Words can do anything you want them to do. They are an all-around transformational power literally at your fingertips. You can caress them and lay them gently into a treasure box, or you can shoot them out to stars.
Praxis, Paolo Freire’s pedagogical philosophy, is a constant state of proof: reflection plus action equals transformation. Praxis means you do not just blindly obey lies nor do you hoard truth. Praxis requires courage, which cannot truly be taught through any class or book. Praxis requires the world to be the stage. You learn truth and action it out into the world. It is the final perpetual step of authentic education. You challenge not simply your mind but your will.
Although you can use many methods to reflect upon an idea, writing may be one of the best ways to flesh out truth. Writing requires you to dig into your spirit and spit it out. Then you must face and read over your own words: a grocery list, goals, a poem, an essay, a letter to a lost Loved One. Do you feel the words? Do you believe the words? Why or why not? Freire felt that it is only when you deeply reflect about a subject that you will actually care enough about it to action it out in your own life. Well, if you are writing, and you wrote those words, and you mean those words, then you must care about them. And now that you care, you are ready for the next step.
Action requires you to test your theories out into the world. You do not have to make it melodramatic. You can just take your poem and live it, actually live your poem in your real life. Action: with the spirit of your words, simply throw yourself into the moment. It is an exhilarating feeling. It may not be the solution to all of our existential dilemmas, but it is You doing You. The words came from your mind. You pushed those ideas out into the world. If there is anything such as free will, then this action is it. The action can come only from your own courage.
Transformation means you will be transformed and so will the world around you. Your writing reflected you. Your action was yours. You did not know exactly where you were going to go. You took a risk, and now things are not the same static way as before. You shaped yourself and the world around you. Note that this is not necessarily evolution, as evolution imagines some ultimate state of being. No. Praxis is an unpredictable never-ending process. The three steps require you to do them over and over again.
I write what I live, and I live what I write.
Praxis: thirty years ago, in February of 1991, I was in war. Task Force Ripper, USMC 0331. Barely 19 years old, I was scared and confused, then ultimately traumatized, yet not wanting to even admit I was traumatized so substituted the shame by being vicious, by drinking, and by being a Sav on the streets. I kept like that for years afterwards, until I found my own personal therapist: myself, my mind, the mysteries inside of my mind. Writing was my therapy. The words buried deep inside myself helped me reflect, action, and transform. Now I am who I am, and I accept myself, all the good and all the bad. And I keep working.
Praxis: Todo Bodo Down, this website blog is dedicated to my dead Brother Jeff’s spirit. He lived and died on the San Fran Mission Streets, and I have tried to transform that energy for positive purposes. I have now been writing on this site for over ten years. 150 postings. No one told me to do this. No one commanded me to write a series on “Why Write?” Peruse the postings. Witness the words in action; witness the constant transformation. Barrio Bushido, Amor for Alex Nieto, Pura Neta, philosophy, life, poetry, tragedy, anti-racist movements, fighting gentrification, fighting the power, Lowriding, and sharing. It is all transformation.
Praxis: I am now in my 20th year of teaching writing at City College of San Francisco. This past Friday, I was invited to a photoshoot for an upcoming newspaper article about Pura Neta. I suggested we meet at Saint Francis of the Guns. In 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, San Fran Frisco wanted to reclaim its name of peace, so it held a voluntary gun turn-in program and melted those guns to steel that Benny Bufano then used to create the statue that welcomes everyone at the front of City College. The instruments of violence were transformed into a symbol of peace. This past Friday, we took the shots and shared lots of love. I did not imagine that day or this writing when I wrote Pura Neta, but it is reality now because of praxis.
You hold the power of your words. They are there for you to shape them into anything you want.
Only you have the power to answer that question and manifest your mind.