Thursday, October 21, 2010

Being Myself.

I had two topics I wanted to write about tonight: the first was the sad state of my Buddhist practice and the second was Afro-centrism.  I went with the second topic which came about after watching YouTube videos posted by two beautiful and intelligent, natural, African-centered women.

I trodded RastafarI for a number of years.  One of the major teachings is the idea of repatriation, or returning to one's homeland which for Black people is Africa.  Most RastafarI people are very Afrocentric (or try to be) in their world views and I tried to be too.  But it didn't come naturally.  I didn't have any romanticized ideas of Africa and I know it's because I'm only a first generation American born to parents who immigrated from Nigeria.  Repatriating, to me, was not necessarily the end to all ills and I didn't have any illusions about what moving back to Africa right now would be like.  So I never really had a burning desire to repatriate physically although I thought I should and honestly, probably would have had the right man come along talking about building and going back to our root by living in Africa.

What did resonate with me though, was African ways of thinking and being, ways of thinking and being that are forgotten by Black people--both those on the continent and those that are part of the diaspora.  It's worth it to me to remember from whence you came. Mental and spiritual repatriation, if you will.   It eliminates future mistakes and helps you to stay true to yourself.  I do believe our ancestors had a certain wisdom that you don't readily come upon these days.  And so I really did (and do) try to embrace an Afrocentric way of thinking--although it may not be obvious. 

Now that I'm raising my children, I notice that I don't place a big emphasis on Africa.  I'm not planning to take an Afrocentric approach to their education although it is definitely important to me to teach African history and geography and also to teach general history including Black people.  Africa (and Black people) is largely ignored in mainstream education so I'm so happy to be homeschooling in that regard since I can provide this aspect of my children's education.   I had to learn all the European countries but not the African ones.  This will not be the case for my kids. 

But, I guess, being Afrocentric or at least, really loud and proud about being African (and natural, and conscious) is not something I am striving for anymore.  But I remember the energy with which I did.  I kind of hate to say it but my whole ordeal with my thinning hair and locks really set the stage for a whole reorganizing of how I think and what I am. Because of this, I hesitate to say that hair is just hair.  Even though it is just hair.  It has really influenced my politics and my spirituality. 

Africa is important to me but not in a fanatical way.  It's important to me in a natural way, because that's where I come from.  It's my homeland.  I hope to live there one day.  I think when the west falls, that may be the best place to live.  But I don't really rock daishikis anymore.  Or wear traditional clothes at all.  The only ankh I wear now, from time to time,  is a small silver pendant on silver chain and when I think why it's significant to me now, it's not because it shows that I know about ancient Khemet (and am therefore "with it" when it comes to all things Afrikan).   It's more so because I am moved by the meaning of it and really, I would wear something that means what it means no matter what culture it originated from.   There was a time in my life where you wouldn't catch me without my ankh, a button, pin, ribbon or something declaring AFRICA!! Currently, there are really no signs that I'm "afrocentric". Talking to me you might not know.  Looking at me, you definitely wouldn't know.  

I'm African but raised in America so I'm American too.  I'm just learning to embrace both and keep it moving without guilt and without any inclination to be something I'm not.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I recently completed Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the ever-so-popular Eat, Pray, Love, which I reviewed here.  I was pretty certain I would like Committed and while I didn't hate it, it wasn't great.  Whereas after reading Eat, Pray, Love I was on a mission to obtain a copy for my personal library, I had no qualms about returning my borrowed copy back to the library.  Forever. 

It just seemed like Ms. Gilbert's voice was so different in this book.  It reads just like a collection of research aimed at convincing someone that marriage is a worthwhile practice generally speaking when in actuality, for Ms. Gilbert, it's a worthwhile practice if it's in the interest of keeping your fiance in the country.  I guess it felt rather disingenuous, which is a frequent complaint by Eat, Pray, Love critics.  What was missing for me was that earnestness and that insight.  The skill with which she synthesized that which she had researched into cogent and profound lessons for her life. The vast majority of the book was Ms. Gilbert simply sharing what she had gleaned from her studies of marriage across history and time.

And I was actually really surprised by some of the naivete and self-absorption [displayed] in this book regarding what you can expect from the other partner in a marriage and what marriage is supposed to do for a person.

But I will say that I really learned a great deal about the history of marriage, how it has impacted women's lives over the years, how it has evolved and the current state of marriage.  The information was presented in a very accessible way with lots of relevant personal anecdotes.  I certainly appreciate Ms. Gilbert's ambivalence about marriage and learning as much as she did to write this book, I can't say the ambivalence would be assuaged.  To the contrary, it would make you more determined to never marry.  But Ms. Gilbert really doesn't have a choice [if she wants her fiance in the country] so she ends up sucking it up.

One passage really stuck out to me as being really truthful, on page 226:

Out of respect, we must learn how to release and confine each other with the most exquisite care, but we should never--not even for a moment--pretend that we are not confined.  

As someone who married relatively young [and whose prospects (statistically speaking} for a successful marriage [so I learned from the book] are quite slim), I totally agree with this sentiment.  You won't find that many 20-somethings who are down with the inherent confinement that comes with marriage.  Marriage is intended to stabilize and hold people down.  

So Committed is not  Eat, Pray, Love.  It was a good and easy read chock full of information with a happy ending.  You can't be mad at that.  But seriously, you could read this review and get the gist of the whole book.  
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