Look Alive


19 April 2016

Birth (of Biblical) Order

“What happens to a dream deferred?” - Langston Hughes

Bobo: The acronym of this title and, with the exception of legendary Latin jazz percussionist Willie’s stage surname, a label often given to clowns or fools as well as the substance (or lack thereof) that they hope for. When planning to revisit this space with a piece after a couple years’ hiatus, I admit feeling a bit foolish for denying myself the release of longer-form personal writing.

To savor and contribute to global good taste via writing and music are not my dreams, but my necessary reality in and beyond waking Life. The paper or screen helps guard the gates of my mouth and heart from the damage of impulse. It allows me to discern the readers’ abilities for and inclinations when handling the truth, especially in bites of 140 characters or so. That gatekeeper, unless tampered with, is also a most credible witness against the conviction of confusion.

Continuing from some of the previous 2014 post's content, the Holy Bible's Old and New Testament suggest that what one does with little, they will do with much. Besides, as was lyrically true for songstress and birth doula Erykah Badu, “my Ganny told me that when I was only a youth.” My own Ms. B shared whole worlds of wisdom with her flock, including guiding me through a lifetime of powerful dreams that required I go to sleep; not just obsess over worldly goals. Of any dream, she would say, never tell it all if you want it to happen. Every smiling face won’t be happy to see (you with) it. Yes ma’am. Self-deferment is best when rightfully applied to educational loans, not a righteous vision. If the delay is of The Most High, however, wait...despite storm and without worry.

Well before this post, the opening line of rhetoric from Langston Hughes’ poem also inspired playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s entire 1959 classic A Raisin in the Sun. The pair of literary legends, like the luteinizing hormone that stimulates a woman's ovulation in preparation for sexual conception or shedding and cleansing by blood, are like midwives of cultural renaissance to generations. The play happens to give secondary feature to respectively shady and slow-witted characters named Willy and Bobo whose penchant for get-rich-quick—or in my Grand’s dialect, “hurry come up”—schemes managed to sway the story’s otherwise sensible male protagonist, Walter Lee Younger.

He and his medical school-hopeful/tuition-hurt sister Beneatha couldn't quite get over the humps blocking their figurative dreams, try as their so-called lower-class family did. The firstborn and ‘baby’ pair, their mama Lena, deceased father Walter Sr.’s influence, Walter Lee’s wife Ruth and their 10-year-old son, Travis comprise their family and living structure.

Those who do and don’t believe in birth order’s influence on our psychology might find the Youngers’ dynamic quite telling, if not textbook. The eldest sibling checks out as a bossy achiever of sorts who carries as great a sense of responsibility to family matters as to self-pleasure, i.e. wanting to open a lucrative business for everyone’s benefit but insisting it be a liquor store despite adamant protest.

The last-born also fits the archetype as an affectionate, uncomplicated life-of-the-party whose admiration of a certain African student easily sprung to the actions of embracing clothing traditional to Joseph Asagai’s Nigeria and letting its drums resound in the home so much so their ancestral spirit quickened even big brother’s feet; at least in the early stage version.

If the story followed Travis, we might have had the chance to see the mature, detail-oriented, critical yet conscientious loner’s confidence of the only child at work. There’d be no personal protest if Ms. Hansberry chose to expound that way as I like healthy surprises and realities that engage but aren’t stuck in or on the box of typical, especially negative approaches to Life.

As my parents’ only offspring, albeit always raised in the home and community as with an older then a younger sister of sorts, common assumptions and utterances of ‘oh, you must be spoiled’ ignorance to my middle-born experience were tolerated jokes.

If ‘only’… I might've discreetly yet immediately checked offenders, waited until s/he caught up to the reality that his or her incorrect judgments were custom specs for their own new clothes then maybe drafted an accurate, color map highlighting the most efficient route ‘the hell on’ while avoiding all routes that step to me with foolishness and related tolls.

Grateful for the structural centering, however, the loyal, mildly rebellious peacemaker given to late bloom’s balance proved to be a healthy place from which to blend and apply the insights I also gained from being a younger ‘sibling’; a big sis once college and adult life called the older one, then comfortable on my own among almost any.

They say middles tend to embrace the world’s causes and people due to a feeling of no or mistaken identity in their immediate circles. Sometimes misguided responses curse that middle way and simply turn the attention, never the Love, back to where it’s received with understanding: within. If need be, one can always go without... . Then again, the world's “They” say a lot.

Thanks to the skilled tradesmen in my family, I’ve also learned a thing or two about being handy. To measure, cut, ventilate, level, build, beautify, assign functional space and watch the bottom line are all-ways essential. Hand-me-downs, pick-me-ups and even nothing when given in the right spirit are equally, if not easily, accepted by a giver privy early to Life's fickle come-and-go flow.

I sought theme music for my process and sampled a bit of Brand Nubian as I remembered rapper Grand Puba often referred to any shady or slick schpiel as ‘kicking the Willy Bobo’ years before Diddy, Sanaa Lathan, Phylicia Rashad and Audra MacDonald’s 2004 then 2008 stage and film revivals.

Finally, I meditated on the percussionist’s “Guajira”, said to refer to a genre and interpersonal expression of country, rustic, or very meager/peasant-like means. In the song, that's a girl specifically from Cuba's now-infamous Guantanamo Bay area; in the story above, south side Chicago; and in spirit, anywhere.

Isaiah 55:11 states that God’s Word will never return to Him void without having achieved its Divine, if not mortal, purposes. In the unexpectedly beautiful Way that things come together via such Love, the ensemble that performed on “Guajira” features a man named Israel. Although not a double bassist, an Israel that knows quite a bit about siblings, stereotypes of order and other life struggles is otherwise known as Jacob, father of the 12 tribes.

The 12 tribes of Israel is a blended sibling group whose birth order and affiliations have known much controversy throughout the millennia. Some have assigned them to different people of color across the globe. Others have likened the ‘brothers’ (allegorically masculine energy, solar principle) to the 12 zodiac signs. At the risk of shocking the consciousness that regards God’s Word and God’s (extra)terrestrial Creation as separate from each other, I have found some sensible parallels in the celestial associations. Father, forgive me if need be.

Psalm 19 might not be an outright call to study astrology and astronomy, but its speech seems to suggest an awareness and reverence of God’s power over our heads that is fundamentally different from the condemnation of manipulative acts of sorcery alongside adulterers and murderers. I alone, an inadequate representative of the Almighty God’s fullness, can't say definitively.

Maybe the technical ‘only’ in me was a bit too introverted and library-loving all those years ago. When Genesis chapters 30 and 49 describe Israel’s firstborn Reuben as the line’s might, strength, honor and power, the martial essence of most Aries degrees and some of Taurus’ steady strength surfaces. Likening their swords (or words) to weapons and cursing the expression of their vicious anger when aroused, Simeon and Levi were divided and scattered. The duality gives a nod to the Gemini archetype while the latter name literally means “joined” and hints at the twins.

Creative Leo’s link to the lion’s whelp that is Judah’s assignment to bold leadership and praise read as a self-evident truth. That Asher’s “dainties”, “delicacies” and “fat bread” resonated with much of Virgo’s refined nature and association with harvest wheat made sense just as Issachar's hard-driving yet genteel balance of the beast nature (i.e. the donkey and sheep) for which “there is a reward” spoke to the justice of primarily Libran values.

The discerning judgment of Dan as the snake that bites the horse’s heelas well as their bad rap removal for idolatry in Judges 18—read like the evolution of Scorpio and Gad’s “good fortune” despite attack read like the Jovian Sagittarius. The Naphtali “doe” and “hind” of good words (or legacy), although referring to deer described as sure-footed in high places in the Psalms, seemed closest to the Capricorn goat.

The last-born of that family, or wash-belly in Grand’s terms, was Benjamin, deemed ravenous as a “wolf”. The individualistic, loner quality is akin to Aquarius, said to be ruled by both eccentric Uranus and taskmaster Saturn. It resonates with the sharp senses of one who could devour or shock by day and distribute the spoils at night. Needless to say, the Pisces fish could very well “dwell” by the seashore as did Zebulon. Sister Dinah sure wasn't accounted for.

This brings us back to Joseph, albeit a bit more deeply than previously discussed. Set aside from brother Ben and his half-siblings much like those Levites assigned to priestly duties, “fruitful” blessings of the skies, the deep, the breast and the womb were bestowed upon him, hearkening a connection with fertile Cancer sign of the crab and the dog star, Sirius. If only from the viewpoint of ancient agrarian society, I understood that the late spring-early summer season marking the sun’s apex would represent a practical yet sacred time. Later, his bountiful portion would, in turn, be assigned to sons Ephraim and Manasseh.

