I sometimes feel duty bound to report how far from stereotype some reality truly is. It's a responsibility of sorts. The conversation below is not particularly amazing in its own right, but it's one we won't find in most media portrayals of black men in their twenties. It's just a record of what a couple of young men were chatting about late one night, rolling down the boulevard in a forgotten corner of the city.
"Hold up," he said, catching his breath after running for the bus. "Are you old enough to drive dis bus?"
"That ain't the first time you've heard that, huh?"
"Oh, maybe once or twice!"
"Yeah, usually at least once a trip, somebody says somethin'!"
"Can I ask if your background is Asian at all?"
"See, you got those good genes!"
"Well, you do too, man! Both of our culture's old folks, they're supposed to be sixty they look forty-five!"
He laughed again, settling in the front seat. Dark jeans worn, hanging low on his hips, with a correspondingly long black printed Tee draped around his upper body, the folds of fabric pooling around his slouching midsection like a Bernini marble.
He's saying, "well, those Asians got it goin' on. They got philosophy for sure. I been readin' the Dalai Lama,"
"Yeah, he's written a whole bunch a books, and man, that man is wise."
"You know what I love about him, is how humble he is."
"Yeah! And he has a sense a humor! You be expecting him to be all serious,"
"Yeah, but naw, he's crackin' jokes about hisself!"
"Always laughing, or smiling or something. That's how you know he's on to something. Aaaand, he don't go around saying he got all the answers."
"Yeeeaah, see that's good, he puttin' his own words into practice. But yeah. This book is something else. He's talkin' about like the three D's- adapt, adopt, improve. Hang on, that ain't it. That's a whole other thing, that's from–"
It's from Monty Python, but I don't call that out. All conversations could benefit from a Python reference. He's thinking of the three R's– respect for self, respect for others, and responsibility for one's actions. Both triumvirates aren't half-bad as mantras, though.
Out loud I say, "Well, I kinda like that right there. I especially like it's called the three D's!"
"Which one is it, which book is it?"
"The Art of Happiness."
"Cool. That's awesome. You know, he was here, in Seattle–"
"–maybe ten years ago, yeah, when I was in school. I saw him."
"Oh man," he says, imagining it.
"It was incredible. What took me by surprise was like we were sayin', he's so humble, so human, he'd be crackin' jokes with people. No sense of, uh, I don't know. It was really impressive."
"Yeah, it just be opening my eyes to all my conversations with people, their struggles. Thinkin' 'bout where they're comin' from."
"It cleanses the mind."
"Brings out the best in you."
"Yeah. Changes how I see things. Isn't that amazing?"
Oh, and how!