We live in a world where families are displaced, homeless children stand on corners, lifeless ones are washed ashore, and a dark history repeats itself. A world where "home" is a word that cannot be defined for many, although they give their lives in trying to do so. Where the innocent are assaulted, persecuted, and killed because all men and women are still not seen as equal. Where the caring of our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters is seen as a burden upon the state, fathers are absent, and single mothers wish that they could give more to their children. Where slavery, murder, and rape exists, and the evil ones who defile these victims are acquitted.
We live in a world where the value of life is compromised by the love of money and power. Where those who hold high seats ignore their oath to serve the People, and instead, choose to serve themselves. Where values are willingly replaced with fame, where children are continuously exposed to the messages and images that impair their self-love and sow the seeds of materialism, and where there is a void that is so great, that death is sometimes perceived as a better option than Life. We live in a world where hate spreads like cancer, and cancer just won’t die. In a world where this hate continues fighting, even though it knows that Love will win.
My heart can hardly bear it. For my own good and sanity, I continue searching for beauty and reason, wherever they may lie, squinting to blur out the darkness when my eyes have had enough. As difficult as this life is, as often as it plays the antagonist, as unfair as it may seem at times, it is still the greatest gift of all. I did not earn this life; I did not earn myself to be born. This life was given to me, and there is still beauty here. Amidst the anguish and despair, beauty indeed lives here still. With us. And inside of us. And all this suffering – Oh, this suffering – it, too, has a way of revealing just how much love lives within us – this heavy-on-the-bones, heart-scarring, chest-swelling, fist-clenching love that we feel for others when we witness their immense distress because we have known and we can remember for ourselves.
With these dark events that cloud our reality, I ask myself, How appropriate is it for me to claim my own time to make art? How appropriate is it for me to allow myself to be swept up in the whirlwind of my “struggle” in resolving a painting, the “stress” in preparing for a show? How appropriate is it for me to be funneled into the rush of the NBA Championships? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not only appropriate, but even necessary, because these kinds of activities keep the idea of potential in our eye line. In taking part, we keep this optimism alive, in the Spirit of humanity and in all that is possible.
Creativity is the practice of seeing the potential in something, in anything. It is believing that there is a way to make things better, and taking part in the process of making it happen. It’s the outward working of an inward faith toward a chance that there is something greater taking shape, and trusting that this Faith, as verb and as noun, will endure. It’s the voice that reminds us, “There is something important happening here, and I have not walked through this fire in vain.” It’s making beauty, and putting more of it out there in a world whose darkness can shroud the abundant beauty that is here for us to see, and feel, to absorb, and to remember. As our dear friend Brother Jesus Hernandez said:
The artist has the imagination to create a better world
and then to escape to it.
And might I add, “… and invite others to escape with them.” Creativity is the proof that potential and optimism are alive and well. And this is surely something this world needs more of, wouldn't you agree?
(How about, like, 11 of them?)
This is equally as important. At a time when gentrification continues displacing communities, families, and artists throughout the Bay Area and beyond, the heart of the Golden State Warriors activates a spirit within us that reminds us that we are capable, resilient, and that we can find our strength in our fight, and in our numbers.
[Note: The Warriors took home the 2015 Championship, but before then, it hadn’t been since the spring of 1975, when they swept Washington in the Finals. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Vietnamese families are swept out to sea. They fight for survival, fleeing from a communist Vietnam, with the hope of drifting toward freedom.]
The Golden State Warriors are among the remarkable community-oriented, socially-active leaders of our San Francisco Bay Area, and have been put in a position to elevate the community at large. Some of us watched as they fought back to win from a 23-point first-half deficit. We watched when our MVP returned from a knee injury, only to grow hungrier, and score 40 points on his first game back. We witnessed their coronation as the Western Conference Champions, marching them into the Finals by the sweat of their brows and the fire in their bellies.
But we also watched with heavy hearts while some of the Warriors’ confidence wavered, causing hesitation and panic which resulted in a several losses. I sat on the edge of the couch, with my hand on a swollen heart, quietly repeating to Steph and his teammates:
Just remember who you are.
It is just that simple. But not so simple after all.
I thought, if they could just remember who they are, they could find their rhythm again. That’s the thing about excellence. It is so grand, that it sometimes has a way of taking on this role of being superhuman, so that mistakes somehow become intolerable to us. But this divine excellence is also contained in part within humanity, and we are all but perfect. If we could just brush off the dirt from our glistening shoulders with our scathed palms, and remember who we are at the core, revisit that which we know to do, recount the inherent gifts that we’ve been given, and recall this Will that will set it all in motion to take us where we hope to go, this is all we need to know.
Just remember who you are.
