Friday, September 22, 2023

The Ripe Richness Of Autumn’s Stride

“There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air, and time is quiet and mellow.” - Rudolfo Anaya

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“There was a hint of spring in her sole green eyes, something summery in her complexion, and a rich autumn ripeness in her walk.” - Toni Morrison 

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Autumn comes for all of us. It is the season that punctuates our lives with a needed reminder that our physicality has an end date. Wisdom dictates that we live into the reality of this notion with a strident, yet noble passion, and attend to our various needs accordingly. The flora in our most fertile regions will experience that season when their leaves and petals fall off. The symbols of their innate fecundity will succumb to a natural exhaustion that returns them to the ground from which they drew succor. And in that ground they will become nourishment for the good earth that nurtured them. 

As with the flowers and the trees and the grass, we will experience the various seasons as they come and go in our own lives. The exuberance of Summer will give way to a time of harvest in which we, if we are wise, will prepare for the somnolence of Winter. Autumn is the time of harvesting. In this season we will reap what we have sown, uproot that which was planted; and return to the soil around us that which this good earth needs to replenish itself in preparation for Spring. And so the cycle of our life together goes on… Us and the good earth.  

A meaningful and sustainable Livity requires that we attend to the needs of our own fecundity, and that we give due regard to the need of our mother Earth to renew herself. And what, you may ask, is this Livity of which I speak. Livity is a coinage of Rastafarian lingua. It speaks to the concept of a righteously cohesive existence. Essentially it is the realization that a common energy or life force conferred by the Creative process exists within, and flows through all people and all living things. The consciousness of a meaningful livity leads us to recognize the essential importance of the various times of our lives

There is a time to work; and a time for vacation. There will be a time to embrace; and a time to be alone. A time for conversation; and a time for reflective silence. A time to get; and a time to give back. A time for others; and a time for self. There will be opportunities to heal others; and a time to submit ourselves for healing. We look forward to a time to feast; and we embrace the time to fast. A time for sweets; and a time for the bitters that we need to purge us of  the overindulgence that dulls our senses. We should live into the times of our lives as our needs direct, and as Wisdom dictates.

Yes, Autumn comes… And when it does we should duly facilitate the changes and the change of pace that it ushers in. In this season we harvest the fruits of our labor, and then take a deep existential breath as the leaves fall off to replenish the good ground from which they drew succor. Let us embrace the break from Summer’s exuberance, prepare for the coming of Winter’s dormancy, and look forward with a quietude of attitude and spirit to the resurrection that Spring is a witness to. 

The many technological advances that allow us to continue our routine with very little regard for the climes of our lives must never become excuses for ignoring the times of our lives. There is an exhilarating meaningfulness of which we must not deprive ourselves as we witness the changes our planet goes through in the course of its journey through time and space. When we conscientiously engage in that journey with this wonderful blue marvel, we will realize the twin benefits of an expansion of mind and spirit, and a noticeably welcome enhancement of our physicality. 

The combination of the ecological and the ontological essence and impact of Autumn is perfectly captured in the following quotes from Rudolfo Anaya who is considered one of the founders of the canon of contemporary Chicano and New Mexican literature, and Toni Morrison the critically acclaimed American novelist. 

Reflecting on the obvious changes that come with the autumnal equinox Anaya emotes: 

There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air, and time is quiet and mellow.” 

The succinct poetic power of Anaya’s reflection is undeniable. It captures in a way that we can taste and feel, a wonderfully enchanting aspect of this season. To connect with the powerfully meaningful notion in his reflection we only have to go outside with open mouths, receptive ears, and eyes and minds unconstrained by thoughts of normality. 

Morrison, writing about what makes a human beautiful in her novel The Bluest Eyes, renders this rhapsodic soliloquy: 

There was a hint of spring in her sole green eyes, something summery in her complexion, and a rich autumn ripeness in her walk.” 

Ultimately what makes us beautiful as humans is the presence and expression of a real sense of connectedness between us, and the earth, and each other in our daily lives. Beauty is that presence which expresses all that is wonderful about us and the world. It is more than just a look. Beauty is a certain vision of Life that radiates as an observable loveliness of being…

The expressed ripeness of Autumn that fills the air, and the rich autumn ripeness in our strides, are witnesses to the existential continuum between ourselves and a beautifully bounteous Earth that we are so blessed to be endowed with. Autumn is a season for reflection. It is a wonderful moment in time during which we can develop and articulate a viable livity in the many spaces and relationships that we occupy.

