Famed historic playwright, literary critic, Oscar and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw once gave a famous quote that a lot of people (especially artists) like to say (or post as their status update), “Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” I used to hold that quote up as a reminder to keep working hard towards my dream of being a filmmaker but now that I’ve been given a “season of reprieve” to reflect upon my priorities, I realize that I don’t really subscribe to that idea anymore. It started with a simple question I asked myself one day, “If I’m already a creation (or have already been created), how can I in turn create myself?” (Yes, I know it’s weird, but I do actually ponder this stuff all the time…and I started that habit long before Brain Cancer). By asking that simple question, I ended up on a journey through a maze of intense contemplation about meaning, purpose, and paradoxes, and much like a mental food processor I popped out something presentable that came from a mess of ingredients. I came to a (perhaps abstract) new understanding about life and I thought I’d share it with you (because blogging and interaction with you has become an important tool for my healing process).
I am forever grateful for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for giving me an interest in the Renaissance of the Middle Ages. The simple act of naming each of the turtles after famous artists of that era turned my attention towards it and I’ve been fascinated by the ideas, themes, and forward thinking explored during that time and especially those artists (artists like Raphael, Donatello, and Leonardo DaVinci) ever since. My favorite Ninja Turtle was Michelangelo (the one who liked pizza with the nunchucks as his weapon of choice) and it just so happens that Michelangelo is also my favorite artist of the Middle Ages (of course you know him for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). Michelangelo’s (the artist) creation of the beautiful and lifelike statue of David helped create a perfect metaphorical mental picture for me to come to my “epiphany”.
Since being diagnosed 14 months ago now, I’ve been on a journey of self discovery beyond just my personality type, cognitive processes, artistic expression, or even some type of spiritual awakening. To be quite honest I don’t know exactly where this journey is taking me, but I’m learning that self discovery is really more of a “Search and Rescue” mission than anything else. Where Michelangelo, the Renaissance Man (not the Ninja Turtle) comes in is that I like to think that the statue of David was in that slab of marble all along and Michelangelo just released him from the constricting, suffocating, and concrete nature of the stone he was buried under. Yes, it required creativity and vision on Michelangelo’s part, but it also required the discipline, attention to detail, and respect for the necessary tools that he needed to possess in order to free David (since, after all, he was there all along).
I got to go on a Search and Rescue mission one time with a buddy who was an Eagle Scout and a volunteer for Search and Rescue. I came as an observer and did the best I could to stay out of the way. A college guy had gone hiking and went missing the day prior (and this was before cell phones were common possessions) so his family had called it in. I was fascinated by the whole strategy and approach that went into executing the mission. I realized that it required a lot of expertise and training in specific skill sets that a lot of people don’t possess (much like a Renaissance Man actually). Aside from having to be in really good shape and possessing a Sherlock Holmesish strength for deduction, you also had to be in tune with your own body and surroundings with all five senses heightened to the max. Like Michelangelo, you needed the right tools as well. I’m sure you can get most of the tools needed on your smartphone nowadays but my buddy had a whole backpack filled with items that would help him on the journey to finding the missing hiker and save them if medical attention was required. This Search and Rescue Team that I got to shadow were like a team of Superheroes (The Avengers) who were determined to do nothing else but find this person (no matter the risk) and free them if necessary and I was transformed by the whole experience. We didn’t find the missing hiker that day, but he did turn up the next day alive but severely dehydrated (I wasn’t there for it though). He had fallen into a ravine that was very difficult to get down and it took a very skilled climber on the Search and Rescue team to find him, get to him, and free him. The interesting thing is that we had walked passed that ravine several times the day before and that didn’t change the fact that he was down there all along (even though they found him the next day).
As I reflect upon my own journey of self discovery, I see that it requires a toolbox filled with tools that will chip away at the stone (that in many ways) I’m still stuck in as well as tools that will help guide me to where I actually am (as far as what those exact tools are, I’m still trying to figure out). The journey starts with the purpose to find myself, requires the vision to create myself anew (renaissance means “rebirth), and then the ability to free myself, which in the end (I’m learning) is what the whole journey is about. The men and the women on that Search and Rescue mission understood this concept innately. Just like a good artist they needed their tools, skill sets, and a creative vision (and strategy) to find what had gone missing even when it’s buried somewhere dank, dark, and deep like a ravine (or a slab of marble). I often beat myself up while I try to recalibrate myself to this way of thinking but I’ve been reminded by mentors to be patient because I’m not just finding myself, or creating myself, I’m FREEING myself. They remind me that when I get there I’ll realize that I’m not creating a masterpiece but I’ve actually been there all along. So my new quote that I hold up now is, “Life is not about finding yourself or creating yourself, it’s about freeing yourself” and feel FREE to use it.
Oh, by the way, when being interviewed by a new station the next day the hiker was asked what it was that he thought helped keep him alive. His straightforward answer, “HOPE!”
P.S. Please lift up my Brain Buddy “Brian” who is getting a MRI on Thursday.
I also would like to encourage you to support The TTS Foundation. The wife of a friend of mine was pregnant with Twins and recently lost one of them tragically. Read more about it here: http://tttsfoundation.org/conference/?auroraeisley