I had the unfortunate experience of passing a mirror the other day. I did not look as good as I felt and it made me mad. I felt like the mirror was tricking me, because in my head, I looked much better. I had witnessed myself looking better many times. I was sure of it. What was this stupid mirror’s friggin’ problem!?! I wondered. After some soul searching and kicking my dog, I came to the conclusion that mirrors are both criminally deceptive and warmly reassuring. They are both tremendous liars and unbearably honest and it really depends on the day as to which I prefer. It depends on whether the lie or the truth makes me feel better. Usually, I suspect, it’s the lie.
This mirror passing incident inspired much thought about how we look. I mean how we REALLY look. It seems that how we look changes all the time. Some days, I look in the mirror and think, “Not too shabby, Markwell. Not too shabby.” Other days, I see a thin-haired, rather Shrek-ish creature unworthy of even a cross glance in my direction. I don’t know if my looks really change that dramatically or not. However, I do notice that sometimes other peoples’ looks do indeed change. I can look at my son one day and see a fine, handsome, and intelligent kid capable of capturing the heart of the fairest maiden in the kingdom, otherwise known as the hottest chick in class. Other days, I look at him and see a creepy, hairy, little rodent complete with the big teeth and yellow eyes and I am sad with the understanding that he is going to die lonely. I love him either way, so don’t judge me here…and it’s unlikely that he’s really that ugly anyway, even on a bad day, but here lies my question: What do we really look like? Are we our best or our worst vision of ourselves? And what determines which look we see? Many factors, I’m sure, shape our perception, but I think the most urgent one is simply how we feel. When we feel good we look good, even to ourselves. It is impossible to look bad, feeling good. I have known plenty of average, if not outright ugly, people who look beautiful, because they are happy. Likewise, I have known many of pretty, but ugly folks as well. Beauty is an illusion. It is a magic trick. It is not a “look” and cannot be seen. It is felt. Beauty is a personality and has its own life. It lives in an easy smile and a kind word, a hearty laugh and a genuinely concerned frown. It is that which connects us as human animals on our deeper levels.
Our judgment of beauty is sometimes primitive, largely banal and usually involves unseen elements of character which sway the eyeball one direction or another. I believe, though, that we will always recognize and appreciate a truly beautiful soul, sometimes even our own. With this in mind, I will not call my son ugly just because he invents, on a daily basis, new ways to shave time off of my life. I know, more than anyone, how truly extraordinary he is. And if the mirror is unkind to me, I will simply shine a casual middle finger in its direction and move on with my day. A mirror can’t feel the minute variations in a heartbeat or see inside a soul and that’s where everything important and truly beautiful resides.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called "A Feel Good Life" (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]