The University of All

This year, I’m enrolling into the University of All.

Brazen curiosity saturates my application.

My scholarship converted from dues I have paid.

Risk-taking characterizes my course schedule.

Code-making infuses my community service.

Embracing, claiming, and tapping the sensuality and vitality of life govern my unfolding.

Relentless learning and engagement with ideas recalibrate my imagination.

Satisfying hungers for humane daring, crafting community where possible, consolidating lessons from my past, aligning myself for constructive future collaborations enlarge the scope and textures of my matriculation.

This year, the emotional counsel of The Dells guides my social action.

It felt like I’d been standing at the mic for 24 hours. My knees trembled at the podium. I shuffled my poems. I was 24 years old. Had to be Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in DC, but it was definitely an apprentice reading as part of E. Ethelbert Miller’s Ascension Poetry Reading series.

Atypically, I told no story to calm my nerves or set up the reading. Audience was restless. Just when my 5 minutes seemed about to expire, just before my knees buckled, I read the first line from my poem, For Donny Hathaway:

I glimpsed my Godself when Donny sang a love song

A bit too on the nose for me now. But for a newbie possessed by Donny’s time-capsule voice, that line dropped me into a new form of dynamic silence: folks really listening.

The rest of my time evaporated once I plunged past myself and splashed into what felt like the flow of all the poetry ever recited. It was an early enrollment into visceral experience as a transformative communion.

Cadillac of Apples….

He spoke softly yet I heard his voice above the joyful din as I strolled through the farmers market in Redondo Beach. I zeroed in on him. He was holding a small container brimming with apple slices.

Cadillac of Apples….

I smiled.

My father drove a Cadillac. Those must be some delicious apples!

He just held out the container towards me.

I laughed out loud.

I took a slice and took a bite, and I could hear my father smiling at the taste of my first Fuji apple.

It was so sweet! It was so perfectly crunchy! It tasted so good that my taste buds were jolted and forever imprinted.

Since that first bite, back in 1991, I eat Fuji apples whenever I eat apples. They always satisfy.

I’m listening through my life’s din for new sirens this year. I’m listening for voices calling me into fulfilling experiences and situations, insights and illuminations. Taken together, they will function as my personal graduate school.

I expect to be fooled by one voice or another. No doubt, I’ll be tempted to take a wrong turn or two. Maybe even bite into a few sour apples.

One of Pops’ siren songs: study long, study wrong.

His proverb feels too glib for 2022.

This year, deliberation = savoring.

As a luxuriating student studying at the University of All.

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… So, like, this is my unscientific, oral history-tested, formula for … unleashing the healer in all of us: I meet dudes with an openness, a challenging sense of manhood. I welcome their ideas. Respect their opinions. I listen. I agree. I disagree. I compromise. I laugh. I let live. I live. If somebody can bust my formula, come on with it! But here’s the real test of any strategy to claim and incorporate the best we are … as far as I’m concerned: Do Black men have a real chance of speaking for themselves, describing the world in their honest, original ways, to the depths of their deepest breaths? Is it my voice speaking for me? Because if I’m spoken for by even a New Jack Interlocutor — man or woman — it’s bogus. Any good brother can see that. And a healer can CATSCAN it…!

3 thoughts on “The University of All”

  1. Pete
    Good to see you absorbing, introspecting, generating, and reaching out and enlightening all of us.
    You’re like the mailman – you always deliver.
    Let’s connect. I’m at 530.713.0016.

  2. As lifelong students, it’s our time to collect the 360 degrees of life experience and enjoy and share the wisdom that precipitates!
    PJH, your reflections are always right on time! Asante sana


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