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A Twoness of Spirit

Michael Kennedy, leading one class tomorrow writes,

A Twoness of Spirit

“The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight, in this American world, a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” (pg. 3)

Imitation of Life pursues this idea of a twoness, making tangible the struggle that many African Americans had to accept as part of their life, a damnation by the color of their skin. While the “twoness” that Du Bois explains is the dichotomy between skin color and citizenship, Imitation of Life constructs a twoness between race and skin color. One of the main characters, Sarah Jane is born of mixed race, having had a white father and a colored mother. When we are introduced to her as a character, we realize she hardly, physically, seems African American at all, having inherited most of her father’s traits and skin color. This leads to Sarah Jane attempting to “hide” her African American heritage from society, as well as the nature of her mother. Sarah Jane ostracizes her mother throughout the story, attempting to eradicate any traces of “African American” history from her life. What we are left with at the end of this film is the idea of regret from Sarah Jane; a wish that she had accepted and loved what was most close to her rather than reject her true nature.

            What this film does is put into perspective the idea of race and what each person has to offer as an individual with their own talents and insights. As Du Bois writes, “He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows the Negro blood has a message for the world.” (pg. 3) This idea of “Americanization” is an important one that begs to be addressed throughout the film, Imitation of Life as well as Du Bois’s work, The Souls of Black Folk. What we realize as the problem is the attempt to “Americanize” African Americans, a failed attempt to bleach un-bleachable skin and brainwash thoughts into becoming something they aren’t. Sarah Jane metaphorically represents this idea of “Americanization” from the pigmentation of her skin and the attempted assimilation into “white” life and culture. She is rejected or “found out” during each attempt to “fit in”.

            “This, then, is the end of his/her strivings: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his/her best powers and his latent genius.” (pg. 3) The goal is not to fit in when it comes to the world and its inhabitants. The goal as Du Bois so eloquently states, is to contribute to life as we know it and be a “productive” member of society, a term that is flexible in relation to what the individual deems as “productive” and “society”. How each person is to be productive is subjective, as it depends on that certain person’s background, talents, skills, and culture. As Du Bois alluded to, “Negro blood has a message for the world.” We all have our own talents and beliefs. When the world stops trying to quell the nature of specific culture, when we can accept people as they are and the cultures that comes from them and when people can truly accept themselves as a people and race, perhaps that “latent genius” that Du Bois references will shine through even brighter and a greater age will dawn. Until then, we can only learn from our past mistakes. 

What do you think?

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All The Lonely Places

Visp Bus Station, Wallis, Switzerland

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The Empty City

Timothy Morton mentions on his blog this emerging novel called The Empty City by the Norwegian speculative fiction writer, Berit Ellingsen. Essentially an existentialist story of a man who opens to an already opened world, The Empty City is, according to Ellingsen “a story of non-dualities.”

Recent chapters start at 39 but you can back up a bit if you still find yourself linear…

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The Difficulty of Naming: On Martin Heidegger

I will be speaking at the University of Maine on Thursday, 2 December in the Maples building as part of their Philosopher’s Colloquim series. This is open to the public.

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Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” (via zunguzungu)

“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thin … Read More

via zunguzungu

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A Must Read For a Take On Obama Now.

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In? – NYTimes.com.

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Heidegger and the echo of language.

“Most often, and too often, we encounter what is spoken only as the residue of a speaking long past.”

—M. Heidegger

A name, in and with Heidegger, is too often a residue, a sound echoed. When we say “plate” or “dog” or “cider” it is always to a thing already named, already categorized timelessly ahead of time. A name has become already a thing and thereby when we say a thing we are carrying on, carrying forward, a tradition which is not necessarily ours. How then to name, to truly own something, not in the sense that we own as in to posses but own as in to appropriate—in the pure Heideggerian sense. We appropriate by making something our own, we seek to embody it with our own-ness.

Heidegger writes that everyday language, that is mortal speech, is a “forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer.” What does the “cup” call to any longer, besides a base utility, a base, all too common form of  naming? Is this naming of “tree” any more dynamic, is it any more a call, or is it simply a quality, an averaging out of all its constituent elements.

In Georg Trakl’s poem, “A Winter’s Night” which Heidegger draws on in his essay “Language,” Heidegger points to base objects listed in the poem—table, bread, wine, window, snow—and defends them as pure calls, as having been rescued from the world of prosaic speech and returned, in a sense, to the original dynamic purity of the name. Heidegger writes that Trakl, having re-invested the words into the poem, has rescued them from the prosaic and returned them to the their dif-ference (and in this we must read dif-ference as the holding apart of two things, the separating powers.) He claims them to have been bidden by the pure language of the poem, and in bidding to have been brought into a “nearness,” a “presence” which is always absent in the mere mortal speaking of language.

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