The Critical Eye

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life at Forty One - Part One

I sit here at the cusp of two thousand and nine, watching a truly inspirational movie -Men of Honor- starring Cuba Gooding. It's the tale of a man of humble circumstances who persevered in spite of the culture of racism and elitism which permeated the navy back in the day (even now). His ability to stay the course was beyond admirable. He was insulted, ostracized, cheated, damn near killed and still he sought only one goal, to achieve the rank of Master Diver. This single purpose saw him through a near death experience, divorce, amputation of his leg, and the basic railroading he received at the hands of the navy brass. Wow!

In my job as Academic Dean of a career school, I work with people that are looking to change their lives due to their social, economic, or cultural circumstances. As part of the intake process, we perform an orientation that bristles with the optimism of opportunity. We play music and provide truly motivational words to fortify the student's decision to attend our school. We ask them to dig deep into their treasure troughs for the will to make their dream sustainable. As a business, we measure using a myriad of results; completion, attrition, and employment rates. Through all these outcomes, the pervasive and recurrent themes are the stories of perseverance. The many stories of which I am privy. Boys/men and girls/women having persevered through some of the most incredible circumstances to achieve a dream.

I have a story too, one that is filled with the endurance and pain of four decades. It is just as filled with the highs and deep lows of Master Chief Brashear. Though mine may not have been underwater, but they have been just as lung splitting as holding your breath for over four minutes. So as I sit here doing that Anhedonic thing; the television is going with subtitles, Pandora is playing through my IPOD earpiece, and I am typing on my blog. I am beginning to realize that I am forty one years old and never actually realized that I have ADD, ADHD, DVD, CD, and MP3. These are all congenital conditions (things that I was born with). My wife and daughter are asleep and even now at my age, I sit in awe and abject confusion about where next my ship will take them. There are many nights I lay awake at night not knowing if I can trust my compass. That deep desire to live life as fully as possible, but in the most enjoyable manner possible runs in diametric opposition to the sensible order of life. There is a point at which your story must become the bibliography for another.

As we grow, our priorities are supposed to be congruent with our responsibilities. We are supposed to develop good habits and have reached the point of visible maturity in person and environment. The disparate variations of our life choices being more evident at this age. We are supposed to be established, to have a thought out plan for tomorrow. It is the unsaid expectation that you are a grown up. In my run-ins and in my own life, I am discovering now that it can take a lifetime to shed the layers of wool that grow for winter. I have seen this manifest itself through the life of a student as I try to convince them that they can make it. The self sabotage that rears its head after decades of being told they will amount to nothing. In hearing my own voice guide me through a storm, reminding me of the many times I was told that I would not be this or that. Has my life been a quest to prove someone wrong? A deep desire to throw mud in an eye? The blueprint for life is there and yet, my disdain for architectural drawing cripples me. Therefore my ability to see the picture is hampered and it can only be imaged by the knowledge that the blueprint represents life itself. That's how it is for all of us, we can only manipulate that which we control. Our very breath a very tenuous existential question mark.

As we turn into this year that begins with the immense historical presence of a President Barack Obama, I am asking some deep questions. On a recent trip to an open house at the NASA facility in Greenbelt, we were given a briefing on the working of the Hubble telescope and shown the pictures of galaxies far away. I see the insignificance of my presence in the scope of a hundred galaxies and the true irrelevance of my existence. In this vast expanse and universe; I must ask the question; "What is is your impact on your little space?" That's the question that I want to bring to my students at the next orientation. I realize how much Generation Y has found itself in the cycle of historical seclusion and dismemberment. Its uniqueness its war cry, its best weapon, but it is also its Achilles heel.

To be continued.....................

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christ's Mass

Muslim, Jew, Gentile, Atheist, Buddhist, doesn't really matter, you just have to accept the fact that Jesus has shut this thing down. Aside from the little neighborhood 7-11 store, there are very few places that are open on this day. Offices are closed, schools shut down. That's what I'm talking about, Jesus has shut this thing down!

As all the anti-God rhetoric has evolved over the years, things like substituting "Happy Holidays" for the term "Christmas" have become common place. In fact in our offices we are very careful to send out holiday wishes lest we offend anyone by describing it as Christmas. That's the foolishness of it all. As if we would dare ask the Muslims to call Ramadan something else.

The reality is that we have been celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ through generations. Somewhere in the history of humankind a whole race recognized the importance of this one individual to the story of our people. It takes a whole lot of agreement to get the whole world to recognize one occurrence and pick a day to celebrate it. Of course the colonizers of new worlds played a large role in this, spreading Christianity worldwide. Somehow this story, printed in books that have no copyright, has prevailed.

