pondering on what to take to Arkansas

I am wondering exactly what I should take with me when I visit my family next week. Spinoza? Shakespeare? Nothing to read at all? Maybe I’ll go get the Edward Wilson book I was reading, Consilience. Perhaps Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass? It is not an easy choice to make, for I do not want to carry my customary book bag filled with books as I do when I visit coffee shops. Yet, returning home feels strangely like a pilgrimage of sorts. Perhaps its the five years since I’ve seen my family, perhaps it is difficulties I’ve brought on myself to live my own life, perhaps it is the stark realization that all the dogmatic fears and belief systems that are diametrically opposed to me are running deep in that part of the world. I could not be more out of place than if I were a communist, atheist, gay, black man. But seeing how I might as well be labeled atheist, communism has its faults and insights to be learned from, and being gay or black should make no difference in a person’s pursuit of freedom or expressions of liberty… I’m close enough. So what do you take to the bible belt? My own bible sits nearby, the complete Shakespeare. Continually, in many sources, Shakespeare is given homage. Just last night I was reading from a neuroscientist’s book when he said “trust Shakespeare to have already been there” and he gave an example from Richard II in regards to the theme of his book, the seperation of emotions and feelings. But it is such a very big book… huge! I woult take up a large portion of the back pack. Yet all in all, Shakespeare is in the forefront of things to be carried with me.

Another thing? Silly question… coffee of course! One must be a skilled hunter to find coffee of notable quality in Arkansas. I recall a friend and myself having to venture up to Little Rock in order to find a cup. We were the young beats of Monticello, we drank home-made espresso from a tiny espresso maker, went to or created poetry readings, went across the state to hear poets sing their verse. My friend was particularly fond of Jim Morison and Red Hawk. We did see Red Hawk in Hot Springs. The times in Arkansas are decades behind and were someone to make available small, cheap, paperback copies of some of the beat writers to the youth of Arkansas, that minority of people screaming for something else than the redneck culture that they are compelled to follow, we might see a second tide. But yes, coffee is tops on my list… a good dark roast. I wonder if this will get me flack in the airports?

And my journal. No doubt I’ll have something to write about.

But really what I want to take with me is an empty tea cup. Recall the story of the professor who visited the Zen master. When the Zen master poured the professor tea, he continued pouring past the point when the cup was full, saying “how can I tell you anything when your cup is already full?”.

Listen… hear it? The singing of Lisa Gerrard on the Gladiator soundtrack. Soft, earthy, beautiful. I adore Lisa Gerrard, she is a poet of the soul. But… wait… listen. Here the music? Hear that heartbeat? Forget about all of the trivial thoughts of what to take and what not to take. Soon I will be holding my new nephew, Grayson, for the very first time. Oh, what a happy day. Coffee and reading and preparing for the coming heated discussions… these all pale, they fade to nothing when standing next to the thought of seeing my nephew for the first time. If only… if only by holding him I could give him some of my experiences, some of my learning, buttress up his mind for the battles to come. If only such knowledge could be granted through osmosis. But it is not, it is learned from observation and dialogue. Now that my other nephew is getting a bit older, I wonder to myself, if perhaps my comments might not be censured by my sister? I still recall Brandon asking me, when he was 11, if black people were dumber than white people. I didn’t answer him with a yes or a no, I let him work it out himself with some questions from me. And I also gave him a copy of Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail to read as well. How far my sister has fallen into the lies of the culture she lives in. She is too intelligent… I am surprised. But I understand very well the pressures of living in a culture, the pressures acted upon behavior and how behavior impacts thinking. I want to get my nephews up here to Eugene for a week or two and take them around, show them mountains and waterfalls and noisy beaches, visit arts a such not seen in Mississippi, and try to plant that one seed within their mind, that Mississippi is not all there is in the world and not how things have to be.


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