Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 4, 2009

In Glory Shine

I was in the check out lane a while ago with a pile of groceries for the rectory. I try to buy healthy stuff for the priests. We need them around, you know?

As often happens while waiting in that line my eyes wandered over the magazines at the end of the aisle. Not much ever changes in those publications. One subject above all the rest, even above aliens living next door and predictions of the end of the world anytime now, seems to dominate the contents of these publications. Broadly speaking, I suppose, one could say that the majority of the articles deal with self improvement. The magazines themselves all seem to follow a formula. The lead article almost always deals with some trick or technique to enhance one’s love life, to make one more appealing to another person, to catch Mister or Miss (should I have said Ms?) right.

There is always an article on some new way to lose weight with enticing new recipes and easy new exercises provided inside to achieve one’s weight loss goal. This is, of course, always the quickest way, and the easiest, since we discovered that we have bodies, to achieve perfection. It is important that we lose weight. It is important that we eat delicious foods. What is most important is that we don’t spend time or effort doing either of these things. Many times the cover trumpets new fashions in dress or new ways to decorate the home, new places to vacation…or ways to do so…to get away from all of the madness of life which drags one down, makes one fat and keeps one unhappy. Of course there is plenty of advice on how to get a better job, or get along better on the job one already has, please the boss, make friends and be popular. Being popular is also very important, it seems.

I have been looking at these magazines since I can remember going to supermarkets. Years ago, they were joined by a new genre, the celebrity magazine, a sort of latter day “fan” magazine. Where the fan mag concentrated on actual performers and consisted, I think, of puff pieces by studio public relations departments, these celebrity mags seem merely to consist of a kind of schizophrenic mix of the excitement and luxury which is the life of a celebrity and the inevitable tragedy of the very same life, all in public and all at the most beautiful and expensive places. I have noticed that one need not be able to do anything at all to become a celebrity. As a matter of fact, in some instances, the less ability one has to do or create anything, the greater are the qualifications for celebrity status.

The inevitable and drawn out physical and or moral collapse of these people never seems to take place in Saugus, Podunk or Brownsville. Or does it? I don’t get the point of either kind of publication. But some, many?, must get it. It seems the point is we want to be noticed, for something, anything. But, then, one may ask, why?

Because of an inconsequential but amusing little post-retirement job I have I spend some time two or three days a week at a large Mall here in Nashua, NH. My wife and I work in a fast food store at the “Food Court”. Hundreds of souls pass me by each day. I have noticed that there is a kind of standard statistical distribution of the population. It would graph out, I guess, as a kind of Bell Curve.

Over on the left of the graph, near the base line are the few who have “made it”. Perhaps I’d see more of them along Fifth Avenue, or walking in and out of places in the Back Bay. But I don’t go there. These people are wrapped in themselves, engaged upon some serious business, always. Unwilling to notice anything but their purpose, they walk swiftly and singly by. I find them a kind of strange and sad lot, but they are, always, slim and beautiful in the way that ancient statues are slim and beautiful…and stone.

There are the mothers and fathers with little ones. These I like best, especially the little ones whose native happiness, sense of safety in the world around them and shy innocence are still evident. They haven’t left Eden yet I think when I see them. Sometimes if we have a word or two between us, the little ones will look back and smile at me as they go, and they smile when they pass me by again on the way out of the place. They seem to understand that we are friends, and we need to be.

Most of the curve is filled with the rest of us. I am allowed a unique privilege by this work I do to have a few seconds with many of them. Much of that time is delightful and very amusing. We share a word or two, a smile and then they go away. I like to think they have enjoyed my company for a few seconds. I have certainly enjoyed theirs.

Among those on the descending right side of this curve of mine I detect a kind of pitiable thing. At least it strikes me that way. There is a certain sadness in the way many people choose to present themselves to the world inside this mall. I notice how they have dressed..or not..and how they act in public, and I wonder. A parade of oddities goes steadily by; oddity in dress, behavior and bodily decoration. A haircut or a pair of blue jeans when I was a kid was sufficient to announce one’s appearance among men. No more, now. The permanent alteration of one’s appearance in increasingly bizarre ways is, from my vantage point, no longer a fringe phenomenon.

