Howard Thurman’s Epilogue to Jesus and the Disinherited gets to the heart of what I believe to be perhaps the most important task that a religious life has before it: to ‘emerge articulate’. Dr. Thurman suggests that when one emerges with a name and character against the forces of history… he has emerged articulate.
In most every course that I have taught, my initial lecture is to bring the group to consciousness of time. I do this by calling attention to our grave marker which for most of us will only identify our name and time in history. This discussion centers around the fact that masses of the world’s persons will come and go in history with no evidence of their ever having lived. Some totally unknown, buried in the ‘Potter’s Field(s)’. There is talk that my grandmother died broken hearted about the fact that her son, my uncle Buddy, Ozzie Smith, a World War II veteran, left her house one day to never be heard from again. She very aggressively hounded authorities as to his whereabouts and was finally told, not long before her passing, that he had been found dead and with no identification on him, he is buried in the Cleveland Potter’s Field.
Some who are buried by their loved ones, lay in unmarked graves and very soon forgotten. Some at best have a life marker placed in stone with the ‘Three’ statistics that identify their space in time for the next generations who seek them: Name, Birth date, the infamous ‘Dash’ and Date of Demise. Sadly, we have reached the time in history when Cremation is the more economical choice for the end of life… no grave markers at all. Period.
It is ‘The Dash’, then, that determines the articulated life. This discussion is also aimed at convincing the student that ‘time is wasted on the young’ as the old wise tale states. It is no small thing that the ‘master’, the ‘expert’, the ‘gold metal’ of the field is gained by the person who most often starts the task in their childhood. Most of us spend far too many years of our lives pursuing the mundane. When consciousness comes, it then becomes a race— realizing now that ‘time is winding up!’ It is the one who ‘in all their getting, gets understanding’ who emerges articulate.
This initial course discussion is not complete without raising the consciousness of ‘The Autobiography’. An ‘articulated life’ is able to raise the interest of others in writing about ‘their Dash’— bio/life, graphia/writing. The Biography can only gather information ‘about you’ with conclusions drawn being in line with what takes place in the legal systems’ court rooms, EVIDENTIARY! Yet, in many cases, so far from the truth. You and you alone, can provide ‘the truth’ of who and what your life’s statement is.
Just before my mother’s passing, I sat at her bedside and said to her, “Mama, do you realize that you have never told me anything about you? Everything I know about you, someone else told me!” She took her Auto/SELF, bio/LIFE, graphia/WRITING to the grave with her leaving ‘Her Dash’ to remain the ‘oral property’ of those who witnessed her life.
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