I've long observed that when it comes to the people I encounter in my life there are usually three (not six!) degrees of separation. Still, I did a double take when I saw this configuration of speakers on the registration page of The Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit. I've never met Dr. Villoldo, but we have previously appeared side-by-side. Sorta.
This morning I happily drove to pick up copies of The New York Times featuring an article about Amandla’s friendship with fellow actor Rowan Blanchard. Ahead of me was a very large man – in height and girth – who purchased half a dozen magazines.
“Would you like a bag with that?” asked the newsstand man.
“No, thanks,” replied the customer.
I placed my five hefty issues of the Sunday Times on the counter and handed him my credit card. He rang up my purchase. Silence. “May I have a bag please?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, reaching for a white plastic bag behind him and placing the papers inside.
I immediately launched into my default way of being and interacting in the world, a tactic I think I learned, perhaps unconsciously, from my mother. I engaged him.
1. Heading out the door to Agape the last Sunday in February aka Black History Month.
2. The inspiration for the jewelry? This Spanish-language film. “Watch!" said Spirit as I channel-surfed two days earlier. I noticed the actress was wearing traditional Mexican earrings and remembered I own a pair. Ah! #godismystyleguru
This excerpt from Sacred Landscapes of the Soul resonates with me right now.
Remembering moments like this one from May of last year. Amandla and I stopped outside of her fabulous loft apartment in Paris' 11th arrondissement to drink in the evening. I arrived from L.A. for a week, having been charged with ferrying Kumo the cat across the Atlantic. One year later I've just finished watching the result of Amandla's six-month rendezvous with Paris—the eight-part Netflix series, The Eddy. It’s a soul-stirring, cinematic marvel, and a poignant deep-dive into the lives of some riveting characters, including troubled Julie, played by Amandla. She is "scintillating" in the role, possesses an "arresting presence," and delivers a "scene-stealing performance," reviewers say. Plus there's this appreciation by Amy Taupin in Artforum and this gorgeous Emmy magazine cover. I may just have to stream it again.
On Facebook I follow the group "The Golden Age of Illustrations," along with some 148,000 others. The images are lush, gorgeous, brilliant. This one stopped me in my tracks. A naked black woman. And is that Jesus? The post explained that the illustration, by John Farleigh, appears in the 1933 book, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. The author? One Bernard Shaw. As in George the playwright.
It's nearly impossible to find images of black people in this feed. The men, women and children are usually pink and rosy-cheeked. I immediately clicked "Like" when I came across a cartoon by E. Simms Campbell, an African-American artist whose works were the first to appear in popular national publications, including Life magazine in 1931, and created Esquire's wide-eyed mascot, Esky.
I wanted to know more. So I did what any other self-respecting arbiter of instantaneous gratification in the 21st century would do.
This painting’s genesis lies in the mystical. I was attending a retreat conducted by the abstract surrealist artist Rassouli, whom I first met in a course he taught at Agape, “Painting with Spirit,” in 2006. My participation in the class itself was the outcome of a long and hard negotiation I had the temerity to make with God.
I felt a strong call (I am being gentle here, it was actually a forceful push) to enroll in an introductory spiritual principles course at Agape. The only thing is, I didn’t want to.
I like to make stuff...and think about stuff.