Sunday Soliloquy: The Beginning

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I was initially planning on writing today about Jordan Peele’s excellent film “Get Out”, which I saw for the second time this past Friday. But in conversation with my friend ChiChi, I realized that the well for that piece is much deeper than I would have time for this week. So, expect that to come soon.

Instead of writing about “Get Out”, I’d like to talk about beginnings. The accepted definition of the word/term is: the point in time or space at which something starts (Google). That this is what the term means is rarely up to contention or debate; today I’d like to discuss the actual content of that definition for the word “beginning”.

The primary contention is how we actually define the start. Commonly, people note the start of a cold by sneezes, stuffy noses, sore throats, or intense coughs. For me personally, I usually notice that I have become sick when I get a scratchy or sore throat. However, that isn’t the beginning of the cold. This is merely the beginning of my conscious awareness that I have “come down with something”. It is not the beginning of my sickness.

Similarly, as a teacher, I can often note the beginning of discord and disruption when, to put it frankly, the post-work chatter (or pre-work chatter, or during work chatter) starts. However, the beginning of the chatter is never when it becomes audible to me or the students. This is again, the beginning of me noticing that there is chatter. Even when I can hear a few students, that is the beginning of me noticing, that is not the beginning of the chatter.

The point that I want to address by being so anal about true beginnings is that everything, from our bodies to our classrooms to our country and culture is a macro that is composed of several micros. Our body is a macro-organism comprised of thousands (millions? I haven’t take biology since high school) of micro-organisms, which are comprised of micro-particles and components. My classroom is a macrocosm comprised of tens of students who are effectively the micro-organisms of that environment. The comparisons continue and continue. Often by the time that we note there is a change or dysfunction, we are too late to prevent all of the symptoms. Why? Because we aren’t reacting to the beginning of the disorder or the dysfunction, we’re reacting to the initial symptoms or signs of that breakdown.

Now, I’m not here to find answers to this non-issue. Until science advances even more, we won’t be able to detect the true beginning of colds and other illnesses. This soliloquy in particular isn’t about a solution. It’s simply about mindset. Instead of focusing on when you noticed something, especially in reflection, focus on the time that preceded the event itself. You might not peg down the true beginning, but you will, with time and practice, discern more effective means of “nipping the problem in the bud”.

This isn’t an all-the-time thing. There are times when you want to let life breathe, but this is an effective mindset to have. For the future, you may be more prepared to prevent the problem to begin with. And that my friends, is how successful people continue to get better.

That’s all for now, hope y’all have a good week,

 

Peace

Rafi

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Sunday Soliloquy: Ball is Life

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Growing up I was pretty much the least athletic person around. I’m naturally uncoordinated (I struggle to even spell coordination), I’ve got very low spatial intelligence, and my body control is also very low.

I gave up on being halfway decent at most sports at a very early age…though I held out on football because I could still tackle effectively (when I could catch the ballhandler). Yet, seven years after playing my last game of recreational football, I’ve developed an intense interest in the sport of basketball.

Not football, which I at least played in street form from middle to high school; not baseball, which I at least played in Little League; not volleyball, which was my favorite sport as a young adult, but basketball. A game that I quit playing remotely seriously in elementary school, when I embarrassed myself in P.E (a very common occurrence actually). Thanks to video games, I’ve become a big fan of basketball. And I’m committed to actually learning how to play.

Now, why is this realization important? Why is it on my mind at 9 pm on a Sunday when I should be stuffing my eyes with “The Walking Dead”? Two hours ago I thought about how absurd I was for the past two months. I’m still thinking about it.

My 23 year old mind was convinced that I wasn’t too late. I could pick up the game. Get in shape. Work my butt off for two hours a day for two years. Get another bachelor’s degree so I could tryout for an NCAA team, and then I could compete and play a college basketball career. Two hours ago, I was finally able to pull the final remnants of that clear fantasy out of my brain.

I’m naturally unathletic. Naturally uncoordinated. Low spatial intelligence. Very little body control. If I rewound my life to age 1, kept a basketball in my hand, pushed younger me to keep jumping, and was able to develop a true love and passion for playing basketball at a high level, it MIGHT be possible that I’d play third string at a bottom tier college. MIGHT. Even that’s unlikely.

There are definitely paths that would allow me to be more athletic, more coordinated, and to have more spatial intelligence and body control. Comfort and experience are the bedrock foundations of success, and if you spend enough time doing something, it’s unlikely that you won’t be at least better than the average person. However,  to be frank with myself, that’s not me.

