He don’t know how hard it is to be black. He can’t even imagine somethin’ harder than what he doin’. I could tell him but he wouldn’t believe it.
~ From Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley
Every once in a while I lay down my armor for a moment and wonder what peace would look like. Sometimes it’s a glancing thought. Other times it’s an extended conversation with a friend. It’s hard, when you finally realize what this world is, to step back and visualize what the world could be. But you try.
The problem is simple: there’s no desire for understanding. Every human has their own struggles, their own pain, their own stories. It takes an open, patient human being to hear of another’s pain, listen and believe it.
Paying attention often requires some sort of empathy for the subject, or at the very least, for the speaker. But empathy, these days, is hard to come by. Maybe this is because everyone is having such a hard time being understood themselves. Or because empathy requires us to dig way down into the murk, deeper than our own feelings go, to a place where the boundaries between our experience and everyone else’s no longer exist.
~ Wendy S. Walters “Lonely in America” from The Fire This Time
Once a person truly dons this empathy, it demands that they keep their mouths closed and disregard everything they think they know. It requires them to listen with an awareness that opens their ears to something they’ve never heard before, something that sounds so unbelievable that, in any other context, they might think it fiction. When they choose to pay attention they may find that boundaries dissipate, but they may also find that, in some ways, the life they live is a fantasy and some wake up every day in hell.
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
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
~ From The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
I want this to be real. Maybe it would be if she had gentle hands. Her hands are calloused, rough, sharp, hard, tough. Her pride is intrusive. Maybe I could believe this if his strong silence had come after I spilled my emotions and not after she hurled ridicule. Maybe if their opinions were set aside to make room for mine, this could finally feel true. Maybe I could live, confidently.
Instead I shudder because I fear the fight. I keep my life sheltered and distant because it’s the only way I have the strength to truly live it my way. I step away when I feel pushed. I walk away injured by opinions and exhausted by the tension between respect and self-respect. I close my eyes and arms to the possibility of progress because I’ve battled too long to hope for different.
If you have two or three real passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life. ~ From Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon Life is hard. Sometimes it’s important to know what other people think. Not because you don’t have ideas of your own. It’s important because you do. Reading or receiving another’s advise can sometimes be a reminder that your life philosophies are not mere fantasies created to let you wallow in self-absorption. Instead, they are the best ways for you to provide a valuable contribution to humanity. Don’t throw any of yourself away. Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don’t worry about unity–what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense. ~ From Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon
Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. ~ From The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion I don’t like to think about death. It scares me. It’s not the mere fact of it or the inevitability. It’s the loneliness. I remember when my grandfather died. I was 22 and had just started graduate school. My world was shaken by his absence from it and the truth was it had been a while since I’d seen him. I had been so busy with work (I was working two jobs) and the transition back to school that I just didn’t have time. So I was broken by my lack of time. I could have had more time. I ran out of it and that hurt. But I couldn’t imagine what my grandmother was going through. I remember seeing her at the wake. We all showed up and sat around waiting to welcome the people who would come, view my grandfather’s
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I’ve always felt that tomorrow is for those who are too much afraid to go past yesterday and start living for today.
Stevie Wonder, “Joy Inside My Tears”