Photo by HannekeV,

Pico Iyer’s Stained Glass Self

So, many of you will have already come across Pico Iyer’s TED talk, ‘Where is home?’ If you haven’t, do clink the link below – it’s wonderful. I have just re-watched it and wanted to expand on one of his themes…

Pico describes Third Culture Kids as pulling different aspects of different cultures into a “stained glass whole”. This is a beautiful and accurate way of describing how we can and do approach identity construction. Over time, our identities become a glorious explosion of contrasting colours.

Photo by Sue330,

Can you see it?

Our stained glass selves blaze with life when light shines through it. Ever-changing light beams and bounces through our coloured panes, transforming the patterns of light we throw onto the world around us… In the same way as the movement of light illuminates our coloured panes, our movement through the new and the novel makes our stained glass selves dance!

But. While we dance, while we shape-shift, whilst we run free in endless movement… we will find it increasingly hard to recognise the lines, the borders, the shapes of our selves. What picture or pattern does our stained glass self depict? What story is our dance bringing to the world?

Later in the talk, Pico describes the value of stillness, and suggests that, “It’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go”.

I could burst.

This. Stillness is not to suffocate. It is not to bind. It is not to break.

Stillness is to take stock. To take notice. To spend time noticing the story our stained glass panes are telling. To still the light, to see the picture. To know our stained glass selves.

And then we can see where we are going; the direction through the movement, the purpose in the dance.

Photo by HannekeV,

Can you see it now?

I work with Third Culture Kids who are struggling to identify their stained glass selves, who fear stillness as the dance-breaker, the soul-crusher. Together we enter the stillness, to find the story, and get ready for the dances to come.

Come and join the dance. Contact me here, I’d love to hear your story!


  1. Lisa Enqvist says:

    Thanks for sharing. What a beautiful way of describing a multicultural identity. I passed your link on to the descendant of another type of multicultural “hybrid” as the person’s author mother describes their existence: Descendants of colonial masters and their native wives from several centuries back. I have a few of the author mother’s books, and I visited her just last year in my childhood country. The author is not on the Internet; otherwise, I would send the link to her too.

    • Dr. Rachel Cason says:

      Thanks for reading, Lisa! Thank you for passing on this link too… Hybrid is a helpful concept as well… Would you share the author’s name and book titles here for other readers who might be interested?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *