Accepting Change

“It’s pulling with the experience of going through change and accepting change; that’s the hardest thing for man, accepting change… That can draw a thin line, you know, between you having your sanity and you losing it. And this is how artists deteriorate, if you don’t catch yourself…

“When we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.”

~ Kendrick Lamar

The Pulitzer Prize for music is an American tradition dating from the 1940s that each year celebrates “a distinguished musical composition of significant dimension.” Over the decades, some of the best (though often esoteric) modern classical, opera and jazz composers have been awarded the prestigious prize. So, it was somewhat out of the blue this week when this year’s award went to the album DAMN by Kendrick Lamar, a 30-year-old black rapper from Compton, California who combines hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, and the spoken word to create dense and often intense constructions about American life, particularly from the Black perspective. The achievement is remarkable given the boundaries and structures that make up these kinds of awards (no one is surprised by his many Grammy Awards).

I’ve had the chance over the years to become familiar with his music, as my son listens to him frequently. And I’ve been impressed with his depth of sincerity, fiery creativity, and honest vulnerability underscoring conscientious altruism within a frame of art that doesn’t always prioritize these. But beyond that, I like and respect his angle of insights into some of the issues and personal dynamics I’ve tried to include here on this blog, which he often folds into richly layered, unusual musical compositions. His focus often highlights struggles within what has been called the five primary values — Care/Protection, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity (mentioned in a blog post here on 7 May 2015, and often addressed in seminars and retreats I’ve lead).

This offering may be a challenge for some readers here. Still, it’s meant to be in the best sense of that, crossing boundaries and moving beyond the familiar to discover something out of the ordinary that informs real learning and expansive understanding. It’s high-quality art, worthy of the patient consideration and true passionate curiosity one should give to any exceptional yet challenging piece of classical, opera, or jazz music, or immersion into an unfamiliar culture with a different language:

Kendrick Lamar de-feminizes the human traits of love and empathy, which in Hip hop culture is feminized. Recognizing the meaning of self-actualization requires an understanding, and, on the other, appreciation of the need to nurture the inner life of the spirit as survival strategy. Any Black male who dares to care for his inner life, for his soul is already refusing to be a victim.”

– bell hooks

2 Comments Add yours

  1. original comment says:

    Kendrick Lamar is swirling in his polarized world and pictures all corners in his lyrics with a sane anger to find a way out.

    In a polarized world “he who chooses (apparent good from bad) picks worst”.

    For every truth there’s a lie.

    In a duality world, choosing sides brings a little apaisement followed by a big deception.

    In Zen, “do not reject and do not take,” swallow the world..!(told to me by Albert Low, Zen Master)
    – Guy

    1. I especially like your take on Lamar’s “sane anger to find a way out.” Under all anger is a sorrow that bubbles up into a powerful sense of something unjust that needs to be addressed. He has a graceful, even kind, spirituality under his relentless creative swirling that makes him a worthwhile, valuable voice to listen to.

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