Lessons From Rudolf

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clarissaRudolf the Red nosed reindeer was by far my favourite Christmas movie growing up. Part of what was so special was that you had to catch it when it was on, couldn’t just watch it over and over on DVD. Now I have a four year old and with little pressing from me, it’s become his favourite too. And  although I have now watched that blasted thing in part or entirely ten thousand times this December, it still hasn’t lost its charm.

So here’s this little deer with his glowing red nose who’s ostracized by everyone, except for Clarissa, the cute little girl deer, who was probably an Enneagram type 2, 7 or 9. (As a two, the Helper, able to tune into Rudolf’s need for acceptance and give him that, in part no doubt for the reciprocal acceptance and subsequent meeting of her own needs. As a 7, the Enthusiast, emphasizing the positive, with the gift of being able to turn a thorny situation less thorny, to see the potential in what others cannot, possibly with a 6 wing- vying for the underdog. Or as a 9, the Peacemaker, wanting to bring equilibrium and peace back to the disruption that occurred at flying school- though likely with an 8 wing since she was willing to chase Rudolf down and challenge him on why he didn’t walk her home as he had promised.)

Of course we all know how the story ends, once those judgemental little pricks figure out that Rudolf’s nose can serve the whole, they shout out with glee. So it is, that the theme of this film is about celebrating our differences, or at the very least being accepting of them. It sure is easy to be proud of or celebrate the parts of ourselves that our surrounding culture holds dear or acceptable, but what are we to do with our shiny red noses? We can’t all be Enneagram type threes.

What’s quite unfortunate is that for many of us, the very parts of ourselves that are unique, that could turn out to be gifts, are often judged, ridiculed or begged to conform at an early age, hardening aspects of our identity that prevent us from doing our own unique work in this world. I have battled with my own fiery personality my whole life. I talk too much. I’m insatiable. I’m too intense. I’m inappropriate. It’s interesting talking to my mother about this who asserts that I wasn’t as difficult as I shamefully recall (as I still work with as my limiting identity structures).self-expression

But I do remember the exasperation and shock of others, particularly through my adolescence. I talked about things you’re just not supposed to talk about. I recall a friend once saying ‘wow, you totally say shit in front of parents that you’re not supposed to say in front of parents.’ Really? According to who? While I certainly identified as a bit of a pain in the ass for others, overwhelming them or frustrating them, my family, for the most part, was supportive. I recall sitting after school with my father who had been called in by my teacher and they were discussing my loud, irreverent, ‘disrespectful’ behaviour. “I know she can be difficult,” says dad, “but I’m just not going to squelch her Self-Expression, you’re going to have to find your own way of dealing with it.” Now, I’m not suggesting that this free-for-all was the best method, certainly I could have used some lessons in refinement, but this unconditional support has allowed me to turn this thorny part of myself, this red shiny nose, into quite a productive tool.

I have the fire to get done just about anything that needs doing. My willingness to say shit that shouldn’t be said gets things moving. (As a fellow Enneagram type 7 recently said, when discussing our propensity towards being ‘publicly inappropriate’ “fuck ‘em. I’d rather be risky than bland.”) My insatiability compels me to demand greater depth, understanding and connection. These qualities can help make me a good leader and a good coach. People are safe with me, can say anything, we can go anywhere and we’ll keep digging and building to get the best of them- shining up their red, glowing nose.

This post by Br. Andrew strikes me as a good example of such things. Touching. The guy is just innately contrary. Shiny red nose. The last line of the posted poem is “It is not the only or the easiest way to come to truth. It is one way.”

Living as our most honest and authentic selves is probably the most frightening way to go. Bringing our weirdness or unacceptable-ness, our quirks or idiosyncrasies forward can seem like the opposite of what our world wants, but in the end, like Rudolf, it’s certainly what this world needs.

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Saturday, 17 December 2011 18:09 posted by Philip Corkill

    Ahoi Chela!

