Sunday Sermon

Today’s Principle: Pure Potentiality

As I write this, I’m listening to “Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons”, an album my boyfriend stumbled upon on the Internet. Knowing how I love this sort of thing, he downloaded it for me. The narrator on this track keeps asking for an “Amen over here”, and an “Amen over there”.  So even though I have never been to a revival meeting, I imagine I’m right there. Then I remember these men are in prison. In Texas, where justice for black men seldom holds her hand out for a reprieve. If you enjoyed the soundtrack to “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, then I would suggest you find this album.

I love indigenous musics (which this feels like) because there seems to be less attention to musicality than to emotion or message.  In “I Shall Not Be Moved” (I’m listening to it right now), there are pleasantly constructed harmonies, but the preamble introduces the idea of everyone working together. Sung in the languid, exacting pace of a chain gang, the song takes on an eternal patience I imagine a wrongfully convicted lifer must cultivate. I am now reminded of The Hurricane. (If you have not seen the movie featuring Denzel Washington, please, please add it to your Netflix queue.)

Where is all this leading? I don’t know. I know I have a great, everlasting affinity with the African American struggle. These stories grip me and tousle my heart like nothing else. Doesn’t matter whether it’s slave trade, Civil War, civil rights, or the unreported injustices that happen everyday.

[photo by Daniel W. Barlow]

I remember reading a book about The Innocence Project several years back that featured cases of wrongful convictions overturned based on the work of The Innocence Project–most of them determined by DNA evidence which had not been previously examined in court. I am so saddened that wrongful convictions happen because of carelessness, because of unreliable witness testimony, and other controllable factors.  And I’m sure that racial prejudice plays no small part, especially in the cases in the South. I have no substantive evidence, but I believe it to be true.

This post is supposed to be about what I learned this week. Well here it is:

1. Friends will come back to you. Romantic that I am, I do believe in everyone’s innate goodness. An old friend whom I dearly loved but fell away from finally found me on Facebook this week. And though our reunion is digital and not wholly complete, I am eternally grateful. Facebook friends with people you love are much more rewarding than ones with those you barely know or have never met.

2. In order to obtain your goals, write them down!! My poetry co-conspirator and I exchanged our poetry goals for 2011. One of mine was to have at least two blog posts republished in another venue (as happened in 2010). Well, wouldn’t you know, I got a solicitation just this morning?? That goal is 50% complete–and it’s still January!

3. Pre-planning rocks! You may think it a little dorky to plan all your dinner menus for the entire year. But I tell you, it has taken a huge load off my mind. I am the one primarily responsible for dinners in our household, and I am glad that I have the year’s menu set. It cuts down on decisions at the supermarket aisle, and leaves my day open for all other emergencies. I’m not sure how this will work, but so far, I love it.

4. Amy Tan does not write what you want her to. This morning, I finished reading “The Opposite of Fate”, a book I’d been searching for for some time and finally found at the sale in the library basement. I enjoyed the book very much, especially for the essays on writing, publishing, reading, and responsibility (which is basically the whole book). What I had originally wanted was a standard memoir–a dictation of what came before and after such and such moment. And the epiphanies that sprouted in between. Luckily for me, Amy Tan writes what she wants, and this compendium is a mishmash of ideas, kind of like a journal. It does not conform to any particular structure. Which part of me thinks is the whole point.

[photo by Daniel W. Barlow]

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