I changed my fall schedule again and this time (okay, starting NOW) I am ready to move forward. I had to eat a couple of books I bought on Amazon for this class (albeit with a gift card), but I simply could not get excited about “The Evolution of Ideas”. At first glance I thought that a class with that title would be right up my alley. I enjoy studying material related to different ideas and the nascent influences and dynamics which lead to new ideas; ideological, political, etc.
However, after seeing the books, and staying open-minded enough to actually page through them, I decided to “abort mission”. While the tome, “Classics of Western Philosophy” is one I may (MAY) be able to sink my teeth into, other required books “The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self” and “A Brief History of the Soul”, simply do not interest me at this time. The thought of engaging in esoteric “debate” on the dynamics, history, and “rise and fall” of the soul, is a thought that leaves me exhausted, and worse, not better informed or more knowledgeable.
The “Soul”? Maybe soul-food or soul-music, but not the supernatural essence which has no basis in fact whatsoever.
And anyway I’ve been down that road for 30-some years. In 1980 I read Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “Your Erroneous Zones” and that book started me on a journey during which I immersed myself in material that attempted to explain and answer the “great (unanswerable) questions”. I evolved right along with Wayne (even hugged him a couple times), from his you-don’t-need-worry-or-stress-in-your-life, through his do-follow-your-dream-no-matter-what-anyone-says phase, and finally into his spiritual-solution-to-every-problem epiphanies.
Been there. Done that.
I’m with Epictetus on this one, “…every man must find his own way to heaven”. By the way, any reading of Epictetus will provide inspiration, clarity and for-god’s-sake common sense.
So I replaced “Evolution of Ideas” with what could arguably be its antithesis, “Hate Speech, Manifestos, and Radical Writings”. Bam.
But here I’ll get some healthy exposure to radical themes which interest me more at this time. I would also enjoy an opportunity to write my own manifesto.
My current interests in manifestos/radical writings come from Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s mountain of diaries which I devoured all summer.
Besides focusing a lot of attention on my health & fitness this summer, I’ve also immersed myself into some tremendous books. I’m burning through about one every two or three days. The theme if it isn’t already obvious revolves around the aforementioned “el Che”. The man. The myth. The legend. The guy on those t-shirts.
Yes, I have a Che t-shirt. Bought in downtown Philly in summer of 2011. Always wanted one because Che always fascinated me. But I was always unsure of who the hell this guy was and why is he such an icon. I wanted to find out who he was, and by extension, if I should wear my shirt.
The quest was familiar to me, as it was similar to me wanting to know about, and/or accomplish skills in many things during my life, some of which could be called dumb. I don’t like being stupid when it comes to engaging in a particular area. If I am not confident in it, I need to shut the fuck up (STFU). In fact, I wrote STFU on a post-it note years ago and stuck it to my monitor to remind me to, well, STFU, if I did not know what the hell I was talking about. And even if I did, to tread lightly.
I can trace my obsessions back to the 1970’s at the local pool hall. I skipped out of class almost my entire junior year (and paid the price in my senior year), but I’ll be damned if I did not become the best 9-ball and straight pool shooter in the place. Not long after that, I solidified my position as the top offensive foosball player as well.
Also in the late 70’s my friends and I thought we were really good at throwing and catching a Frisbee. We spent hours everyday tossing the disc and tanning. Our devotion to sun tanning during Milwaukee summers was legendary. Contests were started, bets were waged, arguments followed (I’m darkest!). I think the final judgment of who was the winner came when my buddy Todd and I were tossing a Frisbee around at Milwaukee’s lakefront and some friends began to chat with him. I was about 100 yards away and one of them asked Todd, “so who’s the black guy?”
Game. Set. Match.
But that was tanning; Frisbee was different. For one thing its the only activity I perform exclusively right-handed. As a southpaw this is quite noticeable in one’s life. Anyway, we heard about the “Wisconsin State Frisbee Championships” to be held in Sheboygan, WI and hosted by the “Bratwust City Frisbee Club” (Sheboygan after all is known as the Bratwurst City).
So it was, August of ’78, we piled into somebody’s car, camping gear and frisbees among the necessities, and had one.hell.of.a.weekend. I still rank it as one of my all-time best.
