Every time I think about the shocking ways of the world, especially living in a Black body, I immediately remind myself of all that is beautiful, too. This is not a cancellation of my pain over the senseless murders of Black people like me over centuries and currently, in the United States and abroad. Instead, it is a spiritual reawakening that reminds me of my mortality. None of us will survive the test of time. As a result, what we choose to do with our time says a lot about our humanity and integrity.
Integrity is a heavy word, pushing us to face ourselves in the face of daily temptations. There is a belief that to claim one’s integrity is equivalent to claiming purity. However, that is not the case at all. To have integrity essentially means to genuinely love yourself for who you are, while sustaining radical honesty (for better or worse) with those you form relationships with. These relationships are not meant to privilege hierarchy. In other words, we tend to have more fidelity towards those with whom we share a familial and ancestral bond. However, it is no secret that families are developed and in fact sustained by so-called outsiders. What if we were to develop and sustain an ethic of radical honesty towards everyone we have met and will meet? How would that alter the flow of humanity where family and racial hierarchies currently dictate social class, opportunity and generational privilege?
Over the past 15 years, I have developed a radical consciousness that began with these questions I am currently posing to you. I wondered, how my own life would change, if I had the courage to be honest even when it did not particularly benefit me. I quickly learned that I lost friends and created tension in my marriage as I practiced telling the truth to encourage a daily practice of growth and healing. Choosing to heal is a journey. It will push you upwards into your spiritual (re)awakening while oftentimes pushing others out. Some of the individuals who will be pushed out as you embark on your healing journey may be friends, lovers, family members, business partners and colleagues. You will feel lost at first as they leave you one by one. But then, one day, you will suddenly feel free and you will realize that this could have only happened with your radical acceptance of change in your life.
A radical consciousness requires you to step outside of your comfort zone in order to develop a deeper understanding of who you are. Are you challenging yourself to have difficult conversations with family members and friends about things they do that may bother you? Are you being honest in your relationships with colleagues or are you just trying to get ahead? Are you teaching yourself new things by taking new courses or embarking on new adventures? The only way to develop a radical consciousness is through stepping outside of the things we think we know and in the words of the late great Toni Morrison, “making the familiar strange.” Let me give you an example. Have you ever watched a child play with the same toy for months? Have you ever wondered how they do this or why they do not seem to get bored of this one toy? My son has a Buzz Lightyear toy that he plays with incessantly. Every day, him and Buzz have a new journey together. Every day when my son looks at Buzz he sees something that was not there before, leading him to create new and creative scenarios in his room. As I watch his creative and solo play, I am always inspired by his ability to go back to the same toy daily and find joy. And this is the ultimate definition of a radical consciousness: finding joy and peace in the seemingly mundane.
When we are able to create our own acts of joy regardless of what is going on around us, it signifies a deeper understanding of self that is connected to a critical consciousness. Similar to the ocean, our lives will have high and low tides, good and bad days, tears and smiles. How we react to these inevitable life experiences with the understanding that our time is limited will have a great impact on our ability to develop and sustain our radical consciousness.