Community & Government

Living a Wise and Courageous Life

Cornel West

Lesson time 06:47 min

Cornel provides techniques for connecting deeper with the human condition so you can move from being a spectator to a participant in your everyday interactions.

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Topics include: Case Study: Malcolm X


[MUSIC PLAYING] Mm. You know, I think any time we talk about a wise and courageous life, we ought to begin with examples. I think abstract discourse about wisdom and courage can be misleading. Now, think of somebody like Malcolm X. [MUSIC PLAYING] - I think it's a choice between intelligence and the lack of intelligence. And any intelligent human being is going to protect himself when he's attacked. Any intelligent human being will protect himself from his attacker. And if Black people-- CORNEL WEST: I recall at the very end of his great autobiography, he says, "I am for truth, whoever says it. I'm for justice, whoever promotes it. I'm a human being. I'm also a Black man and a Muslim." Now, this is the culmination of a life of tremendous turbulence, tempestuous engagement. Malcolm Little-- Red, incarcerated, loved by the honorable Elijah Muhammad hits the streets of Harlem, becomes the most eloquent spokesman on behalf of the Nation of Islam. Then engages Socratic critique of the Nation of Islam, internationalizes his perspective. No longer believes white brothers and sisters are devils. He just wants to keep track of devilish behavior no matter what color anybody is. He acknowledges the changes he's undergone. That's courageous in and of itself. But the wisdom has to do with his willingness to continue to be a participant. To intervene into not just his life, but the life of the people who have shaped him, the life of the people he loved. The life of the people he's in solidarity with as his family, Black folk, then oppressed people around the world. Then he begins to embrace even vanilla brothers and sisters who are willing to make choices that coincide with his courageous and wise action. And so at the end of this autobiography, we get this fundamental claim. As this particular revolutionary Muslim, revolutionary Black brother grounded in his conception of compassion as it flows from the prophetic legacy of Jerusalem of which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all manifestations-- different theologies, similar monotheisms, different traditions, different rituals. But at the same time, profoundly human. And you say to yourself, OK, how do I-- how do you undergo tempestuous, turbulent realities in your own life? How do you persist in the face of catastrophe? How do you deal with forms of incarceration mentally, spiritually, if not physically. How do you bounce back? And how do you do it in such a way that what motivates you is a humility to grow and develop? But at the same time, you are incorporating this formation of attention, cultivation of critical sensibility, and maturation of a compassionate soul and person. What is it like to conceive of oneself to walk a mile in somebody else's shoes? To get inside of the skin of somebody else? To get outside of one's narcissistic predicament? And then to have enough compassion not just to settle into pity and be a spectator, but to become ...

About the Instructor

Cornel West is one of the most profound, diverse, and intellectual thinkers of our time. Now he’s inviting you into the depths of his brilliant mind to teach you how thinking like a philosopher can help you navigate your personal relationships, your decision-making, and your everyday life by looking at the world from a completely different point of view.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Cornel West

Distinguished philosopher Cornel West teaches you how to think more deeply, connect more closely, and live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

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