Featured Fool: Shane Koyczan, Master Alchemist


(Image Credit: The Fool Card from the Gilded Tarot Illustrated by Ciro Marchetti)

I’m a bit behind on my “Fabulous Friday.” Thankfully, it’s not because I’m all out of fabulosity (cause I’m not!), but rather I’ve been trying to find words fabulous enough to do this entry justice. I just hope I have succeeded.

After getting lost in Youtube for a while, I realized I couldn’t wait til Friday.

One of my favorite books of all time is The Dodecahedron: A Frame for Frames, by Paul Glennon. I stumbled upon him (read: had it forced upon me) during a Lit class, and it’s definitely overdue for a re-read.

What I first took for “gimmicky,” twelve short stories, each reframing the one before it, was actually quite brilliant. Not only was each of the stories strong enough to stand on its own, but it was powerful enough to completely change the story before it.

It’s been years since I’ve read it, and yet the concept, if not the specific details, still sticks in my mind.

We think in language; we experience and remember in perspective. As each story reframes another, the perspective changes. The book itself was enjoyable and well-written; its theme is what resonates even now: reframing is alchemy.  Reframing turns lead into gold; it transforms pain into wisdom and beauty.

Reframing is the key to transformation.

We tell ourselves stories of who we are, who we want to be. These stories often contain strong elements of other people’s definitions, other people’s goals. Our reference points can be our heroes, (I want to be just like Sally!) or our nemeses (I want to be anything but like my mother), but they’re just one perspective.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the story we’ve created is incomplete. Not only is it unfinished, but it’s from a very, very, limited point of view. It’s just one side of the story.

There’s an old parable about three blind monks who discover an elephant. Each monk feels a part of the elephant, and describes it one way, but no one gets the whole picture. No one realizes it’s more than an ear, a trunk, a leg.

Shane Koyczan is, in my humble opinion, a Master Alchemist.

I’m not sure how I first ran across him, but it was with this video, “To This Day.”  It’s difficult to watch; I won’t lie. It’s one of those things, while terribly beautiful, is simply haunting.

It’s one of those things, in a sea of terrible internet memes, that you can’t “unsee.” It’s also something that you never, ever want to forget.

You should really, really watch it. You can watch it here. You can see his TED talk, which includes his poem here. You can also read it here.

(Note: It doesn’t look like my hyperlinks are showing up against my background. Until I figure it out, all of the “heres” link directly to his work.)

His spoken word poem is specifically about bullying, but in this case, bullying is the set up for Koyczan’s Master Alchemy.

It’s the transformation of lead into gold; the transmutation of pain into beauty. It’s not that the pain is not still there, it’s more that, with each addition to the story, with each transformation of the story, we ourselves are transformed. We grow more distant from the critical mass of blinding pain and closer to the beauty of pain transmutated into something resplendent, something that helps us reframe our entire story and, just maybe, help others transform theirs.

He transforms a story about bullying into a fuck-all resounding success. A celebration of success, a celebration which inspires others. He creates alchemy with his own story and becomes a Master Alchemist when he is able to expand it and send it out into the world to set the spark in motion, to inspire other potential alchemists.

Whatever your story, whether involves bullying, addiction, rape, poor self-esteem, a diagnosis, whatever. It is ONLY one facet of your story—don’t mistake it for the whole elephant.

If you are breathing, if you are reading this, if it seems that you’re stalled out, then

Congratulations. We are graduating members of the class of we made it.

You are breathing. You are reading. It only appears that you’ve stalled out.

No matter where you are, how you compare to where or to what you wish to be, your story is unfinished.

Walk inside it and own that shit.


(Image Credit: The Pixel Project’s Facebook page: The Pixel Project – It’s Time To Stop Violence Against Women. Together. )

When you have a life

that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty

you too, will be an alchemist.

A foolish one, at that, and one that moves, sometimes ever-so-slowly and ever-so-painfully along the tightwire, growing closer to a life defined by beauty and further away from a life defined by pain.

Do yourself a favor. Check out Shane Koyczan’s  “Tomatoes,” “The Crickets Have Arthritis,” and “Instructions for a Bad Day.”  (The links are in the titles.)  I chose two of those because they had the words in the video, and the words should be heard and seen and devoured, over and over.

Do yourself a favor. Check him out on Amazon or iTunes. Support a Master Alchemist who is literally changing the world.

And, just for the record, a Featured Fool is always, always, a completely honest, unsolicited and financially uncompensated extolment.

(Image of Shane Koyczan from his Facebook page)


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