Watching this episode of #blackAF, I was floored by the hip coolness of this family. Everyone is witty and smart (except Dad), and they all look stylish and beautiful, including the three little boys. And I had that whisper of a thought… Ohh, I wish I was cool and hip and gorgeous like that.
I have heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s commentary on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras many times, and one of the terms he uses to explain Asteya (one of the Yamas) is “non-stealing.” Gurudev isn’t one for long, detailed explanations but you can chew on his words for a while… maybe even years. I wondered, what does “non-stealing” mean? Does it include non-covetousness?
I have a sweet friend who’s blessed with a lovely head of hair. Sometimes I would look at that crowning glory, sighing: I wish I had that hair. Then I started to think, am I “stealing?” A lot has been written about cultural appropriation, and the various ways in which the West has stolen from and profited off indigenous peoples and cultures. I understand the idea but I didn’t connect with the passion behind it. Today, as I watched #blackAF, I started to see things clearer.
As we admire something that belongs to another, it is imperative that we keep a watch within. Do we want that thing for ourselves? Are we happy admiring its beauty from a distance, or do we want to make it our own? When does that love turn into lust, and at what point do we seek to possess it? (And that’s how #blackAF made me better understand Asteya and cultural appropriation.)