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Look After You Leap

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I walked past our girls’ room yesterday and saw a book lying open-faced in the chair. On the earmarked page it read, “By the time he was 57, President George Washington was completely toothless.”

Huh. Didn’t know that. Twice I caught my grandfather without his false teeth – accidentally and only twice. It shocked me both times. I’d seen strangers and National Geographic photos of people with nothing but gums, but this was my grandfather who had convinced me he had a full set. And a toothless President? Unimaginable.

The trivia page went on to say that Howard Taft weighed 350 pounds on his inauguration day. I think I knew this and vaguely remembered a story about him getting stuck in a bathtub at a college where I worked. I wondered how these men came to power. I assume it was their work ethic, leadership potential, articulation, social influence, political savvy…all the skills a public figure needs. It certainly couldn’t have been appearance because we’d never elect to President a man (or woman) with either of these physical characteristics.

Love your neighbors for who they are on the inside, we’re told. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Who really takes this advice? We’re a vain lot and research shows that nothing escapes our biases: gender, age, race, looks. Even as a follower of Christ, my narrow band of preference overrides what I’d like to think is Spock logic.

This may be fine, this fact that we’re visual people across the board. Wisdom seems lacking, though. We vote with our eyes – first – whether dating or picking a meal:

“What can I get for you, sir?”

“I’ll take that,” he says, pointing to the savory orange-glazed Tilapia.

And it’s more than just beauty. The models on magazine covers may land there precisely because we want them there, but my fourth grader would drop her book in a TV-interrupting second to see an image – “beautiful” or not – despite the fact that words awaken her imagination. I would too. Set before me print or a picture; Helvetica or Hulu, and I’ll go with the latter nearly every time.

Just as I am...

Perhaps the trouble has to do with my visual orientation and some impairment therein. For instance, this curious discovery about past Presidents got me thinking about profile pics. How many did I browse through before choosing the one I’ll use in the comments below? Claire Burge took this one at a retreat and it makes me look better than I do on average. I’ve got plenty of mid-bite, mid-yawn, mid-blink shots on bad hair days, bad lighting days and days I forgot to shave, any of which might make you question my sobriety. So I picked a good side, if I may say so.

I’ve been told since pre-Kindergarten that Jesus loves me; that “Just as I am” is more than a chorus line about grace. Without teeth or their equivalent safeguard, however, I’m stuck wishing I had what our collectively standardized versions have (which suggests that my fashion industry jabs are part jealousy clothed in righteous verbiage).

My fourth grader loves that George Washington. What odds might have stood against him when she reached voting age? Can my wife and I instill in her a fair assessment of imagery by treating it as something not to be worshiped? I can’t seem to learn this myself. The movie Shallow Hal was funny – and poignant. Did it change me? The Bible favors those least likely to garner votes on the perfection ballot. Has this example seeped into my thinking?

I fear that they haven’t solved my attraction to the superficial yet. I would have responded just like the rest who thought Abraham Lincoln was a gangly, wrinkled, short-pantsed yokel. At first, that is. First impressions aside, I do know something about me, and probably about you. When I have more time, I end up with friends who span the gamut of looks and I learn to see as I imagine the blind see from the start. Unfortunately, this doesn’t alter my entry point.

If there’s a high calling to assessing beauty, don’t expect me to model it early on. I’m still wondering if Rogaine would improve my click-through rate.

Would you vote for a presidential candidate with no teeth? (And no Dentures.)
What difference might physical appearance make in your applying or hiring?
How many photos did you go through before selecting your thumbnail or blog bio pic?

Image by Craig (lincolnblues). Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post written by Sam Van Eman.

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