Joseph wasn't the baby or the biggest sibling. Joseph was just, in Grace as and wherever he stood especially because those places were in the integrity of his elder’s positive teaching. Subject to schemes and left for dead by those who might have reduced to psychobabble what I can only guess were the alleged brat’s initial pleas for mercy and reason, he showed similar fortitude when accused of adulterous behavior by the boss in whose palace he eventually served once he emerged from the pit.

His time in captivity might even have given detention at Guantanamo a run for its money where comfy amenities and personalities are concerned. However rough and undue as the ‘get over (it)’ chorus variation the others likely projected as his swan-song, so far it’s Biblically accurate to say that was great advice for Joseph to take. He couldn't have helped them out of their figurative pits if he didn't.

Of course, my thoughts are just that of an imperfect human vessel. There are ordained clergy and well-decorated humanities scholars from the world's finest universities who expect to authoritatively address every jot and tittle of religious data. I don’t believe the stars, like anyone or anything created, deserves more importance or worship than our Creator.

Various theories abound as there are discrepancies in the birth order of the tribes and their introduction in the scriptures. Discoveries of hand-painted ostraca, or pottery, remnants allegedly bearing original Biblical content, are yet underway. How do we avoid violating the charge not to add to or subtract from The Word if it’s still being revealed by The Holy Spirit over generations? Has the time of sealed knowledge come, making sense of the madness that sometimes plagues our modern times?

Truth is, we might all be clowns with increasingly prominent noses for believing our denomination, dogma, native language or preferred scriptural version can monopolize the heart of Heaven to launch us past "Go!" Chances are, dancing to your own drum may sooner place you in the heart of struggle where your dreams or gifts will earn any title but child of God. Anyone who has ever dared to live has been there. Rest assured in knowing that the only fool is s/he who’s spirit is unteachable and resistant to birthing a better self. If you're up for the task, at any age, stay prayerful—not eager or eviland keep on pushin'.


01 February 2014

Whose House?

Welcome to what's commonly known as February 2014! In America, this month, albeit the shortest in the Gregorian calendar system, is associated with grand notions of romantic love and commemorating the illuminating, historical contributions of so-named "Black" people. The combined consideration of these two focal areas brings a heightened sense of purpose, rightful sense of place and, as usual, music to the fore. In the heart of my mind, no where else do these co-exist more frequently (and hopefully, more constructively) than in the home.

What is "home," exactly? I say it's "where the heArtwoRx." Some have said it's wherever we lay our hats. Others are content to offer a postal address, regardless of the heaven or hell occurring therein. There are also those deemed homeless who are never without the nourishing providence and shelter of the Spirit. To some degree, in the relative regard of "home," everyone's right. Know, however, that certain foundations, fixtures, front- or back-door visitors, etc. can be all wrong.

Are you familiar with the contrasting, Biblical stories of Potiphar's and The Potter's houses? In the former story, Genesis 39-40 illustrates how Joseph, a favorite son and forebear of spiritual Israel sold into slavery by jealous brothers, was tempted then imprisoned due to false accusations of sexual advances by his Egyptian master's wife. Interestingly enough, her lying lust used Joseph's cloakpossibly the same multi-colored gift his brothers grudged him for in ch. 37as proof of their alleged encounter. 

I don't know what letters were added behind the "fruitful bough" of Joseph's name, but I don't have any to boast. I do have decades of experience in Life, bearing the title of friend or just observant, audibly aware commuter in large cities. That being said, I've heard of plenty perversion from various homefronts over the years, so very little shocks me when communicated in earnest. (NOTE: Reaching the masses is fine and fulfills social media's purpose. When addressing your closest social circle, however, the limits of occasional text seldom gets to the heart of the matter regardless of how convenient or common it may be. Instead, it often distorts the message that direct, thorough conversation may prove valid and of mutual benefit.)

