Okay Mr.West…

…don’t make me regret this.

kanye-west-graduation-portrait-acrylic-painting-junko-abe

Photo credit: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/kanye-west-graduation-portrait-acrylic-painting-junko-abe.html?product=fleece-blanket&blanketType=blanket-coral-50-60

Let me start by saying, I am writing this as an artist. I am writing this as a student of life. I am not a political blogger therefore I am assuming you are already abreast of the controversy surrounding one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time.  I do not usually provide commentary on societal trends. I am writing this as a tortured creative soul.  I am writing this as a lover of hip hop.  I am writing this as an optimist.

I love hip hop.  I will not mourn Kanye West.  I do not agree with his political views. I am not even sure Kanye West agrees with his political views!  I’m celebrating the parts of him that I can morally subscribe to…his genius.  I will even go so far as to say that I am astounded by his acceptance of himself and of others. He has been saying that he is “leading with love” and that he loves every creature who walked the earth.

I am perplexed by the dichotomy dwelling in Kanye West.  He is talented and articulate.  He is a wordsmith.  Yet, he is thinking clearly (kinda) and he is not successfully conveying the true intent of his actions and thoughts.  In fact, when one mentions that he may be “hurting others” you can see the distress and the SUDDEN awareness on his face as he carefully chooses his words.  How does this happen?

People will take something enlightening, put it in a different context and then call it crazy.  To try to diminish the impact and the value of what I’m actually saying. -Kanye West

 

I was born in 1985.  The artists who have impacted my generation in an astounding way all had a common motif …they were “crazy.”  I don’t even have to mention their names.  You’re thinking of them right now: Michael Jackson, Prince, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston…

They were judged when they were alive.  They were called icons and legends when they died.  Food for thought:  We studied the poetry of Tupac Shakur at Pace University post his death.  We studied the lyrics and videos of Lady Gaga in English Literature at Stonybrook University.  Her “enlightened viewpoints” were compared to the great Edgar Allen Poe.  What measurement do we use to distinguish the difference between brilliance and insanity?

But I know the view is that I’m emotionally unstable, which is reality. Like you aren’t?-Lauryn Hill

One of the most terrible things we do to artists is forget to separate their human form from their ethereal imaginative alter egos.  We have to consider that in order for a person who is of this world to create something out of this world, he or she has to remove their consciousness from the boundaries and constraints of what is accepted as “normal.”  

Bravery is more important than perfection.-Kanye West

I am actually scared to publish this post.  What will you do tomorrow, Mr. West?  What hat will you wear tomorrow, Mr. West?  Will you forget this girl from South Jamaica Queens who bumped “The College Dropout” in my 1980 Pontiac Grand Prix? Will you forget this wannabee rebel who had “The wise man say, you’ll find your way
The wise man say, you’ll find your way” scribbled on the back of my favorite denim jacket?*  This fake actress-Spike Lee geek was glued to the computer screen when you had the balls to release your own full length film, “Runaway.”   I’ve never considered myself a “fan” of anyone really but the respect I have for your talent and perseverance is immeasurable.

I see your pain but I see your passion.  I can disregard the blond hair and the liposuction because that is just a physical representation of a spirit who is lost on a level that he wasn’t fully prepared to ascend to.

We don’t want to mourn you, Sir.  We want to be moved by your music and motivated by your mystique. Get out.

What I see here is nothing but a shell…what is most important is invisible.- Antoine de Saint Exupery (The Little Prince)

By: Shaun Liriano

*Lyrics from Pinocchio Story by Kanye West (808’s & Heartbreak)

 

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Never Explain

“Never explain- Your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”~Elbert Hubbard

I have always been a person who sees the good in people (most of the time.) I am also someone strangers sometimes feel comfortable enough to confide in. These attributes can be seen as liabilities because there are some who will take advantage of a kind heart. There are those who will exaggerate and manipulate you and assume you are weak. Silence and showing restraint in times where you could justifiably “clap back”, build character. Maintaining who you are, what your moral compass points to and raising the bar by showing the height of your integrity will be challenging but it is not impossible.

