“Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.” ~ John Legend.
I remember as a child learning to be polite, to appear interested even when bored. Being a ‘parson’s kid’ meant not saying the first thing that popped into your head but instead admiring that strange hat; smiling at the scary lady who was interrogating you; patiently waiting for your parents to leave a function. ‘Keeping it real’ was not an asset in that environment. Thankfully at school I could be a different person. I was able to make friends without interference, to learn from the natural and often cruel honesty of children.
When I was eleven, I made a friend for life. It was not always obvious that it would last. There is an amusing tale we often repeat about the early days of our friendship. My friend was mature (though younger than I), well read and very well spoken. I was white, loved to speak patois, she was black, spoke proper English (courtesy of her teacher parents). She also was an accomplished performer, had competed in Festival, reciting poems using proper elocution. We thought she was ‘speaky-spoky’ (not a compliment). She had a habit of responding to my possibly bizarre statements with a speaky-spoky ‘Oh, really?’ which really got on my nerves. One day I told her that if she said it one more time I would stop speaking to her! To which she replied: ‘Oh, really?’
So we stopped speaking. Problem was, she was my friend. Problem was, I probably suffered more from not speaking to her. And as she loves to remind me, I solved the dilemma by writing her notes. Hey, I wasn’t speaking to her! So, she spoke to me and that was that. I don’t remember what happened to ‘oh, really’!!
One of the treats of my childhood was to read fiction. We would share novels back and forth (anyone remember the author Frank Yerby?), historical novels, stories of people we could never identify with. And yet we did. Good authors will do that for you, they will pull you into their make-believe world and have you rapt and invested in the outcome. They call it suspending disbelief. It is why science fiction works, why mysteries keep you hooked until the end. You don’t read the book saying, well this could never happen, a tree could never come to life and claim to be your long-lost mother! No, you go with the flow, you enter this alternative universe. With our love of story-telling, we allow ourselves to participate in impossibilities, while enjoying the entertainment, the characters, the basic plot lines.
It must be a human failing, to allow ourselves to be fooled, to be lulled into a sense of security despite the evidence. How many women ignore all the signs of their man’s infidelities, even when confronted with hard facts? It is easier to stay in a state of denial, holding fast to the more palatable lie, rather than facing the disruption of hard truths. Shaggy could convince anyone ‘it wasn’t me’, and we all sang along. The globe faces self-destruction as the by-products of our wasteful ways are heating up our world and threatening to turn the ground upon which we have built our homes into a watery wasteland. And yet those who have the power to make meaningful corrections twiddle their thumbs and deny, deny, deny.
So even as many of us are horrified, there are still vast numbers of Americans who seem willing to suspend disbelief, silence their consciences, and believe ten lies daily. So long as what they are hearing fits in with what they wish to be true, they are going along with a man who clearly has no grip on reality. At some level you have to marvel that he continues to get away with it. But what is even more troubling is that there are those who see clearly through the lies and manipulations and are willing to support them, so long as it benefits them. There is an old English punch line (not sure what the original story was) that goes: ‘I’m alright, Jack, I’m in the dinghy’. The heck with whether others are drowning, so long as I’m afloat I’m ok.
What keeps us going is our basic belief in the goodness of people. At our core we mostly want the same things: health; safety and security; food on our tables; for our children to have more opportunities than we had. At our core we all have the same organs, same systems, and as Junior Reed sang so poignantly (and then the Blood Bank stole his line, wonder if he got paid?) ‘One blood’! When we get to know each other, we recognize that. We are more the same than we are different.
I have been holding on to one thought all along. The cracks and fissures that have opened up in society were there all along, but had been plastered over. It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge them, to air them out and start the repair (reparations?) from deep down. That which has been politely glossed over needs to be exposed, discussed, frankly admitted before we can begin the healing. I must believe in the greater good, that we are all better than this, that the worst of times are making way for the best of times, or at least that we can find our way to a more honest future. I see hope in the marches, the protests, the unity. I see hope in many places. And I remember the line from the movie the Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything will be alright in the end so if it is not alright it is not the end.” And by the way, Mr. Google says John Lennon said that first! Imagine!
So my Family, let us not be downhearted or discouraged. Let us instead work to build that better world, which will come from real people reaching across lines of division to find our common ground. It’s happening all around you, and (in the words of one Pearce Jones) ‘is true, you know!’
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!