Today in my Literature Criticism and Analysis, we started our last unit: American Multi-Cultural Criticism. Depending on what you might have read on here, you might be able to guess that there’s a lot I could say on this topic. Being a third-culture kid, I have a broader sense of how different “sides” work. However, a consequence of getting so many glimpses into different cultures is that they are just that–glimpses. I don’t really belong to any of them. Since the semester is winding down–next week we have finals–we only have time to look at one of the applications of Multi-Cultural Criticism. Arguably, African American Criticism could be considered the most popular practice explored, simply because of the history that slavery has in this country.
Now, this post isn’t about slavery or racism or oppression, but I wanted to give you a bit of context. The following quote is from W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Soul of Black Folk.” My professor had pulled it up just as class was ending, and though we didn’t really have time to discuss the section she pointed us to, she wanted us to at least consider what it might mean. I suppose I’m being a bit of an over-achiever, writing a whole introspective blog post about it. But I considered this quote in a different context than race and culture and ethnicity. I want to explore this idea on a more personal level.
…two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder…
–W. E. B. DuBois
Although I often take things on a contextual basis, I see binaries at work as two parts of the same thing. There’s a lot of middle ground between them–nothing is completely separate. In my own life, the good and bad are always intertwined–often inexplicably so. My favorite colors are black and purple. If I had to describe two words to match those colors, they would be “failure” and “beloved”, respectively. There are the stories and the scars. There is suffering and there is rejoicing. None of these are fully separate from the other. They are two parts, two paths, and I can choose which I follow. I can stray into the black, suffocate under the weight of my own failures and drown in despair and darkness. And I can reach into that abyss and pull out the gems found there. I can hold on to the ways those experiences have provided room for precious treasures such as hope, and faith, and compassion.
Diamonds, after all, are mined from the heart of the earth. There are plenty of cliche sayings about the pressure on the rock that turns it into a jewel, a gem. But people worked for that. I can’t just dig a hole in my back yard and come up with a carat-sized stone. No, I would have to dig deeper. The work would be back-breaking. It would take years, with my own two hands and dirt under my fingernails and a lot of time spent in the dark. And who’s to say that I’m digging in the right place, at the right time? What if I stumble across something that everyone says is the real thing, but is actually completely worthless? Where are real treasures stored?
This is what I ponder, concerning DuBois’ quote. What will I fight for? Will I give in to the depression and anxiety? Will I resign myself to that darkness, that fear? Will I settle for only getting by, having the average life, doing well enough? Or will I strive for the freedom promised me? Will I struggle through the darkness and surrender to the One who molds me into becoming the Beloved that I have been called to be? This is a moment-by-moment choice, an hour-by-hour process of orienting myself towards the life-giving light. It’s a constant emptying of myself so that I can be filled with greater desires, purer passions, than what I can manage on my own.
In the past, I have always been called strong for being able to weather the storms that life has brought my way. I shrugged it off, because I felt I had no choice. I was made strong; I didn’t fight for this. But this year, I have grown. I have learned. I have been cared for. I have been rescued, transformed, redeemed. I wanted to live, so I started to fight. I released my own control and started to cling to One who gave me something more than strength. God has given me life. It is not my own doggedness, but the irrationally unrelenting Love of God that holds me together, saves me from myself, creates purpose and beauty from all that is broken within me. It is not for my own gain that I have been kept, been made resilient, but that God may be glorified in how He chooses to work in my life.
Soli Deo Gloria,