Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Cost Of Real Life And Love

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Observed) on Monday, the day before we inaugurate the first African-American President, I was thinking of James Baldwin. A writer of immense talent and passion, a man of multiple identities - a writer, a black man in a country where those two words didn't seem to go together very well (to put it mildly), a gay man in a world that thought such a person was diseased, a seer with more clarity precisely because he saw from so many angles at once - his words have always inspired awe in me. In a small paperback volume entitled The Fire Next Time, Baldwin included both that long essay, and a shorter letter to his nephew. Both concern the human toll of racism on the Baldwin family. Both concern Baldwin's dawning realization that, while anger is certainly understandable, the organization of hatred in to an ideology for African-Americans would leave them no better than their white oppressors. Thus, while fascinated with the Nation of Islam, for example, he writes in "The Fire Next Time" with a deep sadness concerning his interview with Elijah Mohammed, a man he wanted to admire, but for whom he felt only pity.

There is a nice little page with various quotes from Baldwin. I thought I'd just toss a few out there.
Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?

Baldwin lived his mature, declining years in France, because America, his home, the land he loved even if that was not returned, was too small for him. Even as we celebrate Barack Obama's ascension to the White House, and remember Baldwin's contemporary, King, who also understood the high cost of love and hate, and would pay for both with his life, I think it is important to remember James Baldwin who could see so clearly what others thought was only shadow.

Love is the most dangerous, almost impossible thing in the world. That is why it is the most necessary thing in the world.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More