Isn't it wonderful how the spoken words of other human beings spark new ideas in us?
Even if the spoken words were uttered decades ago?
And in completely different contexts?
I came across a phrase recently spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. at a 1958 speech he gave at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word 'maladjusted.’ Now we all should seek to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things."
King went on to preach a gospel of "creative maladjustment." Especially when it came to racism and discrimination and violence.
I love this phrase. I honor King's genius for it.
And of course, I humbly acknowledge that his fight was against a far more damaging and insidious foe than "beauty sickness."
I pause and honor his work.
And then ... I respectfully borrow his powerful phrase and apply it to my Lenten fast from all the messages my culture throws at me about how much time, energy and focus I am supposed to give to my body -- how it looks, what it weighs, what people think of it, and how I should assess it.
I ask: "How can I live in a state of 'creative maladjustment' when it comes to beauty sickness?"
What a wonderful, fascinating, energizing question!
What are the most troubling aspects of the beauty sickness culture that surround us?
What aspects do I want to be maladjusted to?
And how can I do so creatively?
What kinds of healthy, happy, empowering ways of living can I include in my life instead?
What sorts of kind, thoughtful, winsome, joyful ways of engaging with my body can I implement?
When I see the "Ten Ways to be Swim Suit Ready in One Week!!!" articles in a magazine, perhaps I laugh and turn the page. Or toss the dang thing in the recycling bin.
I mean, I AM swim suit ready, right? I have a swim suit. And I am ready.
When I feel tempted to judge my arms or legs or tummy for not looking like J Lo's, I remember how making her body look like it does is her entire life's work, and I remember that it is not mine.
When I think about an upcoming trip, I spend my time researching the best hiking spots, selecting which great novels I will bring to read, and the quirkiest restaurants we can enjoy, rather than focusing on how much weight I "should" lose before we go.
Do you see?
Creative maladjustment, friends.
It is the perfect push-back against the prison of beauty sickness that threatens our freedom every darn day.