Sunday Soliloquy: Fear

Gallery

I think we all experience fear from time to time. Fear of missing out. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the possibilities. Today I experienced fear, real fear for the very first time in a long time. I was caught in a situation where my better judgment fell out and I let myself get caught up in a moment that had some pretty rough circumstances. I’m not sure how the situation will truly get resolved, but at this point rather than letting the fear win out and compromise my entire life, I’m kind of accepting it. What happens is a result of my mistakes and I do need to live with them.

And yet hours later, it’s still the most pressing thing on my mind. And in many ways that’s the power of true fear. There’s the fear that is easily assuaged by a sense of confidence: “I’m prepared. I can deal with this problem. There’s the fear that is horrific but fades away: “The terror is gone. It was momentary.”. And then there’s the fear that returns again and again: “There will be another time. There will be another place, where this incident comes back up and can potentially haunt me.” That’s this fear. It’s unfortunate, but it is something that I have to live with.

I won’t go into explicit details about the incident itself, but I will talk around the general areas. If you have more questions, feel free to email me (if you don’t know me), or text me (if you do). One of the ways that I’ve decided to most adequately address this fear is by being relatively open and up front about it. Certain things can only truly haunt you if you’re keeping them in the dark. I won’t totally cast them into the light, but I will illuminate some things about myself. Hopefully, this will give me the strength and the fortitude to deal with this problem if it does arise again.

Now. To get into the incident, I am in many ways a private person; if not private, then at the very least reserved. Growing up I had very clear delineations in my life: “school”, “home”, “church/extracurriculars”. It’s not that I was a different person in each of these fields, but I quickly developed an awareness that certain things stayed in their bubble.

By elementary school, “school” was the place where I could talk crazy and vulgarly with my comrades at the time. There were bubbles in the school itself, but this was the aspect of my personality that was the highlight. I might get reprimanded if these came out in the wrong place, but these were definitely things that were not said in class, church, or at home. Period. Home, on the other hand, was the place where I was my most untapped personality wise, but also my most reserved language wise. I could be very comfortable with most things, but there were rules and stipulations to follow. With the exception of life in college, where things blurred and got a lot more complex, my life has revolved around these certain bubbles.

Today the potential of a dark bubble…a vice that I have…spreading into my social reality happened. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize that while it would be a bit of a problem, I’d likely be relatively ok. It’d be a very difficult few weeks or even months. But things would fall down. The stigma would exist. But things would fall down.

And it was then that I thought again about the house that I’ve lived in. The religion that I was raised in, and the spirituality that I’ve infrequently but totally made my own. I realized that, while this might become a problem soon, the higher power that my haphazard faith rests in has me. sHe has not given us the spirit of fear. If anything, sHe has given us the power and the guidance to make decisions with Hirs spirit.

While I’m not quite ready or strong enough to pop that dark bubble just yet. sHe has definitely put me in a situation to make better choices and to remove myself from those environments very soon. Unlike the drug dealer in one of my favorite books Manchild in the Promised Land, I can’t stay in the same environment and not falter. There may be a day when I can and I hope with Hirs guidance I will. But I also know that I’ve got a ways to go until I’m truly liberated of any and all dark bubbles in myself and in my life.

I’m just praying to Hirs that until that day, I can at least be protected. And only feel the fear of Hirs lessons.

That’s it for now. Hope y’all have a good week.

I’m starting to consider adding another segment to my weekly blogging.  If there’s any soliloquy or subject you’d like to hear me talk about, by all means, send ideas my way. Until next time,

Peace

Rafi

 

 

Advertisements

Sunday Soliloquys: Floating

Gallery

For the most observant, it’s probably obvious that it isn’t quite Sunday anymore. I had some events today that messed up my timing and my schedule, but before it gets to deep into Monday, here’s my Sunday Soliloquy for the week (I did take last week off).

Today I’m thinking about floating. What it is to be meandering and not feel like who you are or what you are doing is progressing you very far. I believe that everyone feels like they’re just floating in place periodically, but some feel it a lot more than others. There is something inherently uncomfortable about stagnation, and there is a push and a resistance in our society to break out of the state of stagnation and begin moving on again.

