The unbearable heaviness of being

I know it’s the holiday season but it’s always been hard for me to stay high when others are so low. Lack of affordable healthcare and housing, rampant under and unemployment and wars without end have left many of us ragged and heart-broken. Fortunately, we are not alone and there have always been artists who know how to tap the vein that allows our shared humanity to flow freely like the rising tide. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve only recently been turned on to Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken word poetry and music. I knew of the tremendous influence that his artistry has had on the hip hop community and the black liberation movement but never spent time listening to the man, himself. One of my favorite pieces by Scott-Heron is Pieces of a Man, it has served as a reminder to me that we can not know peace when so many are lying in “jagged jigsaw pieces” from the effects of unrelenting neoliberalism disguised as austerity. We may never be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again but we can at least try to keep more from falling off that damn wall.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

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18 Responses to The unbearable heaviness of being

  1. Oh, you’ve really touched a chord here – memories welling up into tears. It’s good to know that his music is reaching out to new listeners. And his music will last beyond most rap songs, at least for me. :)

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  2. smilecalm says:

    soulful music to brings me back
    to those funky school days.
    may we all continue finding inspiration
    and balance in this world of horror and beauty :-)

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  3. Pingback: I Never Got To Start! | shelbycourtland

  4. Good one, Jeff. In addition to the entire recorded catalog, including his final album, I’m New Here, you would likely really dig his autobio titled The Last Holiday, named for the MLK Federal holiday that he and Stevie Wonder crisscrossed the country to create. The book got some pans from corporate media but is incredibly well-written, as you might imagine.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I like I’m New Here but to be honest I like his older stuff a little better. The book sounds good, I’ll have to check it out. The pan by mainstream critics makes me want to read it even more. Thanks for the recommendation, Denise.

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  5. Anatole says:

    Thanks Jeff. Gil Scott-Heron is a huge comfort for me – I would never claim to understand everything he had to go through, but part of his talent was in tapping into the universality of life in capitalist society: alienation, unemployment, racism. And doing so in a way that relieved the pressure a little. I agree that Pieces of a Man is amazing, and I’ll cast my vote for I Think I’ll Call It Morning.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I haven’t heard I Think I’ll Call It Morning, have to check it out. Gil Scott-Heron reminds me of the musical version of Ralph Ellison. Music is a wonderful way to blow off excess steam whether by listening to it or actively participating. GSH really knew how to turn those valves.

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  6. Shainbird says:

    I share your shame Jeff, as this is my first listen. Thank you for sharing, you always put me onto great stuff. If we cannot reach peace in our time, we can make the journey with minds and voices against the odds. I have faith we can tip the scales. I am glad and grateful to have come to know such a mind and voice in you. I hope you have a happy and peaceful new year.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I share your faith that the tide will eventually turn, every drop of water contributes to bringing down the levees. Your poetry is always revelatory…best to you as well, Shainbird, as the old year folds up it’s tent.

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  7. ileneonwords says:

    Always listened to Gil Scott-Heron, Jeff…he is still relevant today.

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  8. laurathacker says:

    I am so glad I came here .. you always make me feel better to know you are in your spot ..
    “know where you stand and stand there” Jun 1, 2012 – Father Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, peace activist and poet, … High School in New York: “Know where you stand and stand there. … And to make sure that at the end of your run, you leave that world better than you found it.

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  9. Lovely choice, Jeff.
    One of my favorite energizing pieces is “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”–This one is quite different and yet–ahhhhh, heavy sigh, wonderful. Thank you.
    I say, “Safety nets for everyone!”
    It is doable if we decide to make it so.
    Thank you for your visits to my blogcasa. Much appreciated.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      It is definitely doable but it’s going to take some serious shifting of the discourse to realize. I really like the consciousness you bring at your blog, I highly recommend it to readers.

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  10. Gil Scott-Heron is one of the most under-appreciated people in the worlds of music and poetry – an unpolished gem of amazing inner beauty. His influence on hip-hop is staggering. Some of his songs are as deep as an entire novel. I saw him in a club in NYC a few years ago and he left the crowd mesmerized. There is plenty of his material on YouTube for people who aren’t familiar with his genius, but would like to be. Great post, Jeff. Peace.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Gil Scott-Heron’s artistic genius definitely wades into deep waters, I can’t believe I’m just hearing his music. I’m also getting into the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, I have a lot of catching up to do. Happy New Years to you.

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  11. P.S. The Revolution is definitely NOT being televised…

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