What is the saddest truth about life?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

You can't know Life's value when you're young.

​It's not your fault. Being young,  the most valuable thing you gain by getting older, can only be gained, by getting older and trading your youth in for experience. "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted," goes the gentle wisdom reminding you getting older is it's own reward.

When you're young, you are too intoxicated with the stuff of life. No matter where you live, no matter the hardship of your life, you are filled with the efforts of making life what you want it to be. Making it whatever you think it's supposed to be for you.

If you're a fisherman, you fish. If there aren't fish, you struggle to find work that will support you until the fish come back. If they come back. The race to keep food on your table, a beautiful woman to share your life and  eventually children to carry on your name will consume your youth.

You are focused on the chase, partying the nights away, struggling if the world isn't kind, luxuriating, if your family is blessed with wealth and has better connections.

The chemical soup that is life courses through your veins, filling you with a sense of invulnerability, with the enthusiasm that life is never-ending, there are no consequences worth worrying about and that ultimately, no matter what decisions you make they will work out somehow.

​Or they won't. And that is Life, too.

You will march, inexorably toward old age. If you're lucky.

That irrepressible vigor of youth, if not rigorously maintained, even if blessed with the good genes of beautiful ancestors, will note the twinge on the tennis court, the creak in your back in the morning after dancing the night away, the struggle to read your favorite book about conspiracies in the Vatican, the discord when you hear the music coming from your daughter's room, wondering what the hell she's listening to.

Then and only then do you note the seconds. Your awareness of time becomes more acute. You suddenly realize you don't have enough time in a day. The same 86,400 seconds you had every day when you were younger, now seem to run in short supply as you age.

It's a perceptual thing. The more time that has passed, the greater awareness you have of the time in front of you. You begin to feel those seconds. You're  aware of their dwindling supply.

Suddenly you stop tracking the days, reluctant to remember exactly what year it is. Or maybe it isn't reluctance. It's awareness.

That you have more time behind you than you do in front of you.

Have you done everything you wanted? That bucket list you laughed at when you were twenty-five, is mostly still empty at forty-five.

Except now you realize you have a job to maintain, cable bills, gas bills, water bills, tuition, mortgage, bracers for the kids who seem to have too many teeth and too many cavities, clothes for the new job which doesn't pay nearly enough, longer commutes, more stress at work because you have more responsibilities you didn't ask for and reluctant employees who complain no matter what decisions you make with them, for them, about them, and a boss who never tells you he makes twice as much money as you do and does a fraction of your workload. And yet you know this.

Now your life is so full you don't have the time to fill that bucket because it's already full. Of things you have to do, things you are obligated to finish, to manage, to lead, to coordinate, to tolerate, to deal with, to put up with. Things which use up your precious time.

Suddenly your time has a real value to you. Now the race begins in earnest.

Only now are you wise enough in your middle years, if you're lucky, to begin to take advantage of your dwindling energies and your vanishing time, to begin prioritizing what is best in life.

No, not just the crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women, unless you happen to be a fifth century barbarian, then have at.

You begin to throw away the things you no longer need, you help your children find their best way with the talents they possess. Handling your own sense of mortality as you lay your parents to rest. Managing their assets, reminds you again of your impending passage. If you're like most people you double down on living, trying to do more, get more out of life.

You look at your own children and don't want them to make the same mistakes you have. You hope to bring unto them wisdom, hard won, hard earned and bestow it upon them, to bypass the side-effects of wisdom; the time lost recovering from unnecessary errors in judgement.

If you're lucky, they listen. If you're like most parents, they won't. Not until they turn thirty or so, and if you're still around they come back to you and pretend they were listening and just need to you to remind them of what you told them when they weren't.

And you will do it. Because you now know the secret, the thing we are all reluctant to admit, fear facing and know we always learn too late.

Life is short.

Let me rephrase that. Stars can live for billions of years, sizzling in the dark, sharing their light with the universe. But all stars aren't created equal. Some burn with the light of a thousand suns, lighting the darkness across all of time and space, their brightness unequaled in the heavens. But those same super-large stars have lives which are far shorter than those sleepy stars no one can see.

Each of us is like a star. Some burn brightly, visible from everywhere. The price tag for them is that their potential may be limited in different ways. They may have money but no time of their own. They may have opportunity, but never quite the one they were looking for. They may live life fully, but remain completely uneducated about the world.

There is a cost and value to every life, no matter how affluent, no matter how indigent. Each person pays what they are able, bears what they can, shares what they learn. Many never manage to learn this lesson.

No matter what we do with our lives, it will only be a sliver of the potential available to us as a species.

Each of us is living a brief musical note on the ledger lines of life. A single note, a single sound, a single frequency which we and only we can make.

The quality of that note is ours. We decide how we play it, what we do with it, and where it falls based on our efforts. We can't always affect the music of the spheres, the path of the cosmos, the ultimate fate of all that is.

But we can play in harmony with others. We can see how our notes can shape the song of the lives of people near us and by proxy, people six degrees or more away from us.

We have the power, the individual capacity to make music with the entire world. To draw upon the skein, the ledger, the web of life, playing our note with love, with the belief in something better, with the idea we and nature are one.

The greatest and saddest truth about life: We believe we are alone in the Universe and that we don't live long enough to make a difference in anyone's lives but our own.

It's only truth if you let it be. You can opt to expand your music until it is a music heard by everyone.

And that too is a choice.

What is the saddest truth about life?

If race is a social construct, then is Rachel Dolezal legitimately black?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

The real answer should be: Who cares?

