In putting together an autobiography, I’m pulling from twenty years of internet writings. The following came from Wednesday, December 6, 2006.
More First Chakra Stuff
Waking up at 6:30 to get a little writing done before Jason wakes up—sheesh. I remember sleeping until my body was really ready to roll. That was a luxury I didn’t really appreciate at the time…
I’d like to get up and then exercise immediately, but it takes a few minutes for my mind and body to recognize one another again, and I kinda like to make some use of that time. You’ll notice some spelling errors from time to time in these posts—too groggy to run the spell check! Still, my filters aren’t fully up, so occasionally I’ll say something that surprises me, and that’s worthwhile right there.
We talked about survival, the 1st Chakra stuff, and how it can trip you up. The need to be part of a herd, and how vital that is. Note all of the Polish, Italian, and Jewish actors and singers who changed their names to “blend in” with the Anglo-Saxon majority. The stories of Jews and Aramaics who had their noses bobbed to look more “mainstream.” The fact that virtually every black woman in the media (television, film, music) or public life (politics) straightens her hair. Blending in. Pretending you’re not different. Believe me, if someone came up with a “wonder pill” that would turn black people white, even to this day, they’d be a billionaire in a month.
I remember the devastating day that my mother told me (I was probably about 10): “Steve, if you let white people know how smart you are, they will kill you.”
What the @#$!!? Can you even imagine how damaging something like that is, said by someone you utterly trust and love? She’d grown up in the South, in a time of lynchings and beatings, and had had real, deep fear anchored into her body and psyche. She was VERY light skinned, and could have “passed.” I know for a fact that at times she regretted not having done so. She married my father, a fairly dark-skinned man, when he was a rising singer (he did backup for Nat “King” Cole). When his career stalled, it killed their marriage, I’m pretty sure—which led to her later trying to dissuade me from attempting a career in writing.
I often wonder what the effects of those terrible words were on me. Could they have influenced my performance at school? My damaging ambivalence toward education? My ability to put everything of myself into my work? The pattern I developed of world-class performance on my FIRST attempt at something (first book, first television episode for a given show, etc) followed by a relatively mediocre effort, and a struggle to regain the quality of that initial go? I don’t know. I hate to blame anything outside myself for anything. But we are so vulnerable when we are young. We so desperately need the guidance of those who love and parent us.
And with my father gone, that “male” parent was television, and books, and the American culture as a whole—which wasn’t exactly supportive.
The bedrock of who and what we are is the sense of being connected directly, biologically, physically, to the foundations of the Universe. All religions seek to give their adherents such a grounding, and this is no accident. Unless at the core of you you know that you are precious, and irreplaceable, that you are valuable in the eyes of God, your strength is based on your ego. And ego cracks under pressure.
I kinda suspect that this is a reason why torture doesn’t work as well as logic suggests it should. We use torture primarily on people who have committed to being soldiers, or warriors—who believe themselves willing to die to perform their duty. When captured, and tortured, the fear and shock take them beyond ego. If they are cowards, they would talk without torture. But if they aren’t, then they have grounded themselves in a deep and spiritual aspect of themselves. Torture, in other words, the destruction of their bodies, takes them out of their egos and into their true, deep selves. This is the part of us that lies within every human, that is capable of accepting death with dignity. It is more real than anything we ordinarily think of as “self.” Torture, in other words, gives them strength. The pain and fear of death takes them to a place where “reality”, the “ordinary world” is exposed as the illusion the sages have always said. In a way it is difficult to explain, it provides them with a glimpse of heaven. You could twist my arm and get the truth about a surprise birthday party. But you could pull my eyeballs out, and I wouldn’t shoot my daughter. Can you see the difference?
It is this place, beyond ordinary strength, beyond ego, beyond race or religion or nationality, that we must go to find the bedrock of our being. From this deeper place, we touch the ineffable core hinted at by masters throughout the ages. The “Lifewriting” approach and my teaching in general is based on the idea that striving toward goals in all three arenas simultaneously gives a glimpse of this place.
African immigrants, (or even those descended from Africans without slavery interposed) have a strength in this regard denied to those whose ancestors were slaves—their ancestors can trace themselves directly back to the dawn of time, to the creation of the world itself, in a way impossible for those who carry the names of their former masters. Those with that handicap can still find that place, but they must work harder, must be more extraordinary. They are standing in a hole, rather than on the shoulders of the kings, queens, and warriors who came before them.
But what must you do, what must I do to stand tall, so that my own children can stand on my shoulders?
FIRST, I must be there. This is why I have such contempt for absent fathers, or mothers who CHOOSE to become pregnant without the health to sustain a relationship.
SECOND I must realize that at this deep, core level, there is no race, no gender. Even the distinctions of alive/not-alive, existing/non-existing are illusions to surpass. You must move beyond love and hate, hope and fear. You cannot reach this place while carrying resentments and anger. A slight contradiction here: although you must move beyond anything that has an antonym, the emotion of love can carry you far enough to see the “horizon” of this space. Love is the doorway, if not the goal.
THIRD I must realize that the work is never-ending. Any day that I eat and breathe, I must engage with the process.
FOURTH I must realize that all, and I mean ALL, conscious beings are my brothers and sisters on this process. And that consciousness is a matter both of degree and kind. In other words, it is not for me to judge. It is for me to see the Light in all creatures, all people. The anger and pain I carry within me separates me from Being. I must find a way to vent it, drain it, neutralize it, cry about it, scream and complain and pound my fist against the ground…but understand that that is all the Child within me who wanted so desperately for someone to hold me and say that I am a good and beautiful thing. The search for a Parent outside myself is over, and has been for longer than I have been awakening. God the Father, the Universal Mind, the Deep Self—whatever I call it, my only hope of Salvation, whether viewed spiritually or psychologically, is to accept who and what it is I am utterly, and give myself over to the process.
That first Chakra stuff is a bitch-kitty. We struggle so hard to live that we kill our lives. Instead, kill the ego. Admit that you have dreams and hopes that are beyond our reach, ever, always, beyond our reach. Walk that odd balance between accepting worldly responsibility and abandoning hope. Tell the Universe that you accept the price for true awareness. That price is always the same: one death. Yours.
Fear has colored so much of my life. Fear of not being enough. Being too small or weak. Of not blending in. Of being horribly outnumbered. All of these relate to survival. Appropriate fears for a child. But now I am a father once again, with another chance to grab my psyche by the horns—or wings—and shake it until there is nothing left but truth.
And if I can do that, then my Son, and my Daughter, and every soul I touch will benefit from my struggle. And regardless of the cost, that would be a thing worth the accomplishment.