“What matters for the dialectician is having the wind of world history in his sails. Thinking for him means: to set the sails. It is the way they are set that matters. Words are his sails. The way they are set turns them into concepts.”
Because it is a systematic negation of the other person and a furious determination to deny the other person attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly: “In reality, who am I?”
-Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Under constant revision is the poem that I be.
There is a hill on the north side of Ann Arbor that if you sit upon it at dusk you can see the dark blue of small-town-skies to the north. To the south, the glow of downtown. As the darkness of night sets in the sky becomes a spectrum of blue-black shades. If you were to stand on the weathered bench and turn to each direction you would get a glimpse of what I understand as home.
But home is so much more a sentiment than a place. Made more of memories than the present. And it is certainly something I’ll miss of Ann Arbor, that hill and all the memories it holds.
It’s summer evenings of Eden lounging with my homeboys and homegirls; it’s the backyard milpa of maiz, chiles, and squash. Home is the winter days of skipping high school and meditating next to frozen streams not far from northbound US-23. It’s the solace of the abandoned bus depot; the camaraderie of brothers knocking back Rolling Rocks as the sun recedes behind the treeline of the Huron valley.
But things change. The relation one has to thier home changes. Perhaps it's best not to dwell on the past. Although maybe it’s a gift to do so.
History is a strange thing. It’s like a dark sea that stretches out beyond our view. It traverses the lives of all those we know. It envelops us. In the Americas it’s easy to be swallowed by this sea. To drown without ever knowing what water is. When we become reduced to mere traces of history, in-active subjects that are acted upon by the powerful currents out of our purview, we become very small to that sea. We become insignificant, nameless to history.
Strange indeed. History, something so encompassing as eternity and particular as a lifetime. Filled with moments, events, places and people; both memorable and fleeting. With the scale and factuality of geopolitics and the minuteness and intimacy as our own memories.
If we think of history as what has been and what is to become, we are awashed with the unknown. Probably due to my preoccupation with history, as well as the everyday of being in a space preparing to embark on a long journey, I’ve become fascinated with the thin line of the unknown and the known.
There was a poet, I can’t remember his name, he once posed a question: do you remember your great grandfather's name? Your great grandmother's? Will your great grandchildren remember yours?
Gil Scott-Heron said that if we just listen, we can hear the ancestors speaking to us. In the rhythms of the world he would tell us, we are never alone. But the vast majority of what has come before us is beyond recollection. I suppose this is what nostalgia is, the mourning of the past unknown. The fleeting moments that we know we will not remember and that will become lost to time.
But what of that minority of moments that are remembered, that force themselves to exist beyond mere traces?
As I am currently only a few weeks more than a month away from leaving for my trip I think about such questions. I think about what purpose is; I reflect on the precious memories and moments that have proved invaluable to shaping me into a man. Frantz Fanon, the famed psychiatrist and revolutionary remarked on the condition of perennial self-reflexivity of the colonized people.
As I prepare to embark I think of the self-revision that this journey will entail; of leaving the nation that taught me to be ashamed of being brown with almond eyes; I remember the lessons that global and local dissidents instilled in me to remove such shame, to understand what it means to be a revolutionary.
By this time next year what precious few moments I will have to remember. And what strange reality will greet us.