There’s nothing worse than feeling irrelevant--it’s essentially synonymous with being invisible. However, there’s a tradeoff to being relevant for sake of experiencing being seen that I’d like to discuss: Creating encoded work. No, not computer code that builds a website. Code that makes the fruit of your time on this planet converse with generations after you.
What is code? Code is the capability you have to create work that can speak to multiple generations; to create that which has regenerative resonance. It’s mystery, creativity, and futurism. It’s work that incites the question “What IS that?” and delays the answer over many years of interpretation--only for there to be no real answer except continuously sparked interpretations of what it could mean.
In order to recognize code you have to define relevance. There’s this idea that relevance is everything that resonates with the current moment. But relevance is that which can converse with many generations over time(s). If you’re consumed with being “now” you risk your ability to write history but even worse: you risk your ability to create work that is code. Work--from journal writings to book of poetry to photography exhibition-- that is too relevant is unresponsive to the needs of the future generations; it is irresponsible. Work consumed with relevance is easily consumed in the conflagration of pop culture.
Next, you have to determine your motive for how you choose to occupy your time. If your motive is to live and be noticed by people who can “get” you right now, then you’re not creating code. The motive behind coded work is dedication to one’s vision as well as preservation of truth that may not be appealing to those populating “today.”
Code comes from being so in touch with your identity that what you create as a response to your current longitude or circumstances ends up transcending both of these and having value to those coming long after you. It comes from the desire to speak to “then” from your position in “now”; disregarding relevance in the present era so you can send clear messages to the next decade. You can’t create code if your life is being lived as propitiation to another. You can’t create code if the motives behind anything you make or write or say or create is in hopes of being liked by those whose relevance is pinned to one moment in time. When your work and its impact are restrained to an app you cannot create code.
Code is supposed to be multi-layered, discoverable by nature, slightly esoteric, on time and before it’s time, and laden with conviction. Sometimes we don’t know what someone is talking about with their poem, song, or speech or actions until 15 years later. Maybe those inhabiting a century beyond us will have the clarity we lack to decipher what’s being created within our current generation. That’s code.
(Many women and men have been killed for creating code the masses had no understanding to receive, romanticizing the “look” and sound of the creations without hearing the call to action, dynamic truth, revilutionary shift, or spiritual awakening embedded in the work. Blueprints cannot always be publicized for everyone’s interpretations—some work is placed in the sight of all for a few to get the message. Hence the need for understanding and discernment.)
What’s your code? Your way of speaking and creating into the decades. Your coded way of telling time who you are, over time. It’s having your big moment but no one realizing it until they’re reviewing what you’ve left behind. Code is your dedication and survival in a slow release time capsule. Code is surprising, insightful information that can’t be inferred by a glance at your existence; can’t be ascertained by a “follow.” It’s your way of leaving a legacy that tells parables and writing poetry that may only be understood posthumously. Your way of creating “now” that will occupy “then” and “then” again.
Code creation is a deep, deep task, requiring respect for the Creator’s voice, love for who you are, what’s been impressed upon you to do with your existence, hope for what you believe is beyond you and a radical imagination for what you can’t see but have to believe will occupy what you’re building. It requires FOCUS in the present IN-tense, staying loyal to your genealogy and genesis; and being available to revelations you yourself may not be able to interpret from where you stand in history.
Delayed comprehension of an ancestral metaphor is code.
Work that has a different revelation each time it’s encountered is code.
Hieroglyphs and other nonwestern written languages are code. Slave quilts were code. Negro hymns and spirituals sung in cotton fields as well as during the bloody Freedom Summer of ‘64 were code. Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday--CODE: We’re still encountering and being struck out what they were saying with their notes. These things are still resonating, still singing to us even today. Their works’ meanings oscillate and transform over time, taking on the relevance of whomever is gazing at it and the the time in which they are standing. The work of Gordon Parks’ work is still revealing its layers to us. Jean-Michael Basquiat’s SAMOS graffiti and paintings are code. Old school hip hop was dense with code we’re rediscovering line by line even today. The writings of Toni Morison, Ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou, June Jordan, etc. are code--each of their poems has a different interpretation with every reading; their work will never be irrelevant. The Wiz is code. Bob Marley wrote in code. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is code. Holy books are code. The journals of the teastained women before us are dense with code.
You were born to create code and no less. Anything less is...well we’ll get there.
There’s a code you have to live by in order to create that which is encoded. You have to be in tune to your designated frequency and loyal to yourself even when you don’t understand yourself or what you’re creating. You have to be curious about the mythology from which you’ve come and risky enough to create your own. You have to choose inspiration over manufactured, plastic references. You have to be willing to call out synthetic suns and cement moons and the orbits you’re told to run around them. You have to be loyal to your impact before it’s been felt-- and willing to admit that you may not live to see how others are impacted by what you live in your lifetime. You have to love the riddle of Journeying Soulfully more than the punchline of fame. You have to love your identity’s language as you’re learning it--and preserve it like it will be spoken. You can’t sacrifice your talent, originality, body, or genetics to the system. You need a long attention span. You need discernment.
We were created to create work whose work perpetuates long after we are gone. However, social media and media in general compromise our ability to create do such. They give us too many references and too many images that shouldn’t occupy our minds--everything that comes from us tastes like something we’ve seen or heard. Pop culture contaminates our memory. The system in which we’re entangled more or less fills our minds with oversexualized images. Such images create an internal temperature that overheats and overcooks the fragile atmosphere necessary to create code. The water we drink calcifies our pineal glands. Diversions like apps trigger our brains with things such as the “like” button. All of these things make us too preoccupied with being appreciated and noticed and validated in the moment, by those who don’t know themselves much less us. This relationship invalidates our work, giving it an expiration date.
No one will reference work that was created in insecurity. We all can discern work that’s been created in haste and without love for the next generation, maybe not for these reasons but we can sense disingenuous creations. They may be fun at the moment but they don’t travel time with us. We can detect work that will never be heirloom, inheritance.
A generation void of understanding cannot create code.
A generation that cannot express themselves in writing cannot create code.
Coded work disseminates messages to your people over the years. It is multigenerational. Perennial, coded work is a continual harvest. Loaded with ancestral secrets and life-saving recipes, concepts, and blueprints for many tomorrows, coded work isn’t meant to be figured out by “all” at the same time but should be understood when needed. Its meaning shouldn’t be available to anyone but should require a protocol before it is approached, handled, and engaged with comprehension.
Can you create coded work? That depends. Are you willing to put work in to engage with metaphors and allegories; to descend into invisibility and sit in silence while the rest of your generation is at one big party of hubris? Can you put in the work of imaginative survival necessary to create mythologies and folklores and write lyrics and poems whose meanings transcend trend and enter timelessness? Are we willing to put work into the atmosphere that receives no applause? Can you handle the strong voice of Truth? Muting the dialogue of the current culture’s din, we have to be willing to say no to “now” and stay in tune to that which has us creating for who is coming after us. This is the stuff of the soulful existence. We can't lose it.