Toni Morrison and her son Slade Morrison have a book about mean people I love to read to my kids. It’s my keep for today. To them, people are mean. They frown, they shout, even whisper behind peoples back. Family members are also mean. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, all of us have mean tendencies that can be confusing to children. I love this because it’s a delightful read and my kids get a kick out of it. But for all the meanness, the advice in the end is truly one to take on any life journey: smile through mean people and things. Smile through it all not matter how challenging everyday life may seem. I have been experiencing meanness lately and quite frankly, I will do as they suggested and smile anyway. Keep smiling. They dedicated this book to brave kids anywhere. Love it.
Imagine taking seven days to frame the entire world. The kind of patience it would take to ensure that the stars and the moon are in the right place. All sorts of fishes or sea monsters swim the oceans. Mountains and hills are perfectly framed with volcanoes ready to erupt as they please. Having such a patience with fine details would be sterling. Something that only the universe can accomplish on their own without any interruptions. Well I’m no universe and it’s taken me nine years to finally make sense of this dance I have been dancing with words. One that only fully came to reality in 1.5 years. So for close to 7-8 years, this dream that I had to simply write, was dormant. In fact, dead. Of course I wrote. But for others, not myself. Of course I will always write. But again for others, not myself. The dance with the mind, the communion between the writer and the reader is one that we must all guard at all cost. When I noted earlier that I was writing, truth is I was writing in the way others told me to write. I wrote in a manner that was pleasing for the scientific community. A style that required us to have sections that we called introductions or methods or results or discussions. Master this style and you have a career. I have made a career out of this style.
This year, I’m am 2 papers away in this style with earning my 100th paper. I discovered that just the other day as I finalized my performance review for last year. Many scholars would be thrilled to say that have 100 scientific papers, yet I felt truly sad for myself. Not that none of the work isn’t important but more so, because i have been dancing this scientific dance to the detriment of the minds I would rather serve. What I mean by this is that, in science, in science writing in particular, there is no communion with the average community. Of course, we dance with other researchers, many who themselves are prepared to dance like you. But honestly, I would rather that anything I write be in service of you. Anyone and not just researchers in the scientific community. I would rather that I dance with words for people who would never think to download any scientific paper but are curious about ways to stay healthy. It has taken a pandemic for me to get here. But now, I want my writing to be in service of humanity. I want to use words to change the world. It sounds like a dream and well, I am prepared to dream and work to make it come true.
When writers and readers manage to touch another’s mind through reading, the intimate, sustained surrender that is felt, without fear or interference, this dance of an open mind, fosters a particular kind of peace that requires vigilance. Securing that peace, the peace of a dancing mind, is our work. ‘There isn’t anybody else’ said Ms Toni Morrison in her little book ‘The Dancing Mind.’ I totally agree. She may be gone, but her words, are my source of inspiration. I hope to use this blog to help you experience your own mind dancing with my own. Securing this peace, the peace of the dancing mind, is now my life’s work. Rest In Peace Ms. Morrison. The dance continues…
I imagine when we meet. When our hearts and minds connect our steps will move to the rhythm of the beat. Our minds may wander. Your beauty is like thunder. The sound of cars beeping will bring us back to the reason for our meeting. If I must confess, you make me dream. You make me soar to high points through words that allow me to dream. Clouds maybe grey. Sunrise distant. But your brilliance, your ability to outshine grey clouds, is the reason life doesn’t frighten me at all. The reason I want to keep dancing with you. For these are unpredictable times and only our furious dancing will do.
Micro aggressions are everywhere especially in academia. Uncovering them is key. Last week in discussions with a colleague, we shared how this word manifests in workplace environment. Not because we didn’t know it has always existed in academia, but to see it in full display made us cringe. It begins with small acts of exclusion. So small they often go unnoticed. If you are listening you’ll notice. They are never overt or explicit. Never obvious or even recognizable at first. Subtlety is its defining element and receivers know when they see it. Yet they are so ingrained in everyday behavior beginning from the tone of voice we use to, to the gestures we make, the terms we use or even the people we publicly acknowledge, all of that combined make up the perfect storm for micro aggression. And to be on the receiving end, to listen as your whole being is dismissed, denied, or even diminished can be so debilitating except you know yourself well. That is, you see yourself clearly enough to recognize the stakes of inaction. Thus confronting your micro aggressor becomes the next logical step. And when you do, the actions you observed so keenly maybe explained away, denied, and once more dismissed as a figment of your own imagination. It’s for this reason I say why bother. Micro aggressors will be micro aggressors. You will never change them. But you can change yourself. Rather than dwell on their act, learn from it, even write about it. As Toni Morrison once wrote in Beloved, ‘the only grace you would have (even from a micro aggressor) is the grace you imagine.’ So imagine grace for yourself. See it, feel it, then have it for yourself. And when you do, healing from micro aggression will begin. Keep this in mind and learn so you don’t become one.
I have been reading ‘What moves at the margin’ by Toni Morrison. One of my favorite quotes by Toni Morrison, one she shared during her Nobel Lecture in Literature is: ‘We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That maybe the measure of our lives.’ Obviously very few people did language as fine and as exemplary like Ms. Morrison.
Of late, I have been trying my best with putting words together as it pertains to this quote, in ways that make sense to me and my love for endless questions. I put the following together: ‘We ask and are asked questions. That may be how we acquire knowledge. But when the questions are never ending, when we understand and value the significance of endless questions, that may be how we live meaningful lives.’ I am on a journey towards a meaningful life, one full of never ending questions and word-work as sublime as Toni Morrison is my guide. Keep words, keep language. It truly is the measure of our lives.