The Face of Value
Who would have thought that digital nativism and the cult of “immediate fashion” would combine to suck the marrow out of life? Fashion is meant to uplift, inspire, and enchant. Nonetheless, social hypocrisy, rapacious fashion trends, and a diabolically clever supply chain have intertwined to lead us into environmental and ethical disaster.
FASHION EDITORIAL IMAGES
FASHION DESIGNER: AHMAD COUTURE BY SHA ALI model: PATRICIA WERKEMA photographer: FLÁVIO IRYODA
Within the dissimulation of our true selves, one question remains: what value do we have when we wear someone else’s costume? Realistically speaking, happiness can be reached via tangible means such as money or the love and reward of society. When I say “society”, I do include in the lot our beloved ones. I do blend in the mix every piece of happiness that surrounds us, and that is quite easily reachable on a day-to-day basis, like having a fulfilling breakfast or applying your favorite lipstick in the morning. Small actions compound. Still, what value can we give to the love that others feed us? Can feeling this love be regarded as true happiness? What is value itself, and what gives and takes away from human beings’ value? The danger always remains the same; that of putting all your eggs in one basket, or that of losing your balance by giving out too much of your power to outer bodies. It seems like the costume is only ever worn to fool and deceive, to use and to earn what we should not have earned if we followed basic moral principles. Never for the good. When the principles decline and survival mode kicks in, don’t lose yourself. The little voice. That little voice that exhales purity and the straight path, that we try to strangle so it doesn’t lead us to a happiness that is actually scarier than it is satisfying. That little voice that we exchange for self-sabotage, and that, blow by blow, kills our fire. What gives human beings value? I do think that happiness spreads on several levels depending on people. From a survival point of view, humans are mammals. Animals that are able to live through winters and fires and the danger of other animals’ strength and fierceness. To survive is not to be happy, however much we’re trying to fit in happiness in our overworked lives. It is crucial to try and understand what gives human beings value so the world can move forward. Every time I reflect on the world, I feel like it is spinning out of control - not progressing, not regressing. Just spinning out of control, following unexplainable rules which are, in the end, chosen for us by us. We could blow a hit on politics. But the truth is, when the mass truly aspires to freedom, we do something about the chains that we’re being dressed with. Rather than a trap, we have brainwashed ourselves into believing that it was okay to be used, okay to pay astronomical amounts of taxes. We’re actually happy about our unhappiness because having to pay taxes to someone means that someone is responsible for us. And that’s what we avoid always - responsibility. But beneath the layers of fakeness correctly implemented by a society that uses and disposes of us with our permission, maybe there’s still some unstained piece of personality somewhere. Maybe the free child that was once there still is, and maybe the dreams have not been crushed, and maybe the fear has not taken over. What gives humans value is the will and the grit, combined with the ease of living like a responsibility-free child. The purity. The innocence. The ability to wonder and marvel at surrounding auras of people and places. When you stop and think about it, our parents did their job the best they could with the strengths and limitations they had. Only when you start accumulating the years in your life count do you start trying to understand why calmly, and how our parents did what they did when they were assigned the task of raising us. The fact that one can withdraw from judgment, past fears, and past pains shows more value of a being than we’re led to believe today. Aren’t we all mass, trying to get revenge, trying to make people pay for their past mistakes in hopes it will heal us? Don’t we want to remember that we were just a mirror of their pain, that they tried to save us as if it would fix them?
The ability to stop and stare. And do nothing. And not react. And just leave because the moment is over, because the past is the past and because what is done is done. The ability to move on with dignity, and the ability to forgive. They all give value to human beings because they’re tough, demanding growth actions. You try to ring the alarm, you try to push the trigger, you try to defend yourself, and ask why, how, when. Why were you hurt? What did you do to get hurt? The value of life is engraved into each and every one of those that know when to get off stage at curtain call. It is also inherent to our ability to understand that we are just an echo of one another. As individualist as we’d like to be, we’re all part of the same tissue, the same blood, the same fabric, and the same dust. Won’t we try to understand? We need to talk about value because it’s wearing off. Replacing the core strengths of our hearts with the small pettiness of the world brings us closer to the grave without triumph. Letting go is always a solution, a widely spread and magical solution that no one really knows how to apply to their lives. If meditation helped, we would practice meditation every day. Yet, we don’t. Why? Because meditation is a toughie. And because it works. What a strange thing, we run away from the things that can save us and run into the wolf’s mouth. Once or twice in the year (preferably on January 1st), we’ll meditate because Instagram and TikTok dictated we should stick to a new resolution. Yet we stick to this resolution like overused tape that just... doesn’t stick anymore. Because meditation does actually add inherent value to our lives. It helps us practice patience and guides us through the aesthetics of nothingness. And this nothingness is the very reason why we drop meditation. That’s also why most of us will never see any kind of light. Because we’re stuck in the dimly lit room of our comfort zone. It’s warm there, in a comfort zone where nothing ever happens and the mind does