“Over the great doorway of one of New York’s skyscraping office buildings three colossal sculptured figures are posed in crouching attitudes. With their great bowed heads, grimly tense features, and muscles strained like whip- cords they seem to hold on their broad shoulders the terrific weight of twenty or more stories of solid masonry. They are really only—pompous shams. Theirs is only a Herculean pose. Theirs is only the pretense of the strenuous—not its reality. They were put in after the building was completed; they could be removed without endangering the safety of the edifice in the slightest. They have no more real responsibility than a wandering fly, tarrying for a moment on the flag-pole on the roof.
There are thousands of such sculptured figures in the world of society today. They are men whose powers are evidenced in ounces, whose pretense is proclaimed in tons. They are those whose promises out-soar the eagles, whose performance is lower than the flight of the mud-lark. They are constantly posing physically, mentally, morally, socially, or spiritually. By juggling with excuses of their vanity and selfishness they may mislead themselves and others for a time but usually—they deceive only themselves. They are most often like the village fool who thought he played the organ when he only—pumped the bellows.” ~ William George Jordan
I’ve noticed over the years that there are many who are content with merely playing a part and few who are truly living life. The former envision what they think their life should be like and then set about to actualize that vision through intention and often Herculean self-activity, while the latter allow the vision of their life to unfold form the inside out, without arbitrarily shaping it in their mind’s eye beforehand. This is the true secret between living and merely existing.
It is easy to get caught up in the passion play of human existence, where, in the absence of an awareness of true meaning and purpose, substitute aspirations are clamored for with fervor and vigor. Fame, fortune, the accumulation of personal knowledge and power are but a few of the surrogates that captivate the softened minds and hardened hearts of men divorced from true purpose, indeed, there are thousands more. Unfortunately, these contrivances are but hollow symbols of the real thing.
Everyone worships something. Why not have reverence for the real thing? I believe that many of our present leaders are doing the best they can within the framework of this disconnected state, where true purpose is largely supplanted by imaginative yet self-concocted distractions, but I also can imagine an integrated state, where true purpose is matched with the boundless determination of human beings everywhere. In such a state leaders would be respected, selfless and genuine.
When one person is out of position with respect to his true purpose, another must step in locum tenens to balance the books. When millions are out of position the accounts become increasingly difficult to balance. The surface appearance of time marching on gives evidence of progress, yet scratch just below the surface and you find that most do not equate the so-called advances of civilization with an increase in happiness, meaning or purpose.
Many through history have been fooled by this great deception. Will more money or power lead you closer to your fulfillment? Will fame and renown bring the lightness of heart and peace of mind desired by so many through the ages? Given the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, you are wise to give pause and consider your options.
In saying this I do not advocate asceticism or hermitism. Removing yourself from the world is not the answer. Neither do I support rushing headlong into denial under the banner of carpe diem. I have long been intrigued by the merciful suggestion that we can be in the world but not of it. The world today more than ever is in need of those who have discovered their true purpose and who are unafraid to remain true to it in daily function.
What say you? Are you tired of striking a pose? Why not give up your acting career and be yourself, once and for all?
18 thoughts on “The Sculpted Figures of Society I”
What a great, yet simple call to each person – to be yourself. I think you’ve illustrated through your blog the ways that we don’t let our true selves be exposed, but you’ve also illustrated so many ways that we can learn to be ourself. I appreciate the constant reminder that it’s possible, do-able and ultimately the only way to truly live. Thanks again for a great post.
What a great post, Gregg, appreciate the thoughts.
Living in New York certainly brings these sort of questions to the forefront of the mind, it’s one fashion or another everywhere you look.
Any advice for using that power without personally succumbing?
t really comes down to where you place your identity, James. As I mentioned in my post Dress for Success, your clothes are the calling card to your personality. When you have it backwards, that is, when what you believe that what you have defines you more than who you are, you fall prey to the condition so well-described in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
So my advice to your excellent question:
1. Look to be a blessing in all things.
2. Resist the temptation to be pulled off track by promises of wealth, position or fame that will be given as soon as you pay for it with your honorableness.
3. Be willing to lose everything, on a moment’s notice if need be, to maintain your integrity.
4. Beware of the red flag called “the fear of loss.” If this creeps in you’ve probably placed a down-payment on one of the Emperor’s latest fashions!
That is great advice!! Thank you!
Anytime! Well, daily anyway.
I chuckled at Mr. Jordan’s quote, “They are most often like the village fool who thought he played the organ when he only—pumped the bellows.” The updated version of ” a legend in their own mind”. I think the drug of arrogance or the vacuum that pretense creates, can make people embarrassingly stupid. Settling for the appearance of a life is such a waste, it is squandering the golden life we were given. Living each moment as meaningful as if someone said it is our last, filled with the significance that we alone were meant to bring, is the only way to live authentically. Your insightful post reminds me of the fable, “The Emperors New Clothes”, with the saving grace we can unmask ourselves,thanks.
