Monday, August 19, 2019

Morrison

I guess it's a sign of how many laps I've done around the sun that so many creators whose work and lives I've admired are dying. Leonard Cohen. Maya Angelou. Terry Pratchett. Ursula K. LeGuin. And now Toni Morrison.

When someone dies, their untold stories die with them. I wrote about that in this essay, published in Skirt! magazine in May, 2017. When a creative person dies we lose their untold stories, but their life's work remains, both a comfort and a legacy, as if they haven't left us entirely.

In 2004 Toni Morrison gave the commencement address at Wellesley College. You can read a transcription of the address in it's entirety here (there's also a link to the video). Here are some of her remarks that resonated with me.
Regarding the future, I would have to rest my case on some bromide, like the future is yours for the taking. Or, that it’s whatever you make of it. But the fact is it is not yours for the taking. And it is not whatever you make of it. The future is also what other people make of it, how other people will participate in it and impinge on your experience of it. - Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College Commencement Address
And besides, contrary to what you may have heard or learned, the past is not done and it is not over, it’s still in process, which is another way of saying that when it’s critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself. The past is already changing as it is being reexamined, as it is being listened to for deeper resonances. Actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets. - Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College Commencement Address
... there is nothing, believe me, more satisfying, more gratifying than true adulthood. The adulthood that is the span of life before you. The process of becoming one is not inevitable. Its achievement is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard won glory... - Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College Commencement Address
The theme you choose may change or simply elude you, but being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean. But then, I am a teller of stories and therefore an optimist, a believer in the ethical bend of the human heart, a believer in the mind’s disgust with fraud and its appetite for truth, a believer in the ferocity of beauty. So, from my point of view, which is that of a storyteller, I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art. - Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College Commencement Address

 

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