So for all those of you that get offended when someone says, "Merry Christmas" to you, all I can say is too bad. Try getting another holiday changed for your own benefit. Turn Veteran's day to "If you had any inclination to fight" day, or Lincoln's birthday to, "These old Presidents" day. How about turning Martin Luther King day to "A whole bunch of us died too" day. Doesn't seem very likely does it? Well then sit back and enjoy the fact that even though in your house, where the focus of your celebrations is food and presents, Jesus made it possible for you to be off today.

You don't have to listen to your irritating co-workers and boss. They actually have to pay for your fat behind to stay home and stuff your mouth with food. You have an excuse to eat things that go against every doctor's order you have been given. Your trifling relatives actually have to put up with you for a day, and are going to be inclined to act nice. Despite the economy, you will actually get at least one present today. That's something to look forward to during your so called 'holiday'.

While you revel in your rhetoric, I am going to call it what it is "Christmas". A long time ago in a manger somewhere, a little baby was born and his legacy changed the world. I know it stopped me from punching quite a few people in the face and telling several folks where to go and how to get there. This little baby grew up and things he said and did stopped me from carrying a gun, and playing shoot 'em up. He is the reason I regret many of things that I did growing up, and caused me to commit my life to good.

So please, if you meet me today and I say "Merry Christmas" to you, don't get an attitude or try to correct me. Because, if not for him, meeting me would have meant some other words and you leaving without your wallet. "Merry Christmas, YOU HEARD!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Death of a Father! (For Alex Gwebe-Nyirenda)

I remember him as a loving man,
the first man I ever saw shed tear of grief or happiness
He was admirable and charismatic,
greeted you with a smile each and every time
He was quick to articulate his displeasure and define his dislikes,
but of these he had very few

He did not discriminate by social status,
nor differentiate by color
His home was our playground,
open to all those who were seeking solace
His kids our conduits to an accepted social peace
He fed us, quenched our thirst and never once sought payment
His cars drove us to unscheduled appointments
and picked us up from far away places

He was the father I never had,
the man who would first show me how a real man loves his family
He was a loving bear of a man,
his laughter the the bellow of a buffalo on the Savannah
He was my first ever fatherly hug,
a man who kissed his sons
He was protective of his keep,
but judicious in his judgments

He made sure that we wanted for nothing
Our needs were met as if by magic
His wand was his countenance,
which he wielded with gentle aplomb
Oh, for but to have a father of such stature
Not quite whom God had appointed for me,
but for another
Yet in him, I have had the opportunity to live,
if but for a moment, as his son


Dedicated to Alex Gwebe-Nyirenda (May His Soul Rest In Peace)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You're Graduating!

Tell them you're graduating
Tell the haters,
Tell those that love you
Tell them all
Tell them you're graduating
Yes, even those that told you, you weren't going to make it
Better still, especially them
The ones smiling, yet dying slowly inside
Let em know

Tell that fool you're graduating
Yes, the one who left you with those two kids
In fact tell his trifling girlfriend too
Let them hear it from friends and some foes
Go on, tell everyone you know
It's your time, go ahead put on a show
You're graduating, let em know

Shout it from the stage and on the street
Let your gown flow, and make sure that you wave as you sit
Don't mind what they say, or if they stare
Do everything you can to make them aware
Because you're graduating today and it's your turn,
What do you care

Mama, told you you'd make it,
She prophesied way back in the day
Told you not to pay any mind,
Nor care what people would say
You persevered and held on to hope,
as if hope came in little drops
You stood steadfast trying to find your place
Fighting battles and facing great odds
Now here you are at your appointed time
A long distance traveled with a troubled face
Yet no one can take what is rightfully yours
This diploma, gown and hat and some boastful prose
Ha,ha, I'm graduating today,
Shout it out loud so all the haters can hear,
"I've got mine, you get yours!"

Mr. Do Right!

Lord, you know how I try to live right
Try to do my thing and still stand upright
But you remember how you made this coincidence thing, right?
Somehow things showing up at the same place or in the same space, right?

Lord you know how much I've longed to feel right
To not have dreams of demons with their faces tight
Or visions of angels with cross faces, telling me I'm not right
And yet my walk has sometimes ended somewhat short, right?

Lord, you know that thing I told you about, right?
That deep inner fear and how my mistakes made me contrite?
Well, is it true that just because it feels good, it could still not be right?
I know it's a dumb question, but you know me right?

Lord, show me your ways and keep me right
Don't let me falter on this road and come up short
Of doing what I've always known was true and right
Keep me walking in your light, straight to my destiny and to do right

Yes Lord, make me Mr. Do Right!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Survivor Gabon

I am sitting here, not feeling very well and watching Survivor Gabon. I am slowly getting annoyed at the talisman imagery, the hooting and hollering African warriors sitting on the ground, as idols are burned on the ground. Yet quite interestingly, I am not changing the channel.