Burn This City to the Ground: A Spiritual Succession
I began writing my new book "Burn This City to the Ground" in November of 2019. Before the pandemic, before George Floyd died and before the world transformed into something that now seems unrecognizable only months after. I wrote about Floyd in my original manuscript. He was a figure larger than life. If you wrote about the Salvation Army homeless shelter in the year 2018 you almost had to mention him. The story was detailed by my relationship with a quadriplegic roommate. Floyd hardly seemed a footnote. I did not know him personally but my interactions with him may have numbered in the hundreds.
When I revisited the draft in 2021, the focus had suddenly changed. My roommate and I were still the main characters but there was something greater to confront. COVID-19 had been something we had to endure. The riots were something we had to endure and though we were larely uneffected by these events compared to many people in Minneapolis, it touched our lives for simply having been there. The character of George Floyd became more important but it wasn't as though our everyday lives revolved around him. He was tertiary. He was mentioned but seldom thought of or sought after. He never became a prolific figure until his departure and the climax of my novel speaks to as much. The petty undertones of our disagreements became commonplace to this wider, more important narrative.
So I now ask myself, is capitalizing on Floyd's life really going to be a good thing? I feel the book is more a snapshot in time than anything. How two people living in Minneapolis reacted to the pandemic and riots. How some one who knew Floyd, who had this life completely seperate from him but who saw him as an actual person reacted. He was some one who cared. Some one who was okay with me. His death wasn't met by anger or by any other extreme reaction. Only loss and shock that it had happened again. Why did it keep happening in Minneapolis? My roommate and I were dealing with a massive falling out and suddenly this relationship to George Floyd became more important. It took preceidence. It destroyed us as though it was something that was meant to happen.
The fulcrum of this plot begins with my downfall and rebuilding. It is reinforced by my desire to help the disenfranchised, the desire to care for disabled indiviudals. George Floyd was just another travler on that path. When he fell, it triggered a chain reaction. He may have been a criminal, a felon, but it is impossible to deny the audacity of his human spirit and it's undeniable will to overcome adversity. I see George Floyd as a reflection of myself. Some one with a past who wanted to help people. Some one who found comfort in a profession that made a difference. For that brief moment in history we were both contributing to a greater purpose. I suppose for me that was enough.
"Corners Untouched by Madness" is a book about losing your faith. Buddhism was a reliable narrative for me to fall back on. It gave me meaning, however, in my interactions with my ex-con roommate and individuals like Floyd, I found faith in humanity. This book is about how belief can come from unlikely sources, and also how our pracitices, no matter how different, are like water that culimantes into the well of the common good. No matter what you believe, no matter who you follow, no spiritual leader wants suffering and bloodshed as a result of their teachings. Perhaps Floyd will act as a teacher for all of us. No matter our past, our history and mistakes, we can always contribulte to benefit humanity. We can always make that differecnce. No matter how small and insignificant our voice is, we matter, just like Floyd did. We matter.