Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stay Woke, Write

What if you slept
And what if 
In your sleep 
You dreamed 
And what if 
In your dream 
You went to heaven 
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower 
And what if 
When you awoke 
You had that flower in you hand 
Ah, what then?     (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Stay woke. I heard it, saw it in print, but didn't have a clue to what it meant. Yes, sometimes I'm lazy; I think I'll get the meaning by osmosis if I just be still long enough. When curiosity outweighs . . . not complacency, the proper word escapes me due to a sudden bout of CRS . . . The only cure is continued action. Just do it. Keep writing 'cause the word will come. So now I believe that I know what "stay woke" means. In order to stay woke, one has to awaken, or wake up first. Right? 

The best, easiest, most leisurely way to wake up is to learn about what's gone on, and is going on in the world around you. "Pay attention, dang it" works too, but it's been said too many times, in so many trite ways that it hardly registers now. The natural first step is to learn about what affects you and yours, then expand to include others. Sometimes you learn well beyond your cultural scope without knowing who it might affect. No matter. Learn. It'll help you wake up and stay awake. Curiosity takes the task of deciding what's a priority from the mantle on your shoulders. Or maybe life is the school master. We learn what we need to get through this lifetime a little better while helping those who need awakening too. Or not. 

Two books convinced me . . . No. I feel pressured to write two letters to two authors of two separate genres about their eye-opening books and their effects on me. I must write two thank-you notes. I recently re-read The Color Purple in less than twenty-four hours. Such life-altering prose is a great antidote to what ails a lot of us. A second book, Hillbilly Elegy keeps me from nodding off into racial complacency . . . See? There's that word again. But am I truly complacent? I still haven't come up with that other word that means what I'm trying to say, but if I stop to diligently search for it I'll lose my train of thought. So. Hillbilly Elegy woke the other  half (for now) of my human consciousness, the white people side. Or quarter? Okay, it's half since it's part of the previously unsolved equation. J. D. Vance has done what no one else (author on race) has managed to do before. He explained a culture that mystified me in the face of . . . Hold on. I'm on page 214. I'll be back after I've read the last page.

Until then, this says it better than I could ever hope to:

Human Family

By Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

. . . to be continued

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