I remember watching a play Notes from the Field with a friend. During one particular scene Anna Deavere Smith, who created, wrote and performed the play, was in character as a black man talking about his heightened awareness of his own mortality. This really resonated with me because I have never been someone who can envision that far into the future. When I was in school and even university I could never really see beyond the term or set of exams I would have to take. I chalked it up to focussing on the job at hand but being a couple of years removed from that life I still balk at the idea of thinking too far into the future. On the small scale, that looks like planning holidays last minute and not keeping an accurate calendar which aren’t the biggest issues in the grand scheme of things but I do wonder if they are in fact symptomatic of something bigger.
My paternal Grandfather didn’t see 70 while my own Dad passed at 50. At his funeral, my Aunt off-handedly remarked that the men in our family don’t see old age. My Mum quickly rejected this morbid notion but the comment has stayed with me. It reminded me of my instinctual refusal to plan ahead as if I am tempting fate. Thinking about the root of this takes me to the parable of the rich fool in the bible as my mind immediately goes Luke 12:20 where God in His anger declared that He required the life of the rich farmer the very night the farmer had decided to take it easy and rest on his laurels. Of course that neglects the deeper meaning of the story as the punishment is more about greed as it is a cautionary tale against hoarding earthly treasures.
Something else that comes up are horror movies. I have always hated them (I will never understand why you would pay to be terrified) and I think that partly has to do with my representation in them. The trope of the black guy dying first is something that is “funny” but perhaps psychologically damaging. For me it speaks to a bigger reality in our world that views black men as threats to be handled with first and foremost. This perception of us is one that is readily peddled and consumed by everyone, with not even myself being immune. When someone is viewed as a threat, taking them out is seen as necessary maybe even heroic. When thought about in this light, is it any wonder why images of black bodies being brutalised and maltreated spread like wildfire online. As someone who has always been big, tall and black I am used to being seen as a threat with the onus on me to prove otherwise. I can’t quantify it but I can’t help but think a combination of these factors have at least subconsciously affected how I view my own mortality. Thoughts have power though, so again the onus is on me but I wish I would have had spoken about this with my Dad. I would have liked to ask him if he felt the say way, how he really felt navigating through spaces not made for him and if it ever get easier. I hope the answer is yes.
Peace and Love,
Aharoun the Author