A conversation from very early in my wrestling career:
A friend: Who’s one of your biggest influences?
Me: Malcolm X.
A friend *clearly shocked*: Malcolm X?! He preached that the White Man is the Devil!
A friend *clearly expecting an explanation*: …?
Me: He grew up in a time where his family had to uproot and move homes out of fear of the Ku Klux Klan. His parents new home was burned down when he was four. It seems probable that his father was murdered by white racists and the crime was covered up by white law enforcement. His white teacher told him his dream of being a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a n*****”. If I grew up as a child of African ancestry in the United States of America in the times he did, I’m pretty sure I’d come to the conclusion that white people were the f***ing Devil, too.
A friend: Well… Okay. Fair enough.
Despite this conversation, that I usually expect to have, when I bring up the former Nation Of Islam minister, it isn’t exactly the same Malcolm X, that was making those “white devils” speeches, that inspires me so much; though, admittedly I have a humbled reverence for the surplus of stones that would have been a necessity to say the things he did, in the time he did.
No, the Malcolm X that I’m most moved by is the one that was transformed into el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The Malcolm X from the seventh chapter, “Mecca”, of the Alex Haley pinned book that I read as seventeen year old kid, “An Autobiography of Malcolm X”, and continues to impact me, to this day.
When I was that angry, white, atheist high school senior, ferociously devouring page after page of an angry, black, muslim civil rights activist for the first time, it was out of both curiosity and ferocity; I was dissatisfied with my own human experience, I wanted to peer into someone else's, and I wanted even more of a reason to justify all the rage that was gathered inside me like lint in a dryer ready to ignite.
As expected, the book quickly and frequently gave me plenty to be angry about, and fulfilled my curiosity about the experience of a life wholly unlike mine. What was unexpected, though, was the transformative journey of Malcolm in Mecca, and subsequently me in my mind.
X had left the black nationalist, Nation of Islam, group that had made him their famous spokesperson, and decided to make the required-of-Muslims (if able) trip to the Holy Land. Before even leaving the airport bound for Northern Africa, from Europe, on his way to the Middle East, he was struck by the atmosphere of warmth and friendliness between people of all complexions, he described it as feeling as though he had stepped out of prison. On the plane to Saudi Arabia, he found the brotherhood between strange-looking strangers remarkable, and the feeling of seeing a black man flying a jet inexpressible. In Arabia the selfless hospitality he received from a white man ripped through the fear-hate border-wall, that he had set up in defense of his segregated heart, like a shotgun blast through a silk curtain. A man who had spent basically his entire life seeing the world through the war-goggle lenses of us vs them, who had built his entire public identity around holding that view, suddenly had that lifetime’s worth of malicious mindware removed from his operating system by the free and open-source antivirus program called Love. Thus Malcolm X abandoned his understandably narrow view, and the identity he had built around it, and became el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.
“Damn…” That’s all I could say quietly to myself as I finished the chapter.
I was prepared to feel angry and inspired and, even, compassionate, but I wasn’t prepared to feel shifted.
Malcolm X was like the men I had known my whole life, and was preparing myself to emulate: strong in will and presence, hard, harsh, and fully unwilling to tolerate any disrespect. He was a badass motherf***er; exactly what I wanted to be when I grow up.
Badass motherf***ers don’t change. They don’t change their minds, or hearts; their ideas, opinions, or stances. They’re born a badass motherf***er and (on the inside, at least) they die the exact same badass motherf***er.
P***y ass motherf***ers: they’re the ones that change. They change like directions of the wind. Like diapers on a toddler. Like post-prom-night-cheap-motel-sheets. Like...what the f**k?
How can the guy who said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.”, be anything less than the baddest of badass motherf***ers, forever and always?
It’s as if…
...the most badass thing you can do is: to have the identity-destroying courage to surrender to Love, to fall to your knees and willingly allow yourself to be executed by Truth.
“Damn…” I thought. And I’ve been thinking it ever since.
I Had A Daydream
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
From my earliest memories of learning about him, I always respected, but could never wrap my head around Martin Luther King Jr.
