“Being Pulled Ten Ways While Focusing on Becoming One” by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

February is always an interesting month. The American New Year is on January 1st, and everyone is scrambling to get their bearings, some reeling about Valentine’s Day, focused on love and romance.

I like February, it feels like the seasonal Wild West. Resolutions, solutions, finding comfort after being held by holiday obligations can leave one feeling pulled in ten ways while focusing on becoming one again, wanting to get back to the routine of the daily forward movement towards…whatever goals one might have.

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I still have so much to learn, while I’ve been doing the same thing for years – there are times when my life, work and narrative all aligns, there are times when I feel alone. Luckily, being a writer is a solitary job and a pleasure for me, so loneliness isn’t something I feel often.

I have been a bit vulnerable today because it is a New Moon. I feel at peace and at the same time like I can’t do anything right. I’m comfortable in this experience because it is temporary and also, doing right is a very personal thing, and the pleasure of life comes when you let your ideals go and you sit with yourself and remember that every single day brings a new experience.

Where will I be two years from now? I’ll look back and everything will be a memory. That is a settling feeling. It is possible to stay in the present but not let it hold you in a state of permanence.  It is good to remember that when there is anxiety in the air. Next year, even if you live in the same home, everything will be different.

So, in this February, on this New Moon I feel at peace. Tomorrow, I may not, but right now, while getting situated in life along with everyone who scrambles to find their footing – whether it be in love, or anything else.

Spring is almost here– but I should note that it was a 60 degree day on the East Coast of the United States today. It was quite beautiful and magical. But while we all get through the winter and settle back in, it’s nice to know that change is always guaranteed. There will be a day where change is will be something I fear, but not today, not this season.

I am thankful.

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“Braving the Days: The Western Understanding of Karma – A Personal Thought Flow” by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

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I saw a post on social media asking “Why do Western people use the word karma so much, but don’t understand what it truly means?”

I think about karma often and try to live by its principals, but I am very honest with myself and clear to others when I speak of it: perhaps I can never understand karma the same way our Eastern neighbors do. Like slave spirituals, gospel music, soul and jazz is embedded in the African American communities, in our hearts, in our generational lineage, so is karma in the East. It’s a cultural implant.

The Buddhist view of karma says: Karma is the law of moral causation. The theory of Karma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was The Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today; we ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.” *

I also understand, as I am sure many do, that every ideology and religion has some a form of the concept of karma. Before we get to my own thoughts, let’s take a look at some Western belief systems ideas of karma within Christianity, wiccanism, quantum physics and theosophical belief systems.

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In Christianity (which has been adapted by Western Culture), the rule of “an eye for an eye” was part of God’s Law given by Moses to ancient Israel and was quoted by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:38, King James Version; Exodus 21:24, 25; Deuteronomy 19:21) It meant that when dealing out justice to wrongdoers, the punishment should fit the crime.

The rule applied to deliberate injurious acts against another person. Regarding a willful offender, the Mosaic Law stated: “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, the same sort of injury he inflicted should be inflicted on him.”—Leviticus 24:20. *

In Wicca, The Rule of Three expands upon the concept of harm. This rule is also called the Threefold Law or the Law of Return. It says: all good and the harm that a person does to another returns threefold in this life.

Some Wiccans interpret this to mean that the good or harm returns back to a person three times as much. Others say the good or harm has impact in three major realms of life: the physical, emotional and spiritual. Many hold to a combination of these interpretations. *

Quantum Physics: …if we get angry or frustrated for instance, it sends out what is like ripples – as in ripples in a pool.

We are constantly walking around sending out such ripples. The quality of the ripples is up to us – that is our choice. The fact of the ripples cannot be changed. We can only have an effect on the quality of the ripples, we cannot stop sending them out.” *

Theosophy: Any system that tries to explain the existence of consciousness, life as an emergent product of physical matter as seen by quantum physics will fail, and can, from a Theosophical point of view immediately be thrown in the garbage bin. Karma, connecting all layers of the universe, seems to be the only explanation for order and logical causality in the universe, and for the existence of the intuitive fact of justice. *

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I am not perfect in any way, but some may have noticed over the years that I have become calmer, cautious, patient, willing to take responsibility for mistakes and, as an aside, I always try to offer coffee or tea to anyone arrives to visit.

