Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reel Talk: Girls Trip & Dunkirk




by Da CogNegro:








Review:  Girls Trip  isn’t ground breaking cinema. Nevertheless, it succeeds in portraying different variations of cultural representation while relishing in commonality. It is at its' best when it balances  sentiment and comedy to a familiar but enjoyable degree. Add elements of feminism, specifically #blackgirlmagic, moments of raunch that reach levels of temporal absurdity, and head turning cameos and you have a vehicle that will satiate its' intended audience. Put it like this, Malcolm Lee's latest film is comfort food the viewer can indulge in unabashedly!   It's a buffet composed of  convenient nostalgia,quixotic exploits and sheer escapism. It goes with out saying that you should keep your eye on the scene stealing Tiffany Haddish who manages to rambunctiously, but authentically, steal the show from her more subdued cast-mates. (B)














Review: As it relates to its' cinematic merit, I can already foresee Dunkirk being quite divisive. If you've been following the career of Christopher Nolan, then you are already accustomed to the fact that his films are far from formulaic and Dunkirk does not buck the trend. Atmosphere,mood and sound are the central characters in this recreation of the noteworthy WWII battle. The directional wizardry of Nolan is on full display resulting in some rather spellbinding sequences, which are heightened by the scores of Hans Zimmer. His camera work, from sprawling shots to claustrophobic angles,  also captures the true essence of war time peril. However, some viewers may wave the white flag due to the lack of traditional characterization and dialogue. I too found myself disconnected at times due to the absence of these tools. Nevertheless, Dunkirk is more experience than passive viewing, is a directional achievement for Christopher Nolan, and will surely get recognition around award season- (B) -CgN






Friday, July 7, 2017

Classic Corner: What Time is it? 4:44 Review!








by Da CogNegro & Mos Definition



Da CogNegro's Take: 

Let's be honest, I have not enjoyed the bulk of  a Jay-Z  album since 2003. With a failed attempt at "Sophista-Rap"(Kingdom Come), a retreat to worn territory of drug culture glorification in the guise of a concept album ( American Gangster) and two offerings replete with vapid materialism and desperate adulation of self (Blue Print 3 & Magna Carta: Holy Grail) I really was not anticipating another one of his releases. This is not to say that there have not been some enjoyable tracks during the aforementioned period. Nevertheless, the one time trendsetter has simply been following suite as a hollow caricature of himself.

Now it may seem like I'm a Jay-Z hater. On the contrary, Jay has been in my top five for quite sometime. However, he has been on decline on said list. My problem with "Hov" is that I wanted to see him evolve. When it came to "making moves" in the world of business and marketing, he is a unprecedented trailblazer. However, I failed to see those same strides being done in his own work. I wanted Mr. Carter to use his status and influence to create art that could evoke change as well as step outside of his comfort zone.Fortunately, 4:44 gives us that evolution by displaying a vulnerable, introspective, and poignant Jay. Simply put, he has finally released the album that I've been waiting on for the past 14 years!

Right off the bat, Death of Jay- Z has Mr. Carter at his most remorseful. Sure, we have gotten glimpse of this side of Jay on tracks such as Regrets, You Must Love Me and Soon You'll Understand, but never was it put on such full and unflinching display. With lines such as:

What's up, Jay Z? You know you owe the truth
To all the youth that fell in love with Jay Z

it becomes clear that we are in for an offering that we have never experienced  before. Sure enough, The Story of OJ has Jay sharing sage advice on how to break the chains of poverty while also highlighting social futility when it comes to the perception of people of color. The sobering message is made that much more effective by the excellent sample of Nina Simone's Four Women.

The opening seconds of Smile reveal that the stellar NO ID attempts to sample one of Stevie Wonder's most iconic tracks: Love's in Need of Love Today! My first thoughts was that this was indeed sacrilegious. But after hearing Jay express unadulterated joy in his mother discovering  love, that was once taboo, as well as citing a third verse that truly displays his lyrical dexterity and craftsmanship, all reservations were put at ease.

