I’m not sure how it began, but my two older kids, W and M have been bus spotting for the past few weeks.
M keeps a pedometer in the car, and every time she or her brother spots a bus, she gives it a shake.
They’re up to six hundred and something buses.
Given that we live in close proximity to a major research university with its own bus fleet plus multiple public schools and public transportation stops, we see a lot of buses. They average twenty to thirty on the way to school each morning.
Late last week I had the rare occasion of being alone in the car. I have three kids. This very seldom happens. I was stopped at a red light when I looked up and saw a bus.
“A bus!” I said in my head with an element of excitement and then, almost instantly realized that the children were not in the car and therefore seeing a bus in and of itself was not a particularly interesting experience for a forty-one year old urban dweller.
In a very short period of time, I had been culturally conditioned to seek out the buses.
In the few days since this red light epiphany, I’ve started to think about the ways in which we have been culturally conditioned. When the visual inputs that we receive tell us over and over again that we are supposed to look a certain way, how can that not affect us?
I’ve been thinking a lot about “beauty” lately, and it’s something I am sure to delve into more deeply in the months to come. Now that I understand more about the impact that traditional fitness norms and expectations have on the human body, for example, I no longer see the “six-pack” as a marker of health. Thus, it’s no longer visually appealing to me. Similarly, now that I can see how much heels deform a woman’s body, I no longer think of them as sexy or beautiful.
What we perceive of as beautiful or appealing is, to a large extent, culturally conditioned. That gives us tremendous power. We can choose to define “beauty” in a way that is harmful to human health – like when cigarettes were considered a marker of power or allure. Or, we can choose to look for markers of health and vibrancy.
How does this play out in the context of “bus spotting?” It means being picky about where you give your visual time and attention. You get to choose what messages you send your subconscious and, I believe, being more intentional about that messaging can have positive impacts on your health and wellness.