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Last week I picked up and read a book that has been sitting around in my apartment for over a year. Ben gave me The Tao of Wu last year as a birthday gift, and though I started reading it just after receiving it, I paused after ten pages, put it on a shelf, and forgot about it.
For whatever reason I wasn't ready to read it then, but after going back to the book when I needed some waiting room reading material, I soon realized I couldn't put it down.
The Tao of Wu is kind of like the sequel to RZA's first book, The Wu-Tang Manual, but it goes a lot deeper. RZA talks about his experience growing up in poverty in the housing projects of Staten Island (where he shared a two-bedroom apartment with eighteen other family members), explains Wu-Tang's metamorphosis from catchy street slang to global hip-hop domination, and does all of this while detailing his spiritual journey.
I love the RZA. He's a musical genius who forever changed the face of hip-hop and music production by creating a sound that was all his own, a style that people are still trying to emulate today.
Being a total Wu-Tang head, I knew a lot of the history of the group and the basic beliefs held by group members before reading this book. But reading Tao gave me a new appreciation for the RZA and everything he's been through, not to mention I felt a kinship with his worldview and thoughts on spirituality.
The RZA grew up going to Christian churches with his uncle in the south, the type of churches where grown men and ladies get "the holy ghost," scream and yell and throw themselves on the ground in a so-called spiritual fervor.
Even as a child, RZA saw through this unsightly display, realizing that god is inside everyone, not just those who go to church regularly. That's why members of the Wu call each other "god," because every person is a god-- they just to find it within themselves and tap into that potential. He realized this idea through his studies of the Bible, Koran and teachings of Buddha, but even more when he started learning the Lessons of the Five Percent Nation.
The Five Percent Nation is based upon the notion that 85% of the world's population is deaf, dumb, and blind to the very real problems in our society, the problems that the wicked 10% create and try to keep the 5%, who are fully aware of the disproportionate power this group has, from unearthing and revealing to the 85% who are content just to watch reruns of Toddlers & Tiaras in the safety of their sheltered homes.
If you really think about it, this notion is completely true. How much wrongdoing is going on in this world that most people simply tune out and turn away from? And although the numbers may not be exact, it's an illustration of how the powerful few have complete control over the ignorant many. The point of the Five Percent Nation is to wake people out of their self-inflicted cocoons, spread knowledge, and get the masses to reach self-actualization. To take a stand for what is right and not just accept the status quo.
Usually, after reading a book, I am left with something or a few things from the book to ponder over, which is one of my favorite aspects of reading a good book-- having an idea to turn over in my head. With that said, I usually do not feel compelled to write anything about the book afterward, which is why there are scant book reviews to be found on this site. I'll recommend a good book I've read to a friend and provide a few key details or reasons why they should read, or maybe even write a short blurb, but doing a review like this is rarely on my agenda.
This book, however, made me want to share. I really enjoyed RZA's take on spirituality, showing that one can tap into godliness without being religious:
"I'm not a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Christian, a gangsta, a thug, or a prophet. I'm not any one of these things, although in a way I'm all of them," says the RZA . I agree. The things we learn in our days become a part of us, but not any one of the things you've learned or experienced in life can define you as a whole. People are too complex.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes the Wu-Tang Clan and hip-hop, and also to anyone who is interested in religion and spirituality. RZA writes this book in his own voice-- while reading, I heard his distinct dialect in my head, pointing out bits of wisdom and uncovering his humanity. Check out this book at the library or if you'd like to borrow my copy to read, just let me know and I'll lend it to you.