not have to think. We just do, because it needs to be done because we need to put food on the table for the kids and pay for the gas and electricity and the rent, for a flat and a life that does not even make us happy. If we think of everything that we should do to improve, we would most likely break away from the families we have built. Because we knew from the start that we did not match with our partner, and yet, in the quest for validation, we chose to stay by their side. We thought it was love. Sometimes, it’s not even a habit that keeps us there. It’s the crumbs of self-esteem - it’s the toxicity of ups and downs and pieces of misplaced love that make us feel like shining stars once in a while. For the sake of future generations, we must work on ourselves and force ourselves out of the comfort zone pit. An endless pit that leads to boredom, fear, and a deaf, misunderstood anger. I’ve always been of the opinion that we’re not born equal. I do believe in feminism very much, in the sense that genders who provide the same kind of work should be retributed in an equal manner. However, I also think that education is not distributed evenly throughout all the layers of the world. I’m not talking here about cultural differences in education from one continent to another. I’m talking about the powers of grit and resilience that are not wired into most people’s brains from a young age. Fixing the world revolves around fixing ourselves, and you’d be a bad-off to think otherwise. The missing link, always, is that we most probably won’t be here to see the world evolve in a way that we would call “fixed”. It’s always about the future running ahead of all our values, hopes, dreams, and actions. The children of our children will be the product of the thoughts we’ve cultivated in our minds today. Sticking it out when things get rough breaks your heart open, but as the Sufi poet Rumi said: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you”. You need to peel off your heart, smash it open again, and again, and again to catch a glimpse of what you’re made of. In other words, the value that your life has can be judged by your ability to stick it out when you’re being broken apart. Most of the hurt that we feel is caused by ourselves. Our ego, our overthinking. The choices that we make knowing they are not serving us and won’t - ever. Even if we are not geniuses, we are animals and in terms of instinct, one can’t deny their superiority to human beings. We have that instinct chipped into us from the moment the soul is formed, I believe. Yet we focus on disturbing it, veiling it with lies that are only meant to sabotage our endeavors. Why are we lying to ourselves? The duality of the human being is strange and fascinating. Who doesn’t want to be successful? Who doesn’t want to be thin? But who actually puts in the work to be successful? The patience we should refine, the only quality worth having, is reduced to ashes before it even has the time to catch fire.
We don’t want nothingness. We don’t want value. We want the glossy window of fake success barfed by our little screens into our teeny tiny lives. The harshness of my words should never make you fearful, but rather make you reflect on every little action that compounds a bigger pile of disaster if you don’t watch yourself. Settle down, don’t complicate an already wavy blur of life. Extricate yourself from the being, and dive into the hidden undergrounds of the mind. Explore the gaping fullness of a seemingly empty mind. There’s so much that we still haven’t thought, so much that we haven’t processed, so much that our children will have to process, even, if we don’t. The first flame is ours to kill when we recognize a demeaning pattern. The second flame is our kids’ to kill if we lack the patience to free ourselves from the virtuality of the now. Is there any inherent value to nothingness? Nothingness is a musician that plays on the vibrations of the ego. For one, we want to free ourselves from the wide-open - and actual - nothingness of the tangible world. One day we’re here, the next one, we’re gone. All things material come to an end. All things come to an end. Cultivating peace rather than pleasure in our day-to-day endeavors is the key to the first door on the road to nothingness. Call it void, call it unknown, call it anything necessary to stop your mind from grabbing onto any piece of security it so desperately thirsts for. The security is the danger. Security suffocates opinions and silences us until we can’t do anymore. Thrive in the unknown. Force yourself. Push yourself out of the limits given by peers. Extricate yourself. Be yourself. When you step back from the groove, you understand the value of peace. Peace is not nothingness, but nothingness does bring peace. The efforts that we put in from the moment we open our eyes in the morning should all work towards one specific goal: happiness. Have you ever noticed how chasing the superficial brings only doubt and carelessness? Drugs, sex, even food. Everything material is a drug, and is it not smarter to choose a positive drug to get your fix from? For even peace is a drug, and when you get high on it, I can promise it will never let anyone take you down. Yes, there is value to nothingness. There is value only to nothingness, the sole piece of the puzzle that we’re missing. We chase the money that can be spent within a week of getting our paycheck. We chase the love that we won’t be given, specifically because we’re asking for it. The universe has a special way of letting you know whether your path is straight or crooked. It’s just that we human beings choose to ignore the signs and shut down the little voice. If you don’t ask, you will get it. Be a leaf that flows around, sticking to the tree, going with the wind. Cultivate your inner peace. Start with the small, material things like caring for your skin with a nourishing face cream after the shower. Eat only the fresh, nutritious food that calls your stomach - no one is forcing zucchini on you. You can choose to eat only fruits and no vegetables. You can choose to eat no meat and only eggs. You can choose to love or standby. You can choose to be transparent, viable, yet unreachable. The choice is always yours. The responsibility is always yours.
