Forced To Jump

What would life be like if we were able and encouraged to be whom God designed us to be? What would the world look like if uniqueness were celebrated?

I know as teens we thought we wanted to be unique, but did we really? Weren’t we really looking to “fit in”? The music and style we wore were more or less just like the group of peers we hung out with. Uniqueness was obtained by wearing the same brand of popular clothing in a different color or maybe, if you were slightly daring, you combined with other articles of clothing, all popular brands of course, so that you were “original”. But the reality was we really didn’t want to be truly unique - those kids were considered freaks. And on the lesson goes - in an effort to be unique we conform.

From our earliest education we are taught to be like everyone else. Our first art lessons were taught by non-artists who instructed us in how to paint, what to paint, and what colors to use. God forbid we get it wrong or forget what color something is supposed to be. One of my acting teachers, Mr. Wells, tells a story of a conversation with his son’s teacher. The teacher gave a red check to many of his son’s paintings. Upon questioning the negative mark given to a painting of the ocean, where his son painted the water black, the teacher responded, “come on now Mr. Wells, we all know ocean water isn’t black”. Mr. Wells said it’s black to him. The painting was a response to a fieldtrip the students had taken to the pier in Pacific Beach on a gray and cloudy day. Mr. Wells said depending on the time of day and the weather conditions the water can look black…so who is more accurate…you asked him to paint what he saw.

As someone who thinks creatively I fought against the voices that started in kindergarten and continued through high school – “Color inside the lines”, “Accurately represent the thing you create”, “Be like everyone else”… Then at some point in college, if you’re lucky, you get a professor who challenges you to be creative, to be unique and dare I say, to be “different”. There it is again, only this time if you copy you will be met with declarations of protest…“Why did you steal my idea” or “he’s not original” or worst yet “You have no talent”. But this is only in the study halls of the art world. Get outside that and you would swear everyone sounds like your kindergarten teacher.

Leave the safety of that quasi-real world of the art department and walk into the hard light of a performance-based world where conformity is valued and expected and before long you find your creative mind has shriveled up. Your soul has been replaced with pleasing the hand that gives you money. And you fight, you fight, oh how you fight! Art becomes a battle and yet you somehow know if you give in that expression that is uniquely yours and God placed will be crushed. If you’re not careful you will wake up feeling violated…raped – all that you stood for, your aesthetic, your vision, your artistic integrity ripped from your very being.

I woke up this morning to hear the news radio announcer describe the scene… a man has held up traffic on the Coronado Bridge (2 mile long 200 foot high bridge in San Diego spanning across the bay connecting to the City of Coronado). On this misty early morning he stopped his vehicle in the westbound lanes, opened the door and went to the bridge's northern edge. He leaped over the 34-inch railing without hesitation, according to a witness who called 911 on his cell phone. The man hit the San Diego Bay at a speed faster than the posted speed on the bridge. The devastating injuries he sustained from the impact with the water did not kill him. Instead, he drowned in the bay. The county Medical Examiner's Office put an identification bracelet on his right ankle, gave him a case number and noted his place of death as "San Diego Bay, N. of Pylon 19."

As I struggled out of bed after a restless night and began to get ready for yet another day my mind wouldn’t leave the thought of this man’s jump. A profound sense of sadness came over me. It was almost like I was grieving for him…or for the family he no doubt left behind…or was I really grieving for myself? As I went through my day my thoughts went back to this scene. I wondered if his life would have been any different if a teacher, pastor, family, friend, someone or just anyone, would have let him be uniquely him. Would he fine room for his place in this world? I’m aware the scriptures that tell us our gifts will make room for themselves but, what if, just what if no one in his life validated his “different ness”? Might he be here, and not only alive but ALIVE! Alive to the things God has placed within him. Alive to the very uniqunessness of himself. The self that is one hundred percent original. The self that God knew what he was creating before the epoch of time. It’s the result of an original God who made an original unique individual out of this man.

