Blackness and Pilgrimage

359px-Harriet_Tubman_by_Squyer,_NPG,_c1885Some people have suggested that I wasn’t able to do what Peace Pilgrim did because she was white and I’m black.  They believe that people were less inclined to help me along the way, and that I was in much greater danger of being harmed, especially when going through rural areas.

It’s a very convincing argument, until I remember John Francis:

With God, all things are possible.

Also, people did stop and help me.  I was even offered rides, though I turned them down because I felt riding in a car would defeat the whole point.  Bringing food would have helped too.  Along with water, warm clothing, and possibly a tent.  It also would have helped if I’d been in the proper physical and spiritual condition.

As far as I can tell, the color of my skin had nothing to do with me not being able to complete the walk.  I simply wasn’t ready.

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Pentecost and Porcupines

800px-Porcupines Two Sundays ago, I went to church for the first time in a while.  Given my current headspace, I figured a little community and a little spiritual reinforcement might be good.

I decided to walk there.  It was only two miles away, and I didn’t want to use any gas if I didn’t have to.  That…and walking has always made me feel close to God.

It was a nice walk.  My mind drifted back to my short-lived walk across Delaware into Maryland.  I shuddered to think of that time.  Little food. Little water. No shelter.  I shuddered because I could already feel myself being drawn back to that path.

The woman who greeted me at the door gave me the hugest smile.  “Welcome!” she said.  I couldn’t help but smile back.

The service had just started.  It was a small congregation – maybe 20-30 in all. The atmosphere, vibe, music, and people reminded me very much of the church I used to go to when I was a teenager.  It was a comforting feeling.

Everyone was standing, but I sat.  The music was good, and I felt old emotions stirring inside me.  I got tearful.  I’m not sure how much of that had to do with nostalgia and how much of it had to do with the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of the Holy Spirit, I found out that this particular Sunday was the Day of Pentecost, the official “birthday” of the Christian church (the kids at the service all sang “Happy Birthday, Church,” which was pretty cute).  On this day, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on the 12 apostles, and they began to preach to a diverse crowd of people.  The Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in foreign languages, allowing them to communicate the gospel to everyone who had ears to hear.

The sermon was good.  It’s focus was the necessity of community.  The pastor quoted Schopenhauer, who said that community is like a bunch of porcupines huddling together to stay warm.  When people get close together, they will inevitably prick each other, but if they stay apart they’ll freeze.

After the service, I greeted people out on the patio.  A woman who worked for the church asked me if I would help them set up their rummage sale next Sunday, as there weren’t very many young men around who could help with the heavy lifting.  I said that I would.  I then started talking to an elderly gentlemen who was originally from Hawaii.  He moved to Los Angeles for his son’s leukemia treatment.  I asked him when he was going back to Hawaii.  He said he didn’t know.  We talked for a bit about living a life of faith, and then he offered me a ride back home and treated me to lunch on the way.  As we sat and ate, he basically told me his life story.  He used to run a laundromat, then started selling nachos, ice, and other commodities until he earned enough money to start buying and renting out multiple properties.

He mentioned that he’d been married for 50 years.

“What’s the secret to a happy marriage?” I said.

“Marry the right person,” he said.

He admitted that he once got into a bad fight with his wife and told her he was going to divorce her.  When he went to see his lawyer, who also happened to be his friend, the lawyer told him, “Divorce? You can’t afford to get divorced right now.  You should try to work things out.”  So he did.

When he dropped me off, I thanked him for his kindness.  “You lifted my heart and my spirit,” I said.

“I’m always happy to help a fellow Christian,” he said, and drove off.

Last Sunday, I went back to the church, partly for the community but mostly because I said I would help out at the rummage sale.  The previous week, I’d gone to their contemporary service.  This week, I was at the traditional service, and my experience was very different.  I wasn’t feeling very connected to the liturgy or the music, and I found the sermon uninspiring.  Everything felt flat.  Honestly, the most enjoyable part of the whole day was helping out at the rummage sale and the walk home.

I’m not sure if I want to go back.  I’m not sure what I’m looking for in a church, or even if I need to continue looking for one.  I’m not even sure about identifying as a Christian.  My mind feels staunchly agnostic, maybe a little Buddhist, but my heart is definitely Christian.  The story of Jesus, the symbol of the cross, the Hebrew language and prayers…they all have powerful effect on me.  Just hearing Hebrew being spoken triggers something inside of me…

The truth is, I can’t the deny the reality of what I’ve seen and felt over the last few years.  There is power in the name of Yeshua (“Jesus” in Aramaic), though I can’t begin to understand the how or why.  And I have significant problems with religious institutions – a subject for another blog post.  But I do feel that there is a mystical Body of Christ, group consciousness that transcends space and time. And my theory is that the “gravitational pull” of this group consciousness is so powerful that once you’ve connected to it, really connected to it, you’re caught up in it for good, at least for this lifetime.

