Apophatic Aphorisms:

Or…Whiteness Not as Light but as Absence of Color

[Maya Angelou’s Caged Bird was read before this proprioceptive writing exercise.]


I want to write about signs and symbols, the sign and the signified, and paradoxes born of love.


I want to tell you of my position, of my stance and who I am. But who I am and where I stand is best affirmed by negation, by my stepping aside and my identity reducing in strong humility.


So how do I write of these? How do I share an empty box? What is the word for pointing to God by pointing out what God is not? And how is this yet still again not like that?


A diet of signs will never feed the hungry, try as the powerful might to force-feed them. A diet of signs leeched of the signified will never enrich the cells. An ‘A’ is as empty as an ‘F’ if no knowledge of calculus is behind it. Yet an ‘F’ with an understanding that 1+1=2 will overturn the world.


She asked this week, “How do you know his heart?” as if that put the matter to rest. She threw this gang sign up but she herself could not see the emptiness behind it.


I am but I need not be. I must step aside; not as a martyr but as an opening. As a celebration. A praise. She sits on the shoulders of a full-grown man(not her daddy), but even the man is much younger than me. She sits with her arms outstretched and exclaims in prophetic response:



the WORLD!”


Semantic satiation, habituation, and fishes not knowing the waters in which they swim…. How much harm is done in thy name? When the familiarity of the manna breeds contempt, when we lust for the stimulation of another breeze, another sky, another hill, we have lost our way.

…The contempt for Tamar.


There is no color in our own cells. How much harm is done in stealing the sun? In our appropriated masks of melanin?


It is hard to point the way when one is attempting to keep one’s hands in one’s pockets. But that is an unfortunate image this week. One’s knees should always be straight and off of all necks when one’s hands are in one’s pockets. But, still, how do we point the way without drawing attention to oneself? How do we get around the paradox of screaming to our fellow White siblings,



Who am I? It does not matter. But I am one who is trying to go sit quietly on a distant hill while also screaming and jumping up and down, arms flailing in the middle of the square.


Such paradoxes must be born. Such needles must be thread by ones such as me, me not being me. Higher truths always contain an element of the impossible.


And so, to release a caged bird, the free bird must use its freedom to make the exchange, but must do so with such stealth that the movement is not perceived. And for the pattern to break, for the sake of the free bird’s freedom in captivity, the exchange MUST BE VOLUNTARY, but a martyr cannot be made in the process.

It’s time to go practice this slight of hand…

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