Take a moment to step into the house shoes of those who've endured violent beatings. Losses of those nearest in heart or professional proximity. Slander. Consensual and forced incest, sometimes resulting in young women becoming mothers to their own siblings or cousins. Secret marriages. Theft. Substance abuse. What of those deceiving more than themselves so slave-like activity will continue under their roof? Racked with pain or unsettled by mental illness. Diverse and misguided, if not repressed, outbursts of hatred... . Comfortable? Happy? Didn't think so, and honey, Potiphar's wife's foolishness is there in the midst. Still, no matter how twisted any environment or era, nobody has to remain there, at least in the inner life. "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Take it from one who... never mind; my children will enjoy those! Thankfully, the God that Joseph was written to know and honor let justice and truth rest heavily in the atmosphere. His prudent obedience to God's Will yielded promotion.
"Thank God for what you have...Trust God for what you need." ~@RevRunWisdom, January 30, 2014

Let's soak this in, be refreshed and clear away the judgmental or even victimized wo/man-as-island philosophy now (read by '80s Prince as an invitation to jump in Lake Minnetonka or by India.Arie's decree to "Purify me, baby." I digress). Sometimes, people will enter our lives to give us a hug or a nudge into that place of Grace. Others' job, whether they know it or not, is to remove even the physically homeless of us from said rightful place. We must grow mindful of and honest with our connections, as we can really help or hinder each other beyond the surface, never knowing thus respecting or assisting what another has been through or what our example will continue to do in their lives. 

Quite possibly, that was the premise behind Alabama State University's requirement that its President, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, not keep any romantic company in the institution-appointed housing. Being a position of much lower stature, former work as a women's residential manager imposed no such stricture although I kept dating and even platonic visitors at bay by reason of chosen solidarity during my service. Cool conversations and cooler showers helped! Although I've since allowed steps or even a leap towards companionship into my Life, some might have misconstrued that season as mere stubbornness, frigidity or a lie. As HBCU Digest writer JL Carter Sr. stated the unfortunate truth that "[t]here’s no [mundane] clause eloquent enough to drown out rumor and innuendo." *sigh* Not only was it great to first learn of the ASU situation via an impromptu viewing of The Santita Jackson show today, I agreed with the panel's sisters in that sometimes 'the cause is greater than the [contractual] clause' otherwise at work in our lives.

...OR those ghosts & remnants of the man or woman you might have been up until a split-second ago.
This leads us to The Potter's House. Nah, I'm not talkin' 'bout Harry or Pastor T.D. Jakes, either! Introduced in Jeremiah 18 and echoed throughout scripture, the concept of individual relationship with The Most High, even as The One Who Plans, Builds and Perfects us as needed, is emphasized. By the Original and grandest Design, we were all created to be living vessels or temples for that Right(eous) Power. Radical healing change happens in a physical or spiritual home where it's invited and allowed to dwell. Allegory or not, how else would you describe the minor prophet Hosea's (salvation) ability to derive a native, even semi-precious gem in Gomer (completion, fullness of sin), a repeated backslider and mother of three, arguably third-party children whose translated names refer to invasion, no love or mercy and illegitimacy? 

Needless to say, not every attempt to add 'use' or 'wife' to our related colloquialisms ends in success. Scripture often cautions against being unequally yoked regardless of profession and teaches their instance was mandated by God. Does that mean if we pray or play church yet feed ourselves or loved ones poorly, let lies out of our mouths and take what some might disregard as a 'dutty' approach to any kind of 'wine' all is well? *turns the bass way down* Guess not. (In the weaning, see Sirach 31:27-28 before a glass of CĂ®roc.)

My godfather, literally the one man in whose example I witnessed practical virtue for 25 years straight, recently passed on. Of course, I did not know him as a mother, other relative, wife or person daily sharing the same home might. Being a man of both military and ministerial action, however, his mentorship and support strategically inspired me to right action over time, moreso now than ever since the walls of his physical temple are no more, amplifying his most fervent messages. My grandmother, the premier feminine example in my Life, would often say, "Tek sleep mark death... From yuh see dem, you will know dem," referring to the fact that people will likely handle Life's larger matters as they do the little things, eventually having no choice but to show or speak what they're about or really want with you even in silence. That's alright! To her elder wisdom I'll add compassion for the dynamics of human nature and remind us, starting with me, to first remove the improper beams from our own eyes and structures.

May this message also reach you, bringing true clarity, forgiveness and healing, where you live.

Won Love.