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A Gospel of Living

If I say, Follow your yearnings, that seems cliché, but it isn’t. It is a sermon, though maybe a bit crude. And it has a particularly potent meaning for us. Because at the core of American racism is the belief that the things we the Blacks desire, the fact that we the Blacks desire, are perversions, either because we get too big for our britches or because our britches are too styled and tattered at once.

Desire is such a beautiful and mysterious thing. It is dangerous too. It coils around the world as it is. We are often driven by what we are told is the source of our loneliness, our feelings of inadequacy, our suffering. And the desire that grows can become a terrible distortion of the truth, a misunderstanding of our needs. We are also, however, driven by a yearning to be seen and understood. Sometimes that yearning is so strong we allow ourselves to be eaten up by it, by those who would exploit it. But at other times, the good times, it is what makes us leave here having done something of value.

Take the time to strip yourself down to the core, to the simplest of joys. What if you dream your life but remove all money moves, all contingent material fantasies? And just fill it with connection, grace, and rituals? How would it be? What would it look like? That isn’t an ascetic's dream so much as it is a gospel of living in the along. It is a ritual of reorientation, a steadying, a sense of grace. It might not be enough, but it is something. And the fact is, if you get desire right, you will probably get love right too.

 

from Breathe: A Letter to My Sons (pp. 146-147)

About the Author

Imani Perry

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she also teaches in the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, and in Gender and Sexuality Studies....

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