Dearest Rachel –
This letter is probably one of those that is going to sound like I’m going around the bend, and after more than 100 hours of confinement here, I suppose I’m entitled to being a little loopy. For what it’s worth, it all started with a dream, so you know it’s going to be a strange little trip right from the outset. So bear with me, and feel free to laugh if you think I’m being just silly; the fact that I’m offering this disclaimer should let you know that even I think it is.
The whole dream – and what eventually came of it – centered around this conversation I was having with my good friend of many years, Ricardo Montalban. You probably remember him best as Khan from Star Trek, while I still think of him as Mister Roarke from Fantasy Island (so sorry you never got ABC when you were a kid, by the way), but everyone remembers that voice in the car commercials describing the fact that they were kitted out with ‘rrrich Corinthian leather.’ Which, by the way, is not a thing. Corinth isn’t known for its leatherworking trade, either in ancient times or modern. It just sounds so good. Ah, Madison Avenue.
Anyway, we were laughing about those old days (which again, is so ridiculous, since he’s been dead for what? Ten, twenty years? I wasn’t even in my teens when his sideman Hervé Villechaize would climb the campanile and announce the arrival of “Thee plane! Thee plane!”). He claimed that the reason that the ad line had such impact was this little waggle he gave to his head – side to side – as he said it. Now, I remember no such waggle, and in any event, I remember the ad spot as much from listening to the radio, where he could have bobbed his head like a rap star and it wouldn’t make a difference – but I guarantee it would have looked ridiculous on television.
I simply told him “no, it was the way you rolled those Rs. That was it. That was the voice that made the women swoon. And maybe the men, too – who am I to judge?”
I ascended to consciousness shortly thereafter, so I have no idea where the conversation went from there. Aside from the thought of how ridiculous it would be for me to have known Ricardo (see? On a first name basis already! Crazy!) from all that way back, that comment – “who am I to judge?” – got me thinking.
Of course, the only one to judge, ultimately, is God Himself. And for whatever reason, as I lay there at three in the morning, contemplating my own comment, was not about some guy falling for another guy based solely on the power of the other guy’s voice. No, it went something like this:
Do you ever wonder if God, as he’s watching one human or another develop over time – because we are always changing, all the time – ever stops, and notices one little aspect of that person, and says in that moment, “Yes! Now that’s what I’m talking about!”
Obviously, I was thinking in terms of the Lord being proud of creating a voice that would roll its Rs so majestically. And I considered how that – or any – single aspect of a person, taken by itself, could be considered ‘perfect,’ worthy of the Lord stopping in His labor momentarily, rubbing His hands in glee and calling out to His hosts while pointing, “All right! Take five, everyone, and get a load of this! Just listen to what I’ve made down there!”
And naturally, this can be extended from the voice to any aspect of the human form. The turn of a joint, the flex of a muscle, or just that little bit of curve along one’s profile. There is no question that the Lord has the greatest Sculptor; but let’s face facts, some of us are Michaelangelos, and others Picassos. Add to that the fact that He insists on working in an organic medium – one that is subject to decay – and whatever perfection we may obtain doesn’t last. It is there for a moment, and then it is gone. Just like rrRicardo and his rrrich rrrolling rrRs.
Of course, the question at this point becomes what even constitutes ‘perfection,’ especially in the physical realm. Form follows function, as the saying goes, and the perfection of, say, a baseball pitcher’s delivery would be utterly useless in another sport, be it soccer or sumo. And of course, that goes both ways – I haven’t bothered to look just yet, but I’m fairly certain there’s probably YouTube footage of Arnold Schwarzenegger (once considered the very ideal in the male figure – and that ‘once’ is significant here) making a passable but most likely fairly graceless first pitch at Chavez Ravine (Dodgers Stadium) during his term as ‘the Governator,’ for instance.
Similarly, what exactly constitutes aesthetic perfection? Not only does it rise and fall in us as individuals, as we attain and leave our prime, what constitutes the perfect body (or even the perfect body part – I recall reading about the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, being referred to as featuring ‘the Bosom and the Behind,’ suggesting that the leading ladies were the epitome of perfection for those respective body parts) changes over time. The ideal female form, in particular (since I’ve already gone and named names), has zig-zagged between the zaftig Rubenesques, to the straight-figured flapper of the 1920s, to the voluptuous ladies mentioned previously, to the near-anorexic frames of Twiggy and her ilk in the 60s, and so on. Frankly, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve lost track as to what society thinks is ‘perfection.’
Not that that’s what I’m even talking about. I’m curious as to whether God himself sees us in a moment of physical perfection, and congratulates Himself on a job well done. True, He’s made it clear that He does not judge on the outward appearance, but at the same time, it isn’t as if He doesn’t try to make some pretty beautiful humans – clearly, He is appreciative of aesthetics. If it absolutely didn’t matter to Him as to what we looked like, He could’ve made it all perfectly ugly, or at least perfectly ordinary. And while it could easily be argued that most of us are indeed perfectly ordinary, we would probably make that argument even if nearly all of us were the spitting image of Adonis or Aphrodite; at a certain point, even perfection, if overdone, might seem dull and plain.
Still, I wonder if there are those moments that He sees and captures in His memory, and pats Himself on the back for a job well done.
I’m telling you, some of these dreams are really taking me to some strange places. Thanks for indulging me.