This beautiful multicolored marvel called Earth is non-accidentally our home. It is that place in time and space where we train ourselves for our destiny in eternity. We are affected by her contractions and her expansions. We are enlivened and grown by her sun. We are pulled to and fro like the tides by her moon. She lives in us even as we live in her. She is us… and we are her. The seasons beckon us to be more aware of the connection between us and her.

And so Autumn comes for all of us, as it does for our Mother Earth. Its ripeness fills the air. In this season time passes quietly and with a wonderfully pronounced mellowness. There is a hint of Spring always reverberating in her aura. There is something summery in her reflection… And a rich ripeness in her stride through time and space… .

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Grow… or become unviable


Change requires us to make the adjustments that become necessary as a result of the reality that “all things are becoming new”. We change our clothes because physical and physiological dynamics dictate that we do. If we don’t, our place in the socio-communal order becomes compromised. No one wants to be around tattered, stinking individuals. We shower to get rid of the dirt, the dead cells, and stench that results from our being in a demanding world. It is a re-freshing experience. We should all embrace it; but for many resisting change, the tatteredness of their general disposition is only superseded by the foulness of their bad behavior.

We change our minds because we should always be learning/discovering new things. At some point we should accept the reality that the earth is not flat. At some point we discover that the place we occupy in this infinite universe is but a spec, all be it a most beautiful one, but a spec nevertheless in the grand scheme of things. Eventually we realize that each of us are but minuscule pieces in an unimaginably large puzzle. Minuscule, but essential pieces.

The role each of us can play in the functionality of this great puzzle which is life is not to be underestimated. Ask Gandhi. Ask Martin Luther King Jr. Ask Malcolm X. Ask Yeshua. Ask Moses. Ask Mandela. Ask a tired lady who refuses to give her seat up to a white man and move to the back of the bus to satisfy the demands of a racist society. Ask my grandmother…and yours.

In the light of new discoveries, the assumptions we made in ignorance about life, and the operations of day and night, the comings and goings of the seasons, and the oceans, and the stars, and each other,… must change. The historical assumptions that led some to deny others their rightful place in society based on pseudo-science, economic bias, and just straight up evil behavior, must eventually end up where they belong…on the garbage heap of history.

So we discover new things, and those discoveries require us to make needed adjustments in how we think, and believe, and in how we behave toward one another and the earth - and the broader universe. To maintain old dogmas in light of ever emerging realities, is to create for ourselves unsustainable spheres of being. It is no surprise then that some individuals end up being what I would call charlatans of unreality; others call them “prophets of doom”. The demise of things that they “predict”, has to do only with the very real unsustainability of their own world-views. Nothing else. Their world will end…must end, and we will all be witnesses to it.

At some point what I would call our old technologies of thought and behavior, become defunct. Our continued survival as dynamic presences in universal reality, will be… and is, a function of our willingness to be constantly growing, amenable to change. In order to grow we must cultivate in and around ourselves an ability to shed old ways of being and behaving, so that we are constantly emerging into and ready for the challenges of an infinite universe.

The processes of growth allow us to emerge from the dysfunctions of a superstitious mindset, its protestations, and its proliferations; into being the cultivators of more viable lives, and a more sustainable society. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

IN OUR TIME… When Old Modes Of Being Fall To The Demands Of Growth And Change

The Challenges of Being and Becoming

The tension between who we are and who we must become in order to realize our fullest human potential is real. That tension is, for many, a source of great physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma. 

The demands of growth and change can seem overwhelming, but to maintain our health and sustain our general well-being we must at some point make a determination to meet them. This process is without doubt uncomfortable, since it involves our breaking out of old ways into new ways of being and behaving. Some of us recognize and embrace the change that grows us; while some of us will have that change forced upon us in the very midst of our unwillingness.

Over the course of our lives, and from one generation to another, we develop a certain vested interest in keeping things stable. We do not like change. We work on the establishment of a certain status quo in our personal and communal experiences, and we invest substantial material and intellectual resources in its maintenance. We become comfortable with the ways we establish, and we resist any attempt to breach the walls that surround those ways. To keep those walls up we foster certain self-serving dogmas… We demand that others not rock our boats… And why?...  Well… We do not want our boats to be rocked! Simple. No more questions. That. Is. It.

