Nothing like the Sun…

As Venus prepares to retrograde in Capricorn, I can’t help but think about what she and her retrograde signify in our larger American society. One manifestation of my recent thoughts on her comes from my studies in Islam. In Islamic thought, there’s the concept of Allah (G-d) as reflective of two principles: Tanzih and Tashbih. With the concept of Tanzih, everything in the Cosmos is unlike Allah as Allah is incomparable and transcendent. It’s the opposite of thinking that God is everything and everything is God. With the concept of Tashbih, everything relates or is like Allah in that Allah has those traits or is the source/embodiment of a trait that we express as well, like love or mercy. One interesting distinction is that Tanzih often emphasizes how Allah has distance from us through wrath or judgment. Tashbih relates more to the mercy and compassion of Allah.

If you’re curious about how Venus relates to race, racism or injustice, you might want to start here with Nick Dagan Best’s amazing correlation between Venus cycles and African American history. In that blog post, Nick does an amazing job of illustrating that the similitude function of Venus warps in American polity when it comes to race. It becomes a dissimilitude instead of a similitude. This dissimilitude between what’s perceived as Black & White is what’s at the heart of the unjust experiences of Black people. In fact, it was a few weeks before the last Venus retrograde in May 2012 that much of Black America was mobilized to bring George Zimmerman to justice for the murder of Trayvon Martin in late February of that year. And then he got off this year. I’m not in the position to debate the measure of justice Trayvon’s family received as I didn’t watch the case closely. However, it’s become apparent to many that the “Stand your ground” laws and practices are coming under question, like with the cases of  Marissa Alexander in Florida (again) and Renisha McBride in Detroit, MI. With the McBride case about to go to trial, I find it all too strong a parallel with what we were contending with during Venus’ last retrograde.

But what set me flowing about Venus retrograde as a manifestation of Tanzih or what’s incomparable is the rash of “blackface” shenanigans we had this past Fall. Here’s a piece from fellow Ebony.com writer Jamilah Lemieux about it.  But a thought occurred to me this year about blackface that hadn’t before: it would seem some White folks find being a Black person in costume incomparable to their own experience without wearing brown or black make-up. That’s bizarre since I’ve never donned any White make-up to be any number of White people I’ve been in my life.  It’s as if the color of a Black person’s skin becomes the only pathway to finding a shared point of humanity in “being” or looking like the person. This not only shows a paucity of imagination, but empathy as well. It’s as if for these folks, some of them even good hearted in wanting to pay tribute to some notable Black person, Blackness is a thing so incomparable to their own Whiteness, so tanzih in their own experience, that they can not enter the guise of someone else without painting themselves. That’s profoundly sad. It’s not even maddening for me anymore.

I’m pretty sure the answer is not just in telling folks to step out their “Tanzih” zone and reach for more Tashbih. I think we can find a more nuanced way to appreciate space for both. That’s what made me think of Shakespeare’s Love sonnet 130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

What’s beautiful about this sonnet is how Shakespeare expresses how we can have the idea of the incomparable yet find love and appreciation all the same without denigration. A love sonnet is naturally under the auspices of Venus. A Venus in Capricorn is an astrological marker for how Venus seeks to find and experience value in the world of competence and materialism. Taken together, I hope we experience events, whether it’s the McBride case or Alexander case, or, heaven forbid, something new, that help us bridge the gaps in our imagination and empathy. That we find more space for tashbih and reserve the space for the incomparable for Supreme values that borrow from the Divine, but can never embody wholly as humans. One of those values is not your skin color, though.

Happy Full Moon!

Here’s how the Venus retrograde may manifest for some by Sun, moon or rising sign this week:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]


Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-1216-1222#ixzz2nlP9euLq
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Why I love Superman…

I’m excited about Chris Nolan’s reboot of the Superman franchise, set to premiere on Friday.