Never Explain…

I come from a bloodline (both maternal and paternal) of people who need to be right. Actually, I come from a bloodline of people who believe wholeheartedly they are right about almost everything 97% of the time. This is hazardous. I have noticed as I age, I have aunts, mentors, etc who have mastered meditation, prayer and most importantly…silence.

“Silence is gold as long as it is necessary”-Unknown

I believe that there are moments of silence that are essential for peace. Whose peace, Shaun? Thank you for asking. It depends on the situation. If you have been deceived or betrayed, silence may be the preventative resolution for rage. You shouldn’t be saying anything that will ignite feelings of resentment and cause you to behave as a supporting character as opposed to the character you’ve worked so long to develop…The Star.

Silence sets up an environment of transparency and may heighten senses that would have been clouded by noise. In silence I was able to recognize the malicious actions of someone I thought was genuine. I was able to recognize the face of an enemy and place myself in a stance of security and blind force because it wasn’t necessary for me to do anything specific to show the fallacious nature of worthless accusations. Those who had been exposed to me, even if only for a short while, knew the truth and laughed at the adversary. The old cliché is true, the truth speaks for itself.

Never explain…

A friend of mine had a rant the other day and it was so beautiful in its raw nature and its unapologetic delivery. It was authentic and the premise of it was, be consistent in your positive patterns of behavior. As he would say, “I ain’t convincing nobody of s&%t anymore.” Frankly, you shouldn’t have to. Arrogance has no place to stay in a house of self-discipline. If you’re a dope parent, wife, business person, employee, OR JUST EARTHLING all you have to do is be that person as opposed to playing that role. If your integrity is challenged…

never explain.

By Shaun Liriano

Embrace All Surprises (Easier Said Than Done)

I like surprises.

I do not discriminate.  I love stereo-typically pleasant surprises like flowers,books, bags, watches, dates, drawings from my children and yummy food (just to name a few).  I also appreciate “unpleasant” surprises because I believe they reveal a truth that is often necessary for your destiny.  Shaun, what does that mean?  It means, self-righteousness or if I may dare say salvation or if I go a step further …PURPOSE is rarely ethereal.  To over simplify my point, lies/secrets revealed may cause pain but they spark a change that would have been unable to grow in darkness.  We need light.  We all need light.

Constructive criticism is usually a surprise and seldom received as constructive.  Usually it invokes anger, resentment and maybe even shame.  However, I believe that even when it is surprising to hear something unexpected about your characteristics or behavior it can still be an experience in development. Instead of making a face and shutting down we can use it as an opportunity to modify.

This is a new philosophy for me.  I do not traditionally take criticism well.  I do not always deal with crisis effortlessly.  I am learning to expand in those areas and exhibit the strength I have.   However, I recently reflected on what was a very challenging time in my life and I realized I would never have made the leap to be more consistent in my spiritual journey if it had not been for the opposition.  As humans we get comfortable.  It takes the element of surprise to shake the ground from under us and force us to rebuild.

If you didn’t get denied for that loan you applied for, would you be attempting to repair your credit now?

If that toxic relationship worked out, would you know that you were slowly committing yourself to an environment where it is dangerous to dream ?  Would you know that you are poisoning your passions?

You studied for the test.  You almost passed. You were confident you could pass.  You were surprised when you failed. Now you are determined to get 100%.  You are less nervous, less anxious, and you are going to succeed because each time you failed you completed another step to pruning your proficiency.  

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. -Henry Ford

https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/surprises

Now it is in no way my intention to motivate the malicious mind.  If you know you are attempting to create chaos and disruption then this message is not for you.  Yet, if you are diligently doing everything you can to invoke any innate goodness within then…

Be bold. Love hard. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid. Embrace all surprises or Shut Ya Mouth and Call Me Ugly.

By:Shaun Liriano

I love reading your comments and your insight.

