Sunday, April 1, 2007
Anorexia of the Soul?
It is always interesting to me when all sorts of texts in my life start overlapping.
This morning I read an article in the New York Times called “For Girls, it’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.” The article chronicled the lives of a few girls who live just outside of Boston in a prestigious community and have the luxury of attending one of the best public schools in the country. The premise of the article is that girls now have a freedom that wasn’t open to even just the previous generation of women. This freedom has opened up so many opportunities for young women to explore and pursue, but also begs the question at what cost?
The girls in the article are juggling AP classes, extracurriculars, community service and social expectations. The message that is understood, the title of the article, is that they should be themselves—pursue what moves them and excites them—and at the same time make sure that they land A’s in all classes, nail the SAT’s, and have all the right extra activities that will bolster their resume for college application. On top of that is the message that being pretty counts. Aye.
One of the mothers made an extremely interesting comment: “You just have to hope that your child doesn’t have anorexia of the soul.” That idea is devastating—to starve the part of you that makes you truly live; to push that part of your identity to the side in the name of success or achievement or acknowledgement.
I also had the privilege of watching many of my seventh graders perform Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” this week. I studied this book in college, but forgot how powerful a metaphor it was. Victor Frankenstein dedicates his entire life to studying science, forsaking relationships to the point that he misses his mother’s funeral. Eventually, he is on the brink of his educational quest: to bring to life a creature made from various parts of dead bodies. Disgusting, yes. But so is the way that this parallels so many lives. The creature becomes the physical manifestation of Victor Frankenstein’s inner life. The moment it comes to life, he is so disgusted by it that he wants to kill it. The creature gets away, and despite its desire for comfort and love, does not know its own strength and becomes responsible for the deaths of many close to Victor. By the end, Victor’s entire family is lost, including his fiancée. Victor then dedicates his life to chasing down his monster, only to realize that he himself cannot kill it. Then he dies.
The final link in all of this is a question that my pastor, Tim Keller, repeatedly talks about in his sermons: What is your ultimate identity?
This is where the phrase “anorexia of the soul” sticks the most. Am I living in a way that is taking the literal life out of me? Am I pursuing things that will ultimately have the metaphorical equivalent of Victor Frankenstein’s creature?
Jeremiah 17: 5-6 Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
This is where I picture Victor Frankenstein. This is a visual of anorexia of the soul.
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
This is where I want to find my ultimate identity. In something that gives life that is truly life.