The Frank Ocean assisted Caught Their Eyes has Jay displaying his signature word play as he crafts tales that range from stone cold killers, who play the role as grievers, down to detailing the nefarious tactics of  Londell Mcneil: the attorney of the late Prince

4:44 is the track that is on the tips of everyone's tongue  Jay vividly, as well as poetically, details his remorse over his infidelity with a honest maturity and sophistication that is all but lost on modern day hip hop. And at this half way point, we realize, similar with Nas' Life is Good, that should be the natural progression of this genre. This is the evolution of the culture.

Family Feud and Moonlight has Jigga giving cautionary advice to the traps of generational and family division as well as  artist falling prey to industry tactics and emulating inauthentic personas that result in their respective downfalls. As a movie enthusiast, I truly appreciate the La La Land reference in Moonlight's hook. Bam is the only misstep on the album as it shows Jay-Z reverting back to his  egotistical persona simply to, once again, remind everyone of exactly who he is. I understand the purpose of this track from a narrative perspective, but it's superfluous, to say the least, especially since he is suppose to be convincing us of  that he undergoing  a metamorphosis of sorts.

Marcy Me is probably his most sentimental ode to his old stomping grounds and Legacy is simply beautiful. I never thought I would refer to a Jigga song as being tender, but Legacy fits that bill.In fact, it would be the perfect track to end a stellar career.

4:44 gives us the "New and improved Jay-Z" that was mentioned in the introduction of his  Hard Knock Life Vol. 2 album. Reinvigorated and poised, while still maintaining his signature witticism, this Jay-Z uses the talents of the stellar NO ID successfully and is able to produced a true 4 1/2 mic album!

Now that we have gotten the technical aspects of this review out of the way ,I would be remiss if I didn't share some additional commentary from a sociopolitical/economical stance.

I appreciate the fact that Jay-Z admonishes us to be fiscally responsible and encourages ownership/entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, I can not ignore that he has built a career on being brash and braggadocios as it relates to his material acquisitions which therefore has fueled the need, of some impressionable listeners, to allow their esteem to be predicated on acquiring said items. To quote Lupe Fiasco, "...we teachin' 'em that they ain't sh*t if they ain't got the latest that they saw on someone famous."

In addition, having more of us benefit from capitalism doesn't necessarily put an end to social injustice. Yes, it would be cool to have more than one billionaire, but how does that affect young black men being killed by the police? Perhaps I am being unfair to put that much responsibility on an artist and should be grateful that Jay is addressing one of the scourges that plague our community. But wealth will only solve a portion of the problem. There's a reason that these young artist are duped into industry deals or exhibit destructive behaviors. Let's tackle those issues as well!

Furthermore,  none of the gems that Jay is sharing is new. Artist such as Nas, Common, Lupe Fiasco and others have made careers out of empowering the  people with cautionary anecdotes and uplifting lyrics. Then again, as long as the message is received by the populace, no?

 I'm all for the evolution of the artist and welcome Jay's as long as it is authentic and not a ploy that plays off his wife's most recent release. Whatever the catalyst of his transformation, one thing is for sure, Jay's influence on , not just hip-hop culture but culture period, is clearly evident. For anyone who is myopic enough to believe that artist aren't influential then they are slaves to their own naivety. So kudos to Jay for realizing the responsibility that artist should have when it comes to the people. Let's just hope this proclamation isn't as premature as his retirement announcements- CgN


Mos Definition's Take 

Disclaimer, I am a a Jay-Z Stan and   CogNegro" wasn't going to let me write this  unless I informed our readers...  (You're Welcome) Now having said that , HOV took off the blazer ,loosened up the tie, stepped inside the booth and then ...Shawn Carter started rapping.When Jay-Z drops an album, the whole rap world stops and takes notice.This time, it's different though! Gone is the, to borrow a CogNegro criticism, "One percenter" rap of Watch the Throne and Magna Carta that most of his fans can't relate to. In its place, we start to hear him let go of the image  he's carried since 1997. What we get with 4:44 is the 2nd Shawn Carter album. We haven't seen him expose so much of himself since Reasonable Doubt Maybe his wife exposed so much of their lives on Lemonade that he was forced to finally let his guard down. Either way, it is welcomed! It's only natural that as his fans grow older and wiser ,his music  should as well. The world has changed! The hope and prosperity of the Obama era is gone and the reality of the world we do live in is in this album. Let's not ignore his cockiness though. It's still present on a few tracks to remind  all that he's still arguably the best that ever did it!

