I recently gave a talk at an art exhibit of Nick Cave's work. Inspired by his fear and outrage at the Rodney King beating, Nick Cave picked up a stick and crafted a new world.
Baffled and enraged at how police treated a "larger-than-life terrifyingly buffed-out black male," Cave considered how to best respond to a world that judged him not on who he was, but on the color of his skin. Musing on this while walking in a park near his home, he picked up a twig. Intrigued by its seeming insignificance, he picked up another and yet another. Before he knew it, he had crafted a pair of pants and a jacket out of sticks. Donning his new attire, he was surprised to find that "the twigs rattled and cracked in a provocatively belligerent way." This became the first of Nick Cave's Soundsuits -- wearable art sculptures. In these suits, Cave felt protected: larger-than-life and buffed-out in his own unique coat of armor.
Perhaps the most important thing Cave learned from creating these wearable art sculptures was not how they made him feel, but how they made everyone else react. You see, when wearing a Soundsuit, the identity of the wearer is completely concealed: gender, skin color, body size and shape are all hidden beneath the suit. In crafting his Soundsuits, Cave created a world where people don't judge each other based on the color of their skin. After all, you can't judge someone based on their appearance if you can't see them. Instead, Cave forces us to let go of our expectations about what someone should be like based on their appearance. And for both parties the experience is very freeing.
So I encourage you during this week when Americans celebrate their freedom to think about ways you can turn your fears into freedom. Can you let go of your expectations about who you are and who you should be based on what other people have told you or how they treat you? Can you surrender your own coat of armor -- what you have used to protect yourself from your own perceived injustices?
Yes, this process can be very scary, but it is also very freeing. You may be surprised at what and who you find when you let go of your expectations. You may even find your authentic self.
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