 

I’ve been a Superman fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen all of the live action movies. I can even do line for line renditions of Superman II. I watched every single (and sometimes tedious) episode of  Tom Welling’s 10-year journey to becoming Superman on “Smallville.” I’ve had hats, hoodies, capes, t-shirts with the “S” insignia and even considered getting it tattooed on my arm.  I’ve had countless debates with friends and strangers alike about the merits and clear demerits of Superman vs. every other hero in either the DC or Marvel Universe, especially Batman.  I’ve even written an astrological take on Superman (as a Gemini) for aol.com. (It’s offline now and they own the rights to it, so no link. Sorry.)

I know Supes is known as a corny, do-gooder with ridiculous powers, a ridiculous love life and with deep character flaws as he clearly lies to everybody close to him about who he really is. I still have hope that someone’s gonna get the character and story right for who he could be, even though few have. I still love him. Here’s why.

I was born with spina bifida. Without boring you with tedious definitions about what that means medically, let’s just say that I’ve had some 25+ operations, mostly early on in my life, to manage my disability.  I spent most of my first five years of my life with casts on my feet from surgeries to correct my congenital clubfeet.  I remember sitting up in my wheelchair or bed to watch the old, syndicated Superman TV series featuring George Reeves.  I was awed by Superman’s might, flying and super-speed. But, of course, I would. What else would be as inspiring for a kid bound to a bed or wheelchair?

But the real hero of this story is my mother. As I’ve gotten older, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her.  It wouldn’t be until I was nearly an adult that she would tell me what doctors had been telling her.  “Mrs. Reynolds, despite our surgeries, we can’t give you any assurances that Sam will walk normally, much less run and be active.” Or, “Mrs. Reynolds, there’s only a 50-50 chance that he’ll pull through this one.” Or, “Mrs. Reynolds, often children with Sam’s disabilities have cognitive deficits, so with special needs programs, he might one day be able to take care of himself. But he’ll still need special assistance for the rest of his life.”  She wasn’t a young mother, and she had family, including my father, to support her; but it must have been beyond nerve wracking to hear all these things about my life chances, again and again with each surgery to fix my life.

But I was a kid, watching a White man save the world, from another planet, in a cape and tights. And, as a kid, nobody told me that little Black kids with spina bifida couldn’t fly or be super.  So whenever I had my casts off, I would either have some Halloween Superman costume on with a cape or wrap some cloth around me and run through the house. Yes, run. I remember seeing the joy on my mom’s face when I would run. At the time, I just saw my mom being happy. Now as a grown man, I understand what she was seeing: a Super boy who had again proven the doctors wrong, again; who had given her a little more faith and a little more peace that I would be okay.

And over the years, as I let my imagination fly about Superman, I now can see what he did for me. He did, in fact, save me. He did inspire me. He got me out of my bed to be daring and believe that not only was life worth living, but it was worth doing it while facing challenges head on, for myself and for others.  And he spared me of thinking I had to become a Man of Steel since he already was. I have never had any serious pretenses toward invincibility, but I’ve become keenly aware, as someone with a disability, that most able people actually feel the need to be invincible somehow. I have never had the luxury of thinking that I am my body. I have not succumbed to the idea that how the world sees me is how I must be. Or how the world does not see me is how I am not.  I once wrote this poem about it:

 

Exposure

Most people live Life underexposed

So their pain of living rarely shows.

Those crippled by Life’s lens

Wear pain on their skins

and the façade of invulnerability

ends.

Of course, I wholly recognize that some are negatively affected by their perceptions of me as a Black man. I know that some people see my 4’11” frame and feel the need to contextualize me as a midget or even feel somehow I got the short shrift by life itself.  But these are not the conceptions of myself. For me, the first image of myself was as my mother’s Superman. So I will always believe in Superman.

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And for the record, especially to my buddy Daniel Older, a Batman fan, I’m not really a Batman hater. I just like to talk about how crazy he is. Here’s proof:

batsam