The above painting, entitled “Girl Before A Mirror” was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1932. The song below, entitled, “The Firebird,” was composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1910. Three years later, Stravinsky would push the boundaries of musical structure with his composition of ”The Rite of Spring,” which would cause as much commotion in the musical world as Picasso’s breaking of artistic traditional forms had caused in the art world during the same period of history.
Both Picasso and Stravinsky had been true to their own unique visions when they presented their unorthodox artistic creations to the world. People did not understand the unconventional dissonance in the music of Stravinsky, nor did they understand the Cubist images painted by Picasso. Patrons of the arts had expected, both within music and the visual arts, for artists to follow well-established and comfortable norms. But something in the souls of these two artists could not produce preprogrammed visions for their work which were not reflections of their souls. They had to be true to their own inner visions which reflected their individually unique core spirits.
In order to be true one’s inner spirit, one sometimes has to reject the traditional norms into which one has been born. Each of us has a unique inner spirit and that spirit sometimes meshes with our surroundings, both geographically and familially, and sometimes it does not. Bob Dylan, the iconoclastic, folk/rock singer and poet felt disconnected, as a young man, from his Midwestern roots, so he headed east to New York City in order better to be able to express who he innately is.
So it was with me. South Georgia values regarding racial and gender norms, as well as religious and intellectual values, were in disharmony with the person I felt myself innately to be. Fortunately, I was born with a strong autonomy, as was Bob Dylan, so that I, too, could easily leave my place of birth and head for New York City when I was 20 years of age, with my new husband and friend, who shared my thinking and values.
I had no ill feelings for my family. In fact, I loved each of them deeply, and I was fond of my friends, but I knew that who I am - deep in my core - would never be able to find full expression in south Georgia. And I was right about that. Spending my twenties in New York City was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Having lived in the Village - as one among many of like mind, instead of as an isolated spirit in south Georgia -fortified the strength of my conviction of who I innately am. Moreover, my experience in New York City has given an inner security to the person I am today, who will insist upon writing only words of truth and depth, as I see it, regardless of how others may view my revelations. My unique vision must be given public presentation, in the same way that the visions of artists such as Stravinsky and Picasso had to have public presentation, if my life will have finally been fulfilled, and, perhaps, even fulfilled as to its basic purpose.
Fifty years after I graduated from high school, my graduation class had a reunion in May of 2010. Although I enjoyed interacting with my former classmates as individuals, I learned something very thought-provoking and disturbing when I observed my classmates in a group encounter. One of our classmates, who was speaking at the podium, had called President Obama a Muslim, in a very negative way. Not one classmate, except for myself and one friend, publicly objected to this classmate’s ill-advised remark. After that unfortunate experience, it occurred to me that many of my classmates may never have searched deeply into who they uniquely were meant to be and now, at age 68, the patterns of their lives had already been cast. I felt that many may have lived out their lives based simply upon the traditions and values into which they had been born. I knew that, as a group, they were essentially good people, but I wondered if many may have been unfulfilled people. I wondered if a small flame that once may have flickered for unique expression in the souls of some could have been extinguished by the overbearing norms of traditional values, and thinking patterns, into which they had been born. Perhaps, many had never questioned their given beliefs because others did not question, and, perhaps, they knew that they might be viewed as pariahs within their communities and families if they stood out, too much, by disagreeing publicly with group norms. I left that 50th high school reunion saddened for my old friends, as well as, somehow, saddened for myself for once again, as in high school, I had felt disconnected from my childhood friends.
Is this phenomenon of following group norms, instead of following one’s unique spirit, the same phenomenon that perpetuates the fearing of those who are different from us – different in race, religion, sexual orientation, or even in political and philosophical values? I thought that some of my former classmates may, yet, have the yearning to express who they were inherently meant to be - irrespective of the group norms that have surrounded them all of their lives. If any do, I hope that they will find the courage to follow their hearts and be true to their deeper selves, even at this late stage in their lives, for as Shakespeare had astutely written:
“This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.”
Or, as someone else expressed, in another way:
“Today you are You
that is truer than true.
There is no one alive
who is Youer than You.”
- Dr. Seuss
The root of the word “encourage” is “cour” which means ”heart.” To all who read this posting, I encourage you to “take heart” and find the “courage” to follow your own unique souls. I encourage you to allow your core, essential being to be fully expressed while you live on this planet. That is the way that the people in this world will be freed to love themselves fully, with joy, and without the bitterness of regret. Then, perhaps, people will, finally, be freed to love all others in this world, equally as themselves, with joy - and without fear.
(For more information on finding one’s core spirit, please read my second posting, entitled “Essential Premise in Finding One’s True Spirit,” which was published on November 23, 2010. Also, please explore the thoughts of Anita Moorjani who writes courageously about being who you are, fearlessly, because we are all, at our core, love. Find more about her life and writings at www.anitamoorjani.com.)