Instead of playing basketball for a D1, top tier basketball college, I studied at a top tier University. Instead of spending hours working on my jump shot, I spent hours working on critical and analytical thinking. I can get hooked on basketball now, and fawn over all of the potential opportunities I might’ve had, or I can get involved with the sport now in a capacity that aligns more with my talents and my skillsets. At the end of the day, I’ve developed a love for basketball. That love might help me get into shape, might help me develop a stronger social network; in fact, it might even lead me to a career or a job opportunity. However, it won’t lead me to playing on a team during March Madness or onto a professional team any day. As cool as it would be, that isn’t and won’t be my reality.

But I am now committed to finding a way to make ball a bigger part of my life. Right now it’s via video game, but who knows what the future has in store? Only time will tell.

Have a great week!

Peace,

Rafi

 

Sunday Soliloquy: For the Future

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This one will be very short.

I’ve been dealing with various problems that essentially boil down to egos. Everyone, myself included, feels like they’re doing the right thing. Our plan and our decision is going to make the best outcomes. They will lead us to the place that we wanted to go. No one else’s. Only mine.

Something that I’m learning and re-learning this year, is that even with more open communication, value differences still lead to clashes and conflicts. I try not to lash out with my emotions, and I make a concentrated effort to make logical decisions, especially when it involves other people. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll escape every situation without awkward, annoying, or harsh moments.

At times, because of other people’s egos, and because of my own, there are clashes no matter how logical and long-term my focus is. I’d even admit that because I have a very long-term mentality, that creates clashes. Many people prioritize immediate and short-term pleasures in their interactions with others, and my focus generally circumvents, at best, and interferes, at worst, with those priorities. Nevertheless, I don’t adjust that focus unless it is absolutely necessary.

For the sake of the greatest future, whether it be weeks, months, or years away, I try to make decisions that have the most net positive impact. It may be uncomfortable (it often is), but in very few cases has it left me feeling like a true failure.

It’s not easy; it’s not even fun, but it definitely gets the job done.

For the future, you often have to make the unpopular and uncomfortable decision. Spend that extra hour with your children, even when you really need a break. Spend that extra hour in the gym, even when you want to go clubbing. Work with people that challenge you, because they’ll really help you grow.

Have a great week,

Peace,

Rafi

Thoughts on the Address: Trump First Address to Congress

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I wasn’t planning on saying anything publically about President Trump’s recent (very recent) first address to Congress as America’s 45th President. Partially because it is very fresh. Partially because I’ve been trying not to allow the Trumpian elements to rain on my parade, patio, or my person. However, one of the many things that really struck me, and there were many, was his brief statement of support for law enforcement. A major reason why it unsettled me was because of its skewed and, from my perspective, flawed understanding of the goal of law enforcement.

To make things perfectly clear: I fully support the people who risk their lives and their safety for the lives of other people, particularly communities, cities, and nations. From a young age, I’ve internalized and learned to “support the soldiers, criticize the war” and I firmly believe that it is possible to have sympathy for innocent people that are thrown into the crossfire when wars, arrests, and assaults occur, and to have equivalent and relative sympathy for those whose occupation, duty, or mission is to manage and handle wars, arrests, and assaults. I marched in the streets of Philadelphia multiple times, despite the fact that I have family members and childhood friends that are or are related to members of law enforcement. I sympathize with the good and the honest, civilians, officers, soldiers, and people. However, I believe that true justice must be served. Human error may abound because we are flawed, but it must not give people a pass to serve no penalty for deviating from protocol.

In his address tonight, the President stated that “we must work with law enforcement”, I don’t agree with that statement as said. While we do and we must respect and honor those who risk their lives and their safety for us, it is not our responsibility to work with them. It is instead their responsibility to work with us. Police badges across the nation say variations of “to protect and to serve”. As a public servant, police officers must be held to a standard of working with the public to better protect and to better serve them. If people are protesting and petitioning against those who have been hired and sworn to protect us, it is clear that they do not feel heard or listened to. They do not feel worked with.

In my current job I am a teacher. A public servant. As frustrating as it may be at times, it is my job to serve the greater interests of my students. There are protocols and policies that exist and I am required to follow them. However, there are also rules, expectations, and policies that can be changed, created, and enforced based on the greater needs and the true desires of my student population. To exist effectively, the servant must first agree to work with the one who they serve.

As the person hear to protect and to serve, I will listen to what you say, and I will observe, and I will watch to discuss and clarify the greater needs of the people and the communities whom I serve. This isn’t easy work. It takes time and relationship building. It is stressful and it is demanding.

To constantly request people to work with an organization, person, or group, that has consistently shown itself to be accidentally or intentionally oblivious to its true needs is abuse. When poor people and people of color push back against the systems that are failing them, by not listening, by prioritizing larger local press and concerns of wealthier residents and communities over their own, they are not working against these systems. They are pushing and protesting and petitioning so that these systems accurately protect and serve all of the people whom these systems serve. To ask these people, and not these departments, and unions, and individual officers, to work with law enforcement is wildly irresponsible.

