Eyes

Hey. Wake up.

Huh?

Wake up! We were not born blind.

We were not born…what?

We were born with eyes that see through the backs of our heads, eyes that swivel round in our skulls and look past the curvature of time. But somewhere along the way They gave us frosted glasses that turned everything hazy.

Who are They?

I don’t know. The Man, or Society, or the gremlins in our heads. It doesn’t matter who They are.

But…

Listen. Our souls know what we used to see. Our souls know in that funny way that souls do, that prickle on the back of the neck way, that nagging pull in the belly way. Our souls know the world is bigger than They tell us.

And yet…

Yes? Say it.

And yet we feel as though the walls are closing in. When we see one of our own do well we’re filled with fierce pride followed by a pang of sadness because now that she’s done it, we can’t.

And…?

We wish we didn’t feel that way. We wish we didn’t think, “There’s already one of us doing that. Better try something else.” We wish we didn’t bend and twist and try to find new spaces because all the other ones are taken. We wish we didn’t think there was only room for one barrier-breaker.

And yet…

Yes? Say it.

And yet stories are infinite. If every soul that had ever lived had told a thousand tales, there would still be room for more. We know this. We know it in our blood. We know there can never be too many.

But our minds see closing doors and barred windows because, despite #BlackGirlMagic, in the cramped quarters of the real world Black Girl can only do so much. “We like you, but we’ve filled our diversity quota. Maybe next time. Keep trying.”

Keep trying? No, thank you. You had your chance to dance with us and now we’re moving on.

We don’t want to feel small anymore. We don’t want to drink the potion. We want to remember that opportunity is just a word.

Yes. Yes. Walls are imaginary. We don’t need anyone to give us a chance, a leg up, a stamp of approval. We can make our own opportunities. We can be our own champions. Magicians don’t ask for permission to shine. Whoever They are, we can dance dizzy circles around Them on Their best days. Why do we cower and grovel as if we haven’t learned how to wield our gifts?

Ah, how we wish we could be that fearless! That certain. We wish we didn’t let those frosted lenses trip us up. We wish we didn’t lose the knowledge of our self-worth somewhere between leaving the desk and reaching the door.

We ARE fearless. We are certain.

We are blind…

Yes. But here’s the thing about glasses: we can take them off. Wake up! We were not born blind.

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Odd

To be human is to be like a method actor.

It is to play a character in a screenplay you co-authored. Miss X, age Y, from such and such a place, with a set profile that you add to bit by bit as the years go by. At first Miss X is just Miss X, child of Couple Y. Then she becomes Miss X, who likes apples but not bananas, who cries when she hears dogs barking and laughs at the TV no matter what’s on. You edit and elaborate and then, at some point, you slip into character and forget that it’s just a role. You forget to take the mask off, even though it burns.

We are odd creatures, unable to see our own hypocrisy, especially when we interact with one another. We want others to be different so that we can feel more comfortable. It has nothing to do with them. It always comes back to us; everything does. This is the true nature of the complex creature that is the human being; we are utterly self-absorbed. That is how our minds, once they develop enough to generate self-awareness, operate. The world revolves around us, and we create everything in it according to our narrow, limited and thoroughly subjective perceptions.

We see only what we believe to be possible. We cannot see anything else. We cannot think any other way, because the person we have decided to be has a script, and to ad-lib would be treason.

When we are offended by someone’s words, actions or beliefs, we are not really offended. We are afraid. We are threatened, and our instinctive response to that threat is to attempt, through debate, accusation or intimidation, to make that person change so we don’t have to feel that terrible, gnawing thing inside us. It’s a hungry, hungry monster that always needs to be fed, and we’ll do anything to pacify it. We will use whatever system we must to justify our response. We will insist that we are right, that our way is the acceptable, moral, decent way, not because this is true, but because we believe saying so will have an impact on the other person. And when it doesn’t, when they don’t shrivel up in shame and agree to change, we panic. We withdraw in search of like souls with whom we can commiserate, people who will tell us what we need to hear in order to soothe the hungry monster, at least for a time.

But the monster will start to hunger again.

There are things we will not accept because they shake our foundations, the foundations laid so carefully by our parents, guardians, teachers, societies, religions, cultures, friends and our formative selves. We will not accept that the pain doesn’t really go away, that there is no magical transformation, that every second of every day requires work. We will not accept that our prejudices, which seem so natural, so human, are in fact illogical, counter-productive and a hindrance to serenity. We will not accept that the divisions we see are self-created, ideas that started as innocent seeds before spiraling wildly out of control, growing with abandon like grasping creepers , so heavy they crack the walls beneath. We will not accept that we share the burden of history, no matter who we are or where we’re from.

There is no “theirs” and “mine”. Each of us carries the weight of human lives from the dawn of time. We are the oppressors and the oppressed, the victors and the defeated. Try as we might to sever these ties they follow us, creeping under our skin. They crop up in places we least expect to find them and say “Hello. Remember me?”

When we examine ourselves we find crooked things and dark little corners. Frightening as they are, we must look. We must always look. We must go bravely into the cave and shine light on what is hidden, so we can see ourselves for what we truly are, so we can see, at last, that the monster is a silly little creature with gnashing teeth, and we can learn to dodge its bite.

To be human is to learn that what we know is not worth knowing, to return to where we were when we were young and foolish and wise. To be human is not to walk the tightrope, leaning precariously from one side to the other, terrified of falling. To be human is to dance, jump off and fly. And fall. And rise again.

Because the truth, Miss X, is that you are not just the protagonist in a screenplay. You transcend the role. You are the director, the writer, the cast and crew, the scenes that don’t make the final cut. Stop thinking small. You are human, and to be human is to be the whole damn film, bloopers and all. And guess what? That’s a good thing.