If I Die Before I Wake – A Reflection on the Regal Nature of Chadwick Boseman

I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman. He’s been on my mind so much that I caught myself shaking my head in the gym on the edge of tears. Now if you know me, you know that this isn’t characteristic of me. So, I had to examine why I was taking this so hard. Even before he died, I would find myself googling about his health. Like many people, I saw him getting thinner and would find myself concerned about him. I too hoped that the weight loss was due to him thinning up for a movie role. It had been announced, around the time that he started coming into public noticeably thinner, that he was going to play the first and only Black Samurai, Yasuke, who served under Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga in 16th century Japan. Once again, he was going to take on the role of one of the “First Blacks to…” just as he had with James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. So I hoped that his gaunt appearance was going to reveal itself to be indicative of his passion for his craft and the calling on his life to bring powerful characters into the consciousness of people who for so long had very few symbols to hold on to.

Thank you for being a King in this life—for challenging our imaginations and giving us an aspirational symbol. I know many people will think that you were “just an actor”. But for those of us who never grew up with superheroes who looked like us and saw ourselves portrayed in a negative light, you made an indelible mark and shined eternally bright. #restinwakandaforever

My Instagram post August 30, 2020

I don’t say this much out loud. But I often feel lonely. Part of this loneliness comes from the fact that I don’t have many living role models before me who can relate to my background or life’s experiences. Everyday, I try, in my small way, to live up to an ideal that I have never actually witnessed being displayed up close. And I do it knowing that I live in a world that, whether people will admit it or not, is always waiting for me to fail. And not just me. If I extrapolate from the conversations I’ve had over my lifetime, almost everyone who is veiled in Black skin in this country carries this burden either consciously or unconsciously. Though many people are in denial about it, if you’re paying attention as a Black person, you know. And others know it too. If we fail, we take so many other people down with us. Because to be Black here is to be a symbol. And as a symbol, you always represent much more than yourself. Whereas, if some other people fail, they are simply seen as an individual–often deserving of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.

When you are a symbol, society tries to make you an exception when you achieve in any capacity simply because the underlying belief is that most of us are incapable of meeting the illusory standards of this country. That’s why I think our ascendance, however small, is watched very closely. I believe that this is because, every step that any of us climbs, undoes the structure of the painfully comfortable false narrative that was built upon the foundation of our supposed inferiority. In other words, when Black people do well, especially in arenas where we are not always lauded, it tears at the fabric of this nation’s institutional myth about the capacities of American Blackness that almost everyone has bought into–even many Black folks. What if we were always this talented; this intelligent; this powerful? What does that say about how our ancestors were treated? What does it say about those of us who succumbed to the lies told about us? Does the past become even more tragic if we consider that we all had Wakandan like potential that was virtually strangled out of us for centuries? The questions are almost too much to contemplate.

By simply being who he was and living into his moment, Chadwick embodied that potential. His nature was regal. And in his person he carried the spirits of many of our ancestors. Perhaps that is why he was called here to embody them for us in the enduring form of film. He showed us our past and our future. He changed our world. And then he left.

In my work, I have seen many people die. I have watched as the light leaves their bodies and often wondered if they illumined every place they came here to shine in. I suspect that most haven’t. And that’s why there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about when my day will come. But I am not afraid of death. Ever since I became aware of the expectation that, as a Black Man in America, I would either die or spend some time in the criminal justice system by 18, I have contemplated my death. So no, I am not afraid of death at all. What gets to me is the idea that I will not do all that I can with this life because I will have allowed myself to be overly weighed down by the loneliness of being the first or the only. As they say, I don’t want to die with my music still in me. I want to truly live while I am here. And the truth is that I can’t say that I’ve done that yet. So perhaps that is part of why I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman.

Consider what he accomplished in the 4 years that he was diagnosed and being treated for colon cancer. Can you imagine? And consider that he did all of this while keeping his diagnosis to himself. Talk about lonely. But I don’t think he kept it to himself for himself. I think he did it for all us who know what it’s like to be the first or the only. In a consumer driven world where illness is seen as just another failure, he commanded his body and the world it inhabited to conform to his ideal. And in so doing, he tore that mythical fabric of Black inferiority that much more.

Of course, it is sad that he was not able to share his struggles with the world and receive the wellspring of compassion that he would have likely received and perhaps lived longer. But he was Black before he was The Black Panther. So I can imagine that he didn’t think he would get a second chance. So he did everything he could with the chance he got knowing that just like when one of us goes down we inadvertently take others with us, when we ascend, we take others with us as well. And that’s why I can say unequivocally that though this man had no earthly crown, he was and always will be a king. And at least for me, his being brings about a sense of conviction that before I die, I must make contact with my own regality and do everything I can to encourage it in others.

