Friday, September 23, 2011

Clear Channel

Autopilot: OFF

So, it’s Friday; on the schedule it’s the day to publish my blog. (Actually, it’s Thursday and since last night I’ve been thinking about this subject.) We are certainly taught the power of sameness or another expression for it, discipline. In a society with roads that should be smooth, cars that are mass-produced and income in the form of direct deposit to our bank accounts (less we should delay depositing the money in the bank and have auto-payments bouncing all over the place), we have learned to stress over something else. Mind you, this is not an “anti-machine” or “down with the establishment” blog. There are experts who are ready to topple the constructs of our lives. I for one, aint one of them!

One of the things I’m learning is that for me, those many years of feeling “different” wasn’t just some crazy kid, trying to be different. No, I am unique. I may not look it to my drawers exposing young folks, to my corporate button-ups, or my grunge, ripped flannel shirt wearing artist compadres, but I am. Sit with me for a while, listen to my perspective; you would find many similarities. Then again, you’ll probably hear thoughts that would make you want to rip my head off. Guess what? I’m different.

I was on a good path, in my young adult years, before I heard the siren song of “sameness.” I boldly declared, “I’m going to college and I’m going to be an artist,” when paying tuition was more than a notion! I filled out an application for a scholarship that didn’t mean much at the time – and I got it. Went to school without paying tuition four years and completed on time. But again, siren song of sameness, the back-up plan or “Plan B” begins to ring in my ear. Everything from “Black folks don’t act like that,” to “I don’t know any Black people who are artists,” was said. And I slowly started to agree. I was kicking and screaming my way into a seat where the “machine” controls the altitude and speed at which I fly.

It is a comfortable place to be, where you know what your income will be. As part of our instruction, we have been taught to work for a “good company,” earn “good money,” and “live in a house in a nice neighborhood” – at least that’s what I was taught. And I did exactly that and in that order. I got the job, the money and the house. Autopilot living. And yet, there was always this nagging since of “something else.” I even accepted and announced my calling to preach and served faithfully in my church. But even that didn’t satisfy that gnawing feeling, that sense that there was something more that needed to be done. For many years, I just assumed it was a sense that would never be satisfied. On more than one occasion, I cried out to the clouds: “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” as I tried to respond to this sense.

I’m sitting here, writing – I love to write. In a while, I’ll make or take a call from a family member or friend, looking for advice or merely for someone to hear them – I love to advise. But then I’ll sit in front of a large sheet of paper or a canvas and listen. Colors and shapes and textures are in front of me, whether the surface has been marked or not. I’ll begin to move, as though someone is guiding me and before long, I’ll catch the rhythm of the stroke, identifying additional colors and shapes with the tilt of my head. It’s not autopilot, anymore; it’s God-directed and inspired. I am not out of control but fully in control as I listen to directions he provides.

What about you? Your autopilot button: is it “off” or “on?”