And then, I thought, this would make a great meme. But before I do anything else, let me name the people who have been tagged:
If you don't have a blog, then leave your "great imperative" as a comment. It will be your version of Freedom Writers.
BTW, the meme doesn't have to be as long as mine. It can be one sentence. I just went with the flow...
The great imperative of my life has been…
From the time that I've known myself, I've always noticed little things about people--the way some people purse their lips so they won't smile or the perpetual knitted brow of worry that some seem to wear. It has never been a critical assessment; it has always been a fascination.
Like two weeks ago, I was at a concert and the piano player, an elderly gentleman, played some great tunes. After the show, I went up to congratulate him and it was then I noticed that although he looked quite dapper onstage, his suit was crushed and his shoes were cracked. Tiny wisps of stiff gray hair escaped from under his hat. He frightened me.
Men like that always frighten me.
It's because I've seen them so many times. So much talent, yet in their later years, it seems as if they barely have enough to hold body and soul together. Yet they make a gallant front because they have been showmen all their lives. Old, black men have a similar effect on my daughter. When she lived in Tallahassee, the sight of old, black men waiting in the cold at a bus stop or walking late at night or early in the morning, just broke her heart.
But the old musician frightened me in a different way. During my wasted youth when I'd sometimes ride around with Seeco Patterson, I'd meet so many old musicians, who after introductions, would pull me over to a corner out of Seeco's earshot and whisper, "Brown man, you can give me a dollar?" And hearing that from a man who had given me, Jamaica, the world, great music and sometimes moments of real pleasure dubbin with a dawta, and that he was now destitute usually resulted me giving him a five or a ten--if I could afford it. I didn't care if he was an alcoholic or that he'd smoked too much weed. It didn't matter. It was none of my business and it was an act of gratitude. He had given himself in a beautiful way that stuck in my memory and that could never be repaid because he had contributed something beautiful to my life.
Yet despite these emotions, sometimes I always noticed something that would lead to ask myself: How did this happen? Why did this happen? How does he feel begging money from a nineteen year old boy when he used to be such a big man? How does it feel?
And if the person really made an impression on my sensibilities they usually ended up in a poem or short story. I'd imaginatively enter their lives to capture something about them, how I imagined what brought us together in that time and in that space that could never be recreated. It's how sometimes I think about how my wife and I ended up together. Her mother is from Rio Sucio, Colombia and my mother is from Struie, Jamaica. Which buses did they miss? What accidents did they meet in that changed their lives? How many births, deaths, weddings, moments of joy brought us together in that time and space? How did we have the good sense at that time to say yes to that moment? And all through these questions, I'm always asking: What is it like? What did it feel like?
And if the questions could be answered in a poem, short story, or novel, then I'd have to muster the courage to write it without the fear of rejection haunting my every word. Because it's that, isn't it? Courage. The courage to say, "You know what, I love this," and put it out there without any thought of reward. And then simply acknowledging that you've done the best with the hand you've been dealt, but then turning it around and saying, "If this is my hand, then this is how I am going to play it."
I won't say it has been easy. I come from an island where "reputation" is everything, and even something like this, blogging, may even be considered in some circles "bad form." I don't know. I may be wrong. I haven't lived there for so long. Maybe, in time, this will become the subject for a future poem, short story, or novel. Who knows?
So, the one imperative in my life has been to have the courage to create poems and stories that ask the questions, what is it like? What does it feel like?
Now it's your turn!
The great imperative of my life has been…