Well, as for the no more questions part… Not so simple. For better or for worse, the rocking of boats is an inevitable fact of life in the very fluid course of our dynamic reality. The challenges of our existence are not just omnipresent and inevitable; they are necessary. They enliven us by stirring our creative juices. These challenges come and go like day and night. They are as present and as essential as Oxygen in the air we breathe. They are at once as certain, and as unpredictable as the wind. And, when they come, they demand that we make adjustments in both the perceptions and the practices of our lives.

Back Then, As In Our Time...

I experience a certain guilty pleasure from relating this experience of someone known to me. He is Caucasian, I am Black. Having examined my soul for traces of insensitivity, and after eliminating the possibility that I do not share his existential dilemma… I can now tell this story without the constraints of cultural sympathy, but with an appropriate consciousness of our shared humanity and the inherent frailties thereof. 

This gentleman grew up in George Wallace’s South where the social, economic, and political prosperity of Whites was premised on the continued disenfranchisement and oppression of Blacks. He was probably there at Wallace’s inauguration as the Democratic Governor of Alabama in 1963, when in the face of the rising challenge to a racist status quo the newly elected Governor declared:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Segregation forever? Well, maybe not. 

All the passion in the world cannot make an untenable position durable. It matters not who it's proponent is, or the extent of his or her persuasion. Race was the outstanding line in the sand here; but color was not the only factor in the offensive and grossly immoral social dynamic of the time. The twin markers of gender and sexual orientation also played a role in determining social and political progress, and thus the possibilities for one’s overall prosperity. These things were true then, and they are still factors influencing a person’s ability to thrive in our time.

Back then, as now, the players on either side of the cultural divide weren't always who you would assume or expect. There were homosexual persons who publicly condemned homosexuality. Blacks were complicit in the oppression of other Blacks, actively promoting the self-denigrating dogma that ‘nothing black is ever good’. Women were activists against the political empowerment of women. In this regard we note the recent passing of Phyllis Schlafly, an ardent conservative political activist who came to prominence as an anti-communist crusader in the 1950s. Mrs Schlafly spent much of her life championing the supremacy of “traditional values” over “progressive causes” like feminism and gay rights. She died on September 5, 2016 at the age of 92. On the eve of the very possible election of the first woman to the Presidency of the United States, many are mocking the declaration: “There will be a woman President over my dead bodywhich has been attributed to her. To be responsible I must add that this declaration has not been authoritatively verified as having come from her, even though there is no doubt that this is a shared sentiment among many women who call themselves conservative.

The Not So Indelible Impressions of Our Dogma

The stain of our cultural myopia still colors the sentiments, and impugns the integrity, integumentary and otherwise, of many. Which takes me back to the case of this man, the subject of my story. He, while in his early twenties, had the Confederate flag tattooed …emblazoned across his sun-tanned chest… So that it would go before him wherever he went. This being the case, he would wear his shirt buttoned low, or open-fronted as often as fashion and etiquette permitted. 

This son of the Confederacy himself became a father during the days of ‘Rock and Roll’. He thrived and raised his children during a period when the legacy of racial injustice and oppression, neo-colonialism, and the threat of nuclear war were ever-present themes. These were the overwhelming socio/political impressions of the time that led the inspired activist-artist Bob Dylan to pen such anthems as: 

Blowin' in the Wind

‘’How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind

The answer is blowin in the wind”

And ...

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall 

“Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son ?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall”. 

The season of Rock and Roll evolved into the season of Rap and Reggae… Reggae, a sound that has its origins in the shared dynamic syncopation of our heartbeats… This season mobilized a strident uprising against racism and apartheid, against wars and rumors of wars, against economic vampires and their bloodsucking ways... It shook the foundations of the System of Oppression from Jamaica to Rome to London to Paris to Washington to South Africa to Mozambique. This season spoke with an unmistakable force in the voice of prophetic luminaries like Robert Nesta Marley and the Wailers… A force felt in the well-fired architecture of renditions of:

Babylon System

‘We refuse to be
What you wanted us to be;
We are what we are:
That's the way it's going to be. You don't know!
You can't educate I
For no equal opportunity:
Talkin' 'bout my freedom,
People freedom and liberty!
Yeah, we've been trodding on the winepress much too long: 

Rebel, rebel!”



“Until the philosophy
Which holds one race superior and another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war
That until there are no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
Me say war”

And it was in these days that this man became a great- grandfather… To a black baby boy. 

