Sunday, December 13, 1992, along with Omar Shaheed I had my septum pierced. The septum is the piece of flesh separating the nostrils. It was a ritual for me, a rite of passage, connecting with my God Jehovah, my people of Africa, and my people, the Original people of this continent called North America. In the spring of 1991 I had a strong desire to get my septum pierced. From whence came this desire? From within. At the time it seemed a very African thing. Today it seems a very primordial thing, a very, a very spiritual thing, a very holy thing.
It is no secret that my Jewish forefathers bought and sold each other. (Yes, I am of African descent, Native American, Irish, AND Jewish descent.) Read Exodus of the Pentateuch or the 21st chapter of Exodus. Menservants were set free after seven years. If menservants desired to stay with their masters after receiving their freedom, they were to pierce their ear.
...And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.
And if your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold to you, and serve you six years; then in the seventh year you will let him go free from you. An when you send him out free from you, you will not let him go away empty: You will furnish him liberally out of your flock, and out of your floor, and out of your winepress: of that wherewith the Lord your God has blessed you shall give to him. And you shall remember that you were a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you: therefore I command you this thing today. And it shall be, if he say to you, " I will not go away from you"; because he loves you and your house, because he is well with you; Then you shall take a awl, and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant for ever. And also to your maidservant you shall do likewise.
This piercing is also a figure of my voluntary servitude to Jehova Jireh, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. It is a public pronouncement of my will to walk as a man, as I see fit and not so much as is dictated to me. It is a proclamation of my will to walk as a chaste man apart from the ways of the world, steadfast in virtue, integrity, and faith in God.
Why did Omar pierce his septum? It was a journey into the past. It was a fellowship with our ancestors of beauty out of pain. It was a breaking of bread, if you will, with our ancestors and their spirituality. It is a rebellion against what is thoughtlessly accepted. It is Omar's repudiation of the edicts of a seemingly omnipresent oligopoly and against the emphasis place on one's outer appearance, so that he might focus on his inner self.
I first mentioned to Omar, that I had a strange desire to pierce my septum seven months prior, in June. Around the same time, a desire to do this had also risen up in him, how incredible! Omar's travels took him to Jamaica where for two and half months he worked on monumental sculpture with David Breden.
Are things like this ordered of the Lord? (or God or The Universal power or whatever one believes in. ) Many Christians would say this is not. Some would go as far as to say this is dark and ungodly. To me it seemed ordered of the Lord that Omar would come back to the states and stay with me during the week I chose to have my septum pierced. While back in the states, Omar could have gone to Los Angeles where he lived for many years, or to Columbus to stay with a friend, or he could have stayed in New York with his son. He was drawn to Cleveland. Omar is not fond of Cleveland.
This weekend was a weekend of prayer and fasting for me. I am usually rather intuitive and more sensitive to the urgings of the Spirit when I am fasting. It was a weekend of spiritual conversation with Omar. Omar is Muslim and we disagree on many things, as one might imagine. We vigorously argue our disagreements, but, choose to focus on our similarities. We both believe that without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. We believe that love and respect for God's creation does not allow for hatred and disunity and violence (physical or mental) toward what is offensive to us. Hatred toward the flesh of mankind is operating from a position of weakness. Love is the power to build, or rebuild. Love is the power to destroy by juxtaposition with that which is not true and single.
My sister performed our piercings and was the only one outside of Omar who was privy to my sacred moment. After "completing" the readings of my ceremony, I closed my bible and said, "O.K., let's do it!" Trella, my sister, countered with, "What about the rest of your scripture?" as she flipped her hand over, palm up, waiving in the direction of my bible. She was nervous and this was her only valid stab at procrastination. "Do you want to suffer through it?", I asked. "Sure," she said, "even as I try to procrastinate." I gladly read the rest of my readings in proverbs, about my "wife" and "sister", who is Wisdom, and then once again I touted, "O.K., let's do it!" The loud crisp "SNAP!" of the leather awl jutting through the cartilage in my nose made Omar and Trella cringe. A year ago I had a guest list of people I wanted to be present. However, at the time of the piercing I can only think of one person to invite, and he is in Chicago unable to attend. I hold the steel awl, as Trella walks to the gas oven and blackens the end of a bamboo skewer to replace the awl. The skewer, which is covered with an antibiotic cream,. does not go through as easily as the awl. As my sister struggles to force it through the hole, I clench a yellow bandana with much more force than when the awl was injected. I am overcome with laughter as I watch my sister's puzzled reddening face try to look it through. Finally! It's done!
Trella, asked me what if I change. "You're following God now, but you could be real far away next week. What makes you think this is forever?" Leave it to my little sister to add a spark of reality. I trust, God builds faith, and I hope against hope that this will not happen. Trella drills Omar about why he is doing this and is apparently not happy with his answer, which is a far cry from what is recorded earlier in this writing. "That's it?! That's all?! That's why?!" With great resolve Omar acknowledges, "That's all I can articulate right now." With complete empathy, I understand this. Months have passed before being able to articulate many of the things I find myself led to do.
Omar's ordeal is similar to mine. After his bamboo was in place, we laughed and hugged. Trella joined in the mix and received much deserved love and gratitude. It was harder on spectator and expediter than on recipients. I was elated. I marveled at how something which had no particular significance to others was elevated to what I felt was a sweet savor wafting up to the throne of God. "Lord! I want to tell someone! I want to tell everyone! But who can I tell? Who can I share this with?," I thought. " Who can greet this event with more than bewilderment or indifference? Who would have the presence of spirit to not defile this moment?"
A women who said I am her best friend (until this night!) called. "Great! MAYBE I can tell HER!" There is no one else. Well, I don't get to tell her. After five minutes she is breathing curses and saying I am not her friend and that I am an asshole. God! I should make asshole my middle name! The venom is so great, I am affected physically. I have a pain in my stomach and my hands are shaking badly. I find myself in the kitchen with a glass of water, watching it shake out of the glass uncontrollably. Possibly, that relationship is forever gone. But, that night, I returned to my bedroom and talked to God and worshipped God, as I know this Being. My resolve? Family, friends, finances, and good fortune may all forsake me. But who shall separate me from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or gun? I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God...My nose is tied to the Doorpost.