Austin Clarke – Darkness Visible
(a posthumous interview)
Amatoritsero Ede: I have always wanted to have an interview with you, Mr. Clarke. I kept postponing it. I once asked Dr George Elliot Clarke, your brother from another father, I guess – since you share the same last name – if he could introduce me, which he promised to. But I never got back to the subject with him because I got distracted by one thing or the other. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough before the grim reaper knocked on your door. I did not realise he was so close by you. I apologize profusely. Fortunately, in my days as a monk in another world, I did learn some esoteric arts. I decided to use some occult knowledge to travel the astral world and meet you on the other side for this interview. Surely, you don’t mind an outer-worldly, out-of-body chat do you – on earth this would be considered a posthumous interview?
Austin Clarke: Quite the opposite, Amatoritsero, I don’t mind an interview in the fourth or even fifth or sixth dimension. Are we in the fifth?
A.E.: Our world… my world … is three dimensions – length, breadth and solid. Since you – your soul – has left your physical body (no one ever dies by the way), you moved out of those material dimensions and are now in a fourth and bodiless and invisible one, I believe. That is, if you have not progressed to even higher levels. Yes, you are not limited by gross matter anymore. Not by colour, by the way, come to think of it, which can be as heavy as any form of matter.
A.C.: It is why WEB DuBois correctly predicted that the problem of the 20th century would be the colour line. I think his brother, Alain Locke, in his New Negro, insisted that the colour line will persist throughout the 21st century. Colour is indeed heavy as an unnecessarily racialized quality – heavy as a winter coat which burdens you and impedes you, even when you do need the melanin as environmental protection. This is why I was such a reluctant Canadian.
A.E.: I was going to get to the subject of your reticence in taking a Canadian citizenship. But first. How is it out here in ‘Vaikunta’; do you feel claustrophobic, not being in our world, in the great wide open plains of Canada and the large expanse of –?
A.C: You make me laugh a Barbadian laugh! Your world is so tiny it is like a grain of sand on an endless sea shore. Look at all material creation, including earth and the galaxies. They are almost limitless. But the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu Scriptures, says all that material creation is like a little blot, a tiny stain, on the spiritual sky. Imagine the vastness, magnificence and infinitude of spiritual creation. Those earthly expanses you talk of – cannot be compared to the freedom of being unfettered, bodiless. “Poor wordless body in its fumbling ways” as the South African poet, Dennis Brutus, says. Having no body and no colour, because of which spiritually ignorant humans vilify and demonise you, is a great experience. By the way is Vaikunta not the final resting place of the soul, according to the Bhagavad Gita?
A.E.: Yes, it is. When you need not reincarnate anymore as a living entity because you have learnt all the spiritual lessons for which you needed a human body, you rise to Vaikunta as a spirit soul in pure worship of the godhead – Krishna, Christ, Allah – or any other name we humans call it/him/her in our usual divisive lack of understanding that the godhead maybe be many but is one and the same, no matter how we differently name the idea.
A.C.: Ah…! I am not sure I want to reincarnate and come to your world anymore. Those 81 years in your world (or prison) had better be my last incarnation or is it incarceration!?. I brek-up from racism, sexism, ageism, war, injustice, especially brek-up from dispossession and lack of privilege due to my blackness –
A.E.: Excuse me Mr. Clarke, sir. But you were privileged!
A.C.: Amatoritsero Ede! I think you are being a devil’s advocate here. My foot biting me! You see, I was not privileged at all or rather what appears to be privilege – my success as a writer, my access to print capital, was fought for every inch of the way. I suffered lack because of it and the typical writer’s poverty. Rather what I was in your world is “Darkness visible,” to pun the English poet John Milton. And don’t call me “Clarke”; that’s a human name… Call me ‘Guru Hari Das.’ I am now the servant of the servant of the servant of the godhead in these realms.
A.E.: Guru Hari Das! Okay. But for the purpose of this interview…please. Yes, “darkness visible” … I know of that oxymoron from Milton’s paradise Lost. It is in chapter one of that work about the fall of man.
A.C.: For argument’s sake, one could say I had some empowerment towards the end. But it was that time that death came with his dark hood and sickle for me…In my old age, at the time when a valiant warrior should be enjoying the fruits of his labours. Now if I were white, at any age I ‘d have been really privileged. My successes would have catapulted me to unimaginable places, brought incredible wealth, and so on… Imagine… at the foot of the fire, when I should be in my salad days, death comes fi me.
A.E: Would you like to reincarnate as a white man so that you could experience the privilege of whiteness?