Many successful late career entrepreneurs made the decision to start their most successful company after realizing that they were essentially floating in the ranks of middle management at their long held jobs. Many successful artists, entertainers, and other individuals have made major life changes that have resulted in greater success after a period of floating. What I’m getting at is this feeling of floating, not feeling like you’re making much progress (and conversely also aren’t regressing), is extremely natural and can be very beneficial in the long run. Short term you’ll feel like you aren’t amounting to very much, you’ll doubt your abilities and your dreams, you might even consider doing drastic things to make a change, but these can all be very good things.

At the beginning of 2017…at the midpoint of my school year, I honestly feel like I’m floating. I am making changes. But most of those changes feel very cosmetic and largely superficial. A driving commitment to new social habits is making me feel better, but it isn’t necessarily making me feel more productive socially, occupationally, or emotionally.

However, I must still embrace this moment of floating. I’ll consider it a period of brainstorming and potential recharging where most things are legitimately on some sort of meandering autopilot. I’m actively thinking about how, in this time of meandering and feeling stagnant, I can lay the foundations for a much more active and productive feeling in my next stage, in my next season. Even if these actions feel minute and don’t do a lot for me in the short term, I have to trust myself to take minor actions now that can lead to much better benefits and success later on. And in many ways, that’s the period of floating.

To end: A lot of people have this idea that the most important part of working is actually getting things done. Building the bridge. Performing the show. Presenting the project. I personally do get a lot of enjoyment out of the presentation part of working (which if you remember I don’t feel like I’m getting very much as a teacher). I couldn’t in good conscience say that they’re wrong in most ways about those thoughts. Nevertheless, I would like to challenge people to consider WHY these moments feel so impactful. Before a brick was laid for a building, it required some sort of floating…some sort of intangible planning or some sort of dead period that inspired this life.

For me, understanding the taste of bitterness makes the sweet even sweeter. To truly know success, you have to understand failure. And in this case, to truly appreciate and feel progress, you have to understand stagnation. You have to float and relish those moments. They may be the only time where you aren’t or don’t feel too busy to really reflect.

Have a good week y’all,

Rafi

 

Sunday Soliloquys: Dream Job

Gallery

Hey y’all, hope you had a great first week of the new year. For me, it’s just about that time to get back to school/work and, while I’m a little concerned that my stress levels will be shooting up, I’m excited to move forward and work with my students. I think about the amazing young minds that I interact with on a regular basis and I can’t help but think that for right now, this is exactly where I need to be.

However, that’s really it. For right now. After entertaining thoughts of longevity or even just longer tenure in the school system as a teacher, I realized fairly recently that it’s really not for me. Even though  I am way more confident and comfortable with the job itself, physically I feel more taxed, mentally I feel more undervalued and overworked, and emotionally…well emotionally I feel pretty good honestly. Nevertheless, just consider me a little less than content to spend more than 18 more months at my placement school and as a teacher in Dade county.

I’ve realized that it really just isn’t for me. I see its limitations everywhere at this point and while I did catch a solid recharge over my break through the Posse Foundation, I realize that those recharge moments are too few and are too weak in order to get me through a longer career in this field. The long haul-short haul aspect of public schooling, especially at this level is enough to drive me crazy, or at least raise my blood pressure(Quite literally, even though I’m hypertensive, my blood pressure is only mildly high right now…during longer periods of schooling, it’s gotten really crazy). Some people might call that overkill, but when I think about the amount of impact that I’m having and the amount of personal strain I’m experiencing, the costs don’t really balance out. Why?

