Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Morpheus, Neo and Believing

Several years ago I was invited by one of the Associate Vice Chancellors of the University System of Georgia to address a group of graduating college seniors who were interested in attending graduate school. I spoke about the discipline involved in succeeding in graduate school, but more importantly the need that the country and the world have for talented people. Human suffering at the moment is so rampant that it will require an extraordinary collection of skills to help alleviate it.

The Associate thought that my message was fantastic and that it was important for the students to listen to it from the voice and mind of a young man. He embraced me long and hard and said that he had every faith that I would become a significant force for good and an important public intellectual. I took that in stride and appreciated his kind words. Since then, whenever we reconnect he says the same thing. He says it so much and with such conviction that at times I say to myself, “C’mon man, ease up.”

Recently, I have been battling through a crisis of confidence – a fractured belief in my ability to matter, to influence people and things that I care deeply about. At the bottom of the valley of that crisis, an almost divine combination of opportunities presented themselves to speak publicly on the very issues about which I was struggling. Part of the serendipity of those opportunities, is that they resulted in another meeting with the Associate.

He is a short, hard edged black man, former college president and generally high ranking academic official. I explained to him what had been happening. He looked at me so hard that it hurt. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Kamau, you are it. You have the combination of vision, the analytical skills, the honesty and a remarkable ability to communicate with people.” He was speaking in a soft gruff voice, and it seemed that he was willing me to believe in myself. I blinked as the emotions surged. I felt like Neo must have felt in the face of Morpheus’ all consuming faith in him.

I have always believed that mentorship and cheerleading are important. When I can, I try to serve in those capacities just because it is my way and I generally believe in the capacity of people. It is clearer to me now, however, that in order to really be Morpheus, I have to be Neo. The experience of having a relative stranger believe in you so fiercely is incredible. The Associate said that he owes me because I’ve helped him to keep hoping and to keep believing. His belief in me is somehow loosely tied to his belief in himself and his mission. Listening to him and grappling with how what he said made me feel was an awesome experience. The timing and the setting created the drama, but it helped me better appreciate the tremendous significance of playing his role – of holding a young person, believing in them, telling them that you do and making them understand the force of your belief.



NikkiJ said...


Since finding your blog, I've enjoyed reading it, but sometimes, I must admit that it's like reading the book of Ecclesiastes (the New International Version). Read your last post, man! You are not them, and I thank you for it.

It's just that Satan uses his agents, Insert Names Here, to shroud our intellect and chip at our self esteem by putting those young black men in lime lite. You don't have to try to save the human race like Neo, you just gotta keep being you (my uncle used to say keep on keeping on). I used to feel like the biggest f@#$ up until one day my cousin wrote me from rehab telling me how much she admired me. Wow, I said, how many other people have I affected.

Also, for some instant gratification, as a proud, proud, proud mother, I believe that the evidence of your convictions can often be found in ones offspring. Most of the time they don't get smart that way on their own.

kamau said...

i have to go and read the book of ecclesiates to fully get the analogy, but i get the point. many thanks. saving the human race is a bit grandiose no doubt, but having a positive influence beyond my own foot prints is a reasonable aspiration. in the meantime, you raise a good point...ole girl is growing strong, smiling all the time and is madd smart so things are going well.

luvlife0702 said...

no grandiosity needed. it's about waking up each day and doing what you do to the best of your ability and it all falls into place.

and what more you gotta do: all your talking to young folks and being positivity in the face of the darkness that seems to hang over much of afroamerique and even writing a damn blog to keep folks on their toes. you've always been "impact" but god knows we dont need no more MEDs (u know of whom i speak) or Jesse or whoever. they are great influences, no doubt but it's guerrila warfare time now. and it aint about the talkin it's the walkin. and so far your gait seems rather upright and quick.

should the poet or songwriter, whether they be shakespeare or Jill Scott, wake up with the enormity of what may come of their work, they may simply stay in bed. but they do what poets and songwriters do: they write. And when they write they do it as if their very life depended on it because for some of us that's what it feels like.

but here's the cool part: if it's your passion, then it's all good. crises of identity, worth and power come about when we are doing what we really don't want to be doing or someone has made us believe that we are not "the shit". been there. and you have been my toilet of sorts (love this analogy but it works;-). you remind me that yes, I am "hot shit"!

don't know if you saw Oprah with bra' Cosby. But i loved it. it was straightforward 'black folks at the bbq talk'. nothing new but just saying what needed to be said.

and the world needs a bunch of oracles out here speaking what may seem to us to be obviousness but by golly gee whiz, some folks ain't heard jack shit so keep on writin and a talkin and since i've been trying to tell you since 1994 that you are the bomb and you keep trying to convince me of your reglaness, i would just like to thank that short brown man for taking over where i left off.

ask him if he can talk to my sister while he's at it, her mentor and surrogate father Asa Hilliard just died and he was chief cook and bottle washer for her cheerleading team.

and ain't one of us dont need a whole lotta cheerin jsut to get up in the morning (no matter how sunny).

I love you. much peace my likkle b.