Not such a bad thing.  Groucho Marx’s famous quote notwithstanding:

“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

Fear and Trembling

NebuchadnezzarWhen I moved out to L.A., it was so that I could re-integrate myself back into society, earn a living, be a responsible adult, raise a family, all that happily-ever-after business.  I thought I could leave everything that I experienced – that I still experience – behind me.

But once you open certain doors, you can’t close them.  Ever.

Here goes…

As I write this, I feel what I can only be described as a concentrated bulk of Energy swirling around my head, pushing, grasping, trying to enter.  I try to hold it at bay so that I can concentrate on simple tasks: writing, cooking, driving, reading.

Sometimes I get too tired to fight it.  So I let it in. When I let it in, the Energy floods my body, tickling my nerves.  Pure bliss. I hear music and song in a language I don’t know.  My mouth flies open, and these words come out:

Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Achad.  Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Achad.

An inner voice rises from out of my heart, telling me that all will be well.  That God loves me.  God is with me.  God will give me everything I need.  All I need to do is be at peace.

This is the same Energy that gave me strength during my failed Peace Pilgrim walk, forcing me to get up and keep walking so that I wouldn’t freeze.

It wasn’t always like this.  It began when I started practicing meditation and yoga about 7 years ago.  These symptoms seem to be in line with what one would experience during a kundalini awakening.   The details of all this are forthcoming.  I just want to get you up to speed to where I’m at now.  This Energy is the reason I left New York and went traveling.  It’s the reason I spent as much time as I did searching for answers.

I’m out of places to go and books to study.  After everything I’ve been through, I still feel this pervading sense of emptiness.  And I still feel this Energy surrounding me, encouraging me, lifting me up, giving me words of comfort.

There is so much more to tell. I’m trying to find the time to write it all.  I wish I’d kept better records over the years.  Oh well.  The way things are looking now, I’m going to have plenty more to write about anyways.

I want to believe.  I want to surrender.  The only antidote to this fear is in my heart, where my burning love for God threatens to consume me.  

Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Achad.  

The Lord our God, The Lord is One.

“Temporality, finitude-this is what it is all about. I can resign everything by my own strength and find peace and rest in the pain; I can put up with everything-even if that dreadful demon, more horrifying than the skeletal one who terrifies me, even if madness held its fools costume before my eyes and I understood from its face that it was I who should put it on-I can still save my soul as long as my concern that my love of God conquer within me is greater than my concern that I achieve earthly happiness.” – Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

My First, Real-Life, Honest-to-Goodness Hollywood Premiere: Part 2

Peeples poster (19)

I was very worried about what kind of clothing I would wear to this premiere.  I had a suit, tie, pants, shoes, but no jacket.  I felt like I needed a jacket, or I wouldn’t look good.

Malcolm lent me a jacket.  I looked good now.

We had a car come and pick us up and drive us right up to the red carpet.  I felt important.

Most of the people there were dressed up, but some people were there wearing nothing but jeans and buttoned-up shirts.  I felt slightly superior to them, because I was wearing a jacket that my friend had lent me.

Inside, they had rows upon rows of popcorn bags and sodas lined up on a huge table for us.  They were free.  I wish I’d gotten a picture of that table.

The movie was funny.  I laughed and slapped my knee a lot and stomped the ground. Later, I took pictures of Malcolm getting his picture taken with audience members. 

The after-party was at a place I don’t remember the name of.  It was big and dimly lit and full of tropical-looking trees.  They had an open bar.  I didn’t need to worry about driving home, so I started off with two shots of something that may have been tequila, followed by a Jack and coke.

A few of us took pictures of Malcolm standing next to one of his co-stars.  The co-star – a tall, beautiful woman – came up to me and asked to see how the picture I took came out.  I showed it to her.

“That looks good,” she said.  I was happy because she was a famous person and she was happy with the photo I took.

“Can you send it to me?” she asked.

Before I answered, she took my phone  and started tapping away.  She was having problems sending the photo to herself, so she went into my Settings page and started changing things.  Then she went into my email account and tried to send my photo from there.   Please stop, I thought.  You are famous, so I won’t say anything, but please stop.  