Final Rating: 4 Stars (See CogNegro, I can be objective)

Sidebar: This is a reminder that Hov snatched the crown back rappers.... step up or step off!!!!



Friday, June 16, 2017

Why Do We Do These Things:A "Trap House" is Not a Home!







by Da CogNegro

I was already ready to write about the Black Panther reveal last Friday! Eagerly, I began to jot down notes on the wording and format I would utilize to express my excitement. I had decided that I would use the fan favorite "Take Five" as the framework to explain the road this unprecedented film will travel as it relates to universal appeal as well as the grand task of creating a brand new narrative in the realm of heroes of color. And then I stumbled upon this:




Here is the official breakdown of this "wondrous" experience:


 2 Chainz new virtual reality Trap House guides fans through the personal story of his own “trap house” aka drug den, on Riverdale Road in Atlanta.The rapper teamed with VRTGO and VRLIVE to create the immersive, interactive virtual reality experience.Fans can go room-to-room, where they can discover new songs off the Pretty Girls Like Trap Music album, while interacting with new characters and objects inside of the 2 Chainz’ Trap House
Good to see that college education being put to good use sport ! So basically, we are transforming the concept of a drug house into some interactive exercise of amusement! Now I can spend the bulk of this entry meticulously dissecting this puppet and shaming him for being a tool in the exploitation of his own people. But let's do something a bit different. Let's focus on what contrarians are bound to say:


Why are you getting bent out of shape. It's just entertainment!!
You know what else was entertainment? Mandingo Fights!


Mind you, these are the same individuals who are persistently telling you to "Stay Woke knowing damn well I've been up since 7:30 am! What I find interesting, about the whole "entertainment" argument ,is that it is clearly justification for such exploitation to exist. But what some of us seem to be oblivious to is that such experiences are not based upon  fantasy. This isn't some simulation where a person is fighting dragons or someone is riding a winged horse. No, these experiences, and tales, are steeped in a reality replete with despair and pain that comes at the expense of others. Take a look at the following pictures mind you:








Did you find yourself two stepping to these pictures? Did the following illustrations put you in the mood to gather a couple of your partners or round up some girlfriends to purchase a bottle at the club? Disconnection is the foot that kicks the crutch from a handicapped reality! I highly doubt that the virtual trap house will have rooms displaying these images!


Why are you hating on this man's hustle? He's making money!


If anyone else was peddling this contraption, we would call it racism. Since it's one of our own, however, it's cultural. And giving way to such reasoning proves that we have fallen for THE ULTIMATE JEDI MIND-TRICK! We have allowed outsiders to dictate what is deemed culturally significant! And you know what's more mind boggling? When the "others" attempt to emulate these manufactured symbols of culture, we label it appropriation! That's right, we fight for ownership of symbols and depictions that negatively represent us!  "Hey! You can't rap about weed and hoes! You're not authentic enough to do so!? That's all ours! So the real question is this: Why do we allow ourselves to be duped ,especially those of us in the know,  into participating and defending our on cultural demise? The answers may surprise you! CgN



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Ji Spot- Q&A With JiJi



by Jihan Ji Ji Michael

But first, a word from Da CogNegro:

The summer is upon us and it seems like you’re still unable to find that special someone.  What’s the matter? Binging on “All Natural” Naked beverages didn’t result in the summer body you wanted? Well, here’s a tip: get a dog, no, a cat! Hear me out. The majority of your relationships have ended in great balls of fire, no? This obviously means that you are a glutton for punishment and your ability to judge a person’s character falls somewhere between a Migos Christmas special and a tall cup of Cofveve!