Once you start accumulating small acts of kindness towards your body, your soul will wake up and ask for more too. More kindness from yourself to yourself. It will ask for moments of rest, moments when you just step back for a while to observe in silence how the world spins around you. It does no good to bury yourself into work, no matter how successful you want to be if you do not know how to reflect and be grateful for all that you’ve done for yourself already. The costume is well-endorsed by society when we decide to fade into the mold. It is no wonder why celebrities are being followed and adored. The weak seek the strong, and history repeats itself. It’s never such an alarming action to dress with someone else’s personality - as long as you don’t lose yourself. The most urgent repression should be that of deterring people from becoming their idols. They are called idols, stars, celebrities for a reason. They are adored, celebrated like the sun that comes up after a long moment of rain. I believe that most unhappiness in the world stems from the fact that we don’t inherently know who we are. We would like to know, we would like to search for our essence and understand the why’s and the how’s of our personality. But the funny thing is, we don’t actually want to. It’s not a matter of knowing, it’s a matter of ignoring. When you ignore the feelings you have, you make it that much easier in the short term to blend into the societal fabric. The veins that you have pump blood of the mass, and ignoring fear, anger, and hope makes it robotic and nonchalant to wake up in the morning. And for most people, for those who don’t have dreams, that’s enough. Trauma usually breaks the pattern. Hardships sometimes seem to shoot your way as a hive - but life is a strategic game for all of us. It’s not just you - it never was and it never will be. There’s not one human being on Earth who doesn’t doubt and chews over the past. The only difference between the successful ones, the ones that society sees as valuable, and the mass, is the ability to pierce through the pain. Once again, the resilience, the grit - and the instinct of survival. Like the air we need to breathe, we need to feel that instinct and abide by it. I feel it is the only law worth following. The only one that connects us to the freedom of animals, and the reign of life.
But freedom can’t be reached if you’re looking for yourself in the eyes of someone else. Neither can awareness. We’re looking for the acceptance of ourselves in others because they mirror us and make us feel safe. How many times have you thought “I am in a relationship with this man/woman because they make me feel safe”? We take our loved ones as a pseudo-protection against the uncertainty of the unknown and when they fail to deliver, we fail ourselves too. Positivity and negativity are mass movements in our micro universes. Whether we want it or not, we embrace the movement and it requires tough self-esteem to break away from the pattern. Or to trigger the next curve of positivity. They’ve repeated it so many times: the mindset is everything. Not most of our teachers, not most of our childhood friends. But those successful people that we’re following on social media. The grit and the mindset are cogs. They transfer and make the motions, emotions, and reactions float out into the world. Don’t forget that all is circular and circumstantial - what goes around, comes around. If you look for the acceptance of others, you’ll find yourself limping out and surviving on crumbs of pity. Not even love. When you lose yourself in your family, or a relationship, you give to others the power and the responsibility to heave you out into the world. Not only are you being unfair to yourself, but you are also being unkind to your own aura. For it is unfair to expect a stranger - considering that every soul apart from yours is a stranger, which it is - to carry on with your burden as well as theirs. Know your place. We all find ourselves in difficulty at times, hardships have no favorites. We can rely on someone for a time, but society will frown upon someone who needs help for too long. In the unconscious river of men, moving forward is not an option. It is a necessity; you owe it not only to yourself but to the world to keep moving up. Is there a real problem, and is there a solution? Are we inventing existential problems that have no lieu of being solved? And so the luxurious dance, and so the poor mindset digs its grave deeper down. The gap between the enlightened (rightfully so or not) and the blurry minds seem to crease larger than ever. We are lucky: Daddy Instagram has two sides of the same coin. It teaches us to feel vulnerable and worthless, while also teaching us to empower ourselves. The Stockholm syndrome we’re pushing through every day to feel accepted by peers who have never cared will drown us if we’re not careful. The choice. The free will. The will to take responsibility. Those qualities that we shut down even if they’re our notation grid for survival in a compact and routine-circled world. They’re the only ones who can save our souls. Flip the coin, check back in, don’t withdraw from the game. There’s no value in giving up. Giving up is easy, but it feeds the fear and the angst that will cripple you and make you worthless in the end. An empty shell. A nothing that even you don’t want to be around. And that’s when you’ll try to find crutches to go by. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Gambling. Anything to remind you that you are someone, that you are alive, that you still feel something, and that you have at least one power, that of being able to shut down your feelings. If you cram your head with prickly thoughts, don’t be surprised when you get stung. You’ve brought it upon yourself. Life has always squirted out beauty and toughies in uneven washes. Wrap it up, get moving, but before you get moving, don’t forget to take the costume off.

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