im walking to my car after class at 9:30pm and i can see lightning bolts flash across the Coral Gables sky but there’s no accompanying sound of thunder and there is no presence of rain either. what a strange sight, but a perfect compliment to my oddly emotional mood. although my class is on disaster management and humanitarian assistance, the topic of the day is vulnerability and resilience, within populations and within societies but every word my professor is saying feels like hes talking to me personally about my current state of vulnerability (“a constant condition”) and measures of resilience. i feel like the universe is speaking to me through this seemingly unrelated course material.
i get in my car and play “Kill Jay-Z” as i drive away. talk about vulnerability. there are so many levels to 4:44, expanded by the footnotes videos for each track on the album now available on Tidal. in the 11-minute-long footnote for “4:44”, Jay-Z and a pantheon of the most famous men of color talk candidly about love, loneliness, mistakes, relationships, fears and even divorce. its so beautiful and so important. with this 10-track masterpiece, Jay has done more for men’s mental health in the urban community than any amount of outreach, program or pamphlet ever could. listening to “Kill Jay-Z” makes my eyes water and my chest tighten. through the tears i see the flash of lightning again–still no thunder, still no rain.
listen, i don’t understand why a rap song by a 47-year-old gangter-turned-billionaire moves me to tears. but thats the power of being human, of creating art that touches someone’s soul. i listen to this podcast “On Being with Krista Tippett.” I am obsessed. Every episode, Krista interviews the most brilliant leaders in science, religion, social movements, social justice, writers, musicians, poets, philosophers, etc. listening to these conversations is better than therapy. her voice is soothing and the concepts of the conversation encourage me to find another way of viewing the world. at the end of each interview, shes asks her guests “what does it mean to be human?” i always think–what would i answer to that? but tonight i’d say “this right here, is what it means to be human.” to sit and listen to a song and an album of a person i have zero in common with, have never met and whose life i could never understand, but for his song about killing his ego to make me think about my own–that’s powerful. that connection to emotion, to pain, to longing, to hurt, and feeling like someone else–far away–has experienced the same thing is what it means to be human.
born out of possibly the most painful, the most honest, the most vulnerable wake up call of his life, the 4:44 project is proof that his hardship had purpose. sharing it with the world is a way to heal wounds and move others to begin the long and arduous task of restoring themselves. especially in males. especially in black males is monumental. what an honor and a legacy.
“see how the universe works? it takes my hurt and helps me find more of myself.”
“i suck at love, i think i need a do-over.”
“and i apologize, because at your best, you are love
and because i fall short of what i say im all about.”