Sunday, March 04, 2007

Waking Up: An “Authentic Moment,” joining the Human Soul to the World

by: Nasir Al-Amin

Almost a year ago, a fellow traveler gave me a book of poetry entitled “Ten Poems to Change your Life.” Due to the daily demands of life I never got around to reading this text until the other day.

It was a normal day, a million and one things to do, functioning as usual off of a coffee addiction due to sleep deprivation. However while waiting for the D train to go home before a meeting, this quite inner voice told me to ‘call it a night.’ I have to admit I was feeling drained, my first love, coffee, had let me down so I began to wrestle with myself on how I can cancel this appointment and rearrange my scheduled so that I can take care of the other things on my To-Do list.

Subsequently, I conceded to the voice, canceled my appointment, trashed the To-Do list, took a shower changed into a pair of jeans, t-shirt and blazer (one never knows who you will meet, I have 50 kids to support, I was tired but its still business first!). Still feeling out of it I left for the mosque, as my intention was to simply pray and just sit their and clear my mind, yet before I left I turned back and picked up the book of poems while thinking to myself ‘this isn’t work related I’ll read it.’ Yet what I soon realized is this collection of poems is work related, as I’m blessed in the sense that my work is my passion. It evolved out of various life altering moments, which lead to an awakening, this transformation in life and the subsequent path I’ve chosen to take.

Once in the taxi, I opened the book to the poem, “The Journey” by Mary Oliver, which begins: “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began.” At that moment the words spoke to me as it brought me back to Mercato, this bustling market in Ethiopia when I first encountered this 5 year old girl who spent her days begging in the market; it brought me back to the grandfather I met in Maginaya who explained to me that he lost his daughter and son-law to AIDS and that he could no longer support his grandchild in their absence; it brought back to the moment when tears poured from the face of Mintesnot’s mother as she explained the pain of pulling him out of school because she could not afford to pay the school fees and afford to feed him; it brought back the conversation I had with a teenage girl in Addis whose eyes brighten when she spoke of her plan to open a clothing boutique, yet quickly became despondent when she spoke of selling her body to support herself and her son, and her fleeting dream of opening that boutique.

Also, I read “Last Night As I Was Sleeping” by Antonio Machado. Both poems speak of this “authentic moment”, this “waking up,” in which the human soul connects to the world. As Roger Housden maintains, it’s a “moment when you dare to take your heart in your hands and walk through an invisible wall into a new life.” The new life that these poets allude to is a life that is deeper than the selfishness of our desires, a life that shuns conformity to the status quo, to systems of power and inequality, while simultaneously rejecting “habitual perceptions of life” in favor of taking a journey towards the inward, beyond mere vain pursuits, conspicuous consumption and materialism. In essence, an awakening to the true self, and what that authentic self yearns for.

For me that “authentic moment,” which in previous writings I have referred to as an ‘Awakening’ when I knew what I had to do, first occurred in the streets of Ethiopia. However that clarion call to the inner self is not bound by geographical location, as it was in the streets of Harlem that I was reminded of “The Journey.”

“Beyond living and dreaming there is something more important: Waking up.”
(Antonio Machado)

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