Pray With Me

Pray with me

Pray with me
Entwine your fingers with mine
Feel my palms sweat and don't shy from the warmth of my vulnerability
Pray with me not for me
Bow your head with graciousness
Stand at my side, not ahead of me or above me 
Dance to the rhythm of my heart beating feverishly
I want to hear your nervous feet shuffling from side to side
I want to see the imprint of your big toe through your shoe
May our intentions and desires be one.
See, I await anxiously, hoping God will see 
that I really hope
and I mean I really hope 
that the road to hell is NOT paved with good intentions
I intend to make a change in this world 
I intend to give children something good to dream about and chase their nightmares away
I intend to clean the filthy
I intend to give a hopeful beginning to those who just want it all to end
I intend to wake up every morning ...early...and spend an hour with myself 

There is something magical about holding hands with a stranger.

First Calvary Baptist Church (Inwood, NY)

Don't be alarmed as I tighten my grip
I just really needed someone to touch me today
I have desperately been waiting for an answer from God 
Desperately been shining as brightly as I can while filtering through so much darkness 
I have been holding my arms outstretched 
I have been kneeling with white paths on my face that begin where my eyes are and end somewhere between my neck and my chin
Waterways traveled there many times
They irrigate the mask I wear and unveil pieces of all that unravels me. 
Pray with me
Embrace me and let me feel the comfort of your awkwardness 
Let me know you are waiting for something from HIM too
Your are not untainted 
You are also afraid sometimes
You too, wish you could ...everything
Pray with me in the middle of the mess
Not at the end of the day when its quiet and neat and the candle is lit and its convenient
Pray with me, with rollers in your hair or your boxers and your A-shirt on, or with your stained apron that smells of fried chicken and plantain
while the kids are saying "Mommy" 5x consecutively...pray with me.
While the game is on...pray with me 
I need the blessing now 
We need the connection now
The calling is now 
The moment is now 
The answer is coming now

Pray with me because I can't shake the feeling that something heavenly awaits and we don't have to wait till we are at heaven's gate to be a part of something that perfect.
Pray with me because I needed you yesterday and the day before and the night before that.
Pray with me and I'll pray with you and we can glue each other back together.

By: Shaun Liriano




 

The Power Walk

“I have a trail I want to show you. Will you go walking with me?”

Admittedly I’ve put on a few pounds. The thought of walking didn’t sound as appealing as drinks and appetizers. However, my mother is a ridiculously busy person and we never get to spend time together so I accepted her invitation. She’s one of those people who “have it together.” The reliable conservative type.

“Maybe if I walk with her, her sense of order will rub off on me because I definitely didn’t get it genetically.”

When I got home from work, I informed my husband I was going for a power walk with my mom. I know him. He probably immediately envisioned old ladies at the mall with pink dumbbells in their hands with walkmans and black Sony headphones. He’s a runner. He runs at least 6 miles a day so walking makes no sense to him. When I came out the bathroom in my hot pink Miami souvenir t-shirt and my psychedelic Hot Soxx and tights, he gave me a quizzical look. “You’re not going to burn any calories. Why are you dressed like that?” I smiled, kissed him and the kids and left.

The truth? I was genuinely excited. I needed a break. Just a moment to decompress. An hour to reassess the tasks on my mental “to do” list. I have colleagues who “unplug” weekly. They do not tend to their phones, social media or personal email for a day or two. An old friend of mine has a rule that neither she nor her spouse can answer their cellular phones after 9pm. When the kids are asleep and it’s just the two of them it becomes time to unplug from everyone else and recharge their union. It sounds corny but there is validity to it.

“When I came here before, all these trees had no leaves. Some of the flowers looked dead like they’d never bloom again. Now they’re all green.”

The power walk was a physical reminder that life is just a meandering trail that we haven’t seen before. We don’t know what comes next. We can fret over bugs. Or maybe at night someone will jump out of the darkness and attack us. A tree branch may break and fall on your head. No matter what happens there is also a strong possibility it will be scenic, pedagogical and best of all you may find company so you don’t have to walk alone.