Reindeer...Workshop!

So in a last ditch effort, you’ve come to the blog in hopes at some type of redemption. Well, I can’t save you! I’m too busy reorganizing my Matchbox cars and polishing my Marvel steelbook collection to worry about your trivial pursuits of love and happiness, no offense Al Green! Maybe the homey Ji can help you with her latest vlog. In the meantime, put the romper down and see if you can find a Groupon for some self-respect- CgN 

  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reel Talk- Wonder Woman


by Da CogNegro

It’s no secret that DC Comics and WB have struggled to create another successful franchise outside of the Batman property. Though Man of SteelBatman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad have all done relatively well at the box office, critics and fan feedback has ranged from apathetic to downright vitriolic. To say thatWonder Woman has a considerable amount of pressure, to break “the curse”, is an understatement. What has always been baffling though is why it has taken so long for this film to be released when she is arguably one of the most iconic characters in pop culture! Put it this way, Green Lantern, Steel, and even Jonah Hex have had their time on the silver screen. Even Swamp Thing has had two films dedicated to his adventures in the…the…Swamp!  But with the female empowerment movement being at the forefront of our current social-political sphere, the release of such a movie could not have come at a better time.

First and foremost, all who may have worried that Gal Gadot would not be a suitable successor to Lynda Carter can put their worries to rest. She is powerful, intelligent and a stunning presence on the screen who  seamlessly pulls off an authentic balance of regality and naivety that does not come off as being contrived, or hammy, especially since the film serves as a variation of the “fish out of water” tale.

From a cinematography perspective, the contrast between the vibrant Themyscira to the drab European backdrops is quite effective and really gives the viewer a sense of two vastly, different worlds. Chris Pine is charming and believable enough as our human tour guide for this adventurous romp.  Furthermore, the cast of supporting characters generally works well to flesh out the humor and drama of the narrative. Sure the villains are a bit 2-D, but this is forgivable because the majority of the film reminds of us of the magic of super hero movies. Yes, we enjoy films that are grounded in reality and defy genre expectations. However, there is nothing wrong with evoking a true sense of nostalgic escapism in these films as well.

However, being that Zack Snyder has his fingerprints on this, the movie has some glaring flaws which unfortunately, prevent it from being great! Without giving too much away, there is one scene, within the climax, that is truly profound and if examined further, could have really made the film something special. Instead of leaving well enough alone though, the film descends into eye rolling; madcap final battle that strips away the more subtle nuances the movie spent so much time developing. The viewer is then overcome with a “been there …done that” feel that could have easily been avoided. Speaking of action, we get a mix bag  of dazzling array of fisticuffs  to scenes that rely too heavily on slow motion , choppy editing, and unnecessary close ups. All in all, Wonder Womanis a step in the right direction for DC’s answer to Marvel’s cinematic universe. It’s just too bad that it is a step as oppose to a leap. And you don’t have to tie me up to receive that truth!  (B-)-CgN  




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Decoded- The Master



by Da CogNegro

Welcome to the second edition of Decoded. Inspired by Rap Genius, Decoded is a feature that breaks down the written and/or recorded work of DS Williams . In this edition, we will tackle the third verse of The Master. Written in 2011, The Master is actually one of the four hidden tracks on DS Will's first album Strength in Letters.
The first two verses take aim at dispelling the stereotypes, misnomers, and myths of people of color that were created and perpetuated by the powers that be. DS aggressively details the harsh conditions of the inner city down to scientific experiments that were conducted on unassuming African Americans. However, the third verse takes an interesting turn as it details a series of hoaxes and  perceived truths that were once viewed as factual events and beliefs. Often times, listeners have been perplexed by the references within the verse...until now! In this day of "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts" DS's The Master is more relevant than ever! -CgN




The third verse  begins at the 2:03 mark though I recommend you listen to the song in its' entirety to understand the full scope and narrative!

