the straitjacket metaphor



Harry Houdini, a pioneer of the straitjacket fashion statement preferred to model his while upside down.

Yes, I’d watched illusionists on television dramatically escape the straitjacket while leaping through a circle of fire under water or however the trick went, but I’d never thought much about straitjackets. I’d certainly never been in the same room as one.  And then I took a few church youth to Revolve in Omaha.

This year, one of the stage personalities was the illusionist Harris III.  Harris spoke about perception and deception, reminding the girls that things aren’t always as they seem. He was good at the mind tricks. He was also a perfect mix of funny and thoughtful. And of course, Harris is the man who brought out the straitjacket.

As he was strapped into the jacket, he pointed out all of the different features meant to keep him in place: the sewed sleeves, the various buckles, straps and ties. He then explained that Houdini had been put in a jacket like this one for many hours before figuring out the trick to escaping. Harris told us that escaping the straitjacket is painful. In order to maneuver one’s way out of such a trap, you have to uncomfortable maneuver your shoulder, stretching it or popping it out of place. The pain involved makes escaping a straitjacket a rare live event– most only do it for tv audiences or in videos.

And then he did it! Harris worked his way out of the straitjacket, dislocating his shoulder and struggling, in pain, for what felt like too long. I wanted to rush the stage and unbuckle him. It seemed unnecessary for Harris to intentionally hurt himself for our entertainment. The music was loud and he was wiggling around and finally, he was free to enjoy the applause that greeted him.

Once out of the straitjacket, Harris made the point that there are times when we all feel trapped. It might be sin or a relationship or something bad, but we might feel like there’s no way out of whatever binds us. He said with God, we’re never trapped. There might be more pain in taking whatever steps we needed to take to undo the first buckle, but it’s always possible to free ourselves from the grip of sin on our lives. Through God comes freedom and we’re not meant to live in a straitjacket.

I’m a fan of metaphors and I certainly have heard and used several of them. Still, this one caught me as one of the best pictures of gaining freedom in God. I can relate to the captivity, the painful struggle and the freedom. I know the girls got it, too. Cool stuff.

Harris III has a kickstarter site going for a dvd project. Check it out and help if you can. He’s a quality performer and from what limited twitter interaction, I think he’s also a quality person. The trailer for the dvd is at the kickstarter link or check out Harris III’s youtube.

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