by Tawana Petty
I've learned from my experience struggling with Grace these past few years, that she appreciates spirited debate rooted in study, love and care and concern for living beings. I have the profound pleasure of being on the board of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, and to live in close proximity to Grace.
Having those honors bestowed upon me comes with great privilege and great responsibility. How does a 38 year old never married Black mother, born and raised in Detroit, with limited traditional education, i.e. no degrees, relate to and contribute to the legacy of a highly educated, 100 year old widowed Asian American Philosopher who dared to expand the concept of revolution? I've been doing a lot of soul searching to discover this for myself.
I recall about four years ago, the first time I heard Grace ask, "what time is it on the clock of the world?" She told several of us that we must always be thinking about that, we must always be asking that question. To be honest, when I first heard her say it, it went right over my head. Actually, I didn't give the concept much thought at all, and the more she said it, the more frustrated I became with the fact that it didn't resonate with me the way it appeared to resonate with others.
Over the years, my relationship with Grace and the center has helped me evolve. I've had an ever growing and changing evolution of spirit.
What time is it on the clock of the world? What a profound question and directive, contemporaneously. You mean, I actually have to consider all living beings in how I maneuver through the world?
"I don't know what the Next American Revolution will be like, but we might be able to imagine it, if our imagination were rich enough."
This is the quote by Grace that ends the film American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. I would also argue that this is Grace's most profound challenge to humanity.
How are we defining revolution? If we look at the etymology of the word, in the 14th century, revolution spoke of celestial bodies. The very nature of the word addressed the revolving door of living beings throughout the history of the earth. Revolution was not an individual concept. It wasn't about humans dominating other species, the planet or each other, for survival. It wasn't about a race to the top, or about race at all. In its raw form, revolution was about our interdependence with all living beings, as well as the inevitable extinction of most.
I was fortunate enough to watch a documentary recently about the horseshoe crab and I was fascinated, frightened and enlightened at the same time. The individualism of the human species has managed to pollute the natural habit of a species that has lived over 450 million years. Scientists, for the (evolution) of mankind, have worked diligently to figure out how to package up and bottle the mystery of a living being that refuses to even mate unless it can mate in the very sand it was birthed in. It is so connected to the earth, the foundation of life, that it will not procreate without that foundation. Imagine if we actually learned from the horseshoe crab instead of studying it and dominating it. What a noble concept.
This brings me to my theory on revolution. I am not convinced that humans are meant to carry forward as a species indefinitely. I do however believe that it is our responsibility to dig into our deepest levels of humanity, to "grow our souls," as Grace has encouraged us to do, while we still inhabit this earth.
The horseshoe crab has endured, because it recognizes its place and responsibility to the earth. It does not dominate for its survival, it is interconnected with it. Horseshoe crabs cling on to one another for procreation and preservation. It is rare that humans are able to trick the horseshoe crab into abandoning its responsibility to replenish the earth from which it came. We could learn a lot from the horseshoecrab, but as Grace has challenged, our imaginations must be rich enough.
Humans must stop functioning on this earth as the end all, be all. We are reliant upon one another for our survival, and how we function throughout the world must reflect that. Revolution from an individualistic, "survival of the fittest," mentality will only speed up our demise. It is up to us to figure out how we want the human species to live out its remaining days and to determine how much longer we have to inhabit the earth.
If we do not begin to expand our concept of revolution, nature will make the revolution despite us.
How does a 38 year old never married Black mother, born and raised in Detroit, with limited traditional education, i.e. no degrees, relate to and contribute to the legacy of a highly educated, 100 year old widowed Asian American Philosopher who dared to expand the concept of revolution?
She evolves beyond the categories that limit the possibility of revolution.