25 Nov Prince Ea from “All The Rage”
Last week I went to St. Louis to shoot an interview with Prince Ea, a hip-hop artist racking up millions of views for his spoken word pieces that merge modern concerns with spiritual matters. A couple of weeks earlier, after seeing a very powerful video that he had made about letting go of stress, I reached out to him about appearing in our film All The Rage and he quickly agreed.
A couple of weeks before I reached out to Prince Ea, I read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and Ram and Rameshwar Dass’ “Polishing the Mirror”. The themes of both of these books felt very present in the video, and Prince Ea confirmed that Tolle was a big inspiration for him. As such, it felt like serendipity when we passed a paint & body shop on the way to meet him that had lost its ampersand and a “t”. It read “PAIN BODY”, a term that Tolle uses to refer to all of the pain we hold onto with our thoughts when we are not present in the moment. As Prince Ea says in the video, the shop is only 10 minutes from Ferguson, Missouri. On the day that we shot, November 21, 2014, the town was tensely waiting for the grand jury decision to be handed down.
We finished editing the video after the grand jury decision was announced. While the decision led to confrontations on the ground, the real story lies within the context of the officer’s first contact with Michael Brown. The police department’s confrontational relationship with the community itself created stress, rather than a sense of protection.
When we exist in situations in which we lack power or control, it is inherently stressful. If we can become more aware of how these paradigms affect us, then we can have more control over how we react to them. As Prince Ea says, “There are no stressful situations. We become stressed because of how we interpret a situation.” The point is, if we can become more mindful, then we can have more agency in how we react to situations. This is as true for police officers who get upset when their authority is challenged as it is for young men of color who are confronted by aggressive and authoritarian police.
It’s easy to take this idea and say that it’s a “blaming the victim” mentality. This is the same argument that people often make about Dr. John Sarno’s work. Rather than saying that his patient’s pain is “their fault”, he is instead saying that unconscious emotions cause stress which triggers the pain through the autonomic nervous system. If we understand how our repressed emotions are a causative factor in our back, neck, or joint pain, we have a pathway towards healing. If we try to protect people from their emotions by looking solely for structural, or physical causation, we keep people stuck in their unconscious patterns. Dr. Sarno states that his prescription is knowledge. When we have insight we have power. When we act unconsciously, we are lost in the dark. Martin Luther King Jr. said it very well, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Until those in power can find empathy for those who lack it, it will be hard to stop the riots.