stimulating profound conversations about living and dying well
This article was originally published in elephant journal.
There’s been a huge internet backlash against the official music video for pop star Sia’s hit song “Elastic Heart.”
This adverse reaction is in particular from those who have their hackles raised against the sexualization of children in mainstream media—and honestly, I’m with them.
But not in this instance.
I see the value shimmering inside the dust that Shia and Maddie kick up—in fact, this is the most beautiful, heart-rending and socially pertinent music video I’ve seen in a very long time.
In my personal experience of being in love – having such a deeply symbiotic connection with another human being that is almost telepathic in understanding, where the wellbeing of one individual is inextricably connected with the other, and where two embodied consciousnesses have the continuous experience of oneness – it is the child in each person that speaks to the other. My partner is my child, lover, and parent; teacher and student; and funhouse mirror image. But it is the unguarded, expressive nature of the child in each of us that forms the foundation of our understanding. It is only when we are raw and bare and in full site of each other, stripped of all narratives, vulnerable and fully present, that we are able to see the most tender, profoundly human part of each other, and touch it gently. That is the foundational experience that builds trust; trust is fundamental to surrender; surrender is fundamental to love, because when we love, we give someone else the power to break our heart.
In this video I see a man yearning to interact with his child-self through the vector of an actual child – he recognizes something familiar in her that he believes he has lost, and through her, strives to reclaim. I also see a child who rejects the spiritual calcification the man has undergone; at first she deflects his attempts at contact. She knows what he wants and so imitates, pokes fun at, and attacks him. She sees the hungry wolf in his eyes and mirrors it back at him – the desperate man who doesn’t want to admit to himself what he’s become. But, she also sees the child in him, and so spars with the man until he realizes that the only way he can connect with the girl is to let the boy inside him come to the surface: the tender, vulnerable boy who is trapped in a cage of his own making. When the child passes freely between the bars, we see her assert her autonomy; when she re-enters the cage, establishes contact with the man, and is able to change his stoney facial expression into the silly faces of childhood at the lightest touch, we realize that this video is ultimately about the courage of vulnerability and the prevailing power of tenderness.
Or, maybe this video is about why men are attracted to women who are much younger than themselves – women (and girls) who have not yet been calcified by a world that tells us that grown-ups don’t cry, don’t show emotion, don’t play, and don’t grieve. Or, maybe this video is about why younger women are attracted to older men – beyond the old survival narrative of financial and material sustenance, the nurturing instinct yearns to rescue the boys who have never been taught to become men, and so, instead of dying in a rite of passage into adulthood, get trapped in an adult body.
Or, maybe this video is about the longing we all have to be received in our authentic vulnerability without fear.
Persephone Passages and Sacred Embodiment Founder Juniper Quin riffs on birth, death, and everything in between. She lives in North Vancouver, BC in the traditional and unceded territory of the Coast Salish nations with her husband, father-in-law, and an ever-expanding family of mostly edible houseplants.