A Poem Fit for a King (In Memory of Chadwick Boseman)
I’ll see you on the Other Side
But I still can see you now
In the ways you changed the atmosphere
And by your essence you showed us how

We can’t believe that you are gone
And yet you’re here now more than ever
Giving form to a future and a past
We salute you now and forever

Now that your form is no longer with us
We see the burden that was in your eyes
You held the Space just long enough
To show that One who is Living never dies

Someday we all will meet you
In the azure canopied ancestral plains
Where everyone is a queen and king
In the Place where Spirit reigns.

© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II

Miss You While You’re Here

Lately I’ve been thinking about
All the moments that we missed
When we’re younger we think we have plenty of time
And don’t think about stuff like this

We put so much off until later
But what if later never comes?
All tomorrows repeats of yesterdays
The future setting like the sun

I’m not ready yet to miss you
When I know that you’re right here
There’s so much I wanted to give you
Before my chances disappeared

Now it hurts that we talk almost everyday
And yet we never talk at all
Or that I battle with all these tempting thoughts
Not to answer when you call

Of course I want to be here for you
But it seems this is always where we’ve been
You telling me about how hard it is
While I listen on the other end

I look back and feel like a failure
I wish I could’ve spared you from some pain
But the best I can do is be a witness
And pray for something else to change

I still have hope that you’ll get better
That perfect love will cast out fear
But for now I’ll be grateful for what we have
Because I don’t want to miss you while you’re here
© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II

I wrote this poem as I started to think about how many conversations I have with my mom are about how to make it from month to month. We talk everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day. But rarely are our conversations about thing that I would like us to talk about. Because of all of the stress over the past few years, there has been a strain on the relationship. I’ll be honest and say that often I am acting like I am her parent rather than the other way around. I want her to be safe and make decisions for her well-being. I know how hard she tried to be whatever and whoever she felt she needed to be to make sure we survived growing up. That took a toll on her. And I know that she had huge dreams–most of which never got fulfilled. This is a wound in her heart.

She always told me that she wanted to leave my brothers and I with a legacy. What she meant was money. That hasn’t happened and it saddens her. She apologizes for not being in a better financial situation and asks me to believe in her that she can still pull it off. I want to believe, but… And now that I am witnessing her forgetting so much and yet still holding out hope for a miracle or for her “ship to come in” as she says, I feel a twinge of regret.  I ask myself, “If I knew we were going to end up here anyway, what would I have done differently?”

At first, I told myself I would’ve stayed in the military so that I would have my retirement right now and I could be working another job to provide for her. But then I look at my wife and kids and know that I had to take the course I did.  I then think that I should’ve chosen a more lucrative profession than being a pastor. But then, I was having a conversation with a guest at the church who is experiencing homelessness at the church and watching members of the congregation–to include children serving food and sitting with our homeless neighbors and I thought, “I am glad to be in this moment.” And then I thought, well maybe I was called to be a pastor for a season, but now that my mom needs me, I need to move on and do something else because my responsibilities demand it. And then I prayed and I felt the spirit moving me to be honest about how hard this is and to tell my friends. And so I did. And they stepped in and blessed my family and gave me room to breathe so I could figure out how to make the next best move for my mom. They showed me the truth of the teaching that says, “[God’s] strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

And so then in that space, I asked God what I could do differently for my mom. And in my soul’s language I heard, “Don’t miss her while she is still here. Because that’s what you’ve been doing. If you want to have different conversations with her, change the subject. Talk about the things that you wish you could talk to her about. If she misses it and repeats something else she just said, tell her you love her. Tell her your dreams and maybe she’ll get joy in knowing that she is a part of them. Have an unreasonable belief in miracles because you never know what might happen. And don’t forget, you are not in this alone.”

So if you are reading this, what my soul spoke into my life, I speak into yours. There are so many things in life that can distract us from the moments we are in–something to tempt us to forget that there is always the possibility of great beauty around the corner. In my weakness, I found strength in hitting my limits and reaching out. My hope is that in sharing what I am learning, it is blessing you all too.

With true love,

Pedro

Power Brokers

The power you have, we gave you

Now you fear we’ll take it back

That’s why when we ask you to represent

You take it as attack

In questioning your motives

We just want to make this clear

Ignoring those you don’t want to see

Will not make us disappear

For there’s nowhere we are not

Eternally we reside

We trusted you to steward life

Because we know that you can’t hide

Some people call it karma

When we reap everything we sow

We call it “Everything is One.”

