Judging by the Cover

September 26, 2007

Over the past 50 years, American consumerism moved away from the ration-book scarcity of World War II era, to consumption and accumulation. Showing no signs of deceleration, the fury for acquiring more possessions, quicker delivery, and expanded capability, continues to pervade our collective consciousness. As individuals, when we take a deep breath to relax from frenzied materialism, we realize much of our desire comes from the appealing presentation of products, ideas, lifestyles and, to some extent, self-esteem, rather than recognition of the value and substance of the same.

Wilson Bryan Key, in his book Subliminal Seduction, describes some lengths advertising and marketing firms may go to allure you into opening your wallet. Generally thought of as far-fetched, Key’s book points out almost conspiratorial methods carefully designed to influence the very real part of your subconscious mind to flow helplessly and obediently into the buying process. While worthy of consideration and reflection, Key’s findings may or may not simply be the product of a researcher with too much time on his hands, the book clearly raises doubts and inevitably concerns, over your conscious choice. Certainly we’re not helpless in our decisions to buy a particular product or not, nor our preference of one brand over another, but Key provides compelling arguments for the influential practice of deliberate packaging and marketing.

The newest packaging also gives us the most frustration! Springing from the violation of Tylenol bottles some years ago, the “tamper-proof” package now extends far beyond anything we ingest in our bodies. Not only child-proof medication bottles, but everything from a new flashlight, to computer accessories, to shrink-wrapped hardware, the plastic-encased products stand as the norm. Instead of easily opening the end of a cardboard box to pull out the product just purchased, we resort to almost injuring ourselves with a box-cutter styled knife to slice open the heavy hermetically sealed wrapping. Then, we ask ourselves, "Can anything inside this package be worth the risk I take to open it?"

The first thing you notice about another person is his or her sex . Once your brain determines either male or female, you then quickly assess the appeal-factor of the person against your subjective opinion. Whether you like blondes or redheads, fair coloration or a swarthy complexion, your attraction to another person clicks in your mind almost immediately. Opinions and conclusions about the person also arise from the outer appearances which determine your attraction. Somehow, you magically decide that a person is kind, capable, approachable or fearsome, from a few seconds of a glance.

To complement our use of visual cues about others, we strive to put forth our own best packaging so that we achieve the desired effect. When someone wants solitude, perhaps he wears a low brimmed hat or sunglasses or a hooded jacket, and walks with a bowed down head so as not to encourage eye contact. When we want attention, we also dress and behave accordingly. When we want approval, we mirror our outer appearance to reflect what we feel others may respond to favorably. Still, all the hair coloring and styling, dresses and suits, still cannot formulate a mask which completely encapsulates our character. Like a book, our real treasure lives blessedly inside our outer presentation.

Ever have an idea that, on its surface, seems wacky or far-fetched? If you allow yourself the liberty of pursuing a line of development of that idea, you may uncover a surprising amount of substance you didn’t imagine possible. Most of the world’s best inventions came by accident! Certain plastics, Post-it® Notes adhesive, and in some cases even Thomas Edison’s many patents, arose from the inventor really searching for something completely different.

Everything begins with an idea. The Infinite gives the gift of ideas to you each day. Perhaps a new route to work or an urge to go to a certain store or event, leads you to an encounter you needed to experience. Clever notions of ways to surprise a loved one for no special reason, or to raise money for charity, demonstrate ideas in action. One person, not afraid to tear off the paper bag of impossibility and let the shining face of a good idea come to light, ventures into an unobstructed view of opportunity.

In putting our "best face forward," as humans, we try to appear as good as possible to the world. Sure, we staunchly defend our positions, or argue for our own limitations, but for the most part, we do our best to reveal our most positive qualities. Many of us look in the mirror each morning to assess and reassess our appearance, and put on clothing that makes us feel good. Sometimes we go through two or three total wardrobe changes before we happily decide on the perfect costume and mask to walk out the door and face the world.

Setting aside the external appearance you display to the world, consider the masquerade ball of your inner self. Ready to dance through life, we adorn ourselves with costumes of attitudes and beliefs to convince either others – or really ourselves – of our intrinsic worth. We dare to test ourselves, destructively and repeatedly, to reassure our self-esteem that our cover depicts the more appealing book of our enlightened self-truth within.

The tabloids tell us about the successes and failures of celebrities and well-known people. In many cases, the cover and headlines of the publication present a far-more enticing story than the actual exposition inside. Do the “facts” uncovered by nefarious research truly reveal more than just circumstance or situation of that individual? In reality, it makes no difference someone’s intimate partner, or whether or not a movie star underwent cosmetic surgery. None of these cover stories – including ones about aliens – effect or relate to you or me in any way. Sensationalist packaging lures us to learn further the antics of someone (anyone other than ourselves), to essentially draw conclusions from superficial coverage portrayed by a brief moment in time.

Lives described as charmed, lucky, fortunate or blessed, rarely land above-the-fold exposure or headlines. The odd, misfortunate, troubled or self-destructive characters attract our attention because we placate ourselves that we’re not as bad off as they.

We reach beyond all outward appearances and notions of self-preservation and credibility, and discover that life, itself, is a cover. Life, with all its miracles and mystery, its complexity and simplicity, provides us with everything we need, at just the right moment, to progress on our path.

If we judge our life by what it looks like in manifest form, we rarely get to the heart of what’s important between the beginning and ending hard-cover of our lives. Looking at the carefully illustrated book-jacket, how does your life appear to others or yourself? The truth of your being lies in plain site strategically buried in the pages of time and experience.

On a small scale, we understand that our bodies act as vehicles which carry our souls. Taking it a step beyond, we realize that life – our earthly existence – is also a shell that allows us to experience relationships and eventually achieve spiritual mastery.

The covers we choose to wear either define us or liberate us. The important thing to remember is to always look inside the book of your life and learn from the chapters of your heart and the story of your soul.

1230 words

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