Simple Things/ Lang Kenneth Haynes
Letting go
     We're all familiar with the necessity of letting go and my guess is that there's general agreement that it's easier said than done. The images abound: The old
black and white film with a small plane loaded with a few passengers and precious items like grandma's piano and grandpa's desk. The family is escaping the
home they've carved out in the wilderness because of an erupting volcano. An insanely committed pilot is determined to rescue them despite extremely poor
visibility, torrential rain and no known place to land if they are lucky enough to get the plane off the ground. The passengers and "necessary" items are loaded
and the plane takes off with burning trees crashing all around them. The belly of the plane scrapes the tops of trees and the pilot announces — for the fifth time
— that the plane is too heavy. Some of the cargo must be dumped if they are to have any chance of survival. The viewers of the movie are united in their
opinion that the piano and desk should be tossed without much ceremony. Life or a burned and busted up piece of furniture that the plane passengers are likely
to perish with. Life or a piano that the plane passengers will likely play to their deaths like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. But the passengers actually behave
as though there is a choice! I've known some nice pianos in my day, but none that I considered more precious than life. How absurd. We don't have much
sympathy for people who put pianos, desks and life in the same equation. But how many of us do the same thing? What life-threatening things are we lugging
around?
     Are we still wounded by the cruel remark our third grade teacher made? You remember the teacher. The one who said you were fat, stupid and would never
amount to anything. Are you still mad at her for saying it or yourself for believing it and shaping your life to fit those low expectations? Let it go. The next time
you go to the bathroom, let it go. Let the negativity flow out of you and flush it. Watch the toxic stuff swirl around the white porcelain and get swallowed up by
oblivion.
     Have you recently gotten hip to one particularly dysfunctional aspect of your parent's marriage? Are you carrying that particular brand of poison into your
relationships? Congratulations. You have identified the demon. Now it's up to you to exorcise it. You can devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to
blaming the ones who taught you the negative behavior. But by doing so, you will be fortifying another useless tendency and that is the tendency to blame.
Another problem with blame is that it conveniently absolves you of responsibility for the rotten aspects of your behavior. Yep. It's a lot easier to criticize someone
for having lint in their navel than to pick the lint out of your own, especially if you have an "inny." The Bible passage said it much better when it spoke of an
obsession with removing a splinter from another's eye while ignoring the beam in our own.
     Do you find yourself in jail on a Friday night for doing something stupid and harmful and you justify your presence there because you are Black and would
likely have been accused of doing something anyway?  Well guess what? You're the one who is in jail and not for a noble Nelson Mandela-type cause. You
might want to rethink ways to speak out against very real injustices that persist. Maybe there are elements of your attitude and expectations that are heavier than
a piano or desk. You might want to think of ways to lighten your load before moving forward to claim your future. After all — it's boring to do the same stuff over
and over again. Some wise person said that one definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Ditch the piano unless
you like lugging around enormous weights on your back.
     Now all this does not erase the appropriateness or necessity of atonement in some cases. There are people who have royally screwed other people for a
variety of reasons with all kinds of justifications. For example, the election of a Black United States president does not immediately erase the litany of dire
statistics and realities that we have come to know, things like disproportionate incarceration rates, generational poverty or emergency rooms used as primary
physicians. This list is, of course, very limited, and the most significant question — to my way of thinking — is what it has always been: "Where do we go from
here?" There is, however, one enormous truth that we can now embrace: When we tell our children that they can grow up to be president of the United States of
America, we can say it and mean it.
     Where do we go from here? It's a question that has been asked by all people since the beginning of recorded time and maybe before. We are constantly in
the process of figuring out what to hold on to and what to let go of. Life is not an all or nothing proposition. At least it is not at this very moment. In this case, the
"all or nothing" mentality may be signified by an understanding that the "we" of which I speak transcends the boundaries of skin color, geography, economics
and all the other walls we construct to separate ourselves from each other. And we aren't there yet. We are a long way from transcendence. It appears that we are
moving in that direction, we are in the process of doing the pre-race stretching and warming up, and we are physically, mentally and spiritually preparing
ourselves for the event that is unfolding in front of us. And the event is a fuller and richer life for all of us. Running a 100-yard dash without dragging a piano
behind us.