We not only can but we must! It is imperative if we are to truly live!
Great post that will inspire many hours of introspect this week. Thank you!
Make sure that you look outward more than you look inward, for the outpouring of genuine blessing cleans out the cobwebs of false identity faster than any other approach!
This post today really hit home. Am I really living life or just going through the motions? I figure there are at least a few questions I can answer that will help me see whether I am acting or really living. One question might be: Am I doing the best I can each day with regards to taking the opportunities that come my way? Because true living means not making a prior picture of your life-to-be in your head and then striving to make it happen, you have to be extra sensitive to the opportunities that come your way. If you take each moment and weigh it against your knowledge of what is true, you can make sure your life is moving in the right direction.
What opportunities will come your way today? The more sensitive you become, the more you realize that life’s opportunities are always far greater than anything you could concoct in your head. And life’s opportunities have the added benefit of not being sculpted figures that hold up nothing. They are organic; grown in the womb of life where all truly vital things spring from.
I want to come from there, and not from the land of imagination that has no relation to real life.
Life does have a way of delivering pleasant surprises if you give it half a chance. The trouble comes when the filter through which life must flow (your body, mind and heart) is clogged with prejudices, preconditions and expectations. It sounds strange, but you have to make room for life to truly live!
I am really enjoying your ongoing work with Jordan’s excerpts – you two make a great team for inspiration and just making plain sense.
There are certainly those who pose and pretend, some with artful genius and others as rather poor actors. The more artful ones, those who can really keep up a presense, tend to be the leaders of men, possibly even immortalized in statues! Still others eschew the whole ‘act’ and work hard to be as ordinary as possible – no artifice, just the unvarnished evidence of human nature! Various forms of pride tend to cement these images, but hollowness at the core remains so often as the common factor.
Honesty, genuineness, humility, radiant concern to bring value – these are not qualities that can be sculpted, and yet to be true to them requires specificity, thought and deliberate action, especially when the circumstances are difficult. Posing and pretense have their place in childhood, as tools of learning, but real character must fill from the inside out, being cured and proven in the fires of living. Shouldn’t living examples of nobility and strength be more inspiring than rigid statues?
I remember in high school, under various social and peer pressures, I’d try on different ‘costumes’ of the current fashions with the hopes of finding some meaningful identity. I didn’t know who the heck I was where others seemed to me to be so sure – they all looked so comfortable and seemed to fit right in. A very awkward phase indeed, and I spanned the gamut of the well-groomed conservative fashions all the way to the outright rebelliously disheveled. I look back today and laugh, and thank the stars that as time went on, I was able to outgrow all that because these fashions have a weird way of plastering on the codes of behavior that go along with them, jailing you to stay tightly within the framework of that particular design. I always felt constrained somehow, though I didn’t know what else to do. Now I see fashion from an inside out perspective, where you aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone or aiming to find a sense of identity, just simply and naturally expressing your tastes and the sensitivities to yourself and your environment.
I know now that if I had continued in that direction, I would be tired. I would be miserable, absolutely miserable, because I would not be being myself. The conformist pressures always left me unhappy and confused in some way, and then I would seek escape in reaction to all that, leaving me further disoriented. Talk about a dog chasing its tail!
If by nature we are worshiping something all the time, if we are bowing to an overlord of whatever thought or idea we have accepted freely, I agree, let it be the real thing. Alot of suffering and heartache will be spared and we can be free to explore our lives in peace with ourselves and in harmony with others.
One more thing……it’s funny where back in high school, if you ‘made it’ into the clique of cool, if you had just enough cool originality within the boundaries of the style, the uncoordinated ones who just didn’t have it were called posers. That’s a great word, a modern colloquial of Jordan’s ‘sculptured figures’!
How’s that for a slap in the face.
Wide awake now, let’s keep it that way and move, I for one, do not wish to be in a “Madonna” video, nor would I like to be known a Pre-madonna. (the show is over) Everything isn’t ok over here…. it will be now though.
The option I have is to move with the heightened awareness through application now!
I’m with you Gregg!
I love that line “Why not have reverence for the real thing?” Well, why not? Defense of anything else quickly starts to crumble. Excellent post!!
It seems we are here for such a short time. I read about a new therapy to help the dying gain a certain dignity; they are asked a series of questions then record the answers and the recording is given to their family. The questions have to do with the results they feel about their lives, the meaning, mistakes, high points, etc. I thought how helpful this may be as it may offer some closure, hard to actually say as it is not my situation at the present. What I could envision is asking myself those questions now when there still is the opportunity to change. I love the question of our individual purpose it would seem apparent that it is the key to individual peace and fulfillment. I am enjoying this series based on William Jordan’s writing. I’m not surprised that in your life quest to find your purpose you discovered his work…seek and you will find always seemed true. Thanks for your effort.