The Homestretch (Entry #15)
In early January, I bus it back to Amherst. Dallas, as a city, was okay, but much of Dallas (at the time) was new and seemed contrived. Dallas, like Memphis, is a large sprawling mass, but Dallas was more modern, and cosmopolitan (that wasn’t necessarily the case for many of the native black folk, who were really my first introduced me to my first experience with Southern Negro culture). Furthermore, many people from all over the country were migrating to Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. So although Dallas was a tolerable place, at the same time, I missed my Amherst; I missed my peers, and I wanted to return to a more intellectually stimulating place.
Amherst in January, ain’t a particularly fun place, however. It’s cold—i mean real cold—and the days are short. Nonetheless, I wanted to get settled in. I do not know if I am going to graduate, and I don’t care if I do. For the past seven months or so, I had been meditating almost daily. I had immersed my mind into more and more Afrocentric and radical black nationalists writers. My interests in globalist conspiracy theories had also expanded. In addition to that, I am still struggling to submit as a self-identified “Muslim.”
Things like “opening up the third eye” or “out of body experiences” were pretty alien to the hyper-rational skeptical mindset of the folks at Amherst. Similarly, the search for the “masters of the New World Order” hiding behind the curtain did not pique the interests of my peers except with rare exception. I didn’t care about a job or a career—I wanted to know the Truth. And I wasn’t likely to find the Truth working in a cubicle for Fortune 500 company on Wall Street.
It wasn’t that I just wanted the “Truth” for myself, I wanted to resist the endemic evil and injustice that enveloped our world. I wanted to, as Public Enemy said, “fight the powers that be.” It seemed that most students cared not, or at least not enough, however. Although I had a few friends with whom I could “kick it,” I am sinking fast into a world of social and spiritual alienation.
I spoke of Al-Ghazali, and how I thought he provided the blueprint for black liberation. First of all, he provided the “intellectual framework” that (I thought) we black folk could all agree: God is One; the ultimate objective of life is to sincerely worship God. Although I did not have detailed rational proofs for the Islamic Belief at the time, it was beyond evident that Jesus could not possibly be the Creator of the Universe. On the whole, however, most of the black students weren’t interested in hearing what I had to say about what I considered to be “Islam.” Most were content with simply being Christians.
In addition to the Creed, Al-Ghazali talked about the importance of adhering to the Sacred Law, or as I might have put it at the time: adherence to a code of behavior. To quote Malcolm X:
“The black man in the ghettoes, for instance, has to start self-correcting his own material, moral, and spiritual defects and evils. The black man needs to start his own program to get rid of drunkenness, drug addiction, and prostitution. The black man in America has to lift up his own sense of values.”
Although it wasn’t quite as bad as the black ghetto at Amherst, there was a need for moral rectification in order to have unity. My people would not be able to establish a community as long as they did not share a value system–and it had to be a value system based on more than anti-(white) racism. Alcohol and promiscuity were, of course, mainstays of campus life, and as a result, I had seen my share of attractive freshmen girls leave their first year of college as lushes, serial fornicatresses, and head cases. We could not build a community if my African-American Brothers were not going to do right by our black Sisters.
Furthermore, Amherst was a bastion of liberal elitism, moral relativism, and “Political Correctness” (as it’s called). If we could not agree on values (much less on who is God)—or if people considered morality “oppressive” or “evil”—then how could we possibly “unite” and build our “Beautiful Black Nation?” I was now, starting to have some doubts about my nationalistic sentiments. I was growing beyond “Blackness,” for I started to realize that “similarity” in complexion could not be the basis of lasting unity in the utopia I was hoping to build.
Lastly, what I took from my reading of Al-Ghazali was that the “System” I wanted to build would not only comprise a rationally consistent belief in the Creator and a general moral code, but it would have a means for a person to plunge into a world of metaphysics, self-mastery, and genuine spirituality. I understood, even then, that this path would not be for all, but this “System” I was devising had to make allowances for those who wanted something beyond this mundane plane.