When people are siccing dogs on your people, when they’re treating you like you’re less than human, calling for the death of you and your family, how can you preach non-violence? I would question the long-gone civil rights hero.
I knew from being bullied in school that violence is a loyal ally to the perceived-weak.
Even my sweet mother, who never gave me a single spanking, would let me know: “Be nice, try to make friends, but don’t take any sh**. Defend yourself.”
Sure, I had read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, learned about the transformative power of love, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what about the other guy, the one who hasn’t been transformed by the power of love? The one who would hurt me and my family.
You expect me not to rain down a punishment the likes of which would make The Crow look like f**king Big Bird, if someone crossed that line with me? Sorry, good Reverend, but… F**k. That. Sh**.
How could I embrace non-violent ideology? It was for cowards and sheltered idealists. I was neither.
Respect is a two way street, and so is peacefulness. Words I was happy to live, and prepared to die, by.
That’s how I felt, and how I assumed I would always feel.
But, then, I had my “Malcolm In Mecca moment”...while doing the dishes. That’s right, no great adventure across cultural and geographical divides for me, just crossing the Great Divide that was separating my brain from my heart.
At that point in my life, I was done with myself as I knew myself to be. The violence that I had learned to use to protect myself in my childhood had, like a shadow, in every sense of the word, followed me into adulthood. Now, instead of protecting me, it was destroying me.
In my many years of depressed rage, if I could morally justify physically hurting someone I would. If I couldn’t, if it was someone that I loved, for example, I would hurt them emotionally. One of the ways that I did that, if words didn’t seem to cut deep enough, was to physically hurt the person that I truly hated the most, and get away with it the easiest: me, of course.
Of course, I didn’t realize that, at the time. I thought I loved myself; I was selfish enough, and selfish people love themselves, right? Right?
At least for me it was wrong. When I began to study the nature of my mind through insight meditation, it became clear that my selfish behavior was just me desperately trying to bribe myself into being okay. When I looked deeply, I could see that I was just really very scared; scared of myself, of being alone with myself and my unprocessed pain, with this monster I had become. I was able to see that the monster was the fear and the pain I felt. I examined the nature of what made me me: the past experiences and outside influences that molded me and my genetics.
Oh, that rage may come from the genetics passed on from my grandmother who was physically abusive.
Oh, that shyness probably came from my mother being untrusting of people and me picking up on those cues as a baby.
Oh, that depression might come from being isolated by my shyness; of feeling unworthy and unloved.
Oh, that habitual use of violence might have something to do with getting hit a little too often as a child.
I could see how all these sh**y patterns of behavior that I attributed to myself were formed long before I could be considered a conscious-decision maker.
Damn… I thought. If I’m being honest with myself, if I’m not busy judging and punishing myself, If I look at myself objectively, all things considered: there’s no way I could be any different than I am.
Understanding how these habits of behavior formed, I realized that I could consciously create new positive and productive patterns of action and reaction for myself and others. It felt like becoming lucid in a dream.
If I had the power to create a me that I would want to be, what would that me be?
Sad, but sadly true: with my newly acquired, seemingly-magic, wand of self-understanding, the number one transformation that I wanted to manifest into my subjective Universe was gentleness.
But, how does one treat, and hopefully, eventually cure, a roughly thirty year infection of the heart disease of harshness?
Forgiveness. Medical grade f**king forgiveness.
It had become clear to me (up until it became clear to me) that my personality and behavior had just been a big craft project of the world I developed in. I hadn’t been in a position to create my life, so my life created me. I could no longer blame myself…
I...could...forgive myself. For real, like, really forgive myself.
It wasn’t my fault, it was the World’s fault! Right? Ahem. Right?
I couldn’t stop at reasoning away my own faults. How much do you want to bet that the people who hit me as a child, were hit as a child? I’ve been to Vegas a couple times and didn’t bet a single copper coin, but I’d wager my house that they did.
Damn… I thought. There’s no one to blame. No one to hate. *record scratch* Wait… F**k that! There’s people to hate: like really evil people. Everything I’ve done is culturally forgivable, but there are some real f**ked up pieces of sh** out there who don’t deserve forgiveness, who do deserve to get f**ked up beyond any hope of repair!
