Solange Knowles:
A True Original
On Her Wedding Day

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Image by Rog Walker

By now you’ve almost certainly seen the pictures of Solange Knowles and her long-time boyfriend, now husband Alan Ferguson on their wedding day. Their wedding was the shot heard around the world. So stunningly authentic and original were these nuptials, from the everyday glorious juxtaposition of Solange’s fierce natural and Alan’s equally fierce beard, to Solange’s regal cape dress, to the eco boho swag of arriving to wherever they were going (reception perhaps?) on wedding white bikes, to the cavorting through the heady streets of New Orleans, where the living may not be easy, but it sure is good.

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Truthtelling & Spinoza’s God

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I am in love with Meghan Daum’s essay from Sunday’s NYTimes, “I Nearly Died. So What?” It so perfectly captures my own irreverent feelings every time I hear one of what I’ve come to call “The Platitudes,” which perhaps I should put in ALL CAPS, so ubiquitous and “believe in them lest you commit blasphemy” have they become.

No, I do not think that a brush with death need wake us up to anything, and I definitely do not believe everything happens for a reason. I have too much life experience to believe that, not to mention the mincemeat the renowned statistician David J. Hand made of that in his book The Improbability Principle which, true confession, is waiting, as yet unread, in my must read asap queue. Still, I am 99.9% sure that Hand will win me over, predisposed as I already am to see logic where others might look for mystical magic. I am, it is worth noting, a highly spiritual person. I just don’t use the logic of spirituality — which belongs more to the nonphysical world than the physical one (in my opinion) — to run the practical aspects of my life.

I do, as it happens, let the mystical intrude upon my ordinary reality. As a writer, I know, for example, that when we step away from a problem, the answers come via a process that is nine kinds of mystical.

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Rumi Wisdom: You Are An Ocean

You Are The Ocean

I had a therapist once who, in an act of great kindness, told me, “You’re only little.” She meant me to know that the slings and arrows I’d suffered — and the fact that they’d drawn actual blood — did not make me a failure. I was not supposed to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or to transcend the ancestral wounds that had been handed down to me, my mother from her mother and back unto however many generations,  my father from the generations that came before him, and both of them carrying the psychic imprint, I imagine, of the African-American slaves and Native Americans from which we are descended. I was only little, so I could be forgiven if I sometimes found myself balled up in a fetal position on the floor, arms wrapped around my belly, as if I’d received some new punch to the gut. It was normal, she wanted me to know, to carry our wounds in our bodies, to not be able to single-handedly vanquish all suffering. It was something I needed to know, I who had imagined that I might save the world or at least my family, and who came to know the hard way that the only person I could ever save was myself.

The good news is that saving yourself is how you save the world.

I once heard someone say — I’ve long since forgotten who — that we give from our overflow, not from our lack. In other words, what you don’t have for yourself, you cannot hope to give to the world. And so, cast down your net where you are. Fish in the depths of your own ocean. And what you will discover there is that you are not a tiny drop in some vast ocean,  you are the entire ocean expressed in a single drop.

Deep Rumi wisdom, but when I read it I thought, “What in the world did it mean?”

Rumi, the great Sufi mystic was undoubtedly speaking in mystical terms. He wanted us to understand that we are not separate, tiny beings. He wanted us to know not that we were only little, but that we were vast and deep and extraordinary. He wanted us to know (and though Rumi was a mystic, these are also secular teachings) that we are more than we appear to me, more than we sometimes know. He wanted us to know that we come from vastness, and that we carry that vastness with us, in our beings, our bodies, our personalities as we move through the world. We have come then to do great things — on a big or small scale, it doesn’t matter. Some of us will play on the world stage and influence the collective narrative in big, splashy ways. Others of us will influence the people and communities that immediately surround us and, through the individual lives we touch, transform the larger human narrative as well.

Rumi wanted us to sense that doing the thing that we could do — and doing it like the badasses we are — wasn’t just a little thing. It was the only thing. 

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Rafting Your Zambezi

Rafting Your Zambezi

There is a great river in Africa known as The Zambezi. It’s one of the top whitewater rafting spots in the world, and it’s replete with crocodiles and hippos. In other words, there are more than a few ways to die on the great river, and in that it’s a lot like life. When faced with the wild majesty that is a human life, there are two maybe three ways to play it: you can stay your arse on the shore where your odds of being eaten by a crocodile or charged by a hippo are relatively low. You can dip your boat in the river but try to stay close to the relative safety of shore. Or, you can raft the darn thing, with all the glory and risk that entails.

I’m the raft the river type. I asked my mother, once, what she thought of me when I was a child. She said, “I thought you were adventurous, and tried my best to rid you of that. I was afraid you’d jump off the roof.” What she didn’t know is that I may have been young, but I had good sense. Not once have I jumped off a roof. I’m more the cliff jumping type. I jumped off the cliff into the creative life, and I’ve never regretted taking the leap of faith. Life, my life, is about the adventure, it’s about the journey we take through the rough terrain of a human life.

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Oh Captain, My Captain!

Robin Williams

It’s been a week since Robin Williams died, and I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing the comments I posted to Facebook last Tuesday morning, with a few minor modifications. I end this post as I begin it (“Oh Captain, My Captain!”) because of all the ways that Robin touched my life (The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting), it is The Fisher King that most shaped my young mind, inspiring me to go for the life that was authentic, the life that is mine alone. Thank you, Robin, for shining so bright, and for inspiring all of us to let our own lights shine. And now my thoughts of last Tuesday, which are as true today as they were then.

“I was at a play last night by the Pulitzer nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph. Joseph and the male lead both worked with Robin Williams on Rajiv’s pulitzer nominated play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” with Robin in the titular role. It was an intimate performance in a very small theatre, but afterwords, the lead actor spoke on behalf of himself and Joseph about their great loss and the world’s great loss. People sprung into tears all around me. A reminder of how deeply we sometimes touch the lives of those we do not know.

In this in this year of great loss in the Hollywood community (Philip Seymour Hoffman and now Robin Williams), I just want to say that we owe a great great debt to those who open themselves fully, who feel so very very deeply for the rest of us (who, like the scapegoats of yore, agree to carry the wounds of the tribe).

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