But on the strength of the news which has blown this particular event out of proportion I say to you the question is a logical fallacy: no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

  • Which like Rachel Dolezal's assertion that she is Black is circular and meaningless
  • Unable to be proven since race is a social construct, why would it matter what she calls herself except to people who care?
  • And this circular logic used to discuss her does not make what she did any more relevant in any way, shape, or form.

I assert her "deception" is a problem only because racial politics in America is designed to divide and oppress racial "minorities" in order to prevent them from having significant opportunities in this country.

The color of one's skin and the nature of one's culture has been a tool of repression, oppression and division since the days of Colonial slavery, where African's dark skin branded them as 3/5ths of a human being and subjected to branding, brutality, family separation and enslavement for the rest of one's life, which could be cut short at the whim of a White slave owner.

Today, while legislation has allowed People of Color greater opportunities, on paper, in fact, such opportunities are far less available than they are for culturally identified Whites in America. America may have stopped participating in chattel slavery directly but upon closer inspection the only thing that has changed is what we called slavery depending on the era after it was supposedly dissolved.

During Jim Crow, we called it peonage, where a Black person could be accused of a crime (with no evidence provided) and placed into a prison gang where they would be worked to death and released only if someone else was willing to make an effort on their behalf. And even after peonage was supposedly illegal, it didn't stop people of color from being brutalized, hanged, or even burned alive if it suited Whites of the era.

Today, we call it the Prison Industrial Complex where People of Color make up 30% of the US population but 60% of those imprisoned. We have changed the rules of the game, forced People of Color to live mean lives of poverty, systematically applied racism, disproportionately policed, and wrongfully imprisoned under policies designed to affect the poorest and least capable of legally defending themselves.

This is further augmented by disproportionate quality of education, income, lifestyle, opportunity, financial assets and employment across the color spectrum. It is safe to say in America, the darker you are, the less opportunity to move up socially, you are capable of managing.

And before I am deluged with claims of successful People of Color, and I know they exist, I point you at the statements of Chris Rock who sums this up succinctly:

"I live in a neighborhood where I am surrounded by some of the world's greatest Black entertainers. We are generally at the top of our game and our neighborhood reflects this. Except that I live next door to a dentist. He's not world famous, or well known. He's just a dentist. For me to live here, I have to be the best. He just has to show up."

These are the facts:

  • Rachel Dolezal is and will always be a White woman, photographs notwithstanding. Hairstyles won't change that. Who she is married to won't change that. No decision she makes will ever change that. Even if she chooses to "self-identify" with Black culture, that identification will not change this underlying fact. She is not Black.
  • She was raised in a white household with both Black and White children

According to court documents obtained by CNN, Rachel Dolezal's adopted brother, who is black, sought emancipation from Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal in 2010. The adopted brother, now 21, said the Dolezals used "physical forms of punishment" and had sent his brother and sister away to group homes because they didn't cooperate with the couple's religion and rules.

  • I can understand the possible abuse may have made her want to put distance between her family and her self and likely lead to her adoption of her younger brother. Still not Black. Still doesn't matter.
  • Ms. Dolezal did rise to one of the chief positions at the NAACP which does not discriminate against having members of other races as acting members of the organization. Her being "Black" was not a necessary component of leading the organization.

"One's racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership," the group said. "The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal's advocacy record."

  • Since Blackness is not a requirement to lead the NAACP nor is it a requirement to be an advocate for People of Color, her Blackness, or lack thereof is not in issue. It is, in fact, a non-issue.
  • Ms. Dolezal she may have chose to "identify" with cultural parameters of "Blackness" such as speech, language, musical tastes and culture affectations such as hair braiding. None of these things made her "Black" in the classic sense of "the social construct as well as the actual condition of being Black".

Ergo, the "legitimacy" of her Blackness is irrelevant since she did not need to be Black in any of these instances, nor did her affecting a role as a "Black" person change any aspect of her actual person because her dismissal of her White privilege did not make it go away. She retains the ability to call herself White under any circumstance that proves meaningful.

What is the problem then?

The problem is a simple one. With all of the difficulty People of Color are forced to deal with, all of the challenges we are forced to endure in order to have opportunity in this country, with all of the socialized, systematic oppression we are subjected to in America, whether White Americans can admit to it or not, the last thing we need is a White woman, who while she may appear to have meant little harm, her actions, in the minds of people of Color appear to mock their struggle and the challenge of being Black in a country whose sole purpose has always been to maximize its profits off the backs of People of Color whenever possible.

Consider it a form of "cultural blackface," where a White woman gets to mouth the words, "I'm Black and I'm making it. Why can't you?" With the ironic pose that anytime she has a real problem she is free to whip out her White American Express card and assume whatever opportunity she is able to claim due to her being White.

It's a form of cognitive dissonance to not recognize that. Whether she meant harm or not, she cannot be "LEGITIMATELY BLACK" whatever that means because as a Person of Color, I cannot wake up tomorrow and claim to be "legitimately" white and have that protect me from an officer who might decide my Blackness is the reason he puts a bullet in me.

The threat of "superhuman Blackness" is how unarmed Eric Garner and Micheal Brown met their untimely ends. This also explains how Tamir Rice found himself shot two seconds after police officers arrived on the scene of him playing in the park with a toy gun.

Her delusion and perhaps unintended deception rubbed people the wrong way because she didn't appear to understand you can't mock People of Color, (intended or not) and pretend to lead us at the same time.

If you want to claim Blackness, this, once upon a time, was what it meant to be Black in America. Rachel, there is no walking away from this. You may have meant well, but honey, being Black is a life-time commitment.

If race is a social construct, then is Rachel Dolezal legitimately black?