Which brings us back to the dishes, and Martin Luther King Jr.
I had been on a good path for a while. I’d made many deep lunges in the right direction, but I was still struggling. One of my biggest struggles was that another one of my biggest influences (to be revealed in a later article) kept repeating in numerous talks and articles to “love everybody”. I kept trying to ignore it, but he kept repeating it.
“Love everybody” was looping like a mantra in my mind as I clanked plates together with my baby-pig-brain-from-biology-class wrinkled hands in overly soapy, overly hot water.
F**k it. I’ll try. I thought, as I placed a piece of well-worn dinnerware into a plastic dish rack.
While tentatively placing my Krang-ly hands back into Judge Doom’s Dip for dishes, I intentionally put myself into my own personal Hell in my mind.
I imagined someone doing something evil to someone I loved, someone innocent, while I was tied up, gagged, and forced to watch. In this self-inflicted daydream-nightmare, I knew that I was going to be tortured and killed next, there was nothing I could do. No police, or superheros, were coming to rescue us, I wasn’t going to break through the ropes and rescue my loved one. Part of this experiment was that I had no choice but to surrender to the cruel reality of the imagined situation.
Alright, b***h. I taunted myself in Jesse Pinkman’s voice. Go ahead. “Love everybody”! Even this sadistic piece of sh**! Do it, b***h. Love him! F***ing love him.
I… I… Can’t. I answered myself in my early-Walter White voice. No. I can’t and I won’t.
Tears had started to form in real life and, in my mind, I started to imagine myself breaking free…
Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden voice stopped me. “Stop! This is your pain, this is your burning fear!”
I tried hard to imagine me and my loved one safe and sound.
“No! Don’t deal with it like those sleeping people do! This is the worst moment you can imagine and you are trying to hide from it! Don’t! You have to give up, you have to know, not fear, know that one day you, and your loved ones, are going to suffer.” Tyler yells at me.
I try. I’m back in my worst nightmare, I’m looking at my loved one who's looking at me with save-me eyes. It’s too much. Tears are streaming, now. I try to bring myself back to reality.
“It’s only after we’ve lost our fear of everything that we’re free to love everything!” Tyler screams.
I looked into my loved ones suffering, scared eyes and I tried to say with mine, “I’m so f***ing sorry that this is happening to you! If I could take away all your pain and fear, I would. I love you! I love you! I love you! I’ll love you forever.”
I looked into the sadistic, evil eyes of the monster doing this to us and with mine I say, “I’m so f***ing sorry for what happened to you...for what’s happening to you, right now. If I could take away all your pain and fear, I would. I… I… I love you! I f***ing love you! I. love. You. I’ll love you, forever!”
At that point, I have fallen to the floor and I’m weeping. Puddles of released hatred are forming on the linoleum. I’m heaving with released fear.
“Congratulations. You’re one step closer to Boundless Love.” Tyler said, standing over me, like a proud dad.
I stood up slowly and wiped away my big, salty tears without a sand-grain of shame. I looked Tyler in the eyes and say, in my Heisenberg voice, “You’re Godd*** right.”
A little while after finishing up those dishes, through the miracle we call YouTube, I found myself sitting on a bench seat in a beautiful, old building on Dexter avenue, in Montgomery, Alabama, listening to a familiar voice of strength saying some familiar things, but with unfamiliarly receptive ears.
“Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.” Said the booming, doubtless voice.
I looked at the noble Nobel Peace Laureate with my newly rebooted eyes. I was overwhelmed by the brightness of his presence in our past.
Sometimes having the balls not to ball up your fists is the most courageous thing you can do, it seems.
“But, Kincaid, what if you were able to break out of of the ropes tying you down, keeping you from being able to aid your loved one against a sadistic f**k? What would you do?” I imagine some of you asking.
“I would use every subatomic particle of my physical being to stop the sadistic f**k (as Malcolm might say), by any means necessary. As an act of compassion, for everyone involved.” I imagine I’d reply.
“Well… Okay. Fair enough. But how does this apply to wrestling?” You may ask.
“Transformation, courage, and love…” I might enigmatically reply, looking off into the distance like it’s the not-so-distant future. *Smiles*