With the climate the way it was at Amherst, however, not only did I find folks not receptive to the ideas I was trying to work out, I was also slippin’. Although I did stay pretty disciplined with the diet, I started slacking with my meditation practice. Part of the reason was that I did not have any guidance. The more I meditated, the more I realized there are oceans and oceans of consciousness within, but I knew not where I was going. With all the other things that were going on with me, I wasn’t trying to get lost somewhere in the outer limits of my mind.
The other reason that I stopped meditating was that I simply could not get grounded. It’s hard for a healthy male to get grounded when there are a whole bunch of co-ed thighs walking around. Especially when those thighs were attached to young women who were attractive, intelligent, and engaging. I. Am. Struggling. To. Submit.
It was clear to me at this point that serial fornication wasn’t good for the well-being of the community. However, it did not mean that I didn’t long for, as we would say at that time, “a meaningful relationship.” I did understand that in Islam premarital relations are strictly taboo, but this was something I was struggling with—especially, at a totally secular kind of institution, as Amherst was. Because of my background with yoga and meditation, I had a pretty open mind to celibacy (which is the practice of many Indian yogis and Buddhist monks). And even before I had any kind of religious sentiments, the casual intimacy lifestyle seemed shallow, empty, and pointless. Not only was there the possibility of catching disease and the dreaded “P-Word,” there was that void. There had to be more to life than just “relieving yourself.” I wanted something with depth. I wanted someone I could grow with… someone to come along with me on my quest. I wanted someone to quest with.
To exacerbate this crisis, my crush-friend was on campus—but she was involved with someone else. I had already been relegated to the “friend zone.” In truth, I was too confused to be involved withher or anyone else for that matter (much less, was I in a situation to “keep it halaal” and get married). I was in a struggle with my nafs (base desires), and had little hope that I could win.
I am very fortunate that at this time, the security agencies weren’t that active in entrapping young gullible “Muslims” in acts of terrorism. As I walked about the campus at what I would have called a “New World Order training camp”—struggling to attain self-mastery, and seeing that I wasn’t winning struggle by way of my enervated will power—i considered that perhaps in the moment of so-called “jihad” I could liberate myself from this world and liberate myself from my defects, shortcomings, and sins. Perhaps in this ultimate sacrifice, my “martyrdom” could be an impetus to wake my people up from their slumber.
There wasn’t a whole lot holding me back. I’ve never been a violent person by nature, and I didn’t believe in nihilism, but I knew not what I could do to encourage my people to wake up to the injustices of the world and take substantive steps to rectify them. I felt I had very little to lose. And the only things that held me back was the lack of an enabler (or one who pretended to be so) and a specific target to direct my anger… and the fear that I still did not have the proper understanding about who the Creator is. I was afraid of going into the Afterlife with a bad belief in God.
I just cracked open an entry from late April of that year. Spring is beautiful in Amherst, but my anxiety about graduation and what I would do with my post-College life preoccupied most of my mind. Like I said, I am still struggling with myself, and trying to understand Islam vis a vis Afrocentricity and the ancient Nile Valley civilizations. I am also trying to understand the reason for various religious injunctions, as well as, the position of women in Islam (again from a largely PC-liberal background).
One of the problems I have in this period is the absence of anyone I could deem to be a “guide.” I knew from my readings about Sufism (or at least purported to be about Sufism), the need for a Shaykh (a guide, in this case) was indispensable to making any sort of spiritual progress. My professors and peers didn’t have answers to the kinds of questions I had. The Mentor although he had a lot of life experiences to share and was well versed in black history, he did not seem to have much of a background to answer the questions I had about metaphysics, Sufism, and Islamic theology. As for the university immigrant Muslims I encountered, they were not at all comfortable in talking about racial issues, and I could not relate to the politics of the Middle East.
On occasion I would encounter the Brothers of the Association, but I kept them at arm’s distance. The reason being was that I did not want to let them see me in my obvious state of confusion and doubt—especially, since they were particular keen on talking about apostasy and how doubt (about the principles of Islam) would remove one from the fold of the Faith. I felt I had nowhere to turn, and I wasn’t very confident I could “guide myself.”
With some encouragement from my professors, I did stick with it and ended up graduating from Amherst. I am glad that I did, for I would have always wondered what would have happened if I didn’t (God knows, of course). Nonetheless, although I now had a piece of parchment from a prestigious institution, I was still without a plan and still without a clue.