A real resolution
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I asked a friend of mine what she wanted for Christmas. "Botox," she said, joking, but not entirely. She hates the deepening creases in her forehead, the age in her face. She wishes she looked younger, prettier and, of course, thinner. She has vowed to exercise more and eat healthier in the New Year. Haven't we all?
It sometimes seems to me that one-third of the conversations I have with the people around me — most of us privileged and to varying degrees pampered — concern physical plaints: the love handles that won't be whittled, the hairline in retreat, the knees crying foul over decades of running, the crow's-feet heralding the end of our salad days and the beginning of — what? Our wilting? If we don't feel bad about our necks, we feel bad about plenty else.
And even when I was younger, I heard or participated in no shortage of similar talks. From the time we become fully aware of our bodies, so many of us are at ceaseless war with them. We obsess over their imperfections. We will them into different contours and hues. And we line the coffers of beauty purveyors, as if attaining some carnal ideal could confer contentment.
I think about this whenever I reflect on one of my favourite movies from 2012. I saw it about three months ago, at a screening before its theatrical release, and it has stayed with me since, not so much for its artistic worth — though it's amply worthy — as for its spiritual merit.
That probably makes it sound sappy, which it is, just a bit. It's also a chamber piece, not a symphony, and it's performed in a minor key.
But this movie, The Sessions, has as much to say about the human experience as grander, more lavishly praised and more widely discussed productions like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. And part of what it says is that our bodies are not ourselves. That we can be dealt a set of imperfections — of crushingly severe limitations, in fact — and nonetheless transcend them, with some help and some luck and, above all, some grit. That we can look as far beyond the flesh that we've inherited as we resolve to, and that fulfilment is a mindset, at least in many cases and to some extent.
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