Paul Robeson: Not Enough Time

Tenn in Conversation
New Orleans

All of us must face the truth: Talent, energy, will, beauty, virility all recede and fade. They become distant memories. The senile call out to dead or distant memories, people, scents, sounds: This is what we will ultimately do with abilities. I hate to be so morbid, but all of us are shelf-sensitive; all of us are expiring; all of us are on borrowed time. We have gifts, but they are not required or expected to wait for us to adequately appreciate or use them.

If we all must watch our abilities and our attributes recede and fade, it is still a luxury and a gift compared to the history--brutal and consistent--that faces the black man, whose abilities and attributes are rarely allowed to recede, because they are taken or abused or destroyed or denied.

This was explained to me--calmly, kindly--by Paul Robeson, a man who burned with passion and energy, whose genius and intellect were fiery coals in his stomach and in his feet. He recognized in me--a coddled, white queer--the pernicious gift--illusory, I might add--of time and choice. I believed for a long time that I had plenty of time. I believed that I had choices and I would take my time in considering them. I believed that I could and should wait and see where my talents might best be placed and served and attended to. I was an idiot, and Paul Robeson recognized this.

All of us are caught in the time knot, and all of us are rowing against the wave of decline. Use the gifts; share the gifts; deplete yourself in pursuit of the truth and the beauty of whatever it is you wish to do.

Time and self-abuse have taken away my abilities and my attributes: Racism and evil and envy took away those of Paul Robeson. And yet he was a genius, and we were allowed to see it. Because he fought. And he taught me not to get stuck in the narcosis of choice and thought and dreaming of what might be. What might be is irrelevant. What must be is of paramount importance, and it is what we must do, now and fully

There is no luxury of time. There is no time to wait and see how it should be done.

It simply must be done.

This I learned from Paul Robeson, who was brought into my life by Uta Hagen.

There is not enough time.

Paul Robeson, photographed by E.O. Hoppé, 1926

©2013 by James Grissom


Popular Posts