Within, By Questioning

by Deborah Frieze on March 26, 2018

Author: Cleo Petric

I am seating in a lecture hall at Middlebury College, listening to Bayo Akomolafe on “decommissioning whiteness.” Absorbed in his thoughts, and simultaneously immersed in my own, I ‘walk out’, further out of my certitudes, ‘walk on’ further into uncertainty. Toward the end of the lecture, one professor introduces themself, explaining that they linger for intertwining spirituality with science, and is in search of initiatives to do so. I am pulled by that intervention, introduce myself, and express my curiosity toward his interest. The conversation organically flows in depth; and as it does I am caught by one of his sentences: “I fear to talk about these things within the framework of academic institutions, I fear to be judged.” It feels as if my neurons have been swaying along with that narrative forever. Naturally, with confidence, I respond: “I believe that the change in academic settings need to start by voicing out the repressed narratives of our community, exposing ourselves in the vulnerability of that fear, which will grow our strength. I want to bring these voices together.” I usually ponder for hours about such initiatives before sharing them, but here it feels different; an urgent flow is waving out of my consciousness, pouring into this professor’s consciousness.

The next morning, I tell a friend about the lecture and this conversation. She responds: “I wish truly isolated people could experience what this lecture enabled you and this professor to experience. I wish this liberation of repressed narratives on that matter was not only happening in small liberal arts colleges.” The feel of this freshly shared bursting bud makes us want to see the grown up flower, feel its traits and celebrate its immensity. We want bigger than the conversation in an environment that facilitated it. Our yearning for radical shift makes us want for this collective sentiment of isolation to metamorphose now. But but but…we also know that we’ve gotta start somewhere!

I thus take this opportunity to pause and recognize my community as it is; embrace the privilege, the support, the guidance and openness of that community, rather than let guilty and hopeless thoughts weaken this yearning for radical change.

I walk out of this brief journey at Middlebury, increasingly eager to connect with that sentiment of repression, isolation, fear… and walk on, more profoundly embodied in uncertainty and curiosity, having no idea how to create a space for scholars, intellectuals, professors, students, academics, artists, nerds, that feel unheard in their difference of knowing. Walking on feeling groundingly trusted and trusting.