A few summers ago I read the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It was published in the early 1950s, on the cusp of notable events such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Red Scare (Communism). The novel follows a young and educated black man, whose name is never revealed. The story begins with him as a student at a southern college but following a series of crazy events he is kicked out of the school. He moves to New York City and becomes involved with communism and black nationalism. Throughout the novel he suffers humiliation and struggles with never being looked at as a human being (this is why I believe his name is never given). The story is told in flashbacks and the narrator comes to release the hatred and hurt he had carried around for so long by telling his tale.
This isn’t a book review or critique; instead I want to look at the term “Invisible Man” and how change can come about and statements can be made simply by sharing one’s experiences. Often times it’s easy to feel as if there’s no way you can make a change or any kind of imprint on the world. After all you’re just one person. I know I’ve felt this way on several occasions, whether it’s wondering why anyone would be interested in reading what I’ve written or doubting the value in signing petitions and fighting for causes I believe in. It’s so much easier to succumb to The Powers That Be and figure there is no hope. But then I realize that even though a cause or movement may have a face attached to it, they didn’t do it by themselves. Instead they had several nameless people behind them, not worrying about making a name for themselves but determined to have their say. This has made me stand up for issues I feel strongly about, from littering to birth control.
I admit, a few days ago I thought about ending my blog. I enjoy writing it but I wish it was like one of those huge blogs everyone knows. Of course I’ve only been writing for two months so I guess I have to be a little patient on that front. But then, like the narrator of Invisible Man, I realized how much this blog has helped me grow. I’ve become more comfortable sharing my thoughts and writing with the world. And the comments I’ve gotten from acquaintances saying how much they like it and can relate to some of the things I talk about is just really awesome. If the random thoughts floating through my head that manage to make it on to this site is a help to anyone…well that’s a great feeling, it really is. It just reminds me that you can inspire and help in ways you may not even know. And no matter how small your say or imprint is, it’s there .
Have you ever learned a valuable lesson just from listening to someone’s story or experience?
P.S. Happy Spring!