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“Words have power,” so says Toni Morrison, author, teacher, and Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winner of Literature, now in her late eighties and featured in Greenville-Sanders’s new documentary. As a toddler her imagination was seeded with stories of slavery and the preternatural, drawn from memories of her parents and maternal grandparents. Once she learned to read, she found her own way into multiple worlds. In time, she would chronicle the Black experience in America, especially the plight of the hurt child.

Despite her ailing body, tastefully dressed and accessorized with one-of-kind jewelry, she remains the storyteller. Humor, lightsome eyes, and strong hands bespeak an innate wisdom—of having passed through life’s crucible, intact.

And what was in that crucible but impoverished beginnings, racism, degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities, single-parenting two sons while underpaid as a Random House editor, and the critics’ narrow view of her writing. In 1983, tired of promoting the work of other Black writers not that well received, she quit her job and became a full time writer. She was fifty-two years old. And for decades, words rushed from her psyche, her unique voice imprinting its legacy upon generations of readers.

What intrigues me about this documentary, though, is its title: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019). Indeed, there are many pieces in the life of Toni Morrison. What unifies them is her obedience to the I Am within her psyche, from which well words that attest to her wholeness, the ultimate purpose of life.

She remains an absolute teacher …

 

 

 

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It was Saturday morning, the sun playing off rumpled scarecrows displayed upon a shelf near the entrance of the supermarket. Slouch hats bedecked with sunflowers covered shocks of orange yarn spilling upon shoulders, peeking from shirts and pants legs—nothing uptight about these field-warriors. Their stitched grins and rolling black eyes seized my imagination.

“Would you look at that! I must have one!” I said while loosening the scarf around my neck and stomping slush from my boots. Gone were the leach-like doldrums that had enveloped my spirit from the night before. In the face of such absurdity, there was no room for such nastiness.

That was decades ago. Since then, I’ve showcased my scarecrow in rooms around my house as a reminder of the disarming power of humor, especially when blatant evil seems to have the upper hand.

But there’s more to this image than the restoration of psychic balance. I’ve grown to equate it with God-Power within my depths. When flooded by the untoward, replete with confusion, pain, and speechlessness, I know to shut down, do nothing, and in the company of my scarecrow welcome the ludicrous. Eventually change occurs with the reemergence of the “wee small voice,” and with it, new lessens learned—stark reminders of my humanness with its graced foibles.

 

 

Yet still another upheaval awaits me around the next corner. Such growth is messy, but with my scarecrow, it works!

How formulate words around the life of Elie Wiesel (1928 – 2016) who, in dialog with his God, fully individuated himself within the warp and woof of his global community? Left a legacy of printed words that still fire imaginations and challenge the moral fiber of his readers?

Such is the task I set myself after completing Elie Wiesel’s second memoir,And The Sea is Never Full, 1969 -1999.

His lifelong study of the Torah and the Talmud imbued his witness, his writing, and his teaching in lecture halls and international venues. Like Jeremiah of the Old Testament, he was passionate, fully sensitive to the worlds within and around him. Words, written and later spoken, became his métier. Yet silence obliterated any foray into his death camp experiences: they remained inexpressible: referred to as “it.” Yet, paradoxically, “it” fueled his rich imagination with stories and assuaged his psychic wound. Those privy to his spiritual depths relished his unique vision: living with unanswered questions before the silence of God.

In his memoir, Wiesel also reproduced parts of significant dialogs and lectures that reveal the breath of his wisdom and his attunement to his listeners. Dreams of his deceased family, in italics, also showed his respect for his unconscious, ever guiding him toward wholeness. He was also not without wry humor in his admission of foibles. So beneath this world citizen lived a simple man of passion who loved being husband to Marion and father to Elisha.

Yet Elie Wiesel’s witness to hatred, under the guise of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and fanaticism, still flourishes—but not to worry. He has passed the baton on to us, with its imperative to root out such vestiges within our psyches. There is hope.

 

 

 

Available on Amazon

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