When I ‘place’ the word HUMANITY in front of me the first word that comes up is desperation. I have a memory of driving on a highway that circles Manhattan island. I was with my father and we were driving by housing projects in Harlem.
I asked him about why this place was so rundown – how it came to be like this. He said, “J, most people live lives of quiet desperation.”
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel hopeless and depressed when my dad told me this because I figured he knew and I had a physical reaction of caving in and giving up within feeling overwhelmed by the generations of people living in poverty with no way out and within this wondering, “why them; why not me?”
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear routine, sameness, predictability as I began to equate this with desperation, acceptance and the fear that it could happen to me and instead of applying myself to practical solutions to address the root of the problem and/or my fear, I sought escape and novelty.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to imagine what it must be like to end up in such a housing project and that I must have some kind of luck or grace to not end up there and within this I notice that no one addressing this or talking about it; no one except my dad and he doesn’t seem to have an answer.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want to run as far as I can away from these places, this concrete, this entire world of working to survive within a fear that one could end up in such a place.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to judge my father and his world at the UN as stagnant and ineffectual; questioning why nothing was fundamentally changing; why, with all the publications, meetings and conferences connected with the UN, little change happened in the world around me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to deal with my ‘cognitive dissonance’ generated by the thought “if this poverty has never been addressed a few blocks from the UN then what hope is there?”, by retreating into my imagination; romanticizing the past as better, or that the American west was a place to escape or that the native American culture had it all figured out, or that living on a farm, close to nature was the answer … for why Harlem existed as it did in the 1970s.
To be continued…
Streets of late 1970s Harlem