The older I get, the more I value the friend that will pray with you. It’s like singing your favorite song and someone just jumping on the hook and harmonizing with you. That’s powerful!

The trail may be unique to you but someone else has already walked it. Seek counsel from wise elders, mentors, or even blog communities. There are people who have been through what you’ve been through or they are going through it right now with class and ease. They’re making it look easy!! While you’re panicking, they’re strategizing and preparing for the next blow.

After the walk we went to Wendy’s (I did get a salad at least) but regardless of what I ate I felt lighter. I shed some stress. I was a little more content with the lack of control that humanity sometimes requires. It really was a power walk.

By Shaun Liriano

What are you doing?

Years ago I worked for a reputable insurance company (I’ll leave them nameless.)  I was in their customer service department.   I received a verbal warning one day (first stage of disciplinary action) because our quality team caught me writing poetry while on a phone call with a customer. Now, I’m the queen of multitasking so the customer wasn’t neglected at all. I would write when the customer said “give me one minute” or “just a sec, let me find that paper.”  It happens all the time.  Instead of sitting there rolling my eyes, staring at the phone wondering, “What are you doing?”  I would write.  I would write poetry.  I would write narratives. I would create stories around the customers and imagine the details of their lives.   Then when they said, “Okay I’m back, sorry about that”  I would snap back to reality. At this particular job, I took 1000 calls a month.  Yet, they scolded me.  I couldn’t understand it.  If I was doodling in a pad, it wouldn’t be a problem but typing brilliance in Microsoft word was enough to get a recorded warning from a superior.

I was livid.

That was the moment my feelings towards that source of income changed.  I even remember performing a poem at an open mic that night entitled “disciplinary action.”  The crowd loved it.  The warning was unfortunate for my customer service career but it inspired an influential moment in my love for poetry and stage performance.

Sometimes I’ll send my daughter to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  Fifteen to twenty minutes will pass and I’m waiting for her to finish so I can read her a story.  I’ll scream into the bathroom “What are you doing?”  She’s always responds,” I don’t know.”  In reality she was singing, dancing, making animals out of the toilet paper, cleaning the sink  with hand soap or just staring into space.  I ask her, “Why do you say you don’t know when you know exactly what you were doing?”  She just laughs at me.

I went to a reading for a play a week ago.  When the reading ended the lights came up and everyone was beginning to stretch and socialize.  I was fixed. I couldn’t move.  I kept staring at this desk in the corner.  I could imagine writing at the desk. I could imagine doing homework with my children at the desk.  I could even imagine a naughty marital moment on top of the desk.  I completely zoned out.  I was gone. I could feel the splinters from the desk.  I could smell the wood. It was awesome.  I took a picture because I didn’t want to forget it and I knew there was some reason it impacted me the way it did.   An associate next to me said, “What are you doing?

I am making sure I don’t miss the sign I am supposed to see. 

Do not get distracted from what you are supposed to be doing.  Look at a picture and pay attention to the background.  There is something huge you were created for.  Don’t get in trouble playing with toilet paper and dealing with other people’s sh*t. You have to get your bread and butter but don’t forget the meat and potatoes.  You are here to do something meaningful and influential.  Do what makes you feel complete and let that be the distraction from day-to-day noise.

Hey! What are you doing?

By: Shaun Liriano

The Icing On the Cake …

Photo by Shaun Liriano

Your heart is cracked and split at the seams.  The losses you’ve endured, others wouldn’t have been able to survive. You’re resilience is unmatched.

Pride flows out of you like like a crashing winding river. It has unexpected bends and speeds.  It drowns everyone you touch in excellence.  Your stare exudes a longing for progression.

Your touch could melt ice. Your voice is soft but strong.  Your tongue is poetry.

Your hope is infectious.

Your smile makes the brightest star jealous .  It cannot match your luminescence.

You see…

The way you look and the way you feel is just the “icing on the cake.”

By Shaun Liriano