As we grapple with our own art making might this example make us take pause and ask ourselves: are we also forcing people to jump in the proverbial sense? In other words, are we requiring the unique around us to conform to our own ideas because we might not understand or even “get” what it is they are about? Or might we be the man on the bridge who indeed feels forced to jump because he has found himself in a world that no longer values the very “diffrentness” God was so proud to create in us?

Fears about our talent…fears about being good enough…fears about our work being accepted… fears about NOT creating the vision God has given you because it will be too weird…all the lament of the artistic soul and all fears I battle with from time to time. But somehow I know my struggle is not alone. I share the voice of the lone funky art student in a corner somewhere waiting for his or her voice to be accepted to be noticed and yet so desperate to be perfect and yes so desperate to be different, unique, weird, and original just as God has chose to make us all. Be reminded that we serve our creator who indeed made us just as he wanted us, not random, but specific with details. And though we often don’t think it – perfect.  The “perfect” that is in Him (not because of Him or in spite of Him). He sees us in our perfected state. He justifies our mistakes. He adds wisdom to our walk. For he is our Master creator and only by Him and through Him can the artist find joy and peace.

Please leave me your response.      

11 BE COOL give your comments. Share your thoughts.:

Jenelle said...

Wow! What a piece!! You poured out you very soul!! May you find piece & happiness in what God designed you to be!! Seek diligently & ye shall find!!

WT Durrance said...

Thank you. I hope this doesn't come off as if I'm going to "jump" because I am not. After i finished I feared it might come off as a bit depressing (and even here i still "fear"...haha). My hope is that it might encourage someone to keep going and know that God has given them value, and indeed your gifts will find place in the world.

Anonymous said...

great blog Wt! what a great way to convey how great our uniqueness is and how true many of us sell out what God made us to be. I've always felt different, my odd abilities inadequate, and it's a great lesson that they will make room for themselves to the glory of God. I agree with you in the fact we should celebrate everyone's individuality, who want's the be the same plain-jane anyways. I really enjoyed this

Anonymous said...

REPOST - Lucia Davidson: WOW...WOW....WOW...WOW..WOW! ( tearing) I feel the anointing of these words. Theses words and revelations needed to come forth! I now have an awakening in my spirit and a new burden. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Well written . . . We must never be afraid to be labeled as "different." Also, how many people do we pass on a daily basis that need a "life line." I want to be more aware of the people around me and their needs. Just a simple word of encouragement could change someone's life or actually save a life.


Anonymous said...

interesting thought. There is a fear of being "different" in our age. The apostles were different and it cost them there lives. That said, thanks for the post Todd. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad but yes you are right is hard to be different and we try to fit inn, I strugle sometimes cause I think I am very different I use to think that I was from Pluto or some for reals, cause I am sooo different and you know what is hard not that people don't accept me sometimes is what is hard is that ...I don't accept myself sometimes, I want to change so many things but I AM ME, and I have to thing of my Creator made ME.

Anonymous said...

REPOST - Lowell Hansen: WOW!!! That is really deep, thought provoking and an eye opener.

George Baiz said...

Great insight to what most people are to afraid to admit. Admit to what, who they are or have become. Do we stand out or blend in? Do we speak, whisper our thoughts, needs or dreams? Was this very man, a man that couldn't say, " I need to be touched". Touched in a way that faith in his life matters. Matters in way that his action could cause, would cause a ripple effect to someone who writes about him in a blog. I say here it is.. His splash to the end of his life made an impact... To bad that he couldn't be refreshed with the knowledge that he did matter...

Anonymous said...

REPOSR - Lisa Harmon: As I read it, three words came to mind. They are the following: depression, anxiety, and love. When I think of allowing others to be themselves (or unique like you stated), I think of love. In my opinion if you love someone, you'll give them the freedom to be unique. You won't control. I believe you discussed this topic in your paper but didn't use the theme love. As for the guy himself, I wondered if he had someone who truly loved him. Then I thought of the intense depression he was experiencing that contributed to his jumping. As for anxiety, typically if someone is experiencing depression, they also will experience anxiety. Anxiousness is horrible.

appreciate your work,

rosedale's 4head said...

very insightful post - my take: celebrate the "me" in you...we're all our own fingerprint.

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