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Nothing Personal

For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us.The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

Read the full essay here.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Nina Fonoroff August 13, 2013, 7:19 pm

    I wanted to thank you, Joe, for posting this illuminating essay. It’s one of a number where Baldwin describes his experience of what has come to be called racial profiling: this time, by the NYC police.

    You may know about this already, but we can look forward to the PBS broadcast of a documentary called “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket” (originally broadcast in 1989), in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It’s part of PBS’s “American Masters” series. It’ll be shown at 9pm on August 23:


    Again, thanks for posting, Joe.

  • constance pierce August 14, 2013, 8:59 am

    It’s 3:33 am and I’ve just finished reading the Baldwin’s essay. I felt I had to comment now to thank you for posting this – a remarkable piece of writing – articulating/revealing truths buried so deep and so difficult to verbalize.

    It seems strange, but I think because I have seen/listened to many recordings of Baldwin speaking, I experienced the entire essay in his voice. I could hear the inflections and the rhythms of his cadence – phrase by phrase – as if Baldwin were right here in my late night room. I like hearing his voice.

    “I know we often lose, and that the death or destruction of another is infinitely more real and unbearable than one’s own. I think I know how many times one has to start again, and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is. The light. The light. One will perish without the light.”

    Gratitude to you, Joe, for sending out this essay to so many at this very time. And, thank you Nina, for your “heads-up” on the upcoming PBS documentary on Baldwin.

    This particular sentence arrested my mind and heart: “It has always been much easier (because it has always seemed much safer) to give a name to the evil without than to locate the terror within.”