Paul told the church in Corinth that they should follow him as he follows Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) This is an explicit command to engage in mimicry: copying someone or something else, (here’s the key word) pretending to be something you are not…right?
Over the course of my life I have pretended to be many things for many reasons. I have pretended to be a fireman, a rock-star, and an engineer. I have pretended to be courageous, knowledgeable, calm, excited, interested and I’ve pretended to care. I have pretended to be taller, stronger, smarter, cooler and cultured.
I have pretended to be sober.
I have pretended to be mature.
I have pretended to be faithful.
and yes, I have pretended to tell the truth.
For some of us, mimicry is a way of life. I have discovered in recent years that in fact, it may be the only talent I possesses. For example, right now, at the very moment I am ordering these words in my mind and clicking them into being on this keyboard, I am really just mimicking other people who know how to write. When I sing, I am trying to sound like people who sing well…
But sometimes, when I sit behind a drum set (the thing I have done most consistently for the longest time) I realize I’m doing something that is actually me. It may not be good; no one else may like it and it may not be helpful or noble or orthodox…but I’m not copying anyone else. At least not anymore. I’ve been copying other drummers for 40 years, and after mimicking something for that long, it has resulted in something quite magical: A new thing. I am no longer mimicing. I am, in the most technical sense, innovating. Almost no one else would be able to discern it because the malleable qualities of something like “rock and roll drumming: are so tiny, so nuanced and so limited, that they border on the meaningless…except to the innovator himself.
These days, I find myself wondering about the weariness I sometimes feel as I mimic the life of St. Paul…of St. Aidan, of Tom Hazen and Sam Wise Gamgee, Teddy Roosevelt, and that one big kid on the bus whose name I forgot years ago, but who everyone seemed to admire and want to be friends with.
I feel a sea change under way. I am no longer content to follow Paul or anyone else. Not that I wish my path to diverge, or that I repudiate a single thing any of these templates have given me. But in this, the beginning of my 6th decade, standing firmly on the shoulders of those whom I have emulated – something original just might be emerging.