Notes on Mortality

I read an article from the New York Times today about the ill health of the most beloved figure in the history of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela. According to the article he is very near death. A reality that has caused mixed reviews in the nation that he once ruled. While most people are praying for his health to improve at least one woman has accepted the mortality of the former leader; “It is not easy, but we must think of his pain. He has given us so much. He deserves to rest.” When I came across this statements that was made by a 30-year-old South African woman it startled me a little. Her thoughts are so contrarian only because they are so real. When we agree to resuscitate those who no longer have the desire to live and when we refuse to pull the plug, are we really doing it for them or are we being selfish?

 

If we really believe in heaven after earth then why are we so reluctant to let our loved ones go to paradise? My grandmother suffers. She’s alive and she remembers us and we can still kiss her once smooth but now prickly brown cheeks. We literally keep her alive. We make sure the medical staff at the convalescent home where she lives knows that we’re there and those of us who practice medicine make sure that she is getting optimal care. It makes us feel good when we put them in check. After we make sure they change her catheter and increase her dosage we feel like we’ve done the right thing. The only issue is she no longer wants to live. She’s expressed this to us in very plain terms. She wants it all to be over. We disregard what she says. We disregard the words of the wisest woman we have ever known— our mother, our grandmother, our great-grandmother—because we feel like she no longer knows what’s right. This only causes her to slip further and further into depression.

 

As a society we have been taught that to save the life of an individual is an outstanding deed, however, often times we fail to realize that some people don’t want to be saved. Don’t they have that right? It is a sin for a person to take his or her own life but the bible does not frown upon those that merely allow death to happen. In the case of my grandmother— who used to care for me everyday before I started school. Who taught me the most basic lesson of being a black man in America; “When someone hits you then you hit them back?” Who drug me along with her throughout the entire county of San Francisco on Muni, BART, and on foot—I think our main impetus for not letting her pass on is we don’t want to feel sad. We don’t want to plan a funeral. We don’t want to lose the center of our family. But what about her? Does her opinion of her own life even count anymore? Isn’t it wrong of us to disregard the suffering of another human being so that we sleep better at night?

My grandmother has lived nearly 90 years. She’s perfectly content with the impact that she’s had on this world but we can’t let her go. Even though she is mortal we seem to want her to live forever.

Is it ever ok to just let a person die?

-YB

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The Delusions of a Creator

It dawns on me now how delusional an artist must be to persevere. When an artists’ work is rejected by company after company, publication after publication, and when he loses contest after contest then—in order for him to keep his dream vivid—he must draw the conclusion not that there is something wrong with his work, but that none of these highly respected entities know what they are doing. That his artwork is misunderstood. That there is a conspiracy in place so that his voice will never be heard.

This may strike some as an illogical approach to determining why the artist has not yet found success but to the artist it is not a stretch. It is normal for the artist to think outside of the confining limitations of rational thought. After all, his identity is wholly based on his ability to do so. He never fit into any group that he felt he was supposed to belong to. He never travelled in the direction that would have made his life simple and bearable. At some point he became addicted to enthralling audiences with very well crafted portraits of his own suffering. The audiences always paid him with healthy rounds of applause but rarely with money. He always accepted this as his lot in life. He always embraced his role as that of the struggling artist until the day that he couldn’t.

One day he woke up and he had an epiphany. During this moment of clarity he realized that he was tired of being broke. He was tired of dreaming. He needed success to happen in a hurry. So naturally he began to think of creative ways to package his soul in order for it to be sold to the masses. The problem arises when the artist comes to terms with the fact that, up until this point, he has been solely responsible for everything that he has created. He has been his own producer, editor, manager, composer, publicist, etc. But now in order to make a career out of his passion, he must depend on other people. He must beg for admittance into a world that he thought he was familiar with. And he must place himself at the mercy of those who have never done what he can do, and could care less about the blood that had to be shed in order to tell his story in such an intense manner. The one question that they are all concerned with is; Will it sell?

He finds himself bewildered by the question because he has never really considered it. He notes to himself that it is a very necessary question to ponder if he wants to make money and he admits that he knows very little about the business side of art. So he waits. He waits for a call back. He waits to be published. He waits until he wins a contest. He waits to make money. He waits to be “discovered.”

During this time he tries to make his style similar to the artists who are currently “making it.” He notices that they all sound the same. They aren’t necessarily bad at what they do but nothing about them is different. After a while he gives up on this disingenuous pursuit of trying to sound like someone else. He says out loud to anyone that will listen that at some point he will change the world; he only needs the opportunity to do so. In his own mind, however, he knows that he must create this opportunity for himself. And deep in his subconscious mind—percolating through his soul—he has his doubts. He doubts if he possesses the energy necessary to change the world all by his lonesome.

He openly hates all of those who are “making it” and dismisses their styles as trite and irrelevant to the general betterment of mankind. He says to himself in secret that he is better than them. That they were born with connections that he himself will never have. That the ultimate fear of society is that one day he will find a way to release all of the voices in his head and then instead of the artist slowly going insane the masses would have to recognize how truly delusional they have become.

