It sounds dramatic to say my life was changed the minute my feet touched African soil when I was there now almost 6 years ago. But it’s not an overstatement. Every facet of my life right now began to be hewn and chiselled out of who I was in that moment. My new career path, my change of residency, the shifts in my significant relationships, were all products of the immediate reckoning that came with the magnetic pull of that land; the true land of origin. I surrendered immediately to that commune and connection, which also meant that I inevitably had to disconnect from the superfluous noise that didn’t belong to it. This is dangerously close to sounding like it could be convoluted with the new and shallow perception of “mindfulness”, but in fact it’s as old and deep as the act of connecting with the truth within yourself. I’m not saying my path since then has been free of tricks (mostly my own traps that I laid for myself), but I can no longer pretend to be confused by my own nature; I am as plain to me as I can ever be.
I suppose put another way: I am fairly certain I wouldn’t be here now had I not been there then. Africa literally changed the way I saw myself in the world. The way I finally understood that I am both minuscule and immeasurable at the same time. That I am both utterly myself and yet absolutely universal at the same time. That I am both powerless and powerful at the same time. The awareness that the stuff of my eyes, my hair, my skin melded together with the essence of my spirituality, my music, my consciousness are all at once the joint ownership of the ground beneath me and the heart within me. And the blinding clarity of the things that are unequivocally necessary and the things that are not.
We cannot find a way out of the messes we’re in without this clarity and awareness and the understanding of who we are in our world. There is no vaccine that can inoculate us against our learned disconnection, our comfort with our own greed. We are drowning in our poverty of personal and social consciousness and when this pandemic ends, it will not be because we have floated any closer to the surface. And it will certainly not end equitably around our globe. Africa, for one, may not see the back of it for some time to come.
I do not speak of this life-changing experience casually. I know my fortune. I know that although I might still have ended up where I am now at some point, it would have taken a considerably longer time. I know most people will never experience, or be open to experiencing, what I have experienced. But I say this with humility: LISTEN TO ME because I know what I’m talking about. Our only way through this is to understand both our nothingness and our everythingness. It is to see and respect our invisible threads; to tighten the slack and reconnect them at a quicker rate than we are cutting them off. We really cannot afford to be disconnected from the things that matter and attached only to the illusion of our power and ignore the truth of our insignificance. We will otherwise sink into the blackness, and make no mistake: no matter who we are, we will sink as one.
Africa, I hope to set my feet humbly at the font of your nourishment once more. Until then, I carry your lessons with every step I take.