The Woods, Cont.

The Wilderness.jpg

What's most depressing about Harry Reid's calculations is their predictability. I should have saw this coming--not because of who Reid is, but because of the very nature of human beings. Cowardice, at times, is understandable, if lamentable. But it's also, very often, both stupid and lamentable. Taken together I'm left wondering why I'm even talking about it. As they say in my native tongue: You know what this is.

I spent two days complaining about the precise calibrations of Barack Obama's message on Cordoba House. Before I hit "Save," a voice inside said, "Are we doing this now?" I did not listen, and paid for it with two threads full of venom out of proportion with the actual issue. I hate those threads, not because I have to admit error (never fun, to be sure) but because they don't accomplish anything. Friends who agree on 99 percent of everything, end up addressing each other in colorful and unfortunate language. Much of the venom was my own and led to nothing save the erasure of whatever point I was driving at. 

There's a great jazz pianist up here with whom I have shared meals and talked often. The first day we met he informed me that the essence of our work was learning to get out of our own fucking way. I am learning that out here--how to get out of my own fucking way--and really listen to what I care about, what I truly ache to say. I do not ache to edit, in real-time, the collected speeches of Barack Obama. When I yearn for profound explorations of the nature of bigotry, I look to Matt Weiner. It's a weight he would never seek, and this is precisely what makes his vision so compelling.

My work space out here is a cabin with a desk and chairs. On the desk I have placed a candle, and a compass. Navigation is the point. In the window I have an iPod dock, because I have come to believe that a life without LCD Sound System is really not a life at all. 

There is a bed too, and I want so much to live right there, to wake up alone to my specific business. But it's far from me and even deeper into the woods. surrounded by no one and nothing. I think I could fall off the world and no one would know--or, rather, I would not know if they knew. I have said, repeatedly since being here, that to get this done I, a black man bred in these eastern cities, will have to learn to walk in the dark. 

It is almost 11. There is nothing out there but the terrible night.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple


What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?


The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City


Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.


The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

From This Author

Just In