to know I be
You’ve heard it among young people, particularly young black people: “She be complaining.” He be studying.” “I be going to the gym.” These be un-conjugated “to be” statements. Their verbs don’t change their forms to reflect past or present tense or to agree with the subject. Among linguists of AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), this is known as “habitual be” or “durative be.” This “to be,” quite simply, does not change, because this “to be,” quite simply, does not, change. Let me try to explain. The difference between the conjugated “I am going to the gym.” and the un-conjugated “I be going to the gym.” is the difference between “Right now, I am in my car driving to the YMCA.” and “Every single damn day, I am in the damn gym, throwing around the same damn iron.” Basically, I AM a gym person, a person of the gym, if you will. And the person who “be studying”? Well he or she is not merely cramming for tomorrows’ test, he or she IS a studier. Day after day after day, her life is spent on study. Likewise, the she who be complaining isn’t just having an off day. The she who be complaining is a dyed-in-the-wool pisser & moaner who is never ever satisfied. I mean not EVER. She IS a complainer.
It is this habitual, enduring, un-conjugated “to be” I aim to know.
I Be a Being that Bees!
Listen to this. A guy named Dr. Ali Binazir, a Harvard educated MD (with a bunch of other impressive degrees from a bunch of other impressive institutions) sat down and figured out the odds of any of us being born, when we were born, to the parents to whom we were born, carrying the DNA with which we were born.
1 in 10^45,000.
I had it explained to me like this: get about 2 million people together; give them each a trillion sided die, they each roll once, and every last one of them rolls the same number.
That is how likely it is that I BE. That is how likely it is that YOU BE.
I have a very strong sense of am-ing. I AM a person who DOES eat three triangles of Toblerone every time I pass through the dining room because Toblerone is there. I AM a person who DOES hit snooze six times every morning because I hate adulting and every day is chock-fekking-full of it. I AM a person who DOES self-sabotage because feeling is ever so much cozier than thinking.
It is the be-ing needs building to work Plan Be. Brain, shut up; just marinate in your juices. Teeth, stop gnawing cuticle. Eyes, stop chasing that floater. Ears, listen to nothing and everything. Breath, come and go. Hands, greet each other politely and then be still; Bottom, plant, sink, stay. Leg, no jiggling. Feet! Plant, same as ass No tapping. Now, all of you, BE. Just be, will you? Nothing fancy. No “Zen-ing.” Or “Ohm-ing.” Or “Centering.” Or “Pant-Pant-Blowing.” Only trips you up, doesn’t it? Is this the proper posture? Is this appropriate for a Presbyterian? How many minutes have passed? No. That is Am-ing and Do-ing.
I don’t know much about be-ing. Maybe, done right, it’s a universal state. Probably not. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? You don’t do when you be. And the challenge is to be when you do. For right now, at the beginning of being, here’s how it feels to me:
I am a small, round, white ball made of something like felted wool
I am inside my skin.
I can move up and look out of my eyes.
Or I can stay still and know that I have eyes.
Either one is okay.
Both are remarkable.
How does BE-ing feel to you?
Care to share?