Very few living intellectuals have the ability to inspire away the misanthrope in me that believes humanity is doomed: destined to hate each other; destined to desire and want until we kill for that thing we don’t have but that our neighbors’ do; destined to fall into a funk that’s so deep and so wide, dark and immoral that no light can penetrate it. Cornel West is one such intellectual that knows the meaning of the word “hope,” and his word resonate with me.
Listening to the West’s interview with Travis Smiley, included on a CD that comes with the book, his words moved me to tears while waiting for the buss downtown today. The combination of West’s ideas about race, what it means to be a poet and artist, and his moments of spoken word, all combined with sexy Jazz and Blues was phenomenal.
West is a living national treasure. His book, “Hope on a Tightrope,” is a small collection of his thoughts. The book is formatted self-help style, a small fat square that one might had off to a high school or college graduate, but don’t let that stop you. The book is filled with koan-like truths about the human struggle to find and hold on to the precious idea of hope.
Hope is a word that has been tossed around a lot in the last few years. Hope is an idea that cam mobilize people to accomplish great things in the short term, but can also have an opposite effect over time, great highs can produce awful lows, and that is the hope-balancing act that we must walk. We must let hope take us high, but we must also resist the lows that come failure, in action, or stagnation, or worse – indifference.
West’s interview made me hunger for a community of thinkers; thinkers that one day will become doers, making a leap to become public intellectuals – poet-warriors, writer-rebels, and artist-insurgents. In the next few weeks, I will be looking for people who are interested in writing that would like to partake in thinking, reading, writing, and action. I have a few people in mind, so beware, I might just be in contact with you soon.