I really don’t have anything to say.
About three hours ago, when I woke up from a mid-morning nap, everyone was gone.
Akeel left early during the dawning day. Off to be with his mother who had come to pick him up. I could faintly hear her outside. A bit later after drinking some of a papaya-based juice, I went online looking for the U.S. Open tennis matches. I was a bit too early.
Asante had left a note: “Baba–we out for a minute. Holla if you need anything. See you soon. AS”.
I wish she had woken me. I retired to the lazy boy chair, my sleeping spot of choice, and dozed off.
When I awoke for the second time today, they still were not back. The dogs were milling about in the yard. Eventually, I remembered a Netflix movie (“Worth”) I had half-heartedly planned to view. Started watching this saga about one of the lead lawyers dealing with the 911 aftermath. This was not a cheery movie but it caught my interest.
And then the generator cut off.
So now what?
I fight the feelings of despondency. Confront the old “woe-is-me” wolf at the front door of my consciousness.
I know I am not alone. I am in a city populated by those who decided to stick it out. All of those who, in one way or another, have elected or been forced by lack of funds or by no way out trials and tribulations, forced to suffer in a metropole with no electricity. And, as a result, we became canaries in the coal mine of New Orleans.
After more hours of semi-sleeping and meditating, finally, the day is done. Now the sun is going down.
I decide to type a brief note–I’m working on my laptop, which, when I first woke up from that mid-morning nap, I had the partial good sense to hook up to the extension chord that snakes outside to the generator. The MacBook is fully charged. The desktop and everything else dependent on electricity is down.
It’s either type on the laptop or scream and holler. What do I do?
Looking at that 911 movie is strangely comforting. My middle daughter, Kiini was living in Brooklyn when the twin towers fell. My youngest, Tiaji was living in the D.C. area. Unbelievable as it may be, on that day of the attack I had already planned to show a movie to the workshop I conducted on Tuesday afternoons.
The movie was “The Terrorist”, set in Southern Asia near or in India. A band of insurgents prepares to do an armed action confronting the authorities. No joke, that’s what I was doing. I showed the movie that evening to our workshop, all of whom had seen the 911 attack that was broadcasted on television ceaselessly that day.
Back then I understood the Terrorist movie on an intellectual and political level.
Now, I feel the movie personally. I look out into the waning light as the sun sets. What can I say to people to help them understand. . . not understand my situation, but rather understand the situation of all of us.
We are all facing Chinua Achebe’s famous dictum/famous question: What do you do when things fall apart?
When the center of your familiar existence no longer holds–that’s a paraphrase from Yeats, I believe. I used to co-teach an AP English and creative writing class with Jim Randels. From time to time, I see some of my former students. Occasionally I talk to Greta, Jim’s wife and less often talk with Jim. It has been years since we were colleagues in the classroom.
What I really want to do is encourage the people, encourage all of us to keep fighting even though I know many of us eventually might not survive the various disasters we face.
Our historic humanity demands, regardless of how discouraged we may get from time to time, the demand is to stay strong, hold the line, and keep on keeping on.
I want to tell people, especially those younger than myself, no matter how we feel as individuals, no matter that some of us will not survive, no matter it’s hot and the generator has konked out. No matter. Whatever.
We are survivors. I couldn’t be here if my people had not survived. If I did not come from the stock of enslaved Africans who faced literally centuries of enslavement and carried on regardless.
It’s complicated but I know we can do it.
Earlier I read a brief article about Jesse James. How he and his brother, Frank, came from a so-called good family. How they had joined the Confederate Army on account of the animosity engendered when the Union Army came through where they were living. Unbelievable as it may seem, I briefly went to school in Northfield, Minnesota at Carleton College. That’s where the Jesse James gang disbanded after they were confronted by the small Northfield town that was laying in wait for their arrival.
We all have so many generally unknown connections to history.
We are never alone. Not really. Never unconnected. Even people to whom no connection is obvious, we all have points of history in common. Sometimes near points, most often distant points; distant in both place, time, and social circumstance. But we also have common points of reference.
The struggle on a day-to-day basis is to survive. However, ultimately the struggle is really to recognize each other’s humanity regardless of the differences in how we are: ethnically, gender wise, racially, or whatever–the struggle is to find the concordances no matter the specifics of who we are and how we struggle.
There is a human fabric that connects us even as the individual particulars of our existence seem to separate us. Whether we focus on fellowship with friends, or whether we focus on fighting against foes, or even if we don’t focus at all. No matter. We are connected and, on a human level, have something in common.
Think of someone you know. Think good thoughts for them. And let your good thoughts of connection, inform and guide you as you live the rest of your life.
I am not saying “don’t fight”. We must fight whatever powers that be arrayed against us but I am saying that as Che Guevera knew, at our best, we should all be motivated by great feelings of love.
Love for our loved ones. Love for those we barely know. Even love for the humanity inside of our enemies.
Let love be an active choice to live a better life. Individually and collectively.
Focusing on your own individuality is easy. Seeing others as separate from ourselves. Embracing only family and chosen partners is easy.
The challenge of life is to embrace all. To fight when we are forced to but to love even as we fight.
Our future depends not merely on our fierceness in fighting, but more importantly on our ability to love each other. Not only intellectually. Not just abstractly. But rather to truly love. In day-to-day practice.
Love is not just a concept. Love is an action. A choice to help all fellow humans we encounter to be their best selves. Every day, we have at least one opportunity–and usually multiple opportunities–to express love, to demonstrate love.
To at least say hello. To provide assistance. To touch. To embrace. If nothing else to smile. To wave as we pass someone.
Every day. Every moment. We can and should choose to be human and to share that choice with another.