The Roots of Greatness

I sat today in the small front garden of the house at which I am temporarily staying for over 2 hours waiting for the storm in the distance to roll in. Thunder was booming and the occasional lightening bolt flashed, but the imminent rain held off. This was, for me, pure bliss. I have always loved thunderstorms; probably the only time I curse my great ability to sleep soundly is when I don’t wake for them in the middle of the night. The  strong, shaking crashes of thunder are primal and soothing; my love of this experience was something that went unsatiated while in Edinburgh. Because of this, being able to sit outside, enjoy a good book and listen to thunder for over an hour was a perfect way to spend an early Sunday afternoon.

The book referenced above is Alex Hayley’s Roots, which I picked up yesterday at Capitol Hill Books (a treasure trove that will, I’m sure, be the topic of a future post, with it’s Hogwarts-esque towers of books that defy gravity). I’m only just beginning to acquaint myself with Kunta Kinte, but there was a moment in the opening of the book that provided a wondrous juxtaposition of subject and environment.

Out under the moon and the stars, alone with his son that eighth night, Omoro completed the naming ritual. Carrying little Kunta in his strong arms, he walked to the edge of the village, lifted his baby up with his face to the heavens, and said softly, “Fend kiling dorong leh warrata ke iteh tee.” (Behold – the only thing greater than yourself.)

As the thunder rolled around me, I internalized this message. Living in the city, and this city in particular, I see everyday our compulsive need to control; we control our environment with inescapable air conditioning and control the image of a city or neighborhood with gentrification, for example. Yet it is at our peril as humans to think that we can control things in such a way; nature always takes over. Our most humbling moments prove this – Hurricane Katrina, The 2006 Tsunami in South East Asia, the recent Tsunami in Japan, earthquakes, tornados – they all defeat us completely.

Yet, I take in all of the wisdom of Omoro’s statement, “The only thing greater than yourself.” Nature, the heavens, may beat us every time, but all of the world’s other failings are our own. As humans we harness so much power within us;  the power to hate and destroy but also the power to let fortitude well up within us and achieve the impossible. Every person has a cosmic ball of potential inside of them – I know that I often (usually) do not live up to this potential in my own life. I can be lazy and procrastinate and this is a trait in myself that I find truly frustrating and weak. Yet, on this day, I let thunder inspire me. I may be small and powerless compared to the sonic booms in the sky, but the power within me loses all potential if I squander it.

The roots of greatness are within us.

The rain came eventually, as well.

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