    I'd like to add your subtitle to the end of this piece because I would love to hear what the responses are from some of my heros at B and S:

    "What's your Shiny Red Nose? Your unique thorn? What part of you is actually a gift, contrary to public opinion?"

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Saturday, 17 December 2011 18:44 posted by Philip Corkill

    As for me, some of my shiny read noses that I can't make any sense of, are my meanderings at the edge of sanity in the past few years. The worst of which put me in hospital for the first half of this, luckily soon to be over, fuck up of a year.

    I can see how the whole episode has served me beyond measure. It's rendered me pretty much unfit for corporate consumption, maybe forever. I think that's a blessing. It has brought me a small income (German social support) that I would have been to false-proud to accept, had they not put it on me as a matter of course. carefully saved, this has paid for my flights to meet you, Trevor and Sarah in California! Thanks crazy Germany! It has forced me to stay in one place long enough to regenerate and integrate years of intense travel and given me a break from years of intense practice that has helped deepen the practice. It has given me time and muse to engage at Beams and Strut with other insane people.

    I could go, have gone, on and on. But I still don't see what could be the actual gift of the red nose of a vulnerability to psychotic breakdown itself. It's just pure unrelenting terror. And quite frankly I think it's completely fucking unfair, given that I've taken just a tiny fraction of the drugs that the average person of my generation has taken and that was a quarter life-time ago.

    Maybe it is in the intensity of vulnerability that I often can't close down and if I could integrate and champion that, it would be a gift, and I wouldn't have to reach the point of melt down ever again. I don't know. I don't know yet. Maybe you reindeers will help me find out one day.

    Anyway, even if it remains forever a glitch in the cosmic design with no direct use, in my case it has certainly had enough positive side effects to be thankful for.

    Because of this I will see you in two weeks:-)

  • Comment Link Chela Davison Saturday, 17 December 2011 19:18 posted by Chela Davison

    Thanks Phil,
    It did occur to me to attempt to cite the 'shiny red noses' of each of the writers here, linking to their work. But that seemed like A) too much work. And B) it would be presumptive, assuming I can peg those for others (the farmer poem being self declared.)

    As for your own vulnerabilities and health challenges, I guess sometimes we can't see the gifts of things until later. But then sometimes things just suck and perhaps that's all there is to it.
    Thanks for you full engagement, Phil, as always.

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Saturday, 17 December 2011 22:51 posted by Bergen Vermette

    "What's your Shiny Red Nose? Your unique thorn? What part of you is actually a gift, contrary to public opinion?"

    I think the key part is: "contrary to public opinion". This seems like a tricky one. How to distinguish between what is truly a red nose (a positive difference if yet undervalued in society) and what is really just some wart of personality that I'm stubbornly holding to because it's how I've always been and have created an identity around.

    Case in point, I believe I was the fellow Sr. Che quoted above (rather risky than bland). I said it in the context of having always had a mouth that got me in trouble, yet in recent years toning it down a bit for some healthy self-censoring (maturity's a beautiful thing). However, in doing so I've also felt a bit fake, and a bit bland, frankly. So more recently I've gone the opposite route and started flappin' again with my old comforts of cocky arrogance and dirty jokes galore.

    But here's the public opinion part. While I feel much better, the community may not. Br Trev, who has known me more in the self-censored years, has recently taken enough issue with my mouth to bring it up as a point of contention. In other words, what I consider a gift of liberated speech, bound to inspire others in similar freedom of expression, may to others just be crass and uncomfortable.

    It probably brings us into a larger philosophical debate of self-expression vs social acceptance. You may be liberated by your ass-less chaps; I may want to gag.

    Ultimately it seems context is everything. Rudolph's red nose was great in the fog and at the night club. But in traffic he caused no end of problems.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Sunday, 18 December 2011 00:43 posted by Philip Corkill

    Yes, rather than you exposing the others, I hope that our openness (and probably a bit of exhibitionism on my part. It was this time last year and it's just really on my mind at the moment) and those questions, will encourage others to share some of their weird and wonderful gifts with us. As Bergen has.

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