I try very hard not to think of deconstruction. Like my eyes see more than what is not white, what is not Western or what is not material. Though it is necessary to shed what is not useful because, despite what we might think, by the time we’re aware of the world we already have solid notions of it. Life doesn’t in fact start as a blank canvas, at least not one that only you are painting. In other words, to be able to see and interact with the world from an ancestral place, we have to intentionally erase who whiteness tells us we are, then erase who we tell ourselves we are not, then step into who we say we are.
I am Muslim-Egyptian, born and raised in Kuwait and have lived in what is today called Canada since 2008.
To me, the universe and all of its cycles are sacred. Not as an exotic pastime, as the dominant culture might have me believe, but as a deep spiritual belief, the strokes of which paint how I live. I see God in everything even when the world around me thinks I’m just a little romantic. This is my truth. And death, to me, is the end and beginning of cycles. It is a certainty like nothing else can be.
So when I saw that scene in Captain America where T’chala said “in my culture, death is not the end.” and then described death as a passage where he is led by two ancient Egyptian lioness Goddesses to the afterlife, to which Natasha said “that sounds very peaceful.” I briefly transformed into the dial-up internet tone from 1998. I felt, in my soul, my ancestors and the ancestors of every person of colour collectively groan. Truly a “this, again” of an astronomical scale.
They gave T’chala a nice story to feel better about his father’s death but in the greater context, it was still just a story. To him it was Truth but his truth is treated like an object of consumption. It might seem like I’m reading quite a lot into an inconsequential two minutes but, well, they were two minutes with a lot of baggage. It reeks of a world trying its damnedest to run away from death. A world that treats it like a cultural artifact even though for most of us, in fact, it’s not just the moment we flatline but a present metaphysical phenomenon. As Talib Kweli put it:
“I’m not a human being into no spiritual shit,
a Spiritual being manifested as a human that’s it”
Death, for most of us, is the end of the physical part of existence and our return. It’s a homecoming. And our physical existence has a purpose inextricably linked to our spiritual one. Our lives are choices that have meaning. All is sacred and part of The Creator’s domain.
Such an experience will most definitely, then, give life to monuments that are a marriage between what our senses have encountered and the Truths about what follows it we believe. They are hope, fear, arrogance, preparation and so many more things that putting words to would never suffice. All grasping at any semblance of control of what Prophet Muhammad ﷺ called “the destroyer of pleasures”. As an Egyptian, and in my substantial ignorance, nothing represents this angst to me like the Pyramids of Giza. What an immense manifestation?
Every little thing about the Pyramids has a connection to life and death. They are, in essence, tombs.
Here’s a second for you to chuckle at the irony of people thinking we live in them.
Inside of them, to assist the dead on their journey to the afterlife, are treasures and tools. They are built on the west bank of the Nile, where the sun sets, which is associated with the realm of the dead (Ancient Egyptians believed that the darkest area in the night sky, around which the stars appeared to orbit was a gateway to the afterlife.) The four corners point in the cardinal directions (North, South, East and West) and it is constructed in the shape of a mound from which Ancient Egyptians believed the Earth was created.
Maybe I don’t believe any of this is true in exactly that way but I don’t think there is much that has changed. I believe every religion is a roadmap to some ultimate Truth. The roadmaps might differ but the Truth is the same. And today, like my Egyptian ancestors, I do associate the day with life and the night with death and, like them, I believe it is a cycle – that the sun will rise once again. Like them, I do carry things that will help me in my journey home: love, kindness, integrity and an unwavering passion for justice.
And when my time comes, I hope that I will have spent my life deeply absorbing all that is sacred about the world and with my own two hands carved for love and justice a place in it. That when Death and I meet, only my Truth colours my canvas.