She sent the photo and gave me the phone back.  I had another Jack and coke.

I walked into another section of the party and ate appetizers.  I danced to a little music.  I saw Mario Van Peebles, who saw me dancing.  He smiled and nodded his head.

“Dude,” I said, “You’re amazing!”

“Thanks, brotha!” he said.

I saw Kerry Washington and was too shy to say anything to her, so I went back to the bar with my drink.

Malcolm joined me at the bar.  We stood there, drinking, grinning.  I felt like a king.  I tried to flirt with the bartender, but she ignored me.

A woman came up to Malcolm and said he was going to be very famous very soon.  She said she was a publicist and represented high-profile clients.  She sounded eccentric.  He thanked her, told her to give her information to me and left.

“Your friend is going to be famous soon,” she said. “I can help him.”
“Yeah?” I said.
“Yes.  I can sense these things.  I’m a prophet.”
“A prophet?
“Yes.  And my brother is the Beast.”
“Sorry, did you say your brother is the Beast?”
“Yes.”
“Like…from the Book of Revelations?”
“I’ve had too much to drink.  I had two glasses of wine.”
“Uh huh.”
“So what do you do?” she said
“You’re a prophet,” I said.  “You tell me.”
She laughed.  “I’ve had too much to drink,” she said.
She told me she represented celebrities.  Miley Cyrus may have been one of them.  Or Amanda Bynes.  I’m not sure.  I was pretty drunk by then.  I wasn’t really listening.  I was just trying to figure out a way to extricate myself from the conversation as smoothly as possible.

“Let me get your number,” she said, handing me her smartphone.  “Type it in.”

I didn’t want to give her my number.  I thought about giving her a fake number, but I was afraid she’d call it right then, and my phone wouldn’t ring, and she’d know.  So I started to type in my email address.  Then I decided I didn’t want her to have my email address either.

I put in a fake email address and gave her the phone back.
“Send me an email,” I said.  “Let’s keep talking.”
She looked at the email address and then looked at me.
“This is bullshit,” she said.
“Wait…”
“No, no, no! This is bullshit, because if I was a white girl, you’d have given me your number.”
“That’s not true.  It’s just that I don’t know you.”
“Why won’t you even tell me your name?”
I told her my name.
“I’m a writer,” I said.  “I have trust issues.  I’m not good with people.  I put a lot of walls up.”
“What your sign?” she said.
“Leo.”
“That’s bullshit.  Leos are sensitive to other people’s feelings.  And they’re professional.  I’m going to leave and come back with a white girl, and then we’ll see how quick you give me your number.”
She left.  I felt bad.  Then I had another shot of something, along with a Jack and coke, and forgot all about it.

I couldn’t find my friends.  I stood in the center of the party, looking around, wanting to talk to someone. 

I found my friends.  We took pictures and drank more.  I felt like I was walking through fog.

Craig Robinson was walking around with a microphone in his hand, sometimes talking into it, sometimes singing.  I walked up to him and said, “Congratulations.”   He looked at me with sleepy eyes and said, “Thank you!”  We’d met a few times before, but I don’t think he recognized me.

By the end of the night, I was laying on my friend’s couch, too drunk to drive home. 

The next afternoon, I was back home, sitting on the couch, in too much pain to even move.  I thought about the previous night, and decided I didn’t know who I was anymore.

My First, Real-Life, Honest-to-Goodness Hollywood Premiere: Part 1

Going to the premiere of Peeples tonight, which stars Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Greer, and my good friend and writing partner Malcolm Barrett.

I actually went to a pre-screening of the movie a couple months ago and laughed my ass off.

I wasn’t expecting to get invited to the premiere, but yesterday, I got an email in my inbox saying that Malcolm had hooked me up with a ticket.  So now I’m going.

I’m excited.  I’m also nervous.  It’s a big, fancy event, and I’m not big or fancy.

It’s strange when I think about the shit that makes me nervous and the shit that doesn’t make me blink twice.   Seeing a funny movie with good friends and possibly hanging out with celebrities makes me way more anxious than taking hallucinogens and trying to walk across the country.

In any case, the movie – written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism, who wrote ATL and Drumline – opens this Friday, May 10th.  It’s not often that we see well-written comedies starring black folks, so please go out and support it this weekend.

If I’m not too hungover tomorrow, I’ll let you know how the premiere went.