Not a Hot Take, I'm Just Mourning: Toni Morrison

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 San Francisco, CA, USA

Photo by Acadiana Center for the Arts

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” 
T O N I  M O R R I S O N

I always suspected that my body, my personhood were insufficient vessels for all the grief and gratitude I've tried to contain within it. I drown until I spill over. The news of Toni Morrison's passing this morning confirmed this belief to be true. I am shell-shocked and speechless; I want to genuflect in praise and incomprehensible joy. I want to hug strangers on the street. "Don't you know," I want to scream, "don't you know the good news: that literature and language are undying, incapable of certain death. Look at all that cannot be burned down. Look at what nobody can take away from us. Look at the love and light that will always, always, forever be ours to keep. Look at what has been left behind to save us all."

I could try to prescribe her works, or catalog her finest prose. But any reader knows that this is unnecessary. You'll find her when you're ready; or maybe, the words you needed will find you. There is an entire generational canon of literature that can trace its ancestry to Morrison: 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.' 
My own, little as it is, sits among these.

So I'll end with the words that found me last:
I am a writer and my faith in the world of art is intense but not irrational or naive. Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be. Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. My faith in art rivals my admiration for any other discourse. Its conversation with the public and among its various genres is critical to the understanding of what it means to care deeply and to be human completely. I believe. 
I'm so devastated. So indebted. Thank God for Toni Morrison, and for every teacher who's led me to her. May her journey home be mighty, freed.


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