Today I lectured on the life and art of Edvard Munch. Munch was a prolific artist, poet and writer and yet at one point in his life he checked himself into a mental hospital because he heard voices and he felt he ‘was crazy’, so did Vincent Van Gogh. Many creative and imaginative geniuses have expressed these feelings. Charles Dickens considered himself ‘crazy’, so did Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. They all thought they had a ‘mental illness’ at one time or another.
I have a group of students in my 6th period block that have such a unique view of life and people. I listened to one of their conversations about a young boy in our local middle school who was being bullied for being different and they wanted to do something special for him to make him feel accepted and loved. They talked about throwing a party for him at one of the local parks in this area. I was so touched by their conversation and sensitivity that I sat down at the table to join in on their discussion.
When the class finished, I asked myself, “Why are some people naturally more sensitive to others? Is it because at one time in their life they felt different and they have the ability to empathize with the middle school child, or are some people just nicer?"
And if all these amazing prolific artists, writers and musicians at one time were considered, “crazy” or “mentally ill” then what exactly is crazy? Did they see themselves outside the norm of society? Maybe, just maybe…they were living a higher life than ‘normal’ people so that made them feel different.
I know that I see things differently than others do and I feel things more deeply than most people. It is those qualities that make me special. Walking home from school I could say to my friend, “Do you see that beautiful palm tree?” and they would simply reply, “Yep, it’s a palm tree.”
Yet, when I look at the palm tree, I see more than just a tree, I see beautiful colors. I don’t just see the color green, I see many colors. I have the visual sensitivity to see yellows, blues, and greens within the leaves. My eyes notice how the sun light changes the colors or how the color changes when the wind blows and twists the palm frawns.
From my studies of art history I know that the palm tree symbolizes victory, triumph, peace and eternal life and so as I look at the tree, I am reminded of its place in art and history. I recall palm branches that I saw on ancient Greek vases at the museums or on the pillars of the Parthenon when I visited Athens years ago. I see the texture on the tree trunk and the pattern of the bark as it layers up to the sky. I don’t just see a tree. I see things differently! I love being different, I love being me!
So, the next time that you feel different, be proud of being different! Honestly, normal is so boring and definitely overrated! To me, being different means being special! Trust me on this one. Ms. B.