First of all, what is an element? And why do I have one? Am I inside of my element? What does it mean to be outside of my element?
To start with, I want to say that one of my favorite films, Finding Forester, illustrates this concept of one’s element better than most things that come to mind. The character, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), is a 16-year-old African American kid from the Bronx. He is surrounded by the beat-down vibrations of the hood but finds his passion in two things.
The first thing makes sense and fits well with his “situation” because it is something that his friends, siblings and neighbors all do. Basketball, everyone plays basketball. In Jamal’s neighborhood much of 16-year-old kid’s worth or identity comes from how skilled he is at basketball. And, it just so happens that Jamal is one of the best basketball players in his neighborhood.
The second and real thing that Jamal finds his true passion in does not make sense. Writing. In the opening scene Jamal is in his small bedroom surrounded by stacks of classic and timeless books. Now that, is not something that you would expect to see in the room of a 16-year-old African American kid from the hood.
With that said, Jamal’s element is not the hood or the basketball court. Jamal’s element is found in his pen and paper. The interesting observation made throughout the whole movie is that Jamal thinks that his element belongs in the hood and in basketball. However, his true element is discovered when he sits down and puts words on paper.
This story is important to all of us because we all face the presence of “the hood.” We are all surrounded by situations, moments, people that we are led to believe possess our influence and inspiration. This is a denigrating fact when it comes to what we make and how we make it. If we are bound by a moment in time, a situation, or a person of importance we end up making what they wanted instead of what we needed. We make things that don’t contain the real fullness of ourselves.
Therefore, my actual hope is not that we would “get outside of our element” but that we would instead seek our true element.
So in light of the topic, I would like to end today’s spout of opinion with a quote from Jack Kerouac.
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”