There can be a coming together of community and law enforcement. But it starts when the protector, the person who can legally wield arms in a number of manners, and the servant, who can bow to the one they serve and slit their throat in their sleep, makes the full effort to work with the people whom they are sworn to serve and to protect. When it is clear beyond many a doubt that it is in the interest of the whole community, not the white, not the rich, not the upwardly mobile but the whole community, that these organizations exist, then the people who you are asking (or telling with much urgency) to work with law enforcement will do so. Then they will be right. You will be right. Our communities can be right.

However, to ask this of them now, and any moment in time before that symbiotic relationship is forged in a community, is irresponsible and frankly wrong. I want no police officers dead. 99.9% of protestors want the same. If you listen to the infamous song “Fuck the Police”, it lays out exactly why they had problems. It wasn’t because they were being fairly detained. And it surely wasn’t because they were being adequately protected and served. In that song, and in the moment that we live in now, the truth is evident. For many, law enforcement is not protecting and serving the communities that they are sworn to. Until they come with the full and honest intention of doing so, we will not work full heartedly with them. They must make the first effort. Then we will reciprocate.

Sorry for the political fire. It was the most present ember in my mind while watching the aforementioned speech.

I’ll be back Sunday with a legitimate soliloquy.

Peace,

 

Rafi

Missed Y’all = Coming Back In March

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I know it’s been some time since my last soliloquy. A mixture of life events have unfortunately gotten in the way of my writing.

I’m looking to make a return to soliloquy next Sunday. I’m also planning another writing segment, which I’ll begin posting very soon.

Sorry for the break in consistency. I’m going to keep on improving so that it doesn’t happen regularly!

Peace,

Rafi

Sunday Soliloquy: I Am Not Your N****r

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This past Saturday I had the pleasure of watching the Oscar-nominated documentary by Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, I Am Not Your Negro, which was based on a 30 page essay written by James Baldwin, a GOAT candidate of all things Black and Excellent. For the underinitiated, the film may be a bit hard to track…like many of my favorite documentaries, the film is poetic. An essay film, which is only fitting because it follows the flow and thought of one of Baldwin’s own essays. The film is radical. The film is also a call to action for Black people specifically, but also anyone who might find solace, solidarity, or strength in the simple statement of self: I am not your [insert term here].

It is fitting for me at a time in my life where I’ve come from a place of extreme liberalism through Blackness, to a place of even more extremes through Interrelationship. I’ve become more accepting of flaws for the sake of building political, social, and cultural arms. Arms that can hurt and arms that can heal. As important as it is to recognize Anti-Black racism and classism and elitism, there are pressing issues that will require a “nuclear” option. One that resembles more of a natural disaster, where people of all shades and sexualities come together to expand the land that we live on, to grow the pie, and destroy that which subjugates and restricts people’s ability to live. When we do come together, in solidarity, across shades, across sexualities, across genders, we need to re-confirm and re-assert what we are and what we are not.

Peck’s film, well-timed to say the least, Baldwin’s words…his beliefs, his radical and his brilliant mind that does not hate in the way that some radicals do, speak to that need explicitly. The message is simple: If you label me, or define me in a certain way, it is not because that definition or label is who or what I am…it is because that definition, that label is something that YOU NEED for some reason. When you label or define me, you are expressing some sort of need. Logically, when I define or label myself I am also expressing one.

When a problem arises, when I rebel or reject the label or the definition that you’ve affixed to me…when I rebel or reject the baggage and the stress that accompanied that label or that definition, the solution is on you. And it begins with understanding WHY YOU needed to ascribe to me that label/definition to begin with.

Words have power. Words have meaning. When I give myself a label, I do so with the recognition of the power of self-identification: the assertion of self. When others give labels, they may or may not do so with this awareness. Regardless, there is weight to these words. We cannot forget that. When a label, such as the n-word, is not accepted; when we say that Black people are not n-words, and there’s an uproar, we must question why we need to have said label in the first place.

Why did the originators of the term need to have that specific term for those specific people? Why do the current users of that term need it? What is the communicative purpose of it? What is its rhetorical purpose?

These are the questions that we need to ask of ourselves, of the people around us, of the people who represent us, and of our society as a whole. As we come together and shirk terms, re-appropriate terms, re-define, and re-claim terms, we must ask these questions. We must delve within ourselves and within our society to find the answers to them. And it is through those processes that we truly understand the power of abandoning or re-claiming those terms. When self-determination meets societal-understanding, true power, an unalienable power, begins. And that is how the next revolution will truly begin.

Until then, and while I search for those answers, I AM NOT YOUR N****R. I am no one’s anything unless I have given myself to you. We’ll talk about those implications at another point.

 

Peace,

 

Rafi

 

Sunday Soliloquy: Fear

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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