“You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”
The roots of any revolution begin with the revolutionary seed, born within courageous human beings. Revolution, be it personal or societal, is born in truth.
I remember when I was first exposed to black history, Malcolm X, militant politics. I was fascinated; a thirst I didn’t know I had, was quenched. What I ended up doing in my youth and naivete, was clothing myself in the information, without allowing the profundity of its meaning to permeate my spiritual/emotional/pyschological life. It never reached the cells, the tissue, the DNA. The books I read morphed into a compensatory personna that I would periodically bash other people with and use as a shield to protect my fragile, unexamined, inner-life. I was hiding the wounded soul behind kente cloth.
I could talk from the book, I could talk about what I read, I could spout positions and so much rhetoric – but I couldn’t tell you who I was. And didn’t want to know. And didn’t know that I did NOT want to know.
Alcoholism saved my life. Drinking took this process of inner evasion to amazing heights and depths. Mainly depths. I was so strung out on chemicals and the double-triple life that I was leading, that when I/It crashed into a heap, I was done. No facade could shield me from the psychic, spiritual abyss that I had plummeted into. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The facade, the shingles, the siding, the multiple paint jobs – had all been power-hosed and I was left with the gaping wound that was me.
What could mend me, what could really heal me? The only thing I’ve found that does the job is God, the truth, brutal self-examination, friendships that hold a mirror up to my face – with likeminded people who have the sensitivity and courage to criticize me and themselves whenever its necessary.
Becoming is a process in this world. Casting off the garbage foisted on you from family, from so-called friends, from this culture, is a lifetime endeavor…if you want to be real. However, if one wants to stick with their “compensatory personality,” the one they borrowed, versus the one that they sweated bullets for, unearthed from the inner journey – well, its as easy as the crack pipe. And just as fine a short-term hit.
A friend of mine asked me recently why I write things on my blog directed at people who don’t like what I have to say and have made it plain that they don’t. Two reasons really: One, I’m not really writing stuff for their benefit at all. What I learned in recovery is that there are some people who haven’t gone as far into the disease as others. They may be able to avoid going to the depths that others of us have gone by hearing about it first, hearing someone else’s story. They can take what they like and leave the rest. And, Two, I need to be reminded of how I was and how I DON’T want to be. I was as belligerent, narrow and absurd as any of my “opponents.” They were and perhaps, are me. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
The idea of recovery is powerful and appropriate for what we confront; but even in the context of 12Step recovery, one often finds the well meaning-tyrant, who has only half-understood what they’ve read, only half-understood their story, and now they are experts on you, me, life itself. They NEVER talk about themselves or the concepts of growth, change or process. They’ve adopted the “compensatory personna,” climbed into their own personal gun tower, the sniper’s nest, where they can pick off those who think with their whole being, rather than the sliver that is their puny ego.
In the context of black liberation, this is incredibly important – the ability to tell the difference. Tell the difference between those who have done their work and are doing their work; and those who cower beneath angry, secondhand lingo to throw the scent off of their own fear that they secretly wallow in.
I was speaking with a very good friend of mine the other night. She was saying how she’d attended a couple of these “Covenant on Black America” spectacles and how appalled she was. The “experts” on stage were trying to outdo each other, trying to win debating points. And the crowd was lapping it up like good little sheep. The ability to discern solutions or a program, from a rhetorical exercise was absent, even among the mighty brains engaged on the stage. I’ve watched a couple of them on cable – for fifteen minutes – and felt the same thing. Jive. Spectacle. Sitcom. Good shit said and said well.
Human beings have to be willing to descend into a place within where angels dare not tread. I was lucky – it was go there or die. It wasn’t a choice; to survive, my only option was to go there. And it ain’t ova! Looking back many years on – seeking truth, depth, the darker, uglier places within, is always optional. I know people who had softer bottoms than me who failed to look or learn and kept on plummeting. The “character blassasinators,” whose fingers constantly point outward and NEVER look within, are the shallow ‘friends’ who offer the addict crack or heroin – when you’re trying to kick the habit. “You know you want some more of this.” They want company in their prison cell.
Resist, resist I say. Be yourself, which means taking an inner voyage for the rest of your life. As a man, the journey for me has been to feel, feel the feelings men aren’t supposed to feel: hurt, shame, abandonment, fear. The positions one takes on interracial relationships, black women or black men don’t make you “real” or “authentic” or “black.” They can just as easily make you, ignorant, ridiculous, pathetic and white-minded. No, your relationship with “You” is what counts…and the quality of that relationship with yourself.
Is your mirror pointed outward or inward? Do you really know who you are – or is the point to not know?
Is it your intention to be an armored tank blasting your incipient emotions, reflected in others? Is that what I’m doing here?
You think you’ve heard this one before? You have. At intervals, your intuition, that inner voice that knows, has tried to get your attention when you were hard at work running from it.
Stop. Look. Listen. Feel. Then, think. Me and You and Everyone We Know.