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What Does It All Mean?

by Ya'AQov Ben Yah about a month ago in feature / opinion / humanity · updated about a month ago
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A Midlife Crisis

A Midlife Crisis

A couple of days ago, I turned 50 years old. That's supposed to a major milestone, an accomplishment. I suppose when one takes into account all the pain, suffering, and death in this world, it is. But for me, turning 50 just bought to the forefront a question that I've subconsciously asked myself for as long as I could remember; WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I've always been a logical minded, pragmatic person. For me, things have to have an order, an objective; they have to have a purpose. I've been this way ever since I became aware of myself as an individual. I was that child that had to know the WHY. Also, I've never been one who clings to faith or belief easily. I tend to put my "faith" in the tangible; I have to see how it works, be able to touch it, make sense of it. I remember my first existential crisis; I was maybe 5 or 6, and it was dealing with Santa Claus. I remember hearing the stories and singing all the songs, and my parents telling me that Santa Claus was responsible for my Christmas gifts. But the story never made sense to me; a fat white guy with flying reindeer climbing down the chimney to bring me presents. Why would he do this, and how is it possible? And so, when most children were happily clinging to their Santa Claus myth, I was skeptical. So one night I decided to spy on my parents. I went through the house, "snooping" as they called it, and discovered the truth; they were buying and hiding my gifts. The next morning, I confronted my mom, and told her what I knew; there's no Santa Claus, and I knew where all my gifts are. My mother was very angry with me! She threatened to take them all away! From then on, whenever Christmas came around, I received my gifts based on merit. Stay out of trouble, do well in school, and I received the gifts I wanted. This worked just fine for me; it made more sense. Now, I could feel like I EARNED my gifts, like I deserved them. I think the last time I actually received Christmas gifts, I was maybe 14; I had gotten into music, and my parents got me a keyboard. It was genuine surprise, because I wasn't expecting it.

As a child, I was always a voracious reader. Anything I could get my hands on, I read it. When I ate, I had a book in my hand. When I went to the bathroom, I had a book with me. I was so into reading that the town librarian not only knew me by name, but she also recommended books to me. By the age of eleven, I had graduated from reading children's books and had started reading in the adult section. Even then, I gravitated towards books on history, religion, mythology, and science fiction. I remember reading the Bible like it was a story book, not really knowing what it all meant, but finding the narratives compelling nonetheless. The stories of Joseph, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus fascinated me. I also loved Greek mythology. Interestingly, I viewed both Biblical narratives and Greek mythology as being similar.... I was also fascinated with history; I still am. If I could have one wish, it would be to time travel. To be able to go back in time, and witness events as they really happened, to learn the TRUTH about things; what an amazing experience that would be! I've come to realize that many of the experiences in my life would have gone differently if only I knew true history instead of "HIS STORY". This is particularly true when it comes to my understanding of what it means to be a Black man in America, as well as my spiritual well being. As a young man, I was basically taught that Black Americans are the descendants of slaves, and that our history begins there. Africans were portrayed as savages or starving people that lived in huts and battled extreme conditions like excessive heat and flies. African religion was pagan and wicked. Though it was never stated explicitly by my parents, Whites and Blacks were different, and should stay away from each other. It was also implied that Whites WERE NOT to be trusted, as they were once our masters. In addition, from the Biblical narratives I was reading to the portrayals that I saw on TV and movies, God was white, and so was Jesus, along with everyone else in the Bible. My family had one of those big "family bibles", full of pictures; all the characters were European. Yet, when we went to church, everyone worshipped this White God. Every Easter, I had to watch "The Greatest Story Ever Told" with my parents.

White Jesus

And so it was, these are the things that informed my childhood. These are the teachings that molded who I initially grew up to be. Even now, 40 some odd years later, having studied multiple books and learned so much about true history and religion, when I close my eyes and imagine "Jesus", this is who I see.

As a young man, I went through a period of atheism. I couldn't reconcile what I had been taught with what I felt, and so I rejected religion altogether. I went through this until I was around 23. Eventually, I found religion, and, typical of my propensity to commit to a thing fully, I made a 180 and went ALL IN. I even became a preacher for about 15 years. Up until I was around 38, this is who I became, and the Minister was how people knew me. But, my thirst for knowledge and my passion for learning the truth about things never went away. Eventually, I began to see inconsistencies in my "religion", as well as my perception of African American history and where we actually stood in the broad spectrum of society. I began to become stagnant in the church; religion no longer fulfilled me. There were just too many things that didn't add up, no matter how I tried to make it. The same thing was happening with my understanding of what it meant to be Black in America. I knew that I couldn't go backwards, but I couldn't stay in the same place, either. I knew there was more, and I had to find it. And so, I began a journey for knowledge, both of spirituality and the roots of my African heritage. Fortunately, I've been blessed to live during a time of enlightenment. The internet has revolutionized the ability to get information. There is literally NO EXCUSE to be ignorant, as we walk around with information centers in our pockets!

And so, here I am, now 50 years old. I've gained an abundance of knowledge on various subjects, particularly spirituality and African American history. I've grown as a human being; some things I've let go, some things I've embraced. No longer do I believe the lies that were perpetuated about Blacks in America. I understand the many contributions we've made to the growth of this nation, how we've affected the culture, and the impact that we make on society worldwide. I also no longer subscribe to much of the traditional teachings that I learned in the church, opting instead for a broader view of my faith and it's origins, understanding the correlation between it and my African roots. I'm a more knowledgeable individual these days, yet, I'm still on my journey for knowledge. I understand now that it is a journey which will consume me for as long as I draw breath; indeed, to stop learning is to die. But still, as I'm sure countless intellectual individuals constantly ask themselves, I can't help but to wonder, "What does it all mean?" Maybe one day I'll find out, if not in this life, then perhaps the next one.

James Gouldlock aka Ya'AQov Ben Yah


About the author

Ya'AQov Ben Yah

Ya'AQov Ben Yah, also known as James Gouldlock, was born in 1972. He is an author, Master Barber, graphic artist, and entrepreneur. He recently published his first book, Thoughts of A Critical Thinker, available on Amazon.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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