Thursday, October 12, 2006

Defacing reality

Among the newspaper racks outside my local drug store is one for Signs of the Times, a monthly Seventh Day Adventist publication. Last year the July issue caught my eye with large letters “ASSURED” and the picture of a woman in her thirties who simultaneously looked like someone very assured and a grown up version of a girl I knew in elementary school. That was sufficient to hook me into reading their version of why it’s a good thing to have the assurance of being Christian.

I picked it up again recently. The cover really does look like my childhood friend. My actual friend is probably much older than this model by now, but I was curious and the inside cover lists a credit for the picture, so I wondered what I could find about this on the internet. That was easy. The picture is right here: (The site won't let me link to the image directly, but its number is 200164133-001)

The picture was altered for the cover. It was cropped horizontally at the level of the left cuff of her sweater, which I suppose makes her look even more assured, as it emphasizes her face more. I notice that it also hides that she’s wearing blue jeans, though. More clearly deliberate is that her earring is gone on the cover. Hey, if you don’t like reality, just change it.

I had wondered when I first picked up this magazine if the model on the cover was a Seventh Day Adventist. Did they just get someone who worked in the office to strike an assured pose? No, they didn’t. There is a series of pictures with this model at Getty Images. Some are wholesome and maternal. Some aren’t, even beyond just an earring. I’m pretty sure she’s not Seventh Day Adventist. She’s also not my childhood friend, since the resemblance disappears with other poses, and the date of the pictures is 2001. My friend was definitely older then. So my questions were answered.

Then there was this additional information. They took away her earring? Oh what liars. He I thought this woman was a paragon of virtue, as my friend was, and it turns out she’s a whore. Isn’t that what they’re saying an earring means?

I’m sure I would lie a little in service of a greater truth. I’m also glad I had the opportunity to find all the pictures from this series. There are some interesting themes there. I wouldn’t have had that if the cover had to have been of a woman who in fact wasn’t wearing an earring. Maybe they would have just gotten someone from their church then instead of a professional. It’s a little thing.

Yet for me it’s so symbolic for a big thing. Human beings hate reality. They love spin. They love deception to make something look more like they want it to be. It’s not just religion, but politics, entertainment, anything where perception can substitute for reality. Give me reality any day, the earring, the blue jeans, even things much worse. I think someday people will learn to face reality better, not by throwing away God, but by coming to understand who God really is. She tells me She likes wearing tasteful earrings and blue jeans, sometimes.

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