I’ve always thought that one can choose to view the day that commemorates their birth into the world as an annual event of regression or progression. This is to say that we can view getting older as an opportunity to remember how we used to be or it can be an opportunity to envision what we have yet to become. Personally, I choose the latter. Call it whatever you may, whether it be youthful optimism or delusions grandeur, I still believe that the future has good things in store. It is this hopefulness about the future that keeps me excited about life and getting older.
Today is June 1st 2011 and it has been exactly twenty-eight years since I was birthed into this world. A whole lot has changed since 1983 and yet a lot remains the same. One thing that remains the same is the truth that at the core of human experience is the reality of evolution. Try as we might, it is nearly impossible to deny that a fundamental aspect of life is cultivating the growth of one’s self. However, let’s be honest, the fact that it’s fundamental to life doesn’t make it an easy part of life. Robert Stepto once wrote that “narratives of ascent are often narratives of alienation,” I interpret this to mean that the more we evolve, the more we have to leave behind. This can often be a painful and nerve-wrecking process but nevertheless a necessary component of personal growth.
I’ve spent the greater balance of this day contemplating my own personal evolution and during this time I’ve come to several realizations about my life which can be summed up in three words: Art, Love and Inspiration. As I sit in this familiar place of work and contemplation listening to the soothing sounds of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood I am thoroughly aware of the role artistic expression plays in my life and evolution. In fact, even as I write these words I am sporadically gazing at the bookshelf behind me that at times appears to be hovering over me like rows filled with a great class of witnesses. In these rows sit literary titans such as Ralph Ellison
, James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison and Bell Hooks. There are intellectuals like WEB Dubois, Franz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, Harold Cruse, Shelby Steele, and Angela Davis. And there are religious luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, Howard Thurman, Paul Tillich, Martin L. King Jr., and Karen Armstrong, to name a few. Through their various literary works these artist along with a host of musicians and spiritual leaders encourage and inspire me on days like this when I am most aware of the fleeting yet precious gift of life.
Like so many, I am blessed with the love of family, friends, and an incredibly loving fiancée. If it were not for the love of these precious folks I truly don’t know where I would be on this journey between womb and tomb; so I am indeed grateful for the gift of love for it is through love that I live, move, and have my being.
In addition to love, I realize how profoundly I depend upon inspiration in my life. I often seek this inspiration in the work and life’s witness of religious scholars, cultural critics, writers, public intellectuals, jazz musicians, and neo-soul artists both past and present. In all of their contributions to culture and society I find my own personal sense of meaning and purpose in life. From them I find inspiration to continue to teach, preach, write, and speak about the relationship of God, self, and the other in the complex matrix of human experience.
It is with these three of life’s gifts that I boldly march into the days ahead. And though I do not know totally what life has in store, be it days of joy and/or pain, what I know for sure is that it will be all worth it if I can look at myself and by the grace of God say “well done.”
Compassionately and Contemplatively yours,
Billy Michael Honor Jr.