Layered Palm leaves against light blue sky

Who gets to define us

Within modern life, where are standards being set? Sometimes it seems there’s such a circularity to it all – needing money to live, yet peddling against a never-ending tide of shifting targets as we attempt to prove or maintain our worth in the eyes of others. As if we’re stuck in a cleverly designed loop that’ll simply consume all our energy, churning away through limited resources and finite time.

Aren’t the ends quite neatly tied up? The industries profiting from our belief in these standards being the same ones often establishing – and, forever changing – them. As if we might spend our whole lives chasing this illusion of worth, belonging and admiration, always finding it drifting out of reach as we approach. Like a mirage, an oasis, a hope that leads us to believe there’s a destination. (Notes One)

It’s almost as if every aspect of our being has been broken down and set against conveniently unattainable goals. Aren’t many of them mutually incompatible? Like beauty and cleansing, or indulgent versus healthy lifestyles. As if industries are literally propping themselves up by solving or creating each other’s problems. This house of cards approach to human needs where we’ll never quite achieve balance.

And maybe that is what it is? A market, filled by our quite natural demand for approval and acceptance. Don’t we all want to feel we belong? That others look on us with respect and consider us part of this community. Aren’t we looking to culture to understand how we should judge – which things are worthy of praise? This code for how we should “read” the world and act within it. (Notes Two)

How else do we know what to make of one another, or what choices best define us? Maybe we need these reference points to know what our options “mean” or “say” about us as people. But it’s interesting to imagine who’s setting these standards; and, what they really mean. In terms of life and how we choose to live it – the impacts we’re having and values we’re living by – what kind of options are we given?

Sometimes it just seems almost everything dovetails into commerce: beauty industries defining beauty; porn industries defining relationship; modelling industries defining appearance. As if product, demand, need and solution are all tangled together into these compulsive, addictive cycles. As if we’re chasing “self” or “love” in the pursuit of such things (Notes Three).

It’s intriguing how meaning and profit merge together. How we seek identity or definition through crafting our image, our brand, out of what’s available. Each curating our sense of “who we are” by drawing, so knowingly, from the options presented. All these personal statements as we highlight our own take on life through the unique combination of our choices.

Isn’t it an interesting way to be spending our lives – our chance at life – on this planet? This sense in which we’re seeking meaning, purpose or self-esteem through these almost entirely commercial offerings. As if that’s where our worth lies.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 1: Solving all the problems we’re creating
Note 2: Visual language and spaces
Note 2: Places of belonging & acceptance
Note 2: Culture as what we relate to
Note 3: This thing called love
Note 3: Markets, and what they might mean
Note 3: Where do we get our ideas from?

Of course, there’s circularity to nature as well, but it doesn’t seem to operate quite as we do: Appreciating other ways of being.

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