It’s the coming together as a team to defend something worth defending. It’s the grasping onto potential and claiming it as our own. It’s the way these Warriors light up that court with the fire that spreads through the Spirit of the People, and with the confidence that a long-awaited change is coming. It’s witnessing their fight, and fighting alongside them, whether on or off the court. This stirs up that Warrior fight within us, transcending the arena and weaves its way into our lives, reminding us that we can and that we will. We all have been downtrodden by naysayers (both the haters who surround us, and those pesky discouraging voices from within), who will strive to fuel that self-doubt, and continue to poke and prod and test our Will. And this is when we learn what we are made of. And whether we are made of mud, Klay, or iron, there is still space to grow into more. There is a potential to be realized here.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson now reign as the cornerstones of the Golden State Warriors, but not long ago, before splashing into the league, their potential was questioned by many, and neither of them were highly touted. Could this be where the fight is born? When we are compelled to prove to ourselves that we are good enough, and that we deserve more? When we also feel the need to make a statement to both those who unjustifiably crown themselves as judges over us, and to the ones who have marched faithfully with us all along?
The highly inspirational triumphant tales of the true underdog ignite a flare within us, and this is enough to give me permission to be enraptured by the NBA Finals. The Warriors lead this fight on their battlegrounds in our belovèd Oakland, California, who stands firm. Even as an underdog in her own right, she fights beside her bretheren and sistren cities all across the globe who have grown fatigued from the racism, violence, hatred, and poverty that they face in their neighborhoods. By bearing witness to the success that has come from these whose capabilities were once heavily debated, we are reminded that there exists an opportunity to fight the worthy fight.
The world can be a wearisome place, but if we can just learn to believe in this significant fight wholeheartedly, through hope and habit, we will see that here in the center of this tempest lives the potential, possibility, and strength that has been waiting for this moment to burst forth.
Making Promises from Potential.
There is a beauty in the way that talent and will has opened that window for so many, even if just by a sliver, to offer a new space in which we can use these gifts to begin building something new, necessary, and beautiful. This will that finds fulfillment in the work itself, and scans the horizon for the open meandering roads that it may lead to.
There are stories of exceptional young athletes, and many of their stories, though few heard, have pressed heavily upon us, leaving deep imprints that only an unyielding strength can leave. Some of these athletes came from a destitute life of bitter struggle. For some, their sense of home is whittled down to a place to sleep, after the chaos of day has simmered, and the coming of night often does not guarantee quiet, but instead, brings about another fight for survival. Some of them help raise their younger siblings out of the motels that they call home. Some have mothers who wander the streets as addicts and prostitutes, broken women who are unable to cope with the reality that the fathers of their children have been sentenced to a life in prison (some guilty, and some innocent, made guilty by a flawed system). And yet, these young ones continue fighting because faith tells them that life can be better. These are among our true Warriors - the youth who have sprouted hastily into men and women because Life needed them to become the strong oaks that they are.
Many of these children are children of color, having been driven from home to home, heaving from the cold, contrary winds, from abuse, and from a broken system that cannot adequately assist them. Because they suffer from such strenuous home lives, most of them have learning disabilities and have a difficult time focusing, which results in their significant troubles in school. (Why would math homework even be a priority, when Sister is hungry and crying because Mother has gone missing again?) Although some possess the utmost inherent athletic ability and character, they grapple with the handsome challenge of proving to universities nationwide that they deserve a higher education and a spot on the roster. Out of this trial, we witness a different kind of fight being born - an extension of the fight they've come to know so well ...
This resplendent, astounding fight.
This pressure that refines them into the diamonds they were born to be.
*The word diamond derives from the ancient Greek ἀδάμας – adámas, which means “unbreakable”.
For most of their lives, these youth have fought for survival, sustenance, and safety, and now they have stepped up and through a threshold that offers them an education, a chance to live life on their own accord, and some space to build a better life for themselves and for their loved ones. We’ve witnessed their confidence thicken, ushering them into manhood, as they take the necessary steps to reinforce the tenacity that had them dominating the field to begin with.
Would these individuals have fought with the same persistence and heart had they not endured the kinds of trials they've faced? My guess is “no”.
These struggles, although hardly welcomed, are necessary in building the character that tenderizes the Compassion within us, this Love that can sometimes be hardened by the horrifying condition of the world. These overbearing internal, external, socio-political, economical, physical, emotional wars are all too real, and it is this need to create that helps align our spines to keep us moving forward with the hope.
Creativity has a way of bringing the community together with a shared agenda, with our eyes fixed on a simple and important goal – to triumph in materializing our ideas and desires, one iota at a time, into our reality. It offers another solution, another way of thinking, another path, another life to those whose Will will take them there. Its reason is long-lasting. Its hopes are to bring those intangible dreams to matter and to enlighten a dark world with a beauty and intelligence that lies within us.
Whether it be creating a greater sense of self-worth or community and team-mentality, creating a home, creating a family, creating a future, creating more healing and progression, creating art, or creating peace, this act of creating is our promise to being proactive in crystalizing this optimism into a substance that adds beauty, worth, and fulfillment to this life, even if to just make it more bearable.
Ride on, Warriors.
We are nearly there.