Moore and he describes magic as nothing less than art itself. Art and magic are interchangeable. The earliest descriptions of magic usually referred to magic as “the art.” And rightly so, because that’s exactly what it is. Moore in the “Mindscape of Alan Moore” says that the magic and sorcery textbook called a “grimoire” was simply a fancy way of saying “grammar” and that when someone said they were going to cast a “spell” it literally meant they were going spell. Magic in many ways is the science of language (whether that is the grammar of words, visuals, or music). Moore sees magic as a transformative force that can change a human being, and in doing so, change a society.
In magic’s liminal building project of art, it destabilizes the consciousness of the experiencer and in this disorientation the consciousness then must reach to integrate this new experience. It is the consciousness’s reaching that creates a new space in which the world can be viewed (in fact the actual world becomes new—when the mind changes, so does the world). This new space is more whole, more inclusive, and more complete than the latter. What I’m talking about is transcendence, transformation, or at the minimum, a state of consciousness (or a peak experience) that can facilitate a transformation of consciousness. It is this function of art (magic) that can literally transform the world.
It is this idea of magic that informs my love of Doctor Strange. He is the personification of human spiritual potential in the realm of magic. But he is also like Houdini and all the other self-made people and fictional characters I have used as inspiration in my own self-making. Doctor Strange had to re-make himself after a terrible car accident. Stephen Strange was first a world-famous neurosurgeon, but he was selfish and narcissistic and only cared about money and his own notoriety. After his car accident, his hands were so badly injured that he could never perform surgery again. Alone, depressed, and quickly becoming broke, he travels the world to find a cure. Finally losing everything he had ever owned, his quest leads him to the Himalayas where he meets the being who will become his teacher and who he will inherit the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme from, the Ancient One. It is there in the desolate mountains that he learns what powers he innately possesses, and he masters the mystical arts, becoming who we now know as Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the Mystical Arts!
Magic, self-making, mysticism, spirituality, human potential—all these things I equate with Doctor Strange. Every time I pick up a Doctor Strange comic I never fail to get an instant feeling of inspiration and hope. Sure, most people don’t get it, and that’s okay. He’s not for everybody. For me however, he’s one of the best comic book characters ever created. He’s pure magic.
I remember when being fit was an end unto itself. It was about the discipline, the training, and the diet. It was about enjoying the hard work. Enjoying the sacrifice. And yes, enjoying even the occasional suffering. It was about taking what we learned about ourselves in the gym and applying it outside the gym. It was about making our lives BETTER. It wasn’t so much lifting more weight or running more miles (although that was certainly a part of it), it was enjoying the challenge and just trying to be better than you were the day before. As George Sheehan was fond of saying, “Don’t be concerned if running or exercise will add years to your life, be concerned with adding life to your years.” We really were trying to add life to our years. It was not about likes, comments, or seeking out unnecessary supplements. We did the work FOR ourselves. We didn’t need an inauthentic inspirational quote from books we’ve never read every time we touched a weight or ran a marathon. It was about showing up and training with no distractions, no need to document every workout, just old fashioned sweat and hard work. It was a necessarily solitary pursuit.
But social media changed us.
The rise of social media has with it elevated every good and bad thing about ourselves. Who we are shows up online, warts and all. Even what we choose NOT to post reveals something about us. So it’s little surprise that our insecurities and pathologies tend to take most of the bandwidth of our social media influence. If we are not healthy, our social media won’t be either. And looking at the average Instagram fitness model or athlete, we are sick indeed.
A few months ago I saw yet another Instagram fitness model showing her hard won chiseled abs, but in doing so she was lifting her breasts up as well (this has become a common way for women to show their abs), which as we all know is about as useful as holding a spoon at the same time as showing your abs. I thought, “I’m so old I remember when women showed their abs without touching their breasts.” What could have been a moment of displaying hard work and discipline became simply another tedious moment of sexualizing the female form (and don’t misunderstand, I don’t care what people do with their bodies nor am I telling women what to do with theirs, but when one’s message is attempting to demonstrate the rewards or hard work and discipline, and it becomes sexualized, the message is muddled, perhaps lost altogether). It becomes, in a sense, pornography (in the sense of Orson Welles's idea of pornography being antipathetic to films or higher forms because pornography is accomplishing quite a different aim than than any other project, in other words, pornography or the excitation of one sexually, cannot be introduced to any other project as it is its antithesis). The constant sexualizing of the body and in general just the fetishizing of “health” is one of my biggest pet peeves in the health and fitness industry of which men and women are both guilty. Why does working out and eating healthily have to be sexualized, so much so that too many people live “the lifestyle” for reasons not at all connected with health? But to leverage for endorsements? For sex? For fame? Health and wellness is largely accidental. It’s not for self-knowledge, not deepening one’s relationship to self, culture, and nature, not understanding who we are as humans, just a crass cash grab.