But when we arrived ready to kick ass and take names…whoa, were we in for a surprise. Freestyle dudes and chicks were spinning Frisbees on their index fingers and doing things with them which were unimaginable to us. The “Guts” players fired Frisbees 100mph at an opposing line of players in a game where they needed to CATCH it to score. This was no Dodge Ball. Then there was “ULTIMATE”, a field game hybrid of soccer and football that demanded grace, accuracy and toughness. There was a canine event with spectacular catches by pooches. Oh, and also perhaps the very first top-of-the-line permanent Frisbee golf course was there at Vollrath Park. We watched more than we participated. But we learned…or I should say that I learned.
I spent the next few months perfecting that index finger spin and by the time the next summer commenced (In Milwaukee, when the temp breaks 50F, it’s summer) I was the best in my gang and have bragging rights to this day.
A couple of years later I began bowling more (this was Milwaukee, give me a break), and I “earned” the nick-name “fish” because I would always bite on the bets…and I would always lose. So what did I do? I bowled 30 games a day for months. But when the following season began I was in demand. I was bowling in six different leagues in five nights and on the weekend I’d compete in the Midwest’s non-pro-bowlers tour. I averaged 228. I was touted as one of the best lefties in Milwaukee in the early 80’s. That’s big-time during bowling’s heydays. Even my boss at the time was prepared to sponsor me on the PBA pro tour.
All because I was called “fish”.
In the end I declined pro-bowler-status. The reason? Well in the early 1980’s the Pro Bowler’s Association was a very conservative group and they had implemented a dress and appearance code. No side-burns below the ear lobe, no mustache below the bottom lip. And definitely no beard. So F-U PBA, no me either.
Fast forward through my tackling Photography and multimedia, the above discussed soul-searching, and my ongoing urge to write, and I can look back knowing in those and other areas, including those which might appear ridiculous to others, if I want to accomplish success, gain expertise, or simply win, I can and did.
In my diverse jobs from Law Enforcement (Corrections Officer) to Technology Sales over the phone, I have proved I can surpass the status quo (be “Number One!”) when and IF I want to. When it comes to corporate America and the acquisition of money however, it simply doesn’t interest me.
Then in 2010 came ASU. Anyone who knows me knows I can be “off the rails” more than on. My two wives were African American and Jamaican Canadian; both black. I went through the trials and tribulations of interracial marriage and blah, blah, blah. Are we still doing that? Looking askance or tsk, tsking? I am so over that. But over the course of life one finds the little comments and attitudes of others which are typically only revealed in those private moments when they believe they’re safe to come out.
For me, I was the spy in their midst. Listening to racist bullshit from the time I tried to understand what a race-riot was during the long hot summers of the late 1960’s. To my clan apparently they meant trouble. How should I know? I know I’ve written this elsewhere but I remember as a kid of about 8, 9 or 10, and sitting on my bike at the end of our driveway on 88th St. looking south to the hill that led down to the fire station and Lisbon Ave. I was waiting for some imagined mass of black shadowy figures with signs and smoke and shouts and “race rioting” and every thing a kid that age imagines when he hears, “they’re coming”. I had no clue but I wanted to know what the hell was going on. Why were people such assholes to each other?
So what did I do? I kept that fire burning and in 1993 when I started college for the first time I took a course called “Civil Rights” at Milwaukee Area Technical College. It was taught by a couple of 1960’s radicals who explored themes which I only knew from the feelings that existed in my gut. As the only White person in the class I squirmed a bit but mostly out of my naivete, not from my color. I had after all already become a father of a racially mixed son two years earlier. Learning the truth instead of hegemonic history was eye-opening.
Fast forward 2 decades and who am I? The Arizona State University Outstanding Graduate of the College of Letters and Sciences as well as the Academic of the Year in African and African American Studies.
Fires burn, questions need answers.
But now…I think I’ve done everything in African and African American Studies that I set out to do; for my personal knowledge, answering the questions I had. Turning down Howard University’s graduate program in African Studies was tough to do. But in the end, I had nothing left to give to the subject. I found myself banging my head against the walls. Walls which might have been created because of my color, or my age, or from radical academic agendas which wanted nothing to do with me.
Next up? Well I believe I mentioned it about six feet of scrolling above this. It’s gonna start with Che and revolve around those dynamics and themes which gave us Che. For years I have been interested in him. For years I wanted to know if I like him, hate him, admire him, or just shrug him off. But as in pool, bowling, foosball, soul-searching, photography, writing and African Studies, I will do whatever it takes to find out for myself.
Then I’ll know if I want to wear the shirt.
From somewhere hot,