As above and so below

So the gift of service we gave you

Comes from power we have loaned

Abuse it and the only power you will break

Will be the power that was your own

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

Death Is Not a Failure

We all succeed at dying

One way or the other

Despite the value we place on holding it back

We have this in common with one another

Even Jesus couldn’t escape it

Though we say it’s a revolving door

He begged if the cup of death could pass

How much less should we implore?

For the living’s only reality

Is to live, and be, and move

Death appearing a contradiction

What can we gain

For all we lose?

Yet, Death is not an ending

Not a new beginning or a door

Nor does it ever take from us

Or give the peace we’re longing for

All we think it is it isn’t

Because we lack the point of view

To see it for what it really is,

We need a different mind to see it through.

One not born through separation

One complete in its perception

One that sees all things for what they are

Present wholeness without rejection

Such a mind must not fear death

In fact it’s grateful for its inclusion

For the only Death there ever is

Is the Death of our illusions

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

Maker in the Middle

In the center of all things

Is the One Who is All

From the infinitely large

To the infinitely small

Nowhere not the center

Even that which you call edge

Split the atom and there is fullness

There’s no space that you can hedge

There is no private matter

As far as matter is concerned

In fact matter doesn’t matter

Once it’s spiritually discerned

Reality is Oneness

This thought called two has never been

It’s the illusion of separation

Denying the truth of what’s within

We live, move, and have our being

In the One Place all things Be

Once we receive the “I” that sees this

There’s nothing ever more to see

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

 

The Truths Cannot Die

The next time that you kill us
Remember we never really die
Suppressing us won’t free you
Because Truth can’t sustain a lie

I know our presence scares you
We make you feel unsure
Nothing can quite prepare you
For seeing your prejudice impure

You’ve been taught we’re inconvenient
You try to hide us from your view
But locking us up doesn’t keep us out
Since you can’t get away from you

Your history of violence
Towards those who look like me
Has left so many people silent
That we barely know how to be

You say that we are valued
And yet you try to hide the Truth
But there’s no escaping what’s evident
We are the living proof

But where does this knowledge leave us
For too many it ushers shame
The one thing no one wants to feel
Because we can’t escape the pain

See that’s not what we’re seeking
What we want to share is hope
But in our face you see a mirror
And hang the image from a rope

Your guilt too, is not of value
It’s just denial in different dress
Which leads to justification
Which fosters anger and unrest

So what is the solution?
Where do we go from here?
How can we live by a better Way,
When we hold on to our fear?

The answer is we cannot
We have to let love win
Or die in the darkness that we choose
And then do it all again

Fighting Over Crumbs

All things to All things
Nothing is denied
But we’re fighting over bread crumbs
Because someone believed a lie

So now we kill each other
In our constant pursuit of more
We believe we are “consumers”
Because we don’t know what we’re for

Infinite Creation
Nothing more or less
But instead destruction follows us
When we put us to the test

Addicted to the thought of conquering
Sixty steps till we unlearn
That the truth of life is obvious
When we’re not looking for our turn

In the mean time there’s confusion
We’re told we have to choose a side
Contests between “us” and “them”
Where the winner doesn’t die

But what if someone told you
That everything is yours
And everything is everyone’s
And no one’s keeping score

The House is not divided
Upon the Rock is where it stands
Never to be shaken
By unreasonable demands

But because it can’t be broken
It won’t resist what it is we do
We can lie all the hell we want to
Because all of it’s untrue

Though we deny the Absolute
It simply continues as it is
Fully realized. No need to strive.
For it’s the life that we all Live

It’s the Bread that’s not devoured
Though we eat it to our fill
Diminishing every sense of loss
Like nothing ever will

 

Our Guardian Whose Art Is Heaven

Our Guardian Who art in Heaven

And on every other plane

Thanks for calling us into being

And holding us in Your Name

We seek to find your Kingdom

We live for it to come

A world beyond division

Where all are known as One

A place of infinite creation

Where all that’s good will last

Our future and our hope

Without the burdens of the past

Thy will for us is done

By Your Heaven born Design

As soon as we surrender

And walk the narrow line

By Your Word You feed us daily

With everything we need

Satisfying Holy hungers

That this world could never feed

You share the joy of Your forgiveness

By instructing we do it too

Forgiving others when they trespass

For they know not what they do

This frees us from temptation

From error we’re delivered

We enter into the Kingdom

When we imitate the Giver

In that State we behold Your Glory

And Your unassuming Power

That’s been our Light in a world of darkness

Preparing us for our hour

You’ve been creating us in Your Image

Though invisible it may be

Teaching us to practice the Art of Heaven

That only opened eyes can see

 

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II

Unlimited Power

Look at the tip of your finger

What is it that you see?