When I was very young and trying to make it as a musician and author, I was homeless on and off for many years. I think I am one of very few people who knows what a hunger pain actually feels like.

One day, while living in a shelter in Los Angeles, I stumbled upon a word: grace.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace is “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification,” or “a virtue coming from God”, or a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance. Others believe it is a “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” * I personally lean more toward the latter definition, but find it to be a combination of the all the definitions shared in the dictionary. If you don’t believe in a God or a higher power, that’s ok. Grace is just a special unexpected gift, like a windfall of money, a new job, a loving partner or other occasion we as human beings deem to be fortunate.

I don’t think you can understand karma before you learn about grace because grace allows you to pay that unmerited forward out of thankfulness for receiving it.

Living by the laws of karma is discipline. You’ve got to make it a top priority because over time it become, you will see yourself naturally becoming a more respectful person – respectful of others space and boundaries, less judgmental, easier to get along with work and with friends, etc.,  So, it’s important to spend time alone and get to know yourself, and also understand you inner goals. What kind of person do you want to be?

Being very honest with yourself, especially if you find yourself attracting people and circumstances that are harmful to you and others, can be a wake up call, and may being about a need for change.

I have to have a conversation with myself almost every evening in meditation, or just quiet my mind to let go of anxiety and fear. Karma is not a punishment, it’s not good or bad, it’s just a reflection of what you’re giving out, and if someone is not treating you and others the way you deserve to be treated after you’ve done everything you could to be kind and supportive, what you’re doing by shielding them from consequences. You’re subconsciously protecting them from karma. I believe karma and life will eventually move you out of the way, so the person you are trying to protect can learn and grow. You will lose a friend…who essentially wasn’t a great friend, so you receive the kind karma and grace of being freed from an unhealthy connection, and they receive the chance to move forward in their lives and make new choices.

There are people in the this world who don’t like me, who mean me harm, some are people I don’t know and can’t see, but I lay in bed at night and send them love. I connect with the energy of love, compassion, grace and mercy, build my relationship myself. I ask forgiveness for anyone I may have hurt (and may not even know I did) anyone, and I also forgive anyone who has hurt me or done me harm to keep my heart clear of resentment.

If you let anger, resentment, jealousy, hatred or any other emotions similar to this build up, you will attract people who will be working through similar karma, or, who want to glean what you learned without truly understanding the sacrifice and work you do to be the person you are.

When someone is acting badly and I have to be close to them, I had to learn, “That’s their personal relationship with their karma and themselves. Do you best to be loving, but step back a little and let them walk it out.”

That’s love, autonomy: “allowing others to have a “ state of being self-governing and self-directing freedom and especially moral independence” *  without judgment…which is sooooo hard.

I am not fool. I’m a 32 year old young Black woman from Baltimore City, so I do my best to make sure my boundaries are in place I am a strong person, but I am also kind, silly, fun-loving and generous. It’s all a balance.

In a Western sense, karma is just getting what you give, so try to give yourself, others and the world sincere kindness, support, love and generosity. It will come back to you and when you see it happen for the first few times, you can learn to keep it going. It’s not luck. It’s a lifelong practice.

A Discussion with Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days, discussions

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Jordannah Elizabeth is an established writer, activist, and musician from Baltimore and has been a featured columnist with TERSE. since 2016. EIC M. Perle Tahat talked with her about the future of her column and also got a bonus reading list out of it. Check it out for yourself.

M. Perle Tahat: You’re a voracious reader and have blessed us with several reading lists throughout the course of your column. A difficult task, albeit one I will ask you to do–as I’m sure you could sense the lead up, is listing your favorite books from your repertoire. Would you mind telling readers your top 10?

Jordanah Elizabeth: Sure. My own library is pretty diverse. I actually have 15 favorites. My library isn’t that large, maybe about 150-200 books, give or take.  The order is not “favorite to least favorite” or vice versa. Some of these books have already been published in reading lists I’ve already compiled, but they are true loves of my personal library:

  • When and Where I Enter by Pauline Giddens
  • The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Once by Alice Walker
  • Anarchy and the Sex Question by Emma Goldman
  • Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions edited by Judith Kegan Gardiner
  • Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams
  • This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exiles in the 21st Century by Mai’a Williams (published January 1, 2019)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
  • Sound Figures by Theodor W. Adorno
  • Death Kit by Susan Sontag
  • The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert S. Boynton
  • Writing in Society by Raymond Williams

 

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M. Perle Tahat: What a holistic list. Your readings always vary widely and I learn a lot from what you share. On Publik/Private you present writerly encouragement and advice, introspection on topics you are passionate about, and generally allow us access to your intellectual and creative space. One of the reasons I admire you so much is your rounding of so many different spheres of life. You are also a traveling musician and local activist. What drives you to all of these pursuits? When did you start walking this path?