This is not new of course. Health and wellness can be used for all manner of reasons, but this seems to be a modern pathology of the 21st century. I see both men and women now hyper-aware of their image so much so that even in family photos family members are now “angling” or refuse to take photos at all because they feel they cannot live up to an impossible standard of beauty or fitness. It has reached the point that many people curate their online image so much so that if they were to be seen in real life no one would recognize them. We have a generation right now that if they became a Missing Person no one would ever find them because no picture of them actually resembles them! To be so hyper fixated on image is, I believe, unhealthy and not well. The opposite of health and wellness.
What we may be seeing is culture-created Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). It is well-documented that with the rise of the 80s action movies came with it a focus on physical culture and a new awareness of body image. We can simply look at the evolution of the G.I. Joe doll from an average looking healthy man to today, a hyper muscular super athlete. How does this make young boys feel? Studies show (see the illuminating work of Katherine A. Phillips, among others) it makes them feel absolutely horrible, so much so that by puberty boys already feel bad about their bodies, a phenomenon that simply didn’t exist decades ago when healthier images of men were the norm. And don’t even get me started with Barbie. We as a culture are undermining the self-confidence of our healthy children, indoctrinating them with impossible standards of beauty and body-image when they are the most emotionally compromised simply to sell them supplements, exercise programs, and beauty products as adults.
The rise of the Instagram fitness model is a direct result of this culture, many of them themselves suffering from BDD, and although by most standards appear to be perfect in appearance, inside they feel as if they are grotesque, fat, or weak. We are all right now locked in this cycle of impossible beauty and fitness standards. The models suffer, their followers suffer, and the culture at large suffers. We’ve been sold a bill of goods that we must look a certain way to be healthy and it’s making us all miserable. We are all spending hours in the gym when the rest of our lives need us. We are prioritizing the gym over relationships, over careers, over emotional, psychological and intellectual health, over many other pursuits that would provide value and meaning to our lives. Instead of living balanced complete lives, we are living in the gym, all our eggs in that one limited basket. This is to have completely missed the point of health and wellness. This is again neither healthy nor well behavior.
For far too many fitness models it’s not even about health, but appearance. How many people would still lift weights, do yoga, etc. if it turned out it made you slightly fatter (but healthier)? What if your idea of strong didn’t match up to what men and women think of as sexy? Would you still strive to be strong? Would you still be proud of your body and post pics of it? I doubt it.
Now, I see nothing inherently wrong with using sex to sell a healthier lifestyle or a deeper relationship with the body. But this isn’t exactly what’s happening. If you leave your dick out while you happen to be lifting weights or are half naked when running, knock yourself out. If you are suggestively touching yourself in your pics demonstrating your fitness, again, knock yourself out. But we can do better, can’t we? As an industry, we can be better can’t we? Why can’t we offer up content meant to nurture not only the body, but the mind and soul? Why can’t we value psychological health as much as physical health? Monitoring our emotional well-being as how much as our weight? Why can’t self-actualization be at the forefront of our goals? If it’s not, what point is being physically healthy? If we have arrested development in our moral, psychological, emotional, and intellectual lives who really cares if we have abs?
I see fitness celebrities all the time posting online as if they were teenagers, their asses poked out, their bodies at awkward angles to accentuate their body shape, filters on their faces, emojis on their naked nipples, and putting forth beliefs developmentally appropriate for 8 year olds. It is cringe-worthy.
We can do better. We can BE better.
Will it be more difficult? Definitely. Will it be as flashy? Nope. Will you lose followers and get less likes? Likely. But we will be on the onramp of a healthier and happier culture. The health and fitness industry can actually for once live up to its name. We can demonstrate a mature way of being, confident in understanding the nature of the self, striving to always create a deeper relationship to life and the kosmos. The body is but the vehicle. It is merely the means through which we understand ourselves and the universe. To mistake the vehicle for the universe, to simply keep it shiny, is to have missed the point of the body, which is to use it to delve deep within it and mine its treasures in order to make them known to the world. But if we never get past the flesh, the soul will forever be an undiscovered country.
The old Instagram fitness model is, as an idea, obsolete. In its place is a new kind of Instagram fitness model, embodying mindfulness, integrity, wholeness, psychological and emotional maturity, and authenticity. It will be some time before this new model is valued, but as a culture, we’re ready. With every new like, comment, and follow of the old Instagram fitness model, the need for a new one is further demonstrated.
The world needs you.