He sighed, he moaned. He tugged in fits at the patchy remnant of his brown hair, or chased it with his fingers back and forth across his pate like a pastry chef scattering flour on a marble slab. The blunders of his opponents were each a separate cramp in the abdomen. His own moves, however daring, however startling and original and strong, struck him like successive pieces of terrible news, so that he covered his mouth and rolled his eyes at the sight of them.
~From The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon
I’ve been listening to India.Arie’s new podcast, SongVersation. I started it soon after it came out and like most things I encounter, I waited for a little while to come back to it. The great part about that is I get to listen to all of the episodes back to back.
It’s a very intriguing listen. Each episode focuses on one of her songs. For about 40 minutes or so, she tells stories about where she was—physically and emotionally—while writing a song; she talks about her songwriting partners; she even discusses some of her experiences as a black artist in the music industry.
The most recent episode is about a song I have loved for years, “Ready for Love.”
I am ready for love
All of the joy and the pain
And all the time that it takes
Just to stay in your good grace
“SongVersation: Ready for Love” is a perfect example of how broad the conversations can be. In it she tributes her songwriting partner, guitarist and friend who recently passed away and who helped write and record the song. She talks a bit about how her views on romantic relationships were evolving at the time. There’s also some conversation about how the meaning of this song has transformed over time.
Maybe I’m one of only a few people who get excited about these things, but I couldn’t get out of my car until I finished the episode:
SongVersation: Ready For Love – SongVersation
Nobody had ever talked to me like this before: not Granddaddy, not any of my regular teachers, and definitely not Mama. In my family, we all moved in the same direction, hustling and scheming and getting nowhere. That was the path laid out in front of me. But now here was Miss Troup–in all her leather-boot and red-fingernail finery–telling me I could go another way. I took a deep breath and gazed at my reflection. You can do anything and be anything, I thought, trying it on for size. But I wasn’t totally convinced I had a place in Miss Troup’s world of “possibilities” and “potential.”
~ From Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, Patricia Williams
When love beckons you, follow him
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
~From The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose provenance dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.
~ From The Quiet Game, Greg Iles
You give people hope; then the pendulum swings the wrong way and they’re left shattered, as much by false hope as by misfortune.
~ The Quiet Game, Greg Iles
Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.
~ Claudia Rankine, “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning”
From The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race