Back in 1995 — when MTV was actually Music Television as opposed to a hub for desperate teens who need to have babies in order to maintain their activated status as The OGs of Teen Moms — there were videos that accompanied newly released singles — climbing the charts.
After the latest episode of The Real World — London which was my absolute shit — I would stay a little longer to peep the block of videos that I could carry with me to my next class. On one particular afternoon — as I rushed to get my books and pens in order (yes — I know that sounds odd — but those were the items of the times) — a song came on that forced to me to switch gears.
The artist was Joan Osborne — and the song was One Of Us — a catchy ballad with verses that hit me just where it hurt so good. I was in my early twenties and in the midst of doing everything that I was told could earn me a first-class ticket to hell.
I was smoking pot and experimenting with shrooms and acid. I was drinking a lot of Long Island Ice Teas and sleeping with gentlemanly White boys from the Midwest. I had also playfully kissed my friend and roomie one night when she begged me to sleep in her room because of the hardship of her recent breakup.
When One of Us became one of my favorites it was due to the realization that I wasn’t the only one questioning the validity of what I had been fed during my childhood. Osborne’s refreshing task of imagining God as the representation of what we all are as opposed to the formidable figure who will end up judging and banishing us based on our faithfulness to crippling biases — arrived just in time.
The nineties were crazy — in a great way. The creative valves were bloated with amazingly inspiring output that shuttled me from one end to the other. One minute I was committed to R.E.M. and Stone Temple Pilots and the next — I was immersed in TLC and En Vogue.
It was awesome to be young enough to receive the potency of discovery and realize that you didn’t have to reject Pearl Jam in order to be legit with your loyalty to Jodeci. And Love Jones touched me just as much as Muriel’s Wedding did — even if the circumstances were vastly unrelated.
Transforming from a young girl under the care of your parents to a young woman who is blissfully free to get high after returning from an edgy discussion about Socrates is the only way to permissively seek out the urges — that were shut out when Church and boarding schools were the only avenues to survival.
When I left my my homeland of Nigeria for America — to pursue my college education in the early nineties — it was right at the beginning of the orchestrated revivals in Lagos — that signaled the inevitable rise of what we now refer to as “mega-churches.” I had participated in the makeshift versions that were set up in the homes of my mother’s friends who provided tea and biscuits during intermission from the songs of worship and scary sessions of “speaking in tongues.”
I appreciated Osborne’s point of view in her hit single and I was even more impressed to find out that she also shared a strict religious upbringing as a Catholic — and even considered becoming a priest. The divine awakening occurred when she realized the gender biases in the church and how that would derail her plans for priesthood.
She finally settled on the comfortably flexible description of “spiritual person directly influenced by Buddhism and Christianity” which matches my current disposition. My exposure to Buddhism was initiated by a dear friend who is also explorative with her beliefs — and had settled on the teachings of The Buddha after the coaxing of a stranger who invited her to a meeting.
I went to a handful of meetings and I enjoyed chanting and sharing space with disciples of a way of thinking that I was able to absorb without reservation. But — there are elements of Christianity that do resonate with the vibration of nostalgic tendencies — that stem from being baptized into the regimen of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and maintaining the dignity of the ten commandments.
After battling with the demons that hate the devil — I concluded that my relationship with God would have to be similar to the bond that I have with my parents. I respect them enough not to demand more than they can give and I do my best live up to their expectations without comprising my in-built principles.
I can’t exist without exercising my body and soul — and the gym fulfills the physical requirements while my healthy blend of Christianity and Buddhism is sufficient enough to tick off all the boxes of necessary supplements.
But more than anything — I can’t ever get that song out of my head. The one about how God could be One of Us — when we discard the habitual offenses that we levy against each other when the superiority complex begins to nag for attention.
Do you ever consider while you’re stuck with a snoring seat mate in first class and tweeting about how life hates the fuck out of you — that you could easily be stuck in a wind storm — as you hungrily ravage the trash bins at the Starbucks near Hawthorne Municipal Airport?
Can you imagine how the well-dressed woman sitting opposite you on the train feels when she knows that she’s wearing all she’s worth — as she hears you casually complain about how Monday will suck at the job that pays you exactly what she doesn’t have?
When you silently judge the man who looks like a woman and curse God for surrounding you with freaks as you hold the hand of your cute toddler who wishes he can be the she that you can’t wait to escape.
That’s when you know that God is all of us. Tryin’ to make his way home.