(Verse 3)
We all live on a world that is really flat
While the planet is supported on a turtle's back
Watching Rain Follows Plow on California Island
Giants found in Cardiff got the natives "wildin"
Spontaneous Generation taught without a fault
While Cottingley Fairies flying in Capone's vault
Heard They found a man over down in Piltdown
War Of Worlds tale got a familiar sound
Diaries of Hitler....Hughes Biography...
Intelligence that was measured with mere Pherenolgy
It's never odd to me, truth comes in many shades
Or maybe that's the intentions whenever it is made
Fabrications that's calculated leading  astray
The Headlines that's deceptive are printed everyday
The Devil's strongest act lies in his greates tirck
Is convincing the world that he doesn't exist


And now it's time for breakdown!
 


We all live on the world that is really flat
While the planet is supported on a turtle's back


The Flat Earth model is an archaic conception of the Earth's shape as a plane or disk. Many ancient cultures subscribed to a flat Earth theory, including Greece, civilizations of the Near East, India and China.


The World Turtle  is a mytheme of a giant turtle supporting or containing the world. The mytheme, occurs in Chinese mythology and the mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas





Watching Rain Follows Plow on California Island
Giants found in Cardiff got the natives "wilding"


Rain Follows Plow is the conventional name for a now-discredited theory of climatology that was popular throughout the American West and Australia during the late 19th century.The basic premise of the theory was that human habitation and agriculture effected a permanent change in the climate.




The Island of California refers to a long-held Spanish misconception, dating from the 16th century, that California was not part of mainland North America but rather a large island separated from the continent by a strait now known as the Gulf of CaliforniaOne of the most famous cartographic errors in history, it was illustrated on many maps during the 17th and 18th centuries, despite contradictory evidence from various explorers. The legend was initially infused with the idea that California was a paradise, like the Garden of Eden or Atlantis.






The Cardiff Giant was one of the most famous hoaxes in United States history. It was a 10-foot-tall "petrified man" uncovered on October 16, 1869, by workers digging a well behind the barn of William C. "Stub" Newell in Cardiff, New York.The giant was the creation of a New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about Genesis 6:4 stating that there were giants who once lived on Earth.




"Spontaneous Generation Taught Without a fault
While Cottingley Fairies flying in Capone's vault"

Spontaneous generation  is an obsolete body of thought on the ordinary formation of living organisms without descent from similar organisms. Typically, the idea was that certain forms such as fleas could arise from inanimate matter such as dust, or that maggots could arise from dead flesh. The theory was debunked by the experiments of Louis Pasteur during the 19th century    






The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England.
The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as he interpreted the photographs as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena. Though many believed that the photos were authentic,  both Doyle and Griffiths admitted that the photographs were faked, using cardboard cutouts of fairies copied from a popular children's book. 





The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults is an infamous two-hour live American television special that was broadcast on April 21, 1986.Hosted by TV personality Geraldo Rivera, the special centered on the opening of a secret vault in the Lexington Hotel once owned by noted crime lord Al Capone, which turned out to be empty except for debris. 




"Heard they found man over down in Piltdown
The War Of Worlds tale has a familiar sound"



The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human.In 1912, the amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed that he had discovered the "missing link" between ape and man after finding a section of a human-like skull in gravel beds near Piltdown, East Sussex. Nevertheless, exposed in 1953 as a forgery. It was found to have consisted of the altered mandible and some teeth of an orangutan deliberately combined with the cranium of a fully developed, though small-brained, modern human.




The War of the Worlds is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on Sunday, October 30, 1938.Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds . It became famous for allegedly causing mass panic and hysteria.


