The Triumph of the Human Spirit

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Hands

Cold Stone Creameries, Saturday.Michael Jackson blaring through the stereos above while some kids dance to it.

I’m chillin’ with my girl, scooping up on Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some and bragging to his girl about being a thriller in the sack.

A trip afterwards to the Virgin Megastore, and along the way, me giving pound to a dreaded VJ by the name of Sway while “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions played outside.

Stupid and simple moments like these make me believe that life has a purpose, no matter what the purpose was, and if it doesn’t, then let me not ruminate on its existence and use the time to live it to the fullest.

George Clooney helps me think on this some more through his role as Michael Clayton in the movie with the same title. On the one hand, we will readily sell out the next human being for millions beyond our necessity. On the other hand, we have people who will risk death (and life) to uproot these deft villains of human rights and liberties. Are these villains simply that evil or is it because they’ve ascended so high into the economic stratosphere that they’ve lost the ability to do the things normal people do, like breathe?

Naturally, this message became clear right after, when my girl wanted to have a little late-night conversation over at the Europa Cafe near Times Square. At first, we were a little wary after seeing all these Black and Latino youth surrounding the area in packs, something we hadn’t seen in that specific area since we started dating.  Then, it became especially weird when the front of the cafe had a line of dudes in the front, and I had to cut right through them. They were in some hostile formation I recognized from my own neighborhood. Something was amiss.

After sipping on my hot chocolate and her on her tea, we noticed the cafe closing at 1am, again unprecedented, but they seemed to be in a rush to move everyone out of their establishment. A busboy guarded the door, letting no one in while we heard sirens go off. A few minutes later, we heard more sirens go off, and as I turn and peek into 42nd St., there’s a blockade formed by the police. Imagine: one of the busiest streets on Earth completely emptied of anyone but cops. My first thought was, “We need to get to a train.” Then it became, “Fuck that; we need a taxi!”

I turned around, and the same boys and girls crowding the area had friends whose hands were bloodied. One young man had his hands completely red, and I did my best not to stare.

BANG BANG BANG!!!

Shots go off, and I immediately get into hood mode. I take my girl into the taxi, and we ride off into 34th, and I literally yelled at the taxi to move as quickly as possible.  The first thought that crossed into my mind was, “Why does this happen, even in parts where no one’s causing any problems?” Then it became more about the teenagers themselves, and why even in those settings, they were still prone to violent behavior? Is it because that’s the only way they’ve been taught how to act or because they have such a lack of self-worth that they have no problem even ridiculing how they’re going to shoot someone to death than keeping that promise?

That ate at my conscience for a while. I woke up, still a little tense from the previous night’s events. Then Sunday happened, and I remembered why I liked humans again. We’re prone to failure. We cheat, steal, lie, and even make dumb grammatical errors we have no business making. Thus, the best of us try to elevate those situations, even as we wallow in our misery. The best of us fight that feeling to give up on each other, even when we lose ourselves in a greater human cause.

On Sunday, I awoke, went to the gym, and wanted to go to the ALM’s house. I got on the bus, and of course, I would get the bus driver who’d never been on the route in his life. He made the wrong turn, so as he’s trying to get back on his route, we knew what was coming. He surpasses the first obstacle of making that first left. Then he tries to make that second left, and CLANK! The bus (an elongated bus with 8 wheels or so) hits a car in the back. He tries to step out, and CLANK! He hits another car. 7 people depart from the bus, leaving only the brave few.

So people who could have been the fathers and older brothers of the same people in the previous night’s scuffle came out and tried to help the bus driver (a Joel Klein doppelganger) out, and within 20 minutes and a little direction from me, that’s what happened. I didn’t make it to the ALM’s house, but there is the triumph of the human spirit. These men had nothing to lose, and in other situations, they’d laugh or scream at the bus driver for not knowing his route. We jeered him for a bit, but after a couple of car crashes and some screeches, we went into action.

Damn.

Not that these stories had anything to do with the Giants win. We can’t expect people to come from so much high expectation and adversity like Eli Manning, and for everyone to have a Tiki Barber, a friend turned enemy who threw him under the bus at every chance he got, or even a Jeremy Shockey, who attacked him about leadership, making snide remarks. But imagine after everything Eli’s been through, he still found 50+ guys behind him, and some coaches in front, who believed he was their guy. They’d lay out anyone and everyone for him, because as he goes, they go too. If he’s the underdog, then they’d be his fortress. And a small collective of Giants fans who actually believed in Eli since the first day, through his struggles and losses rejoiced at their apparent stubbornness.

After conquering the Goliath that was the New England Patriots, my cousin calls me on the phone, screaming and almost in tears over the win. I yelled along with him, a primal scream acknowledging the weekend that was. Even in the most insurmountable odds, the triumph of the human spirit can prevail. It takes a little ass-kicking and some serious inspiration to make that. There’s no one word to describe how events so contradictory and yet so meaningful meld into a full 72 hours of a human experience.

Heart.

Struggle.

Love.

Triumph.

Yeah … something like that.

jose, who still hasn’t done the “Why I Teach” post, but will get on it tomorrow …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonThe Triumph of the Human Spirit

Comments 2

  1. talda

    you saw sway? duuuuuude i miss sway so much! i was happy to see him on mtv getting the national exposure he deserved but that meant i didn’t get to hear him on the radio down here anymore. it was a sad day. he was one cool guy.

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