the weight of pretending pure

[An excerpt, a conversation, from a novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates about memory, connection and the heart of the Underground (Railroad)]:

“We can’t ever have nothing pure,” Robert said. “It’s always out of sorts. Them stories with their knights and maidens, none of that for us. We don’t get it pure. We don’t get nothing clean.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But neither do they. It is quite a thing, a messy dirty thing, to put your own son, your own daughter, to the Task.* Way I see it, ain’t no pure and it is we who are blessed, for we know this.”

” Blessed, huh?”

“Blessed, for we do not bear the weight of pretending pure. I will say that it has taken some time for me to get to that. Had to lose some folk and truly understand what that loss mean. But having been down, and having seen my share of those who are up, I tell you, Robert Ross, I would live down here among my losses, among the muck and mess of it, before I would ever live among those who are in their own kind of muck, but are so blinded by it they fancy it pure. Ain’t no pure, Robert. Ain’t no clean.”

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer

*Refers to owners who gave their own children, born to enslaved mothers, into slavery.

blessed are the confused

[a helpful re-interpretation if we set aside the irony of how certainly Peck states this idea]:

When Jesus gave his big sermon, the first words out of his mouth were: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” There are a number of ways to translate “poor in spirit,” but on an intellectual level, the best translation is “confused.”

Blessed are the confused. If you ask why Jesus might have said that, then I must point out to you that confusion leads to a search for clarification and with that search comes a great deal of learning. For an old idea to die and a new and better idea to take place, we have to go through periods of confusion. It is uncomfortable, sometimes painful to be in such periods. Nonetheless it is blessed because when we are in them, we are open to the new, we are looking, we are growing.

And so it is that Jesus said, “Blessed are the confused.” Virtually all of the evil in this world is committed by people who are absolutely certain they know what they’re doing. It is not committed by people who think of themselves as confused. It is not committed by the poor in spirit.

– M. Scott Peck, Further Along the Road Less Traveled