You see, his granddaughter was a student at one of our now desegregated colleges here in the South. Yes, the ones that have the authors of those strident racist dogmas - ‘Segregation forever!’ - turning over in their graves. And it was while she was a student there that she fell in love with an African American classmate, a not so uncommon occurrence nowadays in the new evolving multicultural reality that a Barack Hussein Obama demographic represents. Oh, you did know that his mother was a white woman… ? Of course you knew that. And he went on to become POTUS… President of these United States of America; a world leader second in popularity only to this current Pope. Nothing said about him by a certain Donald J. Trump and the bigots among his followers can change that. And did I mention that these United States of America continues to include the great States of Alabama and Mississippi, and Georgia, etc. 

But I digress. Let's return to our new great grandfather.

Being and Beneficence

There is a well repeated fact that we regard and repeat with a kind of liturgical steadfastness: The Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. We say this with the reverence it deserves. Amen. When this man first learned that his granddaughter was expecting a child ‘‘by a colored boy’...that's how it was presented to him by one of the young woman’s aunts…he was speechless. By his own words, he ‘didn't know what to feel or what to think’. 

In the months preceding the birth of the child, they were introduced to the youngman over and over. If nothing else, these reintroductions provided opportunities to get over the very real awkwardness that existed on both sides. The initial tentativeness wore thin with the experience of a growing familiarity. By the time the baby was born our great grandfather had gone from soft hesitant handshakes, to firm but still awkward embraces of the now husband of his grandchild. 

And so that moment came when, as he sat in the well-worn, white rocking chair that adorned his verandah in rural Georgia; the baby boy…the black child of his white grandchild… was brought and placed in his arms. He held the child up to his eyes with his arms straight at each elbow, and then he slowly brought him to rest on his chest...his suntanned confederate-flag-emblazoned-chest. It was a moment like none that he ever expected to experience. Rocking back and forth in that chair, his chest became more expansive with the deepened breath that came to him in that very moment - Some would say a sigh - I say a deeper breath than he had ever taken in all his years.

 And he became silent as something happened inside that flag-stained domicile of his emotional being. His face became flushed as his once very stubborn heart opened up and gave space to emotions that were more compliant with the demands of a deepened humanity. And as he experienced the liberation that Love brought, the tears that ran down his face became a libation to the sacredness of the moment. It moistened and lubricated the now non-existent space between his cheek and the soft innocently fragrant face of his new great grandchild. And some of those tears rolled to the edge of his lips, and he licked them in - savoring the essential blessedness of the new cultural reality that beckoned.

Love, we can affirm, is an agent of change. It carries the full force and authority of the essence of what it means to be. It comes to break down barriers cemented in the substance of our convenient dogmas. Love came. And change came. It did like a raging torrent in that moment.  And the tears that flowed in its track washed into oblivion the brokenness of a cantankerous past with all its coarse debris. And the child looked up at his great grandfather’s face and smiled. And he… He groaned in relief, as if to lay a burden down.

Until We Open Our Hearts...

The next day came, and not a moment too soon. He woke up early, and with a newfound determination he took time off from his usual chores. His world had changed. He must now become a willing agent of that change. Change does not require our permission or consent. It comes. And when it does we either flow in its course, or remain stubborn… But then, like unmovable rocks in the course of a determined river, we get reduced to sand and silt. We either comply with the demands of change, or we become the fertile remnants of a non-compliant past. 

And so this man went about the business of finding out how and where he might go about removing that tattoo from the flesh that housed his heart. He had for too long walked down that road where some men are not regarded as fully human… as truly men. He was once a man who was ‘wounded in love’, who now felt the urgency to stop being an agent of hate. No more would he trod the winepress of bigotry. A new consciousness dawned in his blurred world when his heart was touched by Love in all its eloquent splendor. 

In his quest to blot out that old symbol of hatred and oppression he was not totally successful. But he did manage to get that flag reconfigured to look more like the Star Spangled Banner. Not a perfect outcome we can agree, but one more in keeping with the promise of a more perfect Union. 

In the face of everything that we are taught about being, we remain yet ignorant until we open our hearts to each other. Our dogmas serve to indoctrinate us in the ways of our cultural biases; but they are no substitute for the true learning that comes from the affirmation of the needs and the potentials of our common humanity. Beyond the narrowed perspectives and the practice of the dogmas informing the status quo in our lives, a real education awaits. 

To summarize a wiser soul than myself - …At the very heart of that education, is the education of our hearts.

The Ripe Richness Of Autumn’s Stride

“There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air, and time is quiet and mellow.” - Rudolfo Anaya **...