Disorientation to Awe

When I found out that Nelson Mandela didn’t write the, “Our deepest fear…” quote, my mind was blown. I pecked at my keyboard, clicked my mouse, going site to site trying to find evidence that Mandela indeed said these wise words. Like a seven year old watching the mall Santa take off his white wig and beard, I gaped at my computer with wide eyes and a frozen heart. I just found out that Santa Claus is not real.deepest_fear_marianne_willi

I feel foolish. Bamboozled.

How did I not know the real author of my favorite quote? I am a writer, a seeker, a wonderer, an intellectual, a critical thinker, a checker of words…how can this be?

I’ve read this quote in books printed by traditional commercial publishers, and attributed to Nelson Mandela. A more daunting question is what other popular quotes are erroneously attributed?

I have been using this quote for fifteen years. This quote has been posted in my work space for a decade. I’ve given birth to three children and repeated these words to them. I loved when the movies like Akeela and the Bee and Coach Carter used the quote on screen. The quote was supposed to have been written by a world famous South African sage and yet it was written by a middle-aged white female spiritualist. I respect Marianne Williamson’s work. I enjoyed her newest release Tears to Triumph, a useful guide for people who need to do inner work or understand emotional tolls.


But knowing the truth about the quote is forcing me to re-orientate myself to the words and their true meaning. They still mean the same thing yet they have a different essence now. They are not words from a world weary, historically oppressed and well-known South African activist.

They are words formed in the mind of a privileged white female with remarkable spiritual insight. My dream of having understood the depth of a great man has been fractured. Even though Mandela did not say it, I am glad someone did; even if that someone is his polar opposite, writer Marianne Williamson.

Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Marianne Williamson and Lynn Woolsey

Unearthing this truth is leading me toward a better understanding of humanity. Things are messy with us. Although some muddy the water for sport, most humans just simply misunderstand, misjudge, overhear, and just take a guess. The reason society’s fist is so tight around the ideas of ‘proof’ and ‘science’ is because of our tendency to believe inconsistencies, false motives and outright lies. Science and Proof seem to guard us from the horrors of mistakes and deception. But as much as science demystifies, it also generates more questions than it can ever answer. Science knows it’s in over its head. Snafus will happen. So I can be assured that many more will come into my life but I hope that they will all be attributed to the correct source.

Black in America

If you are born black, are you born troubled?

Perhaps no.

But the American Education System teaches otherwise. They teach us that we are remnants of slavery. They tell us that things are different now but somehow that isn’t enough. The bloody lines of a leather whip somehow appear on our brown backs. We can feel the burn and squeeze of a tight rope around our necks. We experience the anguish, the fear, and the knots in our stomachs. We see it in the glazed over eyes of the former oppressors descendants.Flying birds

This is now.

The blood of the forefathers still circulates today and we sense it. We sense it because our first grade teachers stood in front of the class and read gruesome tales of torture and mutilation. We looked around the class and realized that we are one of those people she is speaking of. Our skin matches the skin of that downtrodden person in ripped dirty clothes who is standing in front of a shack made of rotting wood and crooked nails. The white kid, sitting in the desk next to ours, looks over with recognition in their eyes. They know what we once were. The teacher has ensured that they’ve learned our history. The white kid turns away secure and relieved that they were born with the right color skin.
And so we are left to contend with what we have learned. We try to exercise those ghosts of our distant past. We try to shake off the feeling of feeling of degradation. We distract ourselves with music, art, money pursuits, and dance parties. And with each developmental stage, the malicious, nefarious, evil, and demonic past digs deeper in our ribs. During some years, we don’t consider it. It is buried inside. We carry on. “We keeps it moving”.

And then…

And then we’re reminded one day during black history month, or when the white woman in line clenches her purse as you stand behind her, or when a professor encourages a class, in which you sit in, to admire a political leader who clearly upheld slave laws, or when the media is obsessively, frantically, interrupting regular broadcasts talking of a blond haired, pale-skinned girl who disappeared two days ago, and we think, wow, I know a young black girl who disappeared years ago. Little things begin to remind you.

And then…

You start to wonder, again the way you did in first grade. Am I vital? Am I inferior? Does my skin really make me less than a person? Inheritance means something. When people are born into rich families they inherit something. Science has noted that addiction propensities may run in bloodlines. Does the propensity towards inferiority run in my bloodline? What am I?
Black Americans are disconnected from the African tribal order and we never really fit into the Euro-American mold. We are islands of people surrounded yet alone.

And then…

And then there is resiliency. We laugh. We cry. We have been attacked in our lineage but we are stronger now. Solid. Some of us are angry; with good reason. Do you know where that anger comes from? It’s that malicious, nefarious, evil, and demonic thing that offends us now. We see it and we hate it; because it first hated us.

dear diary

Why do we even have a word for perfect in the English language?  It is not something that can be achieved. Tell me that something is perfect and I will be very suspicious.

But it is possible to see beauty in something that was done graciously and without fear.  Love and admiration helps us see past the flaws.  This is why we can admire a painting and be an awe of elegant writing.Image

I am feeling truly uninspired by the life of a devoted writer.  Why does it seem that I am supremely judged whereas others are not?  It truly feels this way in work life, home life, and the writing life.  My husband will pick apart a particular way that I chose to complete a task.  Why, he asks, must I do loads of laundry so slowly?  Why can’t I just stand at the washing machine until the cycle beeps so that I can transfer the wet clothes into the dryer?  Heaven forbid that I work on another project while the wash cycle runs.

I needn’t get so caught up in doing something else that I let the wet clothes sit for an extra thirty minutes.  Why, my supervisor will ask, is there a typo in my notes?  Never mind that I am a human being and did make every effort to proofread the document but didn’t have enough time to perfect before the deadline loomed so I had to get the darn thing out the door.

I spend so much time trying not to make mistakes that I end up making them anyway. This is an unfortunate fact of life; a life that I can’t help but continue to live.

Not all writers are the same.  I write for meaning.  I write for purpose.  I write for myself and I write to inspire.  The mainstream frightens me.  I don’t know if I can deal with the comments, the grinding criticism, the looks of pity, or the snips of jealousy.

Maybe I should just keep this thing I love to myself.  Maybe my writing is only for me…words to be cherished by a lonely soul.  Mainstream writers have both critics and fans and I know that if I keep my work hidden I will have neither.  My desire to reach others will be lost and packed away in a box under my bed.

The more I think about it, the more I want to share my work with others. I have to learn that not everybody will get it.  Not everybody will be touched or excited by my writing. I know this is true because I sometimes find that I am turned off, disappointed, and even outraged at some of the books, references, articles that I read.  Sometimes I wonder about authors and how skewed their thinking must be in order for them to write such preposterous narratives.

For example, I read through a book titled The Science of Sin by Simon M. Laham, in which Mr. Laham asserts that anger is a positive emotion and necrophilia and incest should not be viewed as morally reprehensible.  He backs up many of his claims with scholarly studies that show “…from gluttony to greed, to envy and lust can make you smart, successful, and happy (p.7).”

I do not agree with Mr. Laham’s narrative although he is convincing as he intellectualizes the positive outcomes that trickle down after the explosion of negative emotion.  He explores things like how being envious of another’s success, will make one work extra hard to surpass their rival, and how money can indeed provide a sense of happiness because rich people engage in leisure more frequently.

Writings such as these beg to be read and debated.  It is not for everyone.  And so goes my own writing.  I must understand that it won’t be of good quality for every reader. Some readers will love, other will like, while others still will hate it.

This notion is sinking into my brain and allowing me to push pass the criticism and just write what’s in my heart.