"Diaries of Hitler,Hughes Biography.
Intelligence that was measured with mere Phrenology"



The Hitler Diaries were a series of sixty volumes of journals purportedly by Adolf Hitler, but forged by Konrad Kujau between 1981 and 1983.The diaries were purchased in 1983 for 9.3 million Deutsche Marks by the West German news magazine Stern, which sold serialisation rights to several news organisations. One of the publications involved was The Sunday Times, who asked their independent director, the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, to authenticate the diaries; he did so, pronouncing them genuine. Kujau  spent time in prison for his parts in the fraud, and several newspaper editors lost their jobs. 





Clifford Michael Irving is an American novelist and investigative reporter. He is best known for an "autobiography" allegedly written as told to him by billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. The fictional work was to have been published in 1972. After Hughes denounced him and sued the publisher, McGraw-Hill, Irving and his collaborators confessed to the hoax. He was sentenced to 2 12 years in prison, of which he served 17 months.





Phrenology is a pseudomedicine primarily focused on measurements of the human skull, based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. Although both of those ideas have a basis in reality,Phrenology is now regarded as an obsolete combination of primitive anatomy and moral philosophy




"The Devil's strongest act lies in his greatest trick
Is convincing the world that he doesn't exist"


This line is quite similar to the one used  by Roger "Verbal" Kint, played by Kevin Spacey in ,The Usual Suspects. Within the song, DS is stating that the powers that be have convinced the masses that there are no entities responsible for the misleading of the populace.

(Credit To Wikipedia For  Descriptions of Each Reference)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Ji Spot- Avoiding the T.I.s of the World








But first, a word from Da CogNegro,


I've never watched the show so do I really count as an authority on the the matter? I would say that this is a great picture of the Kermit and Ms. Piggy (someone whispers in my ear) Oh, that's not them? Wow, um...and now Ji Ji!!- CgN





Jihan  "Ji Ji" Carmichael is a self proclaimed relationship non-expert. When she's not sharing her dating experiences and giving questionable advice on The CogNegro's Corner, you can catch her on Facebook HERE, on IG  under the name jihantakestheworld and once in a blue moon on Snapchat under"Jihantheworld"

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Art of The Matter :Fuze Aquene Namid - deep like






                                                                                             
by Da CogNegro

Be it through his riveting performances, visual mediums,  published work, or simply the effervescence of his encouragement, the energy that shines forth from Fuze Aquene Namid is one of a guiding light.I first had the pleasure of experiencing Fuze some  seven years ago. Once he began his set, I immediately was entranced yet simultaneously blanketed with a calming sense of familiarity. It was as  if he was one of the inner voices that navigated my pen through the peaks and valleys of my existence and formatted my experiences to snugly fit between the rigid margins of life. After subsequent listens, I fully realized that he was indeed a transcendent entity. Fuze continues to be a revered staple in  multiple artistic communities and has headlined a bevy of events.Even with his well deserve acclaim, Fuze walks with a gravitated pace and possesses an inviting demeanor.I am so elated that I recently had the honor of introducing him, as our feature, at our last Spoken Souls event. We all  look forward to continually be lifted by his expression and craftsmanship. Peace  King! - CgN


Bio: Fuze Aquene Namid (fuse a/keen nah/meed) is a poet, creative writer, author, visual/graphic artist, and spiritualist.  For the past 16 years, his expression entity known as i*stimyouleye has provided creative writing, visual and audio concepts for book, music, film, commercial, and workshop purposes.  His latest work is book #13 of his i*Publish collection, entitled LOVE POEMS FOR AUSET.


In the words of a 6th grade student
who witnessed Fuze speak at her school:
"He's class without pretend... style without offense...
A field beneath the freeways
and New York with country ways...
He never talks of freedom
because he lives it everyday."

#######


deep like

The ocean gave you up
That I should have salt
And water
Only begotten daughter,
Your wet taste consumes me
Your liquid love hydrates
Oxygen relies on the 2 of us
Together we conduct electricity
We erode chaos
The *end* has never been
Further away
Such a ridiculous fright tactic!
This ocean proceeds calmly the space
My heart floats
Fantasizing—riding your waves
Through storm and wind
Always settling back into natural place
Unmoved with no trace of disturbance

The shore is not my guide
But reminder, an outlining myth
That your presence is divine
Not promised, yet never to be broken

Pants legs stand up
Ankles teased by a playful line
Hour glass sands of time move on—
Yet I am stuck, fixated
On your body and every woman song you chant
With a chorus of seabirds dancing and singing background

Will you, stay with me?

