“The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through. Most people had not lived — nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died– through any of their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain. The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not had had ever, really, been present at his life.”
― James Baldwin, Another Country
Hey writers and book lovers, if you want to be inspired, just go take a look at the best-seller list from August 19th 1962. William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Phillip Roth, Katherine Ann Porter, Irving Stone and this guy, James Baldwin, all populated the New York Times list. Nary a 50 Shades of whatever or trashy novel from a reality star in sight. Oh the good old days. Except 1962 wouldn’t be considered the good old days, I suppose. That year race riots continued across the country, Marilyn Monroe died and the Cuban missile crisis was in full swing.
So thank God for poetic troublemakers like James Baldwin. His book Another Country was a bestseller 50 years ago and for a black gay author in the early 1960’s that was groundbreaking indeed. Another Country, like most of Baldwin’s work grappled with tough issues like sexuality, equality and suicide. Baldwin spent most of his life in Europe after feeling disenchanted by the racism and homophobia in the US. But continued to champion other writers and artists and collaborated with the likes of genius photographer Richard Avedon, cultural anthropologist Margret Mead and poet Nikki Giovanni.
There’s a lot to take away from Baldwin, his works and his life. His legacy and artistry are a never-ending source of inspiration. So the quote from Another Country seems like a good thing to meditate on today. As a recovering addict, being present for my own life is an ongoing challenge and a good thing to strive for on a Monday. Also, I want to embrace Baldwin’s collaborative spirit today. Adding to a creative project rather than dominating it is another great ideal to work towards today.
That’s enough out of me, kids. Enjoy your Monday. May it be an inspiring and collaborative one!