That which appears to be absent

Is exactly what holds the key

All that is in the visible

Has the unseen as its Source

The finest formless substance

Passing through into the coarse

Even though you cannot see it

The world is at your finger tips

Every possible frequency in a single point

All that ever will exist

Every movement bound in stillness

Until someone calls into the temporal

Instantly the command starts taking shape

It really is that simple

It all is living within us

What we hope for and what we fear.

We’re just chasing what we’re projecting

And that’s what brought us to the so called “here”

We were given unlimited power

To create anything in an instance

But for reasons that I’ll now explain,

All we chose to make was distance

Like a child who wants attention

We rebelled for our own space

While hoping that before we got too far

The Creator would give us chase

But the Creator just kept creating

Busy keeping everything in tune

So we decided to run as far as we could go

But to the Creator we’re in the room

You see, Omnipresence is inconvenient

If one wants to get away

Because as soon as you arrive at “somewhere else”

You realize you are where you always stayed

Some of us have accepted this

We no longer try to run

And we no longer chase our siblings

Instead we shine with the Present Son

That doesn’t mean that we’re not struggling

Perhaps we’re struggling even more

Because now we are completely powerless

That’s what we know we need Him for

We had exhausted every possibility

To create ourselves in our own image

Until we had nothing left in us to fight

And we thought that we were finished

Like a branch cut off from the Vine

We eventually began to wither

We could not be a Source unto ourselves

So to live we called the Giver

Instantly the Giver gave

But we took our time in our receiving

We had put so much into making our own space

That we were out of practice with believing

We needed an example

To remind us what to do

To humble ourselves accordingly

So the Power can come through

So the Son who lives eternally

Entered the dream of days and hours

So we can see Him though He’s invisible

That’s how He connects us to our Power

The more that we surrender

The clearer it is to see

That the Spirit has never left us

No matter how much we’ve tried to flee

That’s the Way of this Wondrous Power

It can be rejected but not denied

Capable of bringing back to Life

Even those of us who died

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II

The Mirror In the Man

I talked to the Man in the Mirror

Who led me to the Mirror in the Man

The thoughts that I reflect upon

That shape how I understand

He told me that to know him

I first had to let him be

To go back to his original state

Untethered and wholly free

Before he was a father

Before he was a son

Before he was just a survival tool

That state where he is One

His suggestion threatened my ego

I feared I would not exist

Without my mind to remind me of who I was

How could my ideas of me persist?

But he told me that all my big ideas

Led me further from the Truth

They were just stories I told myself

So that my so called life had proof

He said the Man in the Mirror

Is not really my reflection

That I was focusing all my power

On a mere ego projection

My mind shining through a filter

That casted only a shadow of myself

That I then looked at Creation through

Seeing shadows everywhere else

This was really hard to swallow

How could this really be?

How can I know who I really am

If my body isn’t me?

And what of other bodies?

If they’re not people, who are they?

And if I try to tell them this,

What will these other bodies say?

Maybe what they’re supposed to,

To ensure that they survive.

But if that is all that we can do

What is it that makes us come alive?

If we are not all these categories

And boxes people check

Are we really anything at all,

When further we reflect?

That’s really a scary thought

But one we have to entertain

If we ever are to know ourselves

As more than programs in our brain

In fact, the fear we feel around this

Is just another survival tool

Because the brain’s designed to not admit

When its programming has been fooled

Try it if you doubt it

Just try thinking something new

Say something that you don’t believe

And see what your brain will do

Synapses will start firing

Doing pattern reconstruction

Telling you what you already “know”

Just like the brain is supposed to function

It’s not easy to resist this

Even when higher knowledge has been revealed

We cannot do what we want to do

As long as the former pattern’s sealed

When I heard this, I couldn’t deny it

I had experienced the same

My brain was making all the rules

When I thought I controlled the game

This thought was so frustrating

The cognitive dissonance started hurting

Trying to hold these opposing thoughts

Was severely disconcerting

That’s when I remembered

Something in the Bible that I read

“Greater is He that’s in you.”

So I listened to “Him” instead

The “me” that is in the world

Started running out of time

As I began my transformation

Through the renewal of my mind

Paul said to die daily

Renewing body, mind, and all

Living from our heavenly body

That is aligned with our mind’s true call

But to do this we must surrender

We lose our lives when we try to save it

So the only Way to truly live

Is to return our lives to the One who gave it

This is the Mind that is in Christ

The Mind begotten but never born

According to the Original pattern

And not the ones to which the brain’s conformed

 

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II