MIND ON THE RUN:
Strange Magic in Motown
Chapter 3: Spiritual Extirpation
Extirpation: Destruction of unhealthy body tissue, usually performed by a surgeon.
On the trip back to the Steel City, the “City of Bridges,” I thought of many things with the confused psyche of an adolescent undergoing an epiphany. I picked up the football game on the radio in the vicinity of Cleveland, but the events of the day encroached on my ability to pay attention. My weary mind wrestled with the existential conflicts of human existence: good versus evil in all its permutations — acceptance versus retaliation, privilege versus deprivation, luck versus misfortune, bravery versus cowardliness, nature versus nurture. As the song goes, I just could not get it out of my head — out of my obsessive-compulsive intellect:
Recent scientific evidence suggests that coronary artery disease begins in the womb, reflecting the pregnant mother’s diet. Does prejudice of all sorts likewise begin before outright exposure to it — at conception or before? To what extent can a courageous sports figure save a city — or save the world? Is “SportsTalk” the universal language of the USA?
Must it take fifty years for the fears and biases formulated in early life to be extirpated from our moral fiber by a fortuitous act of raw kindness by a total stranger, a victim of these biases? Can the negative events of the past ever by extirpated from the national or global psyche by future circumstances? And, worse, what if our own personal, subconscious fears remain indolent and never resurface until the grave?
Yes, Mr. Thomas, the cabby, was my Gunga Din — bringing not water but a kind of spiritual revival, like “running through the wall.”
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
— From “Gunga Din” by English author Rudyard Kipling
“….poked out his tongue and called me ‘Whitey.’
I had lived a life devoid of strife
From birth until November
But of my time in Motown’s clime
He’ll be all that I remember.
Read more essays by Dr. Kovatch on The PediaBlog here.