M Scott Peck’s best selling texts seems to me the perfect accompaniment to the Easter story as accounted in Christian tradition. His opening declaration ‘Life is difficult’ is a contemporary expression of the precept of suffering in Christianity. It is so revolutionary that it has become one of my only fundamental truths:
“It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Responding to life’s difficulties causes us pain and in this context the resurrection of Jesus has more to teach than I had previously allowed for. Whilst Jesus’ life exemplifies the preeminent social contract, it is his overcoming death – his passage through pain – that inspires our own commitment to the problem solving that makes it possible to adopt the principles of Christ.
Peck explains, “Since life poses an endless series of problems, life is always difficult and is full of pain as well as joy,” and “problems, depending on their nature, evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair.” What then motivates us to endure these things over our tendency to avoid them? [Spiritual] growth. Which has nothing to do with religiousity, and everything to do with the practice of discipline that expands our capacity to give and receive love.
That is what Christ’s resurrection means to me on this Easter Sunday morning. It is the peace I have felt for two days because I confronted the frustration, fear and anxiety attached to my problems for long enough to deal with them. That has meant saying no, to those close to me, but also to my own voice of loneliness. The resurrection is about freedom from death; from all the things that threaten to crush our spirits. And let’s be honest, sometimes they do. We lose. But without conclusion. Easter is a promise of renewal. There is hope. There is spring. There is always something more than the present pain.
The resurrection gives me the courage to know I can overcome my great difficulties. I can escape the tomb of depression once, twice, and as many times as it returns to me. That process creates growth and expands me, and the purpose is love, the means is love, and the end is love. God is love.
© Nichole Black, 2013
I am digging this cover of the Simply Red classic.
It doesn’t take much to trigger you. Brown skin is enough.
Or a broad frame and you are conjured up again.
I replay our broken circle like a trick of time.
My heart is still learning the terms for this,
Still repeating the message.
I remember when you came to me on your own.
Before I took to chasing you.
I haven’t loved again. I have not been loved
But I am looking hard.
Trying to replace you.
To excavate this internal memorial,
eternal memory of
I dreamt once. Like it was real.
You came out from the shadows and held me.
And when I asked
“why did you leave?” you pressed your face to mine,
your weight against me.
I did not want to fall away again.
But without words your love overcame.
I curled into you. I was awake.
You were not
And I wanted to believe I was super.
That divinity had ricocheted a picture of the future.
But I knew better.
I knew the perimeters of my power;
Soul searching and star light
I had pulled you in.
The moon has passed countless times since I said I would not love you
And I still buckle,
spell your name in conversations
To obscure my hearts call.
I can’t let them hear that I want you.
I want you.
That I want you.
© Nichole Black, 2012
Follow my blog! thethriftingconnoisseur.blogspot.com
In murky solitude and the oppression of the complete mess that is currently my bedroom I watched the final stages of the men’s singles in Olympic Tennis; joining others in hope of a Gold medal for the British team. As with most things I read the game as an illustration to accompany my larger book of life lessons. It was the perfect sermon for my Sunday – from which years of Holy day observation have left an inclination for quiet and reflection.
When Andy Murray artfully won his match against the number one world ranking Roger Federer I participated in his honour and joy. His celebration was not as rousing as Serena Williams’ crip walking. Nevertheless, I felt mounting inspiration as the natural result of being in audience with excellence. I was enheartened recalling Murray’s softening tears of disappointment after his loss to Federer at the 2012 Wimbledon championship. His sorrow resonated.
Listening to Murray’s sincerity in congratulating his opponent in the midst of his loss I explored the parallels with my feelings. I have not felt victorious this year. I have been lost in a flurry of disappointment, shortcoming and retreat from depression. I have felt like Murray. Celebrating and congratulating my loved ones – from the chambers of love in my heart – whilst bolstering my flailing spirit. Federer said of Murray with esteem “He has had a difficult few years, but lets not feel too sorry for him. He is playing at a very high level” (somewhat paraphrased). Likewise, keeping perspective I have been blessed with opportunities and privilege, I confident that I am gifted and able – when I am at my best – to achieve excellence. This is not a space for me to revel in self pity.
