art fear

Thick Skin, Elastic Heart

9:46:00 AMCristina Ramos

Sia's newest music video "Elastic Heart" is breathtaking.

At first glance, the interpretative dance of the song appears strange and unfamiliar, uncomfortable even.  Granted, it is odd to see a twelve-year-old girl moving so expressively with the much older Shia LeBeouf.  Yet once I crossed over the sidelines of being a critical spectator of the video and entered in as a participant of the scene, I realized how accurately this video's message had echoed in my life in regard to love and transformation.

The opening scene explodes with emotion between a young girl and an older man violently arguing with one another in a cage.  Stepping back from the scene, you realize that these two characters are actually one.  Each represent different parts of Sia's psyche, so to speak, and the cage they are in can be representative of a skull.  These two relentlessly throwing themselves at each other is a snapshot within Sia's psyche of arguing with and against the self.

But why?  

As the rush of emotion of interpretive dance continues and her message unfolds, Sia's lyrics proclaim:

Oh why can I not conquer love ... 
And I wanted it, I wanted it bad ... 
Now another one bites the dust ... 
Yeah, let's be clear, I'll trust no one.  

These lyrics make clear that this scene is the epitome of what is to be broken and hardened.  She does not depict how, but at some point, or at many points in her life, love wounded Sia.  She desires to conquer love, but has only been abandoned by it.  An experience of love has left Sia so severely wounded and broken, that she now finds herself violently arguing, wrestling, passionately seeking a way to find an escape from the brokenness that has become a part of her and has caged her.  She continues:

And I know that I can survive ... 
I'll walk through fire to save my life ... 
But you won't see me fall apart ... 
Cause I've got thick skin and an elastic heart.  

Thick skin and an elastic heart - the image illustrates the most common and immediate response to brokenness: hardness, resilience.  Gaining the ability to harden yourself, not to feel, to remain immune to hurt has gained too much exaggerated promotion from countless critics of love and has poisoned our understanding of love itself.  To not feel is to be human-less.

Deadening the vulnerability needed to fall apart is to lose touch with what makes us truly alive.  Closing off to love is not strength, it is weakness.  It does not free us, it cages us.  It traps us to the very brokenness we were trying to escape.  Our fear ends up becoming the cage: barbed wire around our hearts.  We implode within ourselves and become farther isolated within our own hurt.  We think shutting out love and being skeptical of it is the cure of our brokenness, but this approach only solidifies, rather than healing the wound.

The answer to brokenness is not hardness; rather, it is transformation.

In regards to transformation, consider David, Michelangelo's magnificent masterpiece.  Before him stood a large block of marble, and from it, he formed David.  In awe of his masterpiece, the Pope asked him how he knew what to cut away to form the sculpture of David.  His response was, "It's simple.  I just remove everything that doesn't look like David."

What is key about Michelangelo's formation of David is that he did not create it.  

He discovered it.  This discovery is what led him to uncover the true David that lay beneath the shapeless block of marble.  So too are our hearts a block of marble: before God, before life.  God forbid a tragic event strikes us and leaves us shattered, the answer to discovering ourselves, our personal David, is not hardness.  This approach only hardens what is already shattered.

If we truly desire to break free from our areas of brokenness, we must not isolate it, but face it.  We must not develop "thick skin," but deeper skin.  We must pick up all of the shattered pieces and give them the opportunity to reclaim their shape and become a masterpiece.  This requires that we give ourselves permission to feel.  We must open up and feel the wound that exists.  Wounds are often the hardest to touch because of the pain they invoke, but a healing touch is exactly what is needed for a lasting remedy.  It is only then that we can encounter a process of transformation.

In the introduction to her husband's work, Transformation in Christ, Alice von Hildebrand writes, "Rare are those (and they are properly known as saints) whose readiness to change is total, absolute, unconditional, and who let the Divine Master decide how deeply the marble is to be chiseled." (1)

Being chiseled hurts.

Being formed by the Divine Master can be painful.  Discovering our own David requires that our wounds be touched.  But it is a glorious pain.  It is a pain similar to the crucifixion that leads us to a resurrected life.  This is our call to greatness.  This is precisely what makes saints.

The key to all this is not only allowing ourselves to feel, but also, recognizing that we are not the Divine Physician.  We are not our own healers.  We are not our own redeemers.  We are not our own saviors.  Sia, in that cage of brokenness, relied on human efforts to achieve freedom and healing.  Though part of her was able to leave the cage, a part of her remained caged, fighting for freedom in the end.  God desires that we are not partially free, but instead, fully free.  By using her own strength, Sia's battle against herself only continued, the wage of war was not silenced, the cage was not removed.  Wounded persons cannot rely on "human force," but rather, must recognize our "need of redemption." (2)

That block of marble needed Michelangelo to chisel away, to become what that block was always meant to be.  So, too, we need God to see us, to touch us, to form us.  He stands before us as Creator and sees us as the masterpiece we are; He will do everything in His love to ensure that a masterpiece is what we become.

I am not here to tell you what you should or should not do.  I am not here to outline every step for healing from a moment in the past that haunts.  What I am here for is to remind you of something I myself forgot, something that Sia's video invoked: we are masterpieces.  Masterpieces take time.  Masterpieces need formation.  And most importantly, masterpieces need all the pieces present if it is going to reach its greatest potential.  Shutting out love and becoming hardened is tempting because it is easy.  But enduring the pain of healing and transformation is glorious and is precisely what makes us great.

"Thus Christ speaks to Nicodemus: 'Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  (John 3:3) Christ, the Messiah, is not merely the Redeemer who breaks apart the bond and cleanses us from sin.  He is also the Dispenser of a new divine life which shall wholly transform us and turn us into new men." (3) 

Trust in the Divine Sculptor and discover the greatness and freedom for which we are all destined. 

(1) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, ix. 
(2) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, 4. 
(3) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, 4-5. 

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  1. amazing! great writing and analysis of the video :) i particularly connected with the part where you mentioned resilience, pain, and emotion-less human-lessness. it is very easy to become that way when tragedy happens in life. your essay reassured me that even the hardest stone can be made perfect!

  2. First of all you wrote a beautiful article. I would advise the readers to see the video first....before reading your blog. It helps to give a visual and a base that tie it together neatly as we read it. Additionally it also helps the reader connect to what you are sharing with us. You bring forward the subject of living, of fully experiencing life, and remind us of all of what that encompasses. We cannot be healed of that which we do not acknowledge. It is, therefore, important to look in the mirror & give God permission to begin the chiseling, which heals us & draws us closer to Him & each other. May we choose to receive the love & forgiveness, which God offers daily to us, and may we allow our Creator to chisel away our hurts so we can be all He has designed us to be. His is the only gift that truly frees us from our cage. Beautiful, engaging and deep.


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