Wednesday, August 16, 2017

“The burden is reality”

James Baldwin on what makes achieving a revolution different from overthrowing a dictator or repelling an invader:

Time and time and time again, the people discover that they have merely betrayed themselves into the hands of yet another Pharaoh, who, since he was necessary to put the broken country together, will not let them go. Perhaps, people being the conundrums that they are, and having so little desire to shoulder the burden of their lives, this is what will always happen. But at the bottom of my heart I do not believe this. I think that people can be better than that, and I know that people can be better than they are. We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.

“Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind,” in The Fire Next Time (1963).
I started this post planning to quote a passage from this book about why life is tragic, but I see that I already did so in a 2006 post.

comments: 3

The Crow said...

This quote is more apropos our current situation, though, don't you think? Well, I do, anyway. Thanks for this, Michael.

Michael Leddy said...

In the other passage, the catalogue of “totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations” stood out. I think they both fit, but this one matches Eleanor Roosevelt better.

It’s a strange time to have read The Fire Next Time. Not enough has changed since then.

Fresca said...

I appreciate these realistic perspectives (of JB & ER)---thanks.