What Murray’s win restored to me was interminable hope that I will be my best again. And like the smiles exchanged between the players at the end my wins will be no one’s defeat. That what I do with and for myself now in the quiet and the lull, whilst no one sings my praises, will determine the lyrics to my personal song of glory. Murray’s tears pushed me to acknowledge the pain I feel because I am losing.
How to win
Well like Usain Bolt or Serena Williams of course. Like Balotelli or like the Ghana team at the last football world cup. Like you know you – personally, in all your fabulousness – deserve it. Our successes our ours to own.
Specifically, the sportsmanship of these two men today challenged me on the beauty of a win with grace. That grace is not a matter of how loud or quiet a victory is but the spirit in which it is received. I listened to Roger Federer reflect on his game. The interviewer questioned him on his physical health and rationale for the loss. He responded “I played well”. As someone who struggles with perfectionism I admired his ability to sustain his sense of personal value. It made me question the vast differences in the ways I feel about myself when my academic work is graded a 1st or 2.1 (or in the case of my masters a distinction or merit).
Observing the interaction between the players and Federer’s poise after his win over Murray at Wimbledon I thought about how to win. I considered that perhaps all Murray’s crying was thunder stealing. Regardless, I interpreted Ferderer as savouring his triumph whilst also exhibiting empathy for the broken player coming in second place.
I have examined the spirit in which I receive my successes (which is generally with little conviction and anxiety about the next step), and also the ways that I project and contextualise my wins publicly (Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry), and the areas where I have lacked sensitivity to the position of others. It is occurring to me that as someone who finds it difficult to internalise the value of my achievements, my public declarations serve a project of external validation that ultimately cripples me.
I want to be able to dance like Serena Williams because I am enjoying the results of hard graft. I want, like Federer, to be able to sustain my sense of personal value because I am more than what I do. I want to live transparently so people can see the bridges between my highs and lows and walk their own. I want to win in this extreme sport that we call life and leave a legacy bigger than me. I want the next generation to know how to win.
things to think about
…It continues to matter to Black women that our Black feminism not alienate us from Black men.
In fact, if I could just keep it one hundred, I think Black women care much less about whether our racial commitments or feminist expressions alienate us from white women.
Yet, the question remains
- Crunk Feminist Collective
A couple kissing, Rio, 1977. Photo by Mario De Biasi.
To be sure, disrespectability politics reign in Hip Hop. And we have left Hip Hop’s youngest generation struggling to find their way to freedom and each other, with only the narrowest of labyrinthine paths, carved out in a desert of landmines.
In these kinds of conditions, superlatives are easy.
Bitch bad. Woman good. Lady better.
I want respect. Hell, I command respect. But I don’t want to return to respectability politics. The distinction is important. Respectability politics might seem better in the short run, but in the long run they aren’t best.We can place a high value on receiving and giving respect in our interpersonal interactions, without falling into the trap of believing that changing our behaviors will have the power to transform a system that actively works against us. We become accountable for changing shit we didn’t cause. And in the process we lose sight of those who have more power to change things than we do.
Men have some power. They are not hapless victims of less-than-thoughtful mothers and confused, non-self-respecting schoolgirls. As corporations go, male rappers are Davids fighting Goliaths. But at least David saw himself as having a stake in the fight.
Clearly, so does Lupe. And in that regard, what he has done (at least in terms of the music) is summarily GOOD. There is confusion. We are all complicit. Yet, despite all the bad, at the microlevel, in our everday interactions with those under our tutelage, we can do better. Much better. Thanks to Lupe for the reminder.
Given the racist abuses black men experienced at the hands of white supremacy, it is not surprising that black liberation struggles have been, and continue to be defined, with a discourse that equates black freedom with a reassertion of black patriarchy. Still, a conversation about gender and sexism in the black liberation movement is crucial to understanding black nationalism’s past and planning for its future. It is also imperative that we complicate the category gender in examining the Black Power era. This complication is not about “male bashing”or how black men have done black women wrong. Instead, examining gender includes black masculinity’s construction at the time and expectations of black women—both of which were informed by black feminist ideology. Such an approach is complementary and offers a more holistic picture of black struggle.
- The Black Power Movement: rethinking the civil rights-Black power era, by Joseph Peniel
This dude makes me feel so proud to be a Black Londoner. Talent for DAYZ.
Gotye/Usher - Somebody I Used To Know/Climax (Shakkapella) feat Vula (by HouseofALT)