The “long haul-short haul” aspect of the job. When I say that, I just mean how the “returns” and the “productivity” of the job can be measured, both in terms of standardized assessment and in terms of personal growth and qualitative measures. It’s long haul because every single student is at least a year’s project. You invest your time and energy working for these students for a very long period of time relatively. In block scheduling, you spend about 8000 hours working “directly” with each student, plus an unknowable number of hours working with them indirectly. You manage them in the classroom in order to get them to complete work and challenge themselves for their own benefit (if you’re doing it “right”). Yet while you’re managing these, generally wonderful children, you’re being “managed”. But this is from a distance…and there’s never really a time where you can adequately present the work that you’ve done. At least in my experience so far, the “deliverables” are collected, observed, and then judged with very little input or conversation with the teacher. There might be conversation about them at times, but it’s too large and too distant of a system to work fluidly and then the positions for advancement or responsibility are limited. That in many ways is the short haul. Additionally, when you’ve made a great deal of progress with your students, the people who you work with for again about 8000 hours, then they go away for the summer and return, generally to be with different teachers. While the year was long and there were a great deal of changes you made in the long haul process, when that year is over, you’re done. You’ve felt like you’ve had short haul impacts, and, the thing that gets me the hardest, the school year ends anti-climatically. Even parties don’t do it. Again, that is based on my experience at my school.

I know that I couldn’t maintain myself solely off of this “long haul-short haul” structure for a lifetime. I do love teaching, but when the only thing I’m being paid for (hahaha what a simplification) is instructing and grading for the students in the room, the structures don’t fulfill my personal needs. And I’m seeing more and more that there are systems that can work better; maybe not in low-income and low-performing schools, but at least in other realms and avenues. I’m not going to go into too much depth about my dream job, but I will talk about what inspired this.

Today my family and I went to see the phenomenal new movie “Hidden Figures”, which to briefly summarize the film is about the Black women who worked at NASA and were instrumental to the success of the earliest and groundbreaking space launches. I loved the movie, but the part that resonated with me the very most was the structure of that organization. While the work itself could be very tedious, in each department there was a clear goal and objective which was broken down for the individual employees and then brought together. Each and every person could feel like their work was a part of something greater and could celebrate in that moment with a successful launch (or some other project). I’ve worked corporate, and one of the biggest issues I had with corporate structure was how disjointed my work felt from everyone else’s. While that might happen in any job, I recognize that I need a job where there is a “shining moment”, a “performing moment”. And as much as I do love working with my students, we can build a team, but they’re assessed and acknowledged individually. There’s no opening curtain, there’s no successful launch and landing, there’s no premiere, screening, or release date. There’s very few moments where multiple students, in class, can see just how integral they are to each other, and there are very few moments where I can get that feeling.

I can simulate it. I’ve read enough teaching theory books to form simulations and do it short form. But I’m not at the stage where I can really create it in a marvelous way. A former colleague of mine did something at her middle school, which was amazing. It was a “shining moment” for her students, but in a sense I don’t want to focus so much on constructing these moments.

In a sense, the more time I spend masterminding the perfect moment for my students and myself to shine, the less any of us spend actually shining. And the less we can spend shining together. My dream job is a job where I have the agency and approval to work and develop projects and work that will allow me to truly shine and that won’t fizzle out in the long haul of a school year. Things that have permanence. However, I’m not all about me. My dream job will also push me to create those moments for my students. Even if they’re shorter lived, they’ll have much more impact. And that’s a major reason why I’m not fully abandoning teaching. I just need to find a career where I can teach, build platforms, and make work. Where there are more rises and falls between those moments so I can live and listen and learn.

Thanks as always for letting me rant, if you have comments or questions, feel free to let me know,

Have a wonderful week,

Peace,

Rafi

 

 

 

 

Sunday Soliloquys: New Year

Gallery

So I skipped last weeks soliloquy simply because the Christmas cheer was so strong and potent that I couldn’t find my way to my CPU. Today I almost skipped it because I’m forgetful.

Today is the first day of 2017. That means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For me, it means the end of my second year of teaching (in June) and the beginning of my last year of public school teaching (I hope and for now – in August). It also means 9 months of my Jordan Year and three months of my Kobe year. It means new and stronger relationships with old and new friends and people. It means new challenges. It means about 120 former and current students taking their next step in the life that they’re living. It means a Trump Presidency. It means more direct action from activists all over America. It means more studying. More research. More philosophy. More opportunity. It means possibilities.

