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Under the Stars

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Under the Stars

A scholar in Central Park.
Cornel  West
Cornel West More by this author
Sep 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM

There were certain dangers involved in sleeping in Central Park in 1979. Crime was still on the rise. But there were certain spots, between the thick grove of trees and lush expansive lawns, where I could spread out my blanket, rest my weary head, look up at the heavens and, regardless of the crazy circumstances that brought me here, enjoy some peace of mind.

The summer weather was mild and the night breeze cool. The air was clear. The moon was full, the sky flooded with stars. My mind was flooded with thoughts.

How in the name of reason had I wound up here?

When I got my Reno divorce from Hilda, the judge saw I was making $503 a month and told me to give her $383. That meant I had $117 to work with or, to break it down further, $29.25 a week.

In my head, I kept hearing Johnnie Taylor singin’ ’bout, “It’s cheaper to keep her.”

Brother, I got the blues.

When we split up, even before Hilda went to Atlanta, I gave her the apartment we were renting. That meant I had no place of my own. When I started looking for a place, the security and first month’s rent were more than I could handle. Rather than hit on friends for a loan, I figured it might do me good to relax in the great outdoors until I could plan my next move.

When it came to money planning, I didn’t do well. I didn’t want to fight with my ex-wife who was the prime caretaker of our beloved son. I didn’t want to fight with anyone. At the same time, by giving her practically everything and keeping little for myself, I set a pattern that would last for . . . well, maybe forever.

On those two nights, out there on the grass of Central Park, cuddled up in my sleeping bag, there were times when I had to laugh. Here I was, graduate of Harvard and Princeton, student of philosophy, lover of literature, professor-on-the-rise, and broke as the Ten Commandments. Now ain’t that something. Maybe it was then when the bluesman shuffle started playing inside my brain. Maybe it was then when I heard the rhythm, the rhyme of the song, the stars overhead spelling out the story: Your baby’s gone. Your money’s funny. You ain’t got no home. Nobody loves you but your mama and—as B.B. King says—“she could be jivin’, too.”

But, oh, never never my loving and loyal mama, B.B.! She is my rock forever!

There’s humor in those statements. There’s pain. That’s the comic tragedy of the blues. You tease the situation for what it’s worth. You comfort yourself with a joke or two. You close your eyes and hope no one mugs you during the night. You wake up and move on—teaching at Union, putting a few bucks together to rent a little place uptown. See what happens next.

About Author
Cornel  West
Educator and philosopher Dr. Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. Known as one of America’s most gifted, provocative, and important public intellectuals, Dr. We Continue reading