Go the way your blood beats

An observation.

Still in bed, barely awake, I realize my heart is thrumming in my ears. I am reading the notifications about a fatal shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. I realize it is the second time in almost as many days that I have been hit by a particular emotional cocktail of dread and fear and tension; I have not even really had time to process the “racially charged” murder of two people at a grocery store in Kentucky.

We reach for phrases like falsehoods and half-truths and racially charged just as we wring our hands about this divisive climate and hem and haw about civility. As if we did not know exactly how we got here. As if we were not just recently asking the people who have been saying hey, actually, we’ve always been here to stop disturbing the harmony of our dinner parties.

I get out of bed and open the curtains and the windows and the doors as if the sunshine that pours in might burn away the rage and the despair, as if the cool morning air might soothe the undercurrent of disquiet that has marked so many of my days.

I say I am just cleaning up, as I tidy and dust and launder and arrange and replay in my head what I will do when they come for me.

I look to the stacks of books that dominate every space. I find light there too.

Photograph of a stack of books on a small wooden table. Books are: We Gon’ Be Alright by Jeff Chang; Citizen by Claudia Rankine; Black Against Empire by Bloom and Martin; We Wanted a Revolution, edited by Morris and Hockley; Soul of a Nation, edited by Godfrey and Whitley; The Race Reader by This Land Magazine.

Attribution:

“Best advice I ever got was an old friend of mine, a black friend, who said you have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all. That’s the only advice you can give anybody. And it’s not advice, it’s an observation.” - James Baldwin, interviewed by Richard Goldstein, The Village Voice, June 26 1984.

This missive is part of the Main Event. Paid subscribers will get another email on Sunday. If you’d like to support this newsletter (and the book habits of its author), please consider a subscription.