The first week of classes is officially complete … and, holy shit, am I tired.
My first class with Cornel West was on Tuesday, and his presence is… stunning. He holds forth in the classroom, and like the best of Baptist preachers knows how to move his body and use his voice to draw you in, raise the energy in the room and hold that energy for three hours. He is intellectually powerful, and his spirit is Titan. Coincidentally, I met him on the street after class. I was smoking a cigarette while speaking with another student when he stopped to have a chat. I was amazed by the change in him; he was gentle, and very, very PRESENT WITH YOU IN THAT MOMENT. And I don’t mean present with you like you feel you’re under a microscope – I mean that he is THERE. The only time I’ve felt that way is a few years ago when I was running from soldiers with a group of teenage boys in one of the conflict zones I work in — we were running, and I felt totally in my body but at the same time to totally present with these boys…. we were TOGETHER.
These brief interactions with him gave me a lot of food for thought as I rode the train to my room that night. I was thinking about how so many of my seminarian friends perceive me — as the loud mouth that makes them giggle in delight. I never particularly understood that last part – why my sassy mouth would bring such glee. As the train was cutting through the city I thought about the contents of what I say – that my “loud mouth” is often a product of my frustration. You can say I have a particularly low tolerance for bullshit – and you know some shit is about to go down when I say something along the lines of, “let’s call a spade a spade,” which is always followed by me calling it how I see it.
And then it hit me; my goal in coming to this particular seminary was to “find my prophetic voice.” Prophets, as Heschel described them, are the scream in the night. Over the last year I’ve gotten less and less patient, which has caused me to become louder and louder in the classroom and elsewhere. Paralleling that, I’ve noticed that my care for offending people, pleasing them, comforting them, their judgement or their discomfort has plummeted to zero. I just don’t give a FUCK. I have no hesitation in calling someone or something out on their bullshit. I’m done.
And that’s when I realized that I’ve found my Prophetic voice. That I’ve become so deeply rooted in my own work and message, that everything else has burned away – that I can see clearly and move forward.