The Things Our Roots Hold Onto
In the second grade, we learned about why our salvation was tied to the grace and mercy of god. To illustrate this point our teacher shared with the class a fable in picture book form. The fable used seeds as a metaphor for people and focused on all the tragedies that can befall flowers before they bloom. Seeds being buried too shallow and too deep. Seeds that were over watered and denied sunlight. The fable argued only with optimal conditions would flowers grow to be healthy, strong, and beautiful. Such is a life committed to god’s grace and mercy. You too could sprout, stand tall, and bloom fully. Blooming was not the end since you understood and felt god’s grace in your heart, you too could spread your seeds. Your knowledge of god’s grace and mercy shared with others so they too may bloom.
I heard this story when I was seven and it failed to connect. I did not believe. After all, what good is a story about a faceless god to a kid who never believed in Santa. I knew then flowers do not choose where they get buried. They cannot verbalize, can I have more water. They cannot demand to be moved into sunlight. Flowers can fight but they cannot arm themselves with human words. If I listened to rap back then I would like to think I would have asked, but what about when Pac says, Only god can judge me.
At seven, the only part of the fable I forged a connection with was the seeds tossed into the wind. The seeds found themselves in all manner of spaces, forced to survive in harsh conditions. These people, the fable argued, were people whose god’s grace and mercy was not eternal but a fad. Because of this they will go through life tumbling through weeds reaching and failing to find anything as fulfilling as god. But is not god’s grace and mercy eternal, how many eternities are needed to feel fulfilled.
I wonder is grace present when I am asked, what are you. I wonder is it mercy when my friends state a girl would not date a guy because he is Asian in front of me? Is it graceful of me to buy into the idea of a country that has never wanted me, is this mercy? Whose god decided I would internalize these things in motion, with a nod and smile? Is this grace because it feels more like a joke. Stop me if you have heard this one before, if I let enough things slide, I might be able to slide through the doors of whiteness and finally be embraced for all the things I am not. I discard everything I have inherited from my blood and now grip shame, guilt, and unworthiness. And god must call this bit: assimilation. Is this what they mean by the last place to decolonize is the mind.
Nobody wants to be the flower that never blooms, the one whose growth is stunted, or becomes too unwieldy, and lost in the wind. We want to be the heroes of our stories. I have spent my entire life attempting to find these stories. I have transported myself through pages, screens, and stages, to Gotham, Hyperbolic Time Chambers, Jedi Temples, and Hogwarts. Unlike the flowers fable, I not only found stories to captivate me but stories whose central theme wondered what good is agency and choice in the distorted light of prophecy and destiny. Stories are glimpses of different imagines of who I could be. It is up to me to take these imagines and walk through the doors separating who I am and who I can be. I do not have to walk through these doors, I can run. I am allowed to stumble, to take my time. To find my wit, heart, and voice. Like a Luminary putting courage in my heart and holding lightning in my hand searching for the opportunity to make mistakes on my own terms.
I wish to let go of the flower fable because the shame, guilt, and unworthiness was never mine to carry. Conditioning me to carry it is an elaborate magic trick played over centuries to bodies that resemble mine. Letting go of it, letting go of it, letting go of it. I am still learning the spells.
I am not seasoned with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I am a cultivation of Iverson, Kay, Coates, and Huang. I am of the new school and through them and countless other stories I know no matter where you are buried, goodness is not something you are, it is something you do.
Gardens and books are not so different. Both involve tremendous amounts of time, patience, and restraint. At the end of the process, it is something you can hold in your hand, and hopefully something to be proud of. Even if the distance between the vision in your head and what is held in your hands is a wide mouth. Blank spaces daring you to improve upon them. They even have the audacity to tell you that you have everything you will ever need to do so. And yet, if we do not stare into the unknown, how are we ever supposed to realize we are alchemy all unto ourselves.