"I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving"
-Lyrics from "I Dream a Dream" by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Last night, at the Las Vegas airport, a 50-something woman ahead of me at the security checkpoint said to her friend: "I just can't see enough of that Susan Boyle on YouTube! I don't know why, but every time I see her sing in the Brit's American Idol, it really gets to me!" Her companion nods. "Yep, he replies, "Even engineers grab for a Kleenex. I can't help myself, either." Neither male nor female seem to be able to resist.
In case you've not seen this iconic performance on the Web or the news, from Britain's Got Talent, a parallel to American Idol, here it is. Or, should you need another 'feel good' dose, this one's for you.
While much has been said about both Susan Boyle, and the resounding response to her story, I cannot help but offer my own two bits. The fact is that what we've got here is a powerful archetypal story that tugs at the heart of our collective psyche. That's what grabs us on such a deep level. Boyle's performance gives a compelling peek into that universal and ageless theme about the person so unique, that they are shunned and go into exile feeling misunderstood, different, unvalued. More often than not, the creative greats have lived the lives of the rejected, the bullied. Think Buckminster Fuller, Albert Einstein, to name but a few. Misunderstood, ridiculed, made to feel inferior, these and other pioneers, did what few are willing to do: they cleaved to their original, wild nature, and created magnificently in ways that changed the world. Sometimes, they don't make it. Witness the adorable, sweet-natured 11 year old who hung himself with an electrical cord last week after being bullied by classmates because he was 'different,' i.e. he was not afraid to show caring.
People who carry this archetypal theme are compelled to step outside the collective circle which judges them as strange. We see this in the news every day. Take Barack Obama's handshake with Hugo Chavez, or his wife's shared hug with Queen Elizabeth, as examples. Step out of the circle of agreement, and the pig squeals. Those who have sufficient resilience miraculously, like Einstein, Boyle and others, find a way to befriend their own true nature, staying faithful to its imperative for expression, regardless the jeers.
No wonder stories like Hans Christian Anderson's "The Ugly Duckling" have lasted for a few centuries. The tale begins when a swan's egg rolls into the wrong nest. Mother Duck, thinking the egg is hers, attends it, and does her best to shape it to meet her expectations when the hatching reveals a creature that does not 'fit' the standard issue. Many around the world can relate, be their 'Mother Duck' exist in the home or workplace. Regardless how much effort is put into reforming 'unsuitable behavior' and altering 'inappropriate' appearance, resistance persists. Sooner or later, what is truest to our nature must break through into its own expression. The Ugly Duckling becomes the swan. She does this by moving in the direction of her own heart's desire, regardless the obstacles or time it takes.
When we see people like Susan Boyle, like the duckling, we are symbolically viewing our own wildness. A Jungian colleague, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, puts it this way:
"...the wild nature, which, when pressed into circumstances of too little nurture instinctively strives to continue no matter what. The wild nature instinctively holds on and holds out, sometimes with style, other times with little grace, but holds on never the less...For the wildish woman, duration is one of her greatest strengths." - Women Who Run With Wolves
Such a being who endures, is oft misunderstood, and seen as eccentric. In actuality, they are dedicated to the retrieval of their own creative greatness. Yet even greatness needs a positive reflection back to itself. If we, like Susan Boyle, can bring courage to the task of being wholly ourselves, encouraging others as well, if we can muster tenacity to continue, despite snickers guffaws and judgments, then the years of self-exile can turn out to be the necessary incubation ground to bring forth "No song unsung, no wine untasted..."
Do You Make Room For Waddle?
Not, however, before a good deal of growth and self-acceptance. This was brought home to me one Spring when I lived in Thalwil, Switzerland. Many times during those post-doc studies, I'd amble down to Lake Zurich to see how the hatching of ducks, geese, and swans was coming along. One day, I noticed the more advanced fuzzy creatures gathered a few yards from the water. Eventually, one of their waddling members awkwardly made her way to the edge, her girth, on land, in striking disproportion to her sleek neck and head. Yet the moment she launched from the old terrain of terra firma into the lake's new frontier, she became the personification of grace and beauty. She'd found her place in the natural order of things.
Waddling is allowed by Mother Nature.
Certain biped cultures frown on it more than others. Based on results, Britain's Got Talent makes more room for it than in our own American version, where, more often than not, contestants have that air-brushed, perfected 'look' of so many news anchors. Interesting that the U.K. seems to allow more room for the unexpected, and ends up with the likes of Susan Boyle and Paul Potts who've got the goods like Julie Andrews and Pavoratti. Brilliance comes so often with high contrast. It just may be that in our American search for perfection, we are overlooking the gems hidden in the disregarded and overlooked. Let us join together with clear intention to recognize the naturally stunning beauty young or old 'ugly ducklings' we meet, even when it's ourselves in the mirror. Imagine what our world would be if we made room for more of the beautiful, even when it comes in unusual packaging. We'd all be the better for their song.
Feast on the following to see what might happen in our young who are not afraid to stay true to their dream, despite the bullies who do their best to silence the music.
I've missed you, and look forward to hearing your comments, responses, and own heart's desire these days. I'll do my best to get back to you, and your friends/links personally. Come on by our Facebook group "The Heart Whisperers."
Dr. Cara Barker is a Jungian Analyst, business owner, and author of World Weary Woman: Transforming Her Wound, Voice of the Sacred Feminine, Grieving the Loss of Your Child, and other works. She will appear in Super Seminar II in Los Angeles, and in Super Seminar III in New York City in June.