Quote Originally Posted by nighttimer View Post
“All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and recreate yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in face — this may sound very strange — you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.”
~ James Baldwin
Night, I know that Baldwin was talking specifically about the experience of Black people in America. But I think he is also speaking a universal truth.

I don't mean this as a kind of cultural appropriation or some kind of statement that I identify with the experience of Black people in America. I'm a woman, and a Jew, and a person who is trying to wake up and stay awake in the Buddhist way, not necessarily consistently in that order, and that's how I identify. At the same time my experience has been everything that Baldwin says.

I think it is also true that I have to decide who I am and force myself to deal with me, not my idea of me.

It's too important not to say this. And I have to reflect on the truth that if this truth is difficult for me, it's 100 times more difficult for Black Americans, other People of Color, and other minority groups like people in the GLBTQ+ community.

We Jews are getting ready for the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. In the synagogue, the shofar, a ram's horn that is somehow made to perform like a trumpet, is being blown. It says: wake up, wake up, wake up, WAKE UP!

I'm so sad at the moment, because I had written this whole essay sort of thing that explained what I mean by wake up. I was going to cut it out of here because an essay isn't conversation at all, and I was going to do it as a blog post on Medium. And then my browser crashed, and now it's all gone. I'm sad.

But the point I was aiming for is that from a Jewish perspective we human beings are supposed to be engaged in this process of repairing the world. You can't repair the world until you first decide who you are and force yourself to deal with yourself, not your idea of yourself. But that's not enough. To repair the world, you need to take the next step and force yourself to deal with every human being you meet as who they know themselves to be, not your idea of who they are.

Maybe this is just the Buddhist concept of radical acceptance of other human beings. I don't know. It feels like Martin Buber's I-Thou relationship. It feels like Namaste: I bow to the divine in you. It feels like Siri Kirpal's traditional Sikh greeting. (I'm not quoting it because I'll remember it wrong.) It feels like what I think Agape is supposed to mean.

At any rate, Nighttimer, thank you for that Baldwin quote.