Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Look into my Bloggy Mind

So long without blogging. And not from a lack of things to blog about. In fact, the opposite. My thoughts have been taken up by so many, varied topics lately, that I’ve not been able to focus:

There’s the change in the seasons and how it works on me, shifting my moods, my energies, getting me in the emotional mode of beginning a new cycle. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and I know it has something to do with the cooling, the slowing down and re-grouping.

There's been so much going on: our sailing adventure; the outdoor Art shows; the Film Festival, and seeing a screening in the Bell Lightbox; Word on the Street, and the invitation I always extend myself, to be unreasonable about buying books; all the ups and downs of street outreach, working with homeless youth, finding new apartments, the threatened evictions, arrests, new relationships and break-ups, the disorientations of addictions and psychoses, even two babies on the way. Then there was a final and unexpected camping trip to Cape October.

I’ve read some things about my hometown, Detroit, lately. It has been a severely damaged city for so long. The population has declined by a couple of million over the last three or four decades, leaving large pockets of the city a virtual wasteland. And this sprawling zone of urban failure is now becoming a kind of incubator for experiments in all sorts of urban enterprises. It’s actually made me consider, for the first time in decades, that I might want to live in my hometown again, and be a part of its new beginning.

The mayoral election, and the midterm elections of Obama’s first term, have me considering both the crucial importance of politics, and the mind-numbing, soul-curdling, grotesque turn-off it so often is. Is it the case that we’ve become so dependent on being manipulated and pandered to, that for a leader to present him or herself as a reasonable and open-minded person, willing to acknowledge an opponent’s intelligence and essential humanity, let alone respect and consider an opposing point of view, would instantly disqualify them from leading us?

Speaking of which, I’ve finally gotten around to reading Obama’s “Dreams From My Father”, and what a brilliant, insightful book it is! He manages in these pages to dissect and analyse so many of the questions of identity, loyalty, belonging, race and being that I and so many others of my generation - Black-American Boomers - have wrestled with all of our lives. It reminds me of the power of his “Race” speech in the spring of ’08, which made me a 100% confirmed supporter.

And yes, it’s bringing me closer to writing the blog I’ve had in mind for some time, to be titled, “Why I’m not the First Black American President”.

I’ve been considering questions of belief, conviction and will – how they shape us, and how we then determine to shape others. It seems that we (I include myself in this) carve out areas in which we can feel an absolute certitude about our opinions, positions and values. We mostly try and keep our discussions inside this terrain, where we’re very comfortable. But when someone draws us out, into territory where we’re unsure, we get uptight and uncomfortble. The mental prisons we’ve occupied and fortified become exposed as more vulnerable than we’d supposed. Our chains begin to rattle. Hmmm?

Which brings me to my final thought, the mental tidbit I’ve been turning over and over. It’s that notion that everything we do boils down to love or fear. I increasingly think that’s a good summary of how humans operate. We’re either operating to get more of something we want, or to get away from something we don’t want. We decide a course of action either to bring about a good, or to avoid an evil. We try to create beauty or destroy ugliness. Etcetera, etcetera. But while the wanting and not wanting, the good and the evil, the beauty and ugliness is often purely subjective, the underlying orientation isn’t so much. That basic orientation can define an approach to life. Love or Fear. Create or Destroy. Explore or Protect. Believe that there’s always enough, or that there’s never enough. That things work out, or that they never do.

I know this is an over-simplification. We all do both, see things both ways. Life itself demands a sort of balance here, I think. And yet, we mostly lean to one side or the other. And for me, it’s pretty clear what side I want to be on. So that, increasingly, when facing a difficult decision, or choosing a course of action, I’ll ask myself, “Are you acting out of Love, or out of Fear?” It has surprised me how simple it usually is to determine which.

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