Musically, at least for me, it means a new album. That’s actually what I’m really going to focus on in today’s soliloquy. What is next in store for the artist formerly known as Cervant now known as Rafi?

Despite having started recording music during my senior year of high school (it’ll be seven years in February or March), I feel like I’ve come to a place of greater maturity. Due to an unforeseen circumstance I really had the chance to listen to some of my musical progression in order.

Sadly, a few weeks ago my grandma went into the hospital with an infection called cellulitis. On the day we originally thought she was going to be discharged, she was too weak to even get from her hospital bed to the wheelchair that would bring her to our car. It took roughly four hours for them to decide that she wasn’t coming home that day. In that time period I got to sit and wait in the car and listen to a few of my own projects: Redfist’s Religious Candles and Rationalizations and my own Intrastellar. In the process, I realized how much my (and Baz’s) music has developed and progressed in the two years between those projects.

Even though I get writer’s block more frequently, the results when I really put pen to page and focus on a song is much stronger. I’ve been thinking a lot more about how rhymes don’t come as easily in the moment of writing, but I’ve also been much less concerned about rhymes. In a lot of my previous projects, I would rhyme words to transfer from one bar to another, wasting many a rhyme. In my rough drafts I still see this….lol. However, I’m just much more aware of that filler now. If it does actually make it to the final product, I know it’s because those were the best words for that moment. The actual writing and performance of my music has come along way, even though it’s not as easy (to get started), it’s become a lot more fulfilling.

Another major facet that’s changed for me is style. I intentionally call the music that I do art rap. Not because I’m trying to be pretentious; not because I don’t think that other rap is art, but simply because I want people to experience the rap that I make in whatever form it is provided.

In philosophy and aesthetics, there’s a concept called an aesthetic experience. Basically, where something that you see visually fully engages your mind and gives you a higher experience. In many ways this relates to Roland Barthes’ concept of the punctum, where something minor triggers a major effect on a person due to expectations and presentation. This comes from his short, yet dense book Camera Lucida. Finally, socially we have something that we call the feels. Basically, when something triggers deeper emotions than we expected. Normally, we use it to talk about nostalgic or sad feels, but it can be anything. (I’ve also called it vibes…or heard other people say it’s vibes).

In one way, shape, or form, I want people to listen to a song and get vibes. You can’t force vibes, and everyone’s different, so it’s not about making every moment and every bar vibe. But when you take a look at the whole picture, the whole song, your eye, your ear, should pick up on something that hits you. Maybe not hard. Maybe not emotionally, but it hits. The beat might give you vibes so you then catch a vibe from the flow. The flow might give you vibes you catch the hook or catch a deeper lyric. A lyric might give you vibes so you rewind or re-listen. A video or a performance…album art. Any part of the project and the song should be able to guide someone to their vibe. It might not get everyone, because art cannot try to be universal. But it should get someone. And that’s art rap in a nutshell.

Art can get old for you. Art can be refreshed for you. Art can be cut up and re-interpreted. Art can be very personal yet can then be applied to many people’s lives. Art has an original. Art is displayed. Art is complex, yet simple.

When I say I make art rap, I don’t mean that my music is pretentious. Though I have to admit that my music is kind of white collar at times. When I say I make art rap, I don’t mean that it is necessarily for creative minds. When I say I make art rap, I mean that I am trying to build an experience, through concept, through craft, through performance, and through production. Deeper than having a dope flow, or telling the right story, or making the beat swing, it’s about making a work that is greater than the sum of its parts out of minor works that are greater than the sum of their parts. I think that’s a major reason why I’ve shifted away from doing singles for projects. It’s hard to get that sense with just one track.

So sometime this year, look out for the next piece by Rafi. I’m not going to spoil the name. I can’t really tell you what it’s about…though I might talk about a few of the central concepts over the next few weeks. Just know that it’s personal, conceptual, and will be the most well-crafted work that I’ve released yet. I’ve got a few collaborators who are making sure of it.

Have a happy new year! Make this year the best year of your life (so far)! And stay tuned. See y’all next week!

Peace,

Rafi