Vast swathes of humanity exist in unabating ignorance about the depths of their ability; for they are never given the opportunity for their ability to find expression. When I consider this, I fall into the shadow of the heart: ‘I’m stupid’, ‘I can’t spell’, ‘Where was I when God gave out the brains?’, ‘I’m just a barber’.

Unlike my mother, through luck, chance, and circumstance, I’ve been granted the opportunity for educational advancement, qualifications, and the freedom to research and write about subjects I consider important. But the sad fact is, I live under the shadow of the heart. My mother’s heart. I cannot look on my work as any measure of great achievement or true expression, as the measure of my soul and horizon of my ambitions. I read the words — my words — and see only atrophy and waste; potential unrealised and time wasted in fear. I’ve been given the keys to doors I cannot open. And I blame the keys and I blame the door, before looking at who stands before them.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
The work I do, in the institutions I occupy, with the funding I’ve received — it does not profit me or humanity. It erodes my soul, to see how discrimination does not require malice to breathe freely; to see kind and talented people denied the security their ability deserves; to see publications produced for the consumption of a constituency of people so far removed from the realities of day-to-day life.

If I spent my life in academia, I’d be soulessly tilling barren soil — putting time, energy, and ability into a sterile understanding of ‘cultivation’ and ‘culture’. I want to aid the glut of humanity in what capacity I can and be aided in turn — I want to witness the flourishing of potential that lies in the heart of every child, adult and elder; an understanding of potential not as that which is best harnessed by the demands of managers, bosses, and administrators, but as that which nurtures and expresses the curious liberty of our innate creativity; providing someone the opportunities and experiences to precipitate a sense of vocation and fulfillment that isn’t tied to the spiritual economy of fear, precarity and privation that stalks our every waking moment, always seeking to define what ‘ambition’, ‘education’, and ‘contentedness’ can and does and should mean — until its the air we ceaselessly breathe, and the poison we unthinkingly call air.

I want to help.

And be helped.

And I don’t know how.

I don’t know how to help. I know noone. But what I do know of is the soul. And I know there are legions of men who have been led down the garden path — who have been sold falsehoods of fufilment at the expense of their humanity; who see women as hostile objects to be controlled, and deny their own fragility whilst weaponising the splintered soul imprisoned within it. Inside every man, buried beneath the fear and self-recriminations, the lamentations and condemnations, lay a tiny god that cries ‘i’m alone, i’m alone, i’m alone’.

Proving we are not alone — really proving it — must be my vocation; that we are not the enemies of our future, that we need not be reduced to paltry futures fighting for front row seats in the theatre of false promises. We can make a better world; we can make better men.

Because, at the end of the day, it’s not the mother’s crying heart that haunts the soul and its silencing. It’s the distant, estranged father, announced only by their hatred and their hurt, an overgrown child who tears, under their face, tears, into the child.

Yes, I’m 24. And I don’t know what to do. We’ll say its par for the course. But my time, this time, is running out… And the melodrama of a utopian naïvety… it’s not all worth forgetting.

Published by CJGriffin

I am a PhD Researcher of Contemporary Anglophone Literature at the University of Warwick. I mainly research 'the secret', neoliberalism, and the novel since the turn of the twenty-first century in Britain, drawing on literary studies, politics, philosophy, history, poststructuralism, postcritique, affect theory, and aesthetics.

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