It has been a long time coming, me getting into Jimi Izrael's book. There has been a clumsy conspiracy of comic errors that has kept me from it, including a forgotten freezer full of fish and a hotel clerk with an African name. But all that's in the past and I have read the introduction.
The introduction you say? And already I'm raving. Yeah. Well, that's OK because I have learned that there is a kind of genius that doesn't need a great deal of explication. If you know that there is something true in love at first sight, then you understand how a lifetime can be changed in an instant. I hate the utopian opportunism implied in that now common phrase 'teachable moment', but yes there are moments when suddenly you know something weighty is approaching on that train coming round the mountain - and all you've heard is that mournful whistle. Like the first notes of a Sade song you're hearing for the first time, you already know that you're going to fall in love with somebody slow dancing to it one day. Intuition tells you it's coming.
I'm at that delicious point. Teased to be ready for it - the rest of The Denzel Principle, the new book about what's going wrong with some people we know, some people we are sometimes. It's all by a man I thought I knew but I know better already, and did I say the word 'genius' already?
Let me tell you why I love Jimi Izrael as a man. It's because he is one of those men who lives in his skin. A man who could hang with all that thoughtful reflection - except he's all about the now. It comes out of him in real time, preternaturally instinctual it seems. I mean if you put him together on paper you wouldn't imagine that he is what he looks like. He looks like a man of action, but he's deliberate and deep. He's got emotional intelligence. Every moment that I've been hanging with the brother, in person, on the radio, in online forums, he has given me the impression that he's all right there in the moment. Like he never turns off. Moreover I know what he looks like and sounds like going after a woman which is an extraordinary thing to watch. It is a spontaneous, loving, bottom line interview, sprinkled with hot pepper and dirt. Like we are talking about X, and suddenly he starts with an off the cuff remark to the woman in our orbit, and it sounds like a compliment that is going to go maybe two sentences and that's the end of it - like he's just trying to be suave and leave an air of cool. But then he's back to talking to me about X again, and he continues with the woman and getting into her life and her people and discovering her everything. He's telling her in so many words, I already know I could love you, I'm just finding out how much. I'm like damn. It's like that Hmong wise man in 'Gran Torino', he's already there feeling her insides and pushing the pressure points. These aren't throw away lines. Jimi gets into your life like that.
I love that as a man because I love the company of men who don't play games, and when it comes to the big things you need somebody who can handle the truth. And that's the difference in character that we all ought to know. I'm going to bring forth a poem that I taught my children and you said you would too when you saw Akeela say it:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Now I'm going to tell you that I've only seen him do it on two brief occasions, once with a white girl and once with a black girl, but that's where he was, letting his love light shine and giving her permission to do the same. Until I read the introduction to his book, I couldn't know where that was coming from or how deep it went. But I always knew that the man doesn't play.
Now I don't mean to suggest that he's totally serious 100% of the time, I'm saying that he's the kind of man that doesn't work at being some kind of emotional Tootsie Pop. What's at the inside isn't some kind of moldable chewable center that's a different color, flavor and consistency from the outside. He's all that sweet and hard inside just like on the outside. Same stuff. There's no trap and surprise. At least that's the man I see, consistent with the man I read, and the man I appreciate that much more today.
Jimi hustles. He's working all the time and what you watch is his work in progress. It's himself and his words and his passion. He has a passion against bogus motherfuckers. It's something we share as black men tired of being mistaken for him, tired of cleaning up after him, tired of sharing a world of vulnerable people when he's around jacking them and we're too distant to slap him about. But Jimi also knows the female of the bogus species and he's calling her on her madness and mess. He ain't afraid. And he hustles and is not shamed by hustling because he's inherited nothing but a good heart and an eye and ear for truth. Most of us are ashamed by what we know and let go. Jimi must testify. It's hard, but it's fair.
All that is important in a world that's the world we have today - when nobody is quite sure of the value of anything and people are trying to sell you something about themselves because they aren't quite sure what their own value is. They just know what worked last time and what the suckers buy. So what I'm conveying is something about the character of a man I know who has survived among the snakes with his mind and soul intact. And the way it works out with Jimi is in the language of emotional truth, one that he speaks well.
The language of emotional truth, even about love and devotion is not hearts and flowers. I don't know what the deal is with 'Sleepless in Seattle' because I've never seen that movie. People tell me it's a great movie but I just don't think of that when I think of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Sorry. I don't even know why the genre 'romantic comedy' can be taken seriously. Maybe it's because people desire so much for emotional truth to be fun and entertaining. For me, it was more like Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin in 'Sea of Love' or Larry Fishburne and Irene Kennedy in 'Deep Cover' or maybe even Nick Cage and Elizabeth Shue in 'Leaving Las Vegas'. The language of love has overtones of risk, desperation, passion, urgency, fate and fear. So when you hear Izrael talking about it, there's none of that Nubian Queen bodewash. He doesn't need a lot of windmilling and pre-gesturing to get to it. It's bam pow, a swift combination of the right words, tough like the sweet science. You read a few swift paragraphs that seem like simple street brogue of a hiphop bohunk and then the idea comes around inside your sense of time and knocks you out.
That's how I'm seeing Izrael's angle on the Dizzle, The Denzel Principle. He has identified something important and true without being all Dr. Phil about it. He has invested the contemporary argot with some righteous matters about character in the fundamental interactions between men and women. And he starts with his own story and his epiphany. I know Jimi, and I know him better now and I see why he had to write this book. Now you know what you're in for. Pick it up.