Tag Archives: Revel World Revel Life

Transcendent G(Race)

Ramses Barden & Faye Arthurs

At Rick Owen

The images above offer one more reason (as if one were needed) to love Carine Roitfeld. From the helm of French Vogue, from which she departed in 2010, Roitfeld was irreverent, original, one of a kind. Now she helms her own CR Fashion Book, where she’s in rare form yet again, working her beautiful, conceptual magic in ways that, frankly, boggle my mind.

Roitfeld is up to some seriously intriguing, philosophical stuff. She’s talking fashion, mind you, but somehow she manages to upend our cultural assumptions and cause us to see anew.

Roitfeld reminds me that fashion is cultural iconography. It’s uniform, armor, away of engaging with, and breaking through the barriers of the world. It’s something the disenfranchised have always known. It’s why African-American women of my mother and grandmother and great grandmother’s generations dressed to the nines, never forgoing their slip or gloves or pantyhose. Dressing to the nines, in the normal course of business if you were middle or upper middle class, and on special occasions if you were working class or poor, was a way to stake a claim on their right to dignity and respect in a world too often blind to the fact of their basic humanity. Sadly, the inability to “see” the non-white among us as human persists, a point Anna Holmes drove home in a piece in The New Yorker about the extreme displeasure expressed by a few too many Hunger Games fans to the discovery that Thrash and Rue were (gasp, wait for it) black.

It’s in this context that I consider the images above, which appeared in two different spreads in Roitfeld’s CR. The first, of New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden and New York City Ballet dancer Faye Arthur is soaked in the history and iconography of black masculinity and white femininity as it plays itself out in the White American consciousness and, by extension, in the Black American consciousness as well. This image contains the image of Emmett Till, the 14 year old African-American child who was lynched in 1955 Mississippi for looking at a white woman. And it turns it on its head, rendering the strong, black, male body what it has always been, an object of beauty, intentionality and grace. 


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Acceptance vs. Forgiveness
& Other Myths

Geronimo Balloons

Today, as the country music world mourns Mindy McCready, I find myself thinking about the many well-meaning ideas, floating around in the culture, that increase the burden that people suffering great loss must bear. Ideas like the idea Mindy expressed in her last televised interview at the end of January, following the death of her boyfriend and soulmate from an apparent suicide. Asked “how do you keep getting through all these hard times,” McCready replied, “I just keep telling myself that the more suffering I go through, the greater character I’ll have.” In my darkest hours, I told myself similar things, not because I believed them, but because the idea that adversity makes you stronger is our official narrative, and I didn’t have another to replace it.

The story of the triumph over adversity is a heady one. It allows us to imagine that, no matter what, we will triumph in the end. Suicide gives the lie to that dream. Adversity doesn’t always make us stronger. It’s as likely to destroy as it is to ennoble.

The truth is, everything isn’t a growth experience, and sometimes the traumas we suffer leave us worse, not better, for the wear. It’s sacrilege to say this out loud — the gods of denial hold powerful sway over their faithful, but I have never found denial a useful tool. 


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The Interconnectedness

LemLem Hands

We are at an interesting crossroads, having made the long march up from the scarcity of our hunter-gatherer days, up through the genius of agriculture and animal husbandry (and the miracle of settled human society they made possible; up through the game-changing Industrial Revolution which birthed to the middle class and brought a tenfold increase in wealth to the capitalist countries — though often at the expense of people and the planet. Now we’re in the grips of another great transformative moment in human history, which I call The Interconnectedness Revolution. It’s marked by our growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, and our growing recognition that every man is our brother and this planet is our home. It’s the culmination of man’s 11,000 year journey from scarcity to abundance, and a high-water mark in the evolution of the human race.

The Zen Master Bernie Glassman spoke poignantly about this idea of interconnectedness in a recent interview on Charlie Rose, where he appeared with the actor Jeff Bridges to promote their new book, The Dude and The Zen Master. There, he asked that we imagine that our left hand, right hand and right leg are part of the same body but do not know it. He then asks us to imagine that this right leg is injured and that, instead of helping, the left hand and right hand say, “I’m not gonna help, it’s not my problem,” and, in the end, no one helps, and finally the body dies. For most of human history, we have been like the left hand and right hand that don’t know they belong to the same body as the leg. Now, we are waking up to the idea that everyone, and everything, on this planet is part of the same body, and that we’ll perish or continue as one.


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We’re Beautiful
Like Diamonds In The Sky

Lately I’ve been listening to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” while on my spin bike. It’s an anthem, a soul-stirring pop song with the power to remind you who you are — and that you live in a beautiful world. The chorus, “We’re beautiful, like diamonds in the sky,” is the kind of sentiment pop music is made for. When done well, when done from the heart, this kind of pop anthem has the power to bypass the mind, and fill the mind, heart, body and soul with the light that is our birthright.

We have come here to be luminous beings, to light this world up with the beauty that we are. And not just some of us; all of us. Rihanna lyrics, “We’re beautiful, like diamonds in the sky,” may have been written for a love, and at face value her song tells the story of one person speaking to another, but when I hear her lyrics, I hear her speaking to all of us. As Seal sings, “every single one of us is beautiful.” Rihanna continues that sentiment. Listening to her music while I spin in a dark, candlelit room in my house, I feel my deep kinship, to all who walk this beautiful Earth, and to this beautiful Earth itself. If a pop song can do that, then I bow down to the kings and queens of pop, and the work they’ve come here to do.


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