#52essays: A Life of the Mind

I hosted one of my former students this past weekend and while she was here I realized how much I miss intellectual banter. That first evening, I struggled to respond to her probing and her agitating. Not in a bad way, but she was pushing me to be my old self which I’d hung up for a while. Just contemplating some of our truths, the state of affairs, the Black bourgeoisie, privilege, grassroots politics, love. Of course, I know that this is a privilege, to have had 10 years in higher education personally, and in addition to have worked in several of them the last 15 years, one that most Black women don’t get as often as they should. I realized that for the most part I hide out on college campuses so I can continue partaking in this without paying tuition. I have noticed though that the quality of intellectual banter depends on how confident one is in their ability to think critically and express themselves. It doesn’t matter so much if it comes out articulately or not, just mere confidence to think through an idea, a thought. In any case she resurrected that old feeling of discomfort with the way things are. The way people in the world don’t expect me to think too hard. The way some folks find me too intense, and it got me pondering the whole idea of who would put up with me. Indulge me. Engage me and my constant thinking and probing.

Stability holds quite the attraction for me perhaps because I’ve never had it. So like a moth to a flame, I hover around it flirting with the idea of actually catching the flame, the spirit, the essence. Hoping that by being close I may become contaminated enough to want to settle down. Enough to say, go ahead, consume me, let us become one, burn together and raise smoke signals about our wonderful imperfect lives. Sometimes I think what joy it must be to feel safe and secure in another’s flame. How utterly delightful to be consumed by another’s flame.

But then I pause. We are not all made for that. Perhaps it is my lot in life to travel in search of my illusions. Perhaps all these are, are delusions and I am wandering the earth in search of this elusive thing. This need. This always wanting more beyond what anyone is able/wants to give. I keep thinking it is not possible that there is only one of me. That only I want for so much more.

My first gf told me I would never be satisfied. I was angry and I set out to disprove the theory. That curse I feel she uttered, but sometimes I think what if she is right? That, that is the truth. What if some of us are just wanderers? One of my all time favorite movies is Chocolat for the very reason that Juliette Binoche (can I marry her in my next life?) is a wanderer and goes where the wind blows until she falls in love. At once a hopeless romantic and a fierce feminist, I first rejoice for her and in the next heartbeat chastise her for giving in.

Can I have my cake and eat it too? Is it possible to gather moss, create a home, and still wander? I’ve always known, and now more than ever, at 42, I know it even more acutely: it will take an equally adventurous spirit and lover of wandering or a very stable confident woman who doesn’t mind my wandering to consume this moth. The question is how do I discern this? How do I know when I’ve met my flame? I’ve had near collisions, too many to think there is only one flame for me, but also too collision-worthy to doubt their validity. I’m a firm believer in reason, season, and a lifetime and in how everything is an addition to my development and contributes to my experience of defining and refining self and how this self interacts with others.¬† Is that ultimate, all-consuming flame in my life currently, or is it yet to come, or will I never find it?

Damn, the life of the mind! Damn the peril of a humanities education.

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