Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Narrative to Contribute

Once, I made a decision. 
That decision 
would propel me to make other important decisions. 

Until I had first spent a great deal of time preparing myself for it, as much in rooting out from my mind all the wrong opinions that I had accepted before that time as in accumulating many experiences, in order for them later to be the subject matter of my reasonings, and in always practicing the method I had prescribed for myself so as to strengthen myself more and more in its use. - Rene Decartes

I think, therefore I am

Although Decartes’ methodology (doubt) and argument (only “I” can be certain to exist and God exists as a perfect entity) is highly problematic,
at the time,
my encounter with him was necessary,
an outlet for me to move forward in what I wanted to be(come).
To be a thinker.
I wanted to live in an orange grove on a stool and think.
I wanted to tear apart all the ideologies and narratives I had developed consciously and unconsciously.
Decartes thought for his own benefit.
I followed suit.  
Self-consumption for self-growth.

I ought to pay attention to what they [I] did rather than to what they [I] said, not only because in the corruption of our morals there are few people who are willing to say everything they [I] believe, but also because many [I[ do not know what they [I] believe, for, given that the action of thought by which one believes something is different from that by which one knows that one believes it, the one often occurs without the other. - Rene Descartes

Decartes allowed me to eradicate all the narratives,
the ideologies,
the expectations,
the beliefs 
that had structured my existence for twenty-something years.
No longer could familial and cultural obligations
write my story.
I became nothing.
Identity erased.
Existence erased. 
All that seemed to remain was "I"
And after pushing through such an existential/identity crisis,
I understood my agency to write my story . . .
I underwent writing my story.

I wouldn't realize or understand what my story was until 2024, when I would read Lauren Oya Olamina’s EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING. 

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

- Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower

The only thing constant is change. That "I" (was) changed. And that "I" only existed because of others.  I decided that I needed to contribute to others.  

Once, I visited New Orleans, 
not as a tourist

but as a volunteer to rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina.
I mostly worked on Miss Bessie's house, 
while she stayed at a friend's with her disabled son, Jessie. 

Miss Bessie had been staying with this friend 
for the last two years 
because contractors 
had taken down payments from her
but barely, if ever,
worked on her house.  
All that was done was pretty much a
new front door,
which was better than 
other houses and neighborhood stores.
I wanted to create change 
for the benefit of others, of humanity.
In my rigorous thinking,
I had discovered how I was positioned in society.
I had realized how much I hadn't appreciated
others' sweat from the past, or
how I benefited from the exploitation of others, or
how many of my actions were simply self-fulfilling. 

Rebuilding houses and cleaning up the environment felt inadequate.
Sure, having a home helped 9th Ward folks.
But I felt people needed more.

As much as I wanted to make a difference,
I realized my volunteer efforts wouldn't suffice.
There was too much to be done.
Many of the problems in the 9th Ward 
were symptomatic of larger structural issues. 
What is to be done?

To contribute to consciousness.
To contribute to others.
To educate others to own their lives.
To educate others about what it means to live among others.

Once, I lived in Peru
where I taught English as a foreign language.

While there, I was drawn to many things and sites:

and also relearned 

that I needed intellectual relationships
to accompany my teaching
and that I needed to give more 
to community than learning English.

Education. Once, I decided to attend graduate school so I could become a teacher,
or rather an organic intellectual.

Overwhelmed, Adjusting, Frustrated.
Many onces, the first year and a half of graduate school
consisted of an absence to contribute.
Disappointed, Lost, Defeated.

Once, I meet a  homeless man
who suggested, with sad and frustrated eyes, 
we live in Paradise.

Once, I visited Michigan.
The airport provided the hustle and bustle of the workweek. 

The trip provided an assertion for
why I came to graduate school:
to develop bridges between academy and community.




All that you experience
You Affect.

All that you Affect
Affects you.

The only lasting pleasure-pain among Community
Is Affect.

Is Affect.

One never decides alone; one never thinks alone; one never acts alone; one never exists alone; Traces, memories, relationships, and engagements circulate. They constitute the dynamics of moments within this ecology.  They are movements that enable us to produce meaning, to create well-being. To think is not to be. To think is not to become.  One contributes, for better or worse or both or neither, to others. To contribute is to become. 

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