 

Jordannah Elizabeth: I’ve slowed down on touring and playing music for the last couple of years. It put a real toll on my body and I’ve taken time off to focus on my health and writing. But without the experience of being a long time, touring musician, I wouldn’t been a well rounded music writer. I can connect with musicians as a writer because I’ve lived the life and went through their daily struggles for a decade before I started writing full time.

I studied music history and classical vocals from age 16-21 and was always in choirs and chorus from grade school to high school. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly but I played violin in school from age 5 or 6 to age 11.

As a singer/songwriter, I got my first guitar at 13 and played my first show around 17 or 18. I just took all I learned from school and from the music my family loved and made a name for myself as a musician just by sheer drive… of wanting to eat and have a roof over my head.  I also learned about promotions, booking and public relations, so I was able to promote myself pretty well. With all this said, writing and history have always been my main passion.

M. Perle Tahat: The bibliography of your writing career is a long one. If you had to direct readers to the favorite articles you’ve written so far: what would they be?

Jordannah Elizabeth

The Intersectionality of Believability

Sevens: Alice Coltrane – Transfiguration (Live, 1976)

Michelle Coltrane Is Glad Her Mother Alice’s Devotional Music Is Finally Getting Its Due

Dear Men of the Music Industry: You Can Do Better

The slow ascent of hip-hop and Black designers in the world of high fashion

 

M. Perle Tahat: In the past you’ve given us writings on esoteric topics, invaluable reading lists, and observations on social theory. What can readers expect from your column on TERSE. in the future?

Jordannah Elizabeth: My column, “Braving the Days at TERSE. allowed me some freedom to write about anything that was swirling in my subconscious in connection to my interaction with the outside world. I just plan to continue to do that. Sometimes, when you’re really thoughtful (meaning you think and observe a lot), it’s best not to overwhelm people close to you with your thoughts by always verbalizing them. Many times, people want to help or resolve a problem or give advice, which is a kind and natural thing to want to do for people you care about. But having a place express myself freely without fear of criticism, being misunderstood or worrying others is nice. I’m learning as I get older, saying less is more. Writing more…well, for now, it’s something that gives me some solace.

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A photo of Jordannah Elizabeth

Winter Reading List by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

Well, here we are at the beginning of 2018.

Instead of creating a “Best of” list, I thought I would just complete everything I had intended to do this year. I don’t see much of a point of looking at what was “best,” but in my mind, I believe it may be important, particularly this year to look at and ponder what is necessary in order to survive 2018 with vigor and achievement.

My reading lists are born out of what I find going on my way through life. This Winter Reading List is full of books about Black women intellectuals, Black women’s oppression, existential thought through academic findings.

This year has been an interesting one for Black American women. It’s been a year where we’re beginning to find our voices and our places in intellectual, political and activist realms of American culture. I’m frankly fascinated by it because I’ve been a Black girl and woman all of my life. It is interesting for the world to have an opinion, and even more so, think that it’s their choice to open doors for us, or give us “places in society.” As if it is someone else’s “choice” to pay us fairly or to talk about how we win or lose or behave in the media. I’ve decided observe this winter.

I’ve decided to step back and read.

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Edited By: Mia E. Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, Barbara D. Savage

On Intellectual Activism

By: Patricia Hill Collins

Black Sexual Politics

By: Patricia Hill Collins

Women’s Oppression Today: The Marxist/Feminist Encounter

By: Michèle Barrett

This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition Writings by Radical Women of Color

By: Cherríe Moraga

The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way

By: Alice Walker

In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement Against Sexual Violence

By: Kristin Bumiller

Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience

By: Michelle Murphy

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance- a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

By: Danielle L. McGuire

Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism

By: Erik S. McDuffie

Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality And Intimacy

By: Tricia Rose