Another long one. As we get closer to Thanksgiving I’lll evolve my tone. But these need to be written. Yesterday i wrote about dark times. Today I write about some frameworks that shape how I think. You can be angry. You can be frustrated. You can be hurt. You can be so many things. But you also have to find your way forward.
There are four models and frameworks for evaluating challenges that I fall back on collectively, and when they are assembled and unified…and when checked against one another…have always made me feel something more was possible. They have always enabled me to keep moving. Literally, from the moments I have faced in my life that could be classified or categorized as a challenge or a even a tragedy. With these frameworks and mental models, I find ways to move forward instantly. Progress.
Each one of these was learned and acquired. From a book. A speech. Something.
1) Pendulum Theory. I read this one sentence in a history book but lost that book forever. We are, no matter what we choose, a reaction to what raised us. Think of a pendulum. At some point it is moving in a direction in response to the moment immediately prior to it. It is in perpetual motion but it isn’t so much linear as much as it is momentum against and a reaction to what just happened the moment before. This point is important to me because…it is about change and motion. We are constantly in motion. Never in a moment of stasis.
2) Revolution Theory: This is the Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones point. was lucky enough to watch him speak at Lucy Stone Hall on Livingston Campus while at Rutgers. And man. He was past caring what you thought about what he thought. A man who worked in our residence hall as a janitor attended in earnest. I can’t remember his name but I can remember his energy around attending. And he stood up to ask a question about revolutions. The janitor…got crushed. Baraka then fought all points about revolutions (physical vs psychological notably) and settled on one of the most important things I’ve ever heard in my life. The idea…that revolutions are only successful if they are above and below ground. Above so people can join with you, and below so by the time everyone else knows you’re coming, it’s too late. I have since evolved that for myself. But it’s so true. You need diplomats and rebels. You need lovers and fighters. You need … them both. Because when push comes to shove what you need, is the most allies. I made my own analogy this AM. About an underground revolution growing roots and growing under even destabilizing the counterpoint. While the above ground grows high and wide to cast a massive shadow. What I was too subtle about was where we chose to grow. Ideally in the cracks of our adversaries arguments. Because that’s the only way we can disrupt from the foundation and dominate optically, while ensuring we both come from the exact same place.
3) Progressive Spiral Theory: Thank you Francis Fukuyama. Who I also read as a freshman at Rutgers. It’s the idea that life doesn’t move linearly but instead, in progressive spirals. Which means we hit a point that in the moment feels like exceptional advancement (a half-black man becoming President) only to immediately see ourselves in the next moment that feels like an amazing step back (Google “alt-right” and filter the search results over the past 1 week.) But that’s what’s magical about it. We progress. And then we cycle back. To reset. Get our sea legs. But also, to find a way forward and then come back for the rest of us. Because at the very tip of the spear of humanity we’re a search party that reports back on what’s possible. 2008. 2012. That was what’s possible. 2016. That is us reporting back so the masses can debate and soon, join the rest of us in the future which just so happens to be 2008. But let’s realize that how close or how far you are from that progressive spiral is what directly correlates to your happiness and sadness. A minority living today on that spiral post-Trump is not happy. But it’s a moment. Seconds. No different than that same person being on that timeline on inauguration day 2008. One feels oppressive. one feels liberating. Depending on your choice, I’ll know where you stand.
4) Amalgamation Theory: How do you pull it all together? You pray. And you love the hell out of everyone. Even the people who make you question whether you’re loving too much. You say…if the pendulum is swinging in a certain direction
if the revolution is being fought on all levels
if we’re on a spiral, at some point
You feel hopeful. Because we’re moving. We’re part of that movement as lovers or fighters; as pacifists and revolutionaries. We’re part of it.
And focusing on steps forward and steps back only means focusing on distractions from perpetual (which it is), progressively spiraling (which it is) motion (which … it is.)
#Iamgrateful and #Iamthankful for what Rutgers University and Rutgers University Livingston Campus taught me. Anaiya and Jaan, I hope you embrace all four theories collectively. Your first models for thinking.
The first set of approaches as arrows in your quiver. What I’ve outlined above is how I make decisions everywhere. Those are my starting point. Let it be a factor in yours. Just a factor at least. Note the progressive spirals in 25 year increments … 1965 < 1990 < 2016.