In this way the artist must be obsessed with his own individuality and cling to his craft in the same way that a dying man clings to his life. He must only be concerned with his own interpretations and his own perceptions of reality. He must be contrarian everyday. He must relish standing alone more than he relishes success. He must worship the art and not the money, which will always cast him out of society.

The Imprisonment of Temptation

The sun still shines brightly, even though it’s the middle of October, and I can see the serpents on the road before me. I can feel all of the temptations pulling at me but none will succeed. Temptation comes in the form of all of those people who try to get me to settle for less than I’m worth.  All of those individuals who try to get me to stray off track. Whether they know it or not they will forever be avoided.

 

The sun over Lake Merritt

 

But alas the whole world can be seen as an evil temptation as well as everything inside of it. Every human being has an agenda. Every beautiful woman has a seductive voice and every one of your friends wants to use you for something.  As I have grown older I have learned that temptation exists only in the soul of the individual; not in the outside world.

 

We are all weak. We all have urges and we all transgress. No one wants to be confined by rules that constrict the very essence of humanity. So we cheat on our spouses, we take pills that promise us a foretaste of heaven, and we take things we feel we deserve, instead of working hard to attain them. It is only after we are sober or after we get caught that we feel ashamed and I have discovered that it’s always easier to gaze through an open window than it is to stare into the mirror.

 

 

No woman has ever put a knife against my throat and forced me to cheat on my girlfriend. No friend has ever threatened to kill me if I didn’t have a drink with him. I exercise my own free will and I do the best I can but alas; I am weak. I confess to being selfish and I further confess to being judgmental afterwards. While under the influence of my many misconceptions about how a man should behave I found that it has always been easier for me to act than to verbalize my emotions. Instead of telling her that what she said hurt me I went out and became intimate with someone else. Instead of asking that man politely to respect me I jumped on him and tried to prove myself violently.

 

We are all in jail. We all need to see others in bondage in order for us to feel free but we often forget that we are what we project.

 

 

If I hold the key to the lock, which holds another man in captivity, and I must check on him every hour to see whether or not he has escaped am I not in a state of imprisonment myself? Am I not a slave to the actions of the man who I am attempting to enslave? If I try to put my mistress down by calling her a whore but I have risked the love and respect of my wife and children in order to spend time with her then wouldn’t that make me less than a whore?

 

I scrutinize every syllable/ letter/ sentence that I write while I compose this, however, I live my real life in a perpetual state of looking back. In the moment I am naĂŻve, easily moved, and always weak. I look back on my past and try to make sense of senseless mistakes. I look forward only to close my eyes and shudder at the enormity of my own fear. I stumble backwards into the comfort of my own insecurities. I look back nostalgically upon a time in my life when I never once thought of looking back.

-YB

Strong Enough to be Vulnerable

 

 

There are few things in this world that I find to be more endearing than a vulnerable woman. Perhaps this is because I have been socialized to ignore all of my weaknesses; therefore I have grown to be easily enticed by a creature that is conditioned to embrace such feelings. I hear a lot of men speak of wanting a strong black woman and I know a lot of women who go out of their way to be viewed as such but I think that’s a problem.

 

Why can’t a black woman be a lady first? I have been through enough to be strong for both of us. I am drawn to women who are unafraid to be beautiful and who dare to be feminine in a culture where everyone wants to be a man. I suppose there should be some amount of shame associated with my wanting a woman who will cry the tears that I have unlearned how to let go. However, if my views are a little outdated then so be it. I’m a man who knows what he wants and I love a woman who knows what she is.

 

-YB

Her

Is there such a thing as respecting a woman too much? In my life I have known a few women who I have been afraid to touch. I have known women who I have placed way above sex. It wasn’t until I was very set in my manhood that I was able to accept the fact that sometimes conversation is enough. Sometimes a look can be enough, or a smile, or a walk, or a drop of her own perspiration beading up in the middle of her dark cleavage.

 

It doesn’t happen very often but every now and again I can find contentment in restraint. Sometimes it feels good to be chosen and I cherish the fact that I know I can so I never do. I hope she understands.

-YB

An Ode to Individuality

March 11, 12

The human species is most beautiful when it is alone. When we have no political affiliation to taint our views, no educational institution to taint our thoughts, and no families to hand us identities at birth that we should be seeking to find for ourselves.

I don’t like crowded streets and I have an extreme disdain for people who cannot go out in public without being surrounded by a crew of other people. I can’t imagine being that openly insecure as an adult.

There is nothing more enticing than the sound of a woman’s voice that enjoys going to the movies alone and doesn’t need to gain the permission of five other women before she allows herself to become intimate with a man. There is no doubt in my mind that this woman loves herself. Even if the world does not appreciate her, she appreciates her own individual power to make moves in the world. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing more endearing than this brand of awareness.

-YB