This prose was inspired and greatly influenced by the work of Alexis Pauline Gumbs from her glorious book Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals. Alexis, I am eternally grateful for your contribution to my personal and political life.
A mantra that I have often heard within the Black community and indeed internalized is that we as a people have always had the capacity to create something out of nothing. I had always understood this to mean that when things were beyond hopeless, and our reality resembled that of a baron wasteland – we as a people had encoded into our very DNA the necessary formula needed to "create, perform, and work, our own miracles." Because of the world in which we live in, this formula was transformed into an algorithm that we could access when needed. However, the struggle of daily life has meant that there was always a necessity to draw from this internal unreserved reservoir. This plain of resources and knowledge is one that our grandmothers lived, our mothers taught, and one that we strive to embody. I have meditated and reflected on this for a significant length of time. And while insurmountable wisdom is found in this sacred folklore, and indeed economically, politically, and materially, many of us have and continue to experience nothingness. Something about it sits uneasily with me, causing something akin to a state of restlessness.
I put it to you that even amid our nothingness, we always had our imagination. In our bid to survive, thrive, and experience joy, love, happiness, and all the other possibilities that life offers, the existential space of our imagination allowed for our rhythm and flow – to create many a – masterpiece. It is through our imagination that we simultaneously create a reality in which we as a people "excel beyond our own expectations," while acting as a violent theatre for the rest of the world to spectate… like salivating scavengers. However, amid our genius and creativity, we continue to forget a key component. A key ingredient is missing from our communal cookbook, a missing chapter that will help us attain an elevated level of consciousness while equipping us to defeat structures of oppression. In the midst of it all, both our ancestors and we forgot to fully recover a basic and yet imperative part of our humanity. That has never truly been afforded to us. We forgot… how to rest.
For too long, it was a word that had no place at the dinner table or within our collective thought. While never truly being conceptualized, our community would often dismiss it as something analogous to a distracting and pacifying force. We forgot: What it looked like. What it tasted like. What it entailed. We unwittingly turned this sacred practice into the undeserving and unwanted lover and nourisher of our bodies and spirit.
While I am still very much on the journey of reimagining what rest looks like and how this fundamental practice must be enmeshed into my life, I do at this point understand that rest requires me to: 1. Slow down my breathing 2. Center my holistic self without considering the needs and demands of others 3. It enables me to be protected by the boundaries I have created for myself 4. It seeks to take a non-anthropomorphic approach to the environment and synchronize my peace… with the peace of other forms of life who also calls this world… home. Rest allows me to float on an ocean of the fruits of my labor and the birthright afforded to me, simply by being a reflection of the eternal source of life. Who themselves profess that rest will become my essence when dwelling in their presence.
Without rest, I will succumb to the necro-tides that pull me in due to the fatigue and heaviness that comes with living in a world where my daily bread is baked in "navigating layers of captivity, forced migration, and systemic involuntary adaptation." Without rest, I will not only continue to sink, but I will also drown. Therefore, rest is an "act of resistance, thus making sleep political." "[A] restless, overworked, underslept, one-eye-open wary sleeper" makes for an unhappy and unfilled soul, who cannot delight in pleasure, much less, do the work. We must reimagine how abundant rest might soothe and enrich our very existence. It is my prayer that the moon and the stars will realign. One day soon, so that we might meet again and share, listen to, recount, teach and demonstrate to one another how our reimagining of rest opened up a plethora of endless possibilities.