Last week, I was talking about creating new selves including “Funny Narelle”. What I had in mind was the act of creating from nothing, as distinct from creating from perceived need (reinventing ourselves because we think there’s something wrong about us that has to be addressed or compensated for).
A question occurred to me: why create new selves then? If it’s not to address or compensate for something we think is wrong, why the question of reinvention at all? Why was I excited about Funny Narelle or any other Narelle?
I came up with three possible responses.
Why create new selves? Because I can.
Why create new selves? Because it’s fun.
Why create new selves? Because of what I can provide others.
The third one came from thinking about three men I’ve encountered in the last month.
The first man is Benjamin Zander. Ben is the former conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and the author, with his wife, of one of my favourite books, The Art of Possibility. Reader Jeremy had just watched one of Ben’s TED talks. I watched it too, and in it Ben talks about waking up each day and choosing who he is going to be. He says something along the lines of,
I choose to be someone around whom people’s eyes are shining.
The second man is Trent, my dance teacher. After five years away, I returned to dancing about 12 weeks ago and I found this teacher, a man with such uncanny facility of movement he can tell a spontaneous joke with his head or shoulder in the midst of doing a routine. His classes are packed and contain all sorts: teenagers, young men, mothers, a husband and wife in their 50s.
During the class, I sometimes catch sight of other people’s faces and I see pure joy. At the end, everyone looks at each other and smiles. As Trent says in a blurb on the dance company’s website:
My proudest moment is watching my students glow when they walk off the stage at our mid year concert; seeing how my routines can make people so happy.
The third man is Ade, a man whose book, The Little Book of Hope, I recently edited. Ade has written his book to provide guidance and hope to people who have survived a stroke, and those caring for them. Ade is 44 years old and has suffered two strokes, one at the age of 37 and another at the age of 42. The second was devastating and he was not expected to survive. Now, two years and many tribulations later, he is speaking again, and on the road to moving independently.
Ade is a funny man, and if he hadn’t been a TV and radio producer, he probably would have been a professional stand-up comedian. As it is, he gives away his art for free. He makes clear in the book the enormous role his humour has played in his survival, for himself, his wife Kate and all around them, including allowing his wife and he to ensure their dignity and grace while she assisted him in the most intimate functions.
Editing someone’s book is another kind of intimate process. As I was doing it, I was struck by the acknowledgements and testimonials Ade had collected from the friends, colleagues and doctors with whom he’d shared the manuscript. One person’s words spoke to me in particular. He said this:
All the time I was reading your book I kept thinking, ‘Wow! How lucky am I to know this guy …’
What do you want to provide to others? What new selves are you creating to provide it?
Image: From The Great Gatsby, Director Baz Luhrmann, 2013
More information …
- Benjamin Zander’s TED talk: The transformative power of classical music
- The Little Book of Hope: For stroke survivors, care givers and anyone else going through a really shit time