Thoughts on Thoughts: Boonaa Mohammed

Boonaa Mohammed, change, changing the world, first impressions, hate, Kill Them With Love, kindness, love, love vs. hate, minimalism, minimalist, positive media, prejudice, respect, spoken word, spoken word poetry, Ted Talks, The Minimalists, x Ted Talks

There is no point in reading this post until you’ve watched this video. Seriously. Why are you still here, at my blog? Have you watched the video? I’ll make it easier, even—I’ll provide it below. Now, have you really watched the video or are you just saying that because you are in an epic hurry to move onto my words below? Am I that exciting, life-changing, compelling? Well, thank you, but watch the video anyway.

Now that I know you’ve watched the video, or at least have endured my accusations and are still choosing to virtually lie to me, I’m going to talk about portions of Boonaa Mohammed’s “Kill Them With Love.”

“Show me a stranger and I’ll show you a friend that you haven’t met yet.”

Okay, Boonaa, I’m listening. No really, you have my attention because you’re already opening with a positive instead of a negative, and I happen to be real into the positive these days. The majority of the time I watch a news video, someone is getting shot. The majority of the time I scroll through Facebook, the negative posts far outweigh the positive ones. The majority of the time I hear a friend, co-worker, or loved one tell a story, the story is central to some overall complaint about life. That’s why I am down if Boonaa wants to try something more positive.

“And people are more than numbers. To crack a smile is really no stress.”

As far as I’m concerned, these two lines are powerful. Most days, it feels like something human is missing from humanity. People we don’t know walk by and we don’t acknowledge them. People we know superficially aren’t important enough to us for us to try to develop a deeper relationship. Even the people we know the best and claim to love are distant most of the time, hidden away by distractions. They are the people that live on the other side of our cell phones, our books, our laptops, our dinner plate. We barely smile at those we love, much less at a stranger. Boonaa makes a valid point, though—people are more than numbers. How much can our smile change the world? With the thoughts of Mother Teresa in mind, I argue that the answer to that question, whether it is “in massive ways” or “not at all” doesn’t change the fact that we should smile.

“Multiply first impressions by everything you might have guessed. Prejudice takes time…Why would you hate when love just costs less…Mainly because your ignorance leads me to believe that you really just need a hug.”

As I grow older, I am beginning to identify with the sentiment “prejudice takes time.” This is why Boonaa’s point about first impressions is actually so important. Prejudice isn’t a sort of hate that crops up overnight without reason. I am growing to believe that prejudice festers in the pit of our stomach for a long time, boiling up into something full-grown and tangible. We must be constantly aware of our first impressions and willing to acknowledge that they are based on our own experiences and ideologies. It isn’t enough to say we won’t judge people from the word GO. We have to be willing to admit we are judging people from the moment we meet them, check that judgment out long enough to get to know them, and practice loving them instead. To do otherwise, really, is to remain ignorant. If my readers are anything like me, they are not much into being touched (including hugs), so we definitely don’t want to look ignorant, do we?

“Yeah, you’re a racist but I’m still gonna hold the door open for you.”

There is no reason to pretend it’s easy, but one of the most valuable habits I believe we can develop in this life is to continue to do good in the face of all the wrong others do around us or to us. In the end, we are accountable for ourselves alone. It is one of the most basic lessons of many faiths, this “turn the other cheek” type of thinking. It is a powerful rebuttal against opposition—one better than angry words or reactionary deeds. On a bit of tangent, I will say this is applicable to private vs. public life as well. We must do good no matter who is looking, no matter what time it is, no matter what the circumstances. Yes, we’re going to fail, but we never have to stop trying.

“This respect thing is just what I do. And it’s past tolerating. It’s on the path of understanding and appreciating you.”

Here’s another truth—while most practices start as something we force ourselves to do, they are meant to turn into something genuine. While Boonaa encourages us to go beyond respect to reach toward real “understanding” and “appreciation,” he most likely started with real, everyday, intentional practice of respect to get to the point he is at now. That’s where we should expect to start if we’re developing real kindness and respect for the first time, but we should strive for something much greater. There is no habit we can develop that we can develop without intentional actions.

“And it may sound strange but I’m a beat at change. Improve every day to prove their rudeness is lame.”

This is an alternative repetition of Boonaa’s earlier idea to continue doing good in the face of people who do us wrong. In this instance, he is speaking more to the idea that even as we try to cultivate real change, it won’t always be easy. People won’t always respect us. Some may even try to discourage us. So he says he “beats at it,” meaning he keeps on keeping on, basically. We should try to keep on keeping on ourselves. We may never see the fruits of our labor, and truthfully, if we’re laboring with the motive to see fruit alone, we’re laboring in vain.

“I ain’t impressed by money, cars, clothes, or fame.”

Nor should we be. If this idea appeals to you, I suggest checking out the essays of The Minimalists.

“I just kill you all with love.”

This last line, this title of his piece, this resonating idea central to his words—in it is the potential for all of us to be incredible people. If we stopped pitting hate against hate, if we returned wrong with right, if we replaced bad with good, if we strive for kindness and respect, if we love in general…what kind of world would we have?

I don’t pretend to perfect. In fact, I am still so far from practicing the idea Boonaa is promoting. I wonder, though. I wonder what it could be like—and so should you.

———

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