Every great work is crafted through a long dialogue within loneliness, and through the acceptance of our aloneness our work helps people understand their position in the world. Lorraine Hansberry, simple, eloquent and committed to purposeful writing, says, “Write the best one can about whatever agitates one and try to strike art.” Lorraine’s writing was devoted to pulling the curtain that hid our complexity from our eyes, and revealing the depth beneath; Lorraine claimed, a master of creatively distilling intellectual ideas about the conundrums of man’s existence that art was a weapon and the nation, whether it could admit it or not, needed to reveal the truth about itself. Accepting that every man is beyond ordinary. She spoke with much passion about the purpose of writing–she says:
“Write the best one can about whatever matter agitates one and try to strike art. Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be—if there is to be a world. Write about all the things that men have written about since the beginning of writing and talking—but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it. Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. Don’t pass it up. Use it. Good luck to you. The Nation needs your gifts”
In order to complete any creative endeavor one must find a way to deal–through walking, sitting, close his eyes– with aloneness; a healthy relationship with loneliness is preventing barricades from being placed between ourselves and the eternal silence. One must learn to remove the voices of critics, friends, family, and the fears stunting creation, and accomplish the task that has been placed at our doorstep. Aloneness must be accepted, not avoided, and hopefully, one can only pray, that the veil lifts and our doubts become opportunities, and those spontaneous bouts of questioning our worthiness become embraced. For we are flesh and bone, we are breathe and soul; we require more than living behind the words of other men.
The writer, every artist, hunches over a desk, paces around touching every part of the apartment, cleaning countertops, and wiping dead bugs from the walls attempting to chisel away at the void to discover meaning. However, there are moments when the feeling of divinity is lost and we question the necessity of us being on the planet; we have lost all images of beauty, and become ravaged by anxiety and depression, and we find Lorraine, at her typewriter on the eve of Easter, dealing with the devastating effects of loneliness. She, like many of us, attempts to deal with it by hoping that the future will justify today’s pain–she says:
“I am ashamed of being alone. Or is it my loneliness that I am ashamed of? I have closed the shutters so that no one can see. Me. Alone. Sitting at the typewriter on Easter eve; brooding; alone. Upstairs I will keep the drapes drawn. No one must know these hurts. Why? I shall wash my hair. It is helping my skin. I shall be beautiful this time next year: long hair and clear skin. And I shall still be lonely. On Easter eve. At the typewriter….”
While in the act of creating one cannot overlook the importance of meaningful bonds; our loneliness, and the shame that often comes, can trap us in the house, prevent us from making love, and even discourage us from nurturing relationships. Shouting statements like “These folks aint on what I’m on.” or “You gotta know my suffering to understand me.” or “I don’t do shallow talk.” or “No one sees what I see, hears what I hear, knows what I know.” or “No one can relate to my degree of spiritual warfare and spiritual burden.” I have watched many people, especially artists and spiritualists, trap themselves in the illusion that our gifts isolate us; Lorraine was not an exception to this way of thinking. I am under the impression that our suffering reveals our connection to the world, as James Baldwin said, “You go through life for a long time thinking, No one has ever suffered the way I’ve suffered, my God, my God. And then you realize— You read something or you hear something, and you realize that your suffering does not isolate you; your suffering is your bridge. Many people have suffered before you, many people are suffering around you and always will, and all you can do is bring, hopefully, a little light into that suffering. Enough light so that the person who is suffering can begin to comprehend his suffering and begin to live with it and begin to change it, change the situation.” Lorraine, however, believed her greatness was the cause of her loneliness saying:
“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”
Each of us contains the same atoms as every star, moon, and planet; every aspect of our existence connects us to the world around us. Every shame, fear, thought, and desire is intimately entwined with the life of every human being on the planet. The recognition and articulation of this depth is the writer’s responsibility; Lorraine Hansberry believed in this way of looking at the individual by saying:
“Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be—if there is to be a world. Write about all the things that men have written about since the beginning of writing and talking—but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it. Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. Use it. The most ordinary human being is capable of the most profundity. I happen to believe that most people – and this is where I differ from many of my contemporaries, or at least as they express themselves – I think that virtually every human being is dramatically interesting. Not only is he dramatically interesting, he is a creature of stature whoever he is. “
To Be Young, Gifted and Black presents the complexity of black life in the 1960’s, reading anyone from the 60s reminds me so intimately of the issues being faced today–Black nationalism, Success, Assumptions, Beauty, and the universal concerns of man. This book asks us to confront the complexity of living life as a human being; I recommend To Be Young, Gifted and Black becoming apart of everyone’s library.