Friday, November 16, 2007

Force of violence has role in soul's expression

The RBG Street Scholars Think Tank Zine recently posted about the book The Soul Knows No Bars: Inmates Reflect on Life, Death, & Hope by Drew Leder and Cornel West, published by Rowman & Littlefield (2001). The same post is available at Assata Shakur Forums. According to the featured review by Joy James, a professor of African American Studies at Brown University, the book consists largely of edited transcripts of sessions with men convicted of crimes including rape, armed robbery, and murder. Discussions appear in six parts, each focusing on different individuals:
Power - Simone Weil and Friedrich Nietzche
Architecture - Michel Foucault
Space and time - Martin Heidegger
Sex and race - Cornel West
Journeys - Joseph Campbell
Beginnings and endings - Martin Buber and Malcolm X

An excerpt from the book, included in the post, is based on Thomas Moore’s "Violence and the Soul" in Care of the Soul. Moore says the word violence comes from the Latin word, vis meaning life force: "It would be a mistake to approach violence with any simple idea of getting rid of it. Chances are, if we try to eradicate our violence, we will also cut ourselves off from the deep power that sustains creative life."

Inmates' reflections about Moore's comments include:

"John: But it's a force that has to have some degree of control. My bad temper was my downfall. I don't really think I'm a bad person, but I had the tendency to react when I would feel like I was being threatened. And I'm better at handling that reaction now than when I was out on the street. Because I didn't have any thought about how to control or direct it--just to react, and react as strongly as possible. That's the way I learned on the street. If you're going to be violent, you're going to be all the way violent. There's no "a little violent"--you go the whole nine yards or you're not going at all.

Wayne: I liked the reading because it helped me understand a particular scripture. In Matthew 11:12 it says that "From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." I never really knew what that meant. Then I realized that when I come to the knowledge that what I did was wrong, it takes as much violence not to do it, an opposite violence going in the opposite direction. Now I use that same energy to redirect the anger. I come up with creative ideas to keep from doing a drastic thing I'll later regret. It's funny, really funny--the same energy that you use to do something, like commit a murder, you have to use to not commit a murder."

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