I want to bury myself in your ample abundance
Like the child I sometimes need to be
For you are always mother (goddess) to my nature
Your arms fling wide, welcoming

My drowning heart

I proceed forward into love.

—From LOVE POEMS FOR AUSET (2016)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cornelia’s Nook: The Case for Compassion





by Cornelia Oancea


In Buddhism, there’s something called Loving-kindness/Lovingkindness (Metta) meditation. The basic practice of it is wishing positive things (health, happiness, safety, comfort, etc.) first to oneself, then outward to a loved one, a neutral person, and eventually to all beings. A super-simplified, pared down version might be:

May I/you be happy
May I/you be free
May I/you be safe
May I/you live a life of peace and ease

In some iterations, metta meditation also includes radiating these positive thoughts towards a person who is difficult for you to have kind thoughts about — someone with whom you struggle or have personal conflict, someone who does harm (sometimes on a large scale). The idea is that you wish everyone to be free from the painful states that can lead some to behave in negative or detrimental ways (to others, society, themselves, etc.), both for your own growth in the practice, and because of the underlying idea that people cause suffering because they suffer in some way (whether from mental illness, or not being loved, or clinging to damaging ways of thinking).



Many times, I choose a political leader or otherwise powerful/influential figure that I see as doing harm as the “difficult person” for whom I try to cultivate metta.

I’m not very skilled at this type of meditation. I have a hard enough time cultivating loving-kindness for myself some days. As you might expect, when I reach the difficult person, the struggle gets really real. My mind just wants to skip to the “all beings” part, wherein I can picture the people and animals and other living creatures who really deserve loving kindness, compassion, prayers, good things.

But lovingkindness and compassion are not predicated on deserving or earning. They’re things to just give freely. Because we all have within us the capacity to be both helpful and harmful, and are all inter-connected, living under the illusion that we aren’t. Here are a few lines from Buddhist monk, scholar and poet Thich Nhat Hanh’sCall Me by My True Names, which capture the essence of that:

“I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda."

And so, I’m trying to cultivate compassion for those who got conned into voting for this current administration, because they didn’t know better or were desperate, and are now suffering (or will soon suffer). The marginalized (or spouses/loved ones of the marginalized) who thought the rhetoric only applied to the “bad ones” among them. The staunchly pro-life women who may lose access to necessary health care. The swaths of America whose past industries aren’t going to see a resurgence. The third-party voters who had to make a statement. Oh, and the people who just checked out of the whole thing and didn’t vote.

It’d be easy to turn to schadenfreude for these people, to snicker at their self-perpetuated misfortunes. And there are many who are trying to engender that exact response, for their own gain (clicks, sales, whatever). It’s easy to say “well, I’m just going to reserve all my compassion for those who chose wisely and are going to get screwed, the ones who really need and deserve my compassion.”

Compassion is not a finite resource, though, the way time and money (and oil and polar ice and clean water) are. And it’s not a value judgment, not about who is more/less worthy. Or who has it “worse” (the point is, ideally, no one should have to have it “bad”). Having compassion for the out-of-work, black lung-suffering, coal miner doesn’t negate or diminish compassion for the person living in inner city poverty.

It’s also evident, in practical terms, that the suffering of large segments of our population is a detriment to our nation as a whole. It erodes our unity. It’s something opportunists latch onto for their own personal and political gain (“divide and conquer” is a well-worn strategy for good reason).

Just something I’ve been mulling over.
And while I think it’s beneficial to try cultivating widespread compassion, I recognize and stand by the idea that we can still be discerning as to where and how we direct our finite resources (especially time and money).

-------------
Cornelia L. Dolian is a writer you can follow on Twitter and like on Facebook.