“Notice ME!” it all seems to say. Unspoken, as they pass me by with a kind of unruly rebellious purpose, the polar opposite of the grimness of the stone cut slim ones, is the word “PLEASE”. I do notice them. In some cases I notice them with the same mixture of fascinated horror that one may notice a dead body fallen from a height in front of you on the street.

Most of the time I notice what remains, however, their original beauty now hidden…or deformed for the sake of what I don’t know.

At the end of the curve, along the base line on the right are the ones who are incapable of not being noticed. They appear infrequently. They would scurry by if they could, these ones, from the stares of others if they knew, but for the most part they are incapable of scurrying. They are also incapable of either noticing that many might think they should be unseen, or that they “should do something about themselves”, or, more darkly, something should be done about them.

As they parade by, I see these ones, as I see the children, yet unspoiled, in glory shine.


  1. Hi-
    Amazingly, I was just going by the checkout last week and thought about the irony of all the “recipes” for low fat foods, the diet plans, the air-brushed photos of barbie-like people. I also thought about George Washing Carver, who spent most of his time finding ways to “fill people’s dinner pails” and refused to take out a patent on anything that help feed people. Now, while half the world starves and diarrhea is the largest cause of infant mortality, we try to find food that doesn’t make us fat. Are any of the seven deadly sins left that our country hasn’t glorified? Obviously, gluttony is encouraged. As is lust, greed, vanity… Millions of children die and we mourn Micheal Jackson?? God hasn’t abandoned hope for us. But sometimes I wonder why. 😦

    • Simple. God loves us, all of us, all of the time. Wouldn’t be God if he didn’t. And, aren’t we lucky He does…or, well, very annoyed by it when we’d rather not pay any attention, just now, thank you God. After all, being all we can be is more than a full time job; as is eating of that darn tree’s fruit.


    • Thackeray? Who he? And, what’s with sweeping. I’m one guy in one Mall. Anyway, seriously, thanks. You can call me Pete. Just don’t call me Al. Unless I call you Betty.

      The check is in the mail…usual amount.

  3. There is one difference between the celebrity magazines of today and the magazines I saw with my mother 1959-1964 for example.

    Today the goal is to HOOK UP or DATE (have sex with)and be in the game. Women with matronly figures after have sacrificed their girlish figures for two, three or even four children are essentially derided. Sarah Palin is a true exception because she has led a physically active life since early girlhood plus a diet rich in fish, fresh game and low in hormones and fat. Only one in 100 or one in 1000 women look like her in their 40’s after having FIVE PREGNANCIES. I know many many women who only experience one pregnancy (twins) and there seems to be a correlation. Women who have fewer children and or fewer pregnancies seem to be better at keeping their figure in their 40’s and 50’s. But the cost is not even ZPG but NPG.

    Among all the trash there is still READER’S DIGEST which is the only magazine I buy for general light reading. Of course intellectuals deride the READER’S DIGEST but it is a remarkable magazine published in many languages (I know Selecciones for example).

    For my money the best magazines are
    and the WSJ.

    • A Cara,

      I used to read my mother’s Ladies Home Journal for the recipes, and really liked th Saturday Evening Post. It got me hooked…as a lad of eight or nine or so…on short fiction. Maybe that’s why I write the way I do.


  4. You’ve a good heart Dr. G.

    • Thank you. However, I do have a slight irregularity for which I take medication twice daily. Like most fellows my age, I have to keep watch on things like fatty foods and other good stuff.

      I appreciate the accolade, however.

  5. My father used to say, when he wasn’t too old, ‘if my heart attacks me, I’ll attack it right back!’ One can only go so far with this philosophy however, as he would later admit….


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