Being on death row has provided many (what I call) lessons and blessings. They have come in many forms and some I’m still trying to decipher. While there are so many that I could name, I’d like to share one of them that has stayed with me in an intense way. Here, the most profound friendships can be made. Men often bond in ways that father/son, brother to brother never can. Sometimes it’s like 2 souls merging and radiating off each other. At other times a soul can just pass through our lives to leave his lesson with us. I had a friend here by the name of Coruthers Alexander. We all called him Big Al. Big Al got to death row around the late 70’s (I forget the exact date.) I met Big Al in 1998 while at Ellis 1 Unit. Right away we became friends as he was originally from Austin like me (and he happened to know some of my older cousins), but also grew up in San Antonio. Al was an elder to us brothers here- a very calm and relaxed brother, master craftsman and artist. In 2000, we moved to this unit after an escape at Ellis and I just so happened to be seated in front of Al. We were shackled like cattle, with chains around our waists, our legs and cutting into our wrists. The hour ride from Huntsville Livingston was painful and spent sliding the cuffs up and down our wrists. I was able to get a good glimpse of Al during this ride. Prison had taken its toll on him even though he was a big bodied guy. Still, I saw the lines under his eyes, the grays in his hair and deep in his eyes, I saw a depth. It was like looking into a universe of its own. It was lives in there. In late 2000, Big Al received a date of execution. Big Al had been charged with a murder and rape of a female and Big Al maintained his innocence until the last day. He stressed that he was innocent and the police framed him through planting evidence. Of course we know this happens all too often in this system. I was hurting for Al. I began sending him as many addresses as I could find. These were political addresses and I urged him to write these people. When he responded told me that he kind of kicked himself in the butt a bit because he felt like he didn’t act on things when he was supposed to. He felt like he let his lawyers have their way for so long that he didn’t capitalize on things that could have saved his life. The fact was Big Al was tired. He had been on death row for 20 years and had seen numerous generations come through. His body was tired, even though his soul was still kicking. While I didn’t know of it then, but I know it now, he entertained me with thinking he’d purse these leads, but in the beauty of the universe he left a divine piece of wisdom with me. He said, « Man, I feel you Foster. I guess it’s not over till it’s over. I see that you believe in Manifestation through Thought, Prayer and Action. I guess it’s time for me to get to work. » I do believe that it was those final words to me that was his final act of faith. It took no time for those words to sink into my being- it was as if a piece of Al had sunk into me. I was captivated by what Al had said- they seemed like some words from an Esoteric manuscript, some hidden piece of knowledge that I had been looking for and you know what…..it was.
For years now, I have reflected on those words. I have defined them, dissected them and added philosophy to them that I now abide by in my daily life. I have been able to share this with many brothers and I hope these brothers have gotten something from it. I’d like to share my thoughts with you as well. It’s not only my hope that you will get something from it, but that you will also add a piece to it so that we may build on these pieces of life and spirit.
THOUGHT. All things originate with our Thoughts (mind). It is here that all things are concepted. I’ve come to believe that the mind is the most powerful weapon in the world. I’ve always looked at our thought like a ship and our spirit is the captain. I have come to believe that the mind is the most powerful weapon in the world, because while wars are won through weaponry, there’s always a mind behind it who created it and carried out the plan. When hearts are touched by something beautifully made by man (like a painting or a poem) it was the mind, our thoughts that created such. This is why knowledge is power, because to control the mind is to control people and I do believe inevitably effect the universe. You see, the mind is the deadliest of foes, but the most useful of servants. When it turns wild and gets out of control, it heads for certain destruction. When properly awakened and controlled, there is no limit to what the mind can do. It is said that the mind is energy and I do believe that. For those that have experienced psychic ability, telepathy or just felt a strong hunch in their stomach, it’s from the energy that the mind is protruding. Our souls can feel these vibrations. It’s subtle, but it’s always been. If people would only realize the power of thoughts they would never think an ill thing. They have a powerful influence for good when they are on the positive side. If we only knew deeply, absolutely, that our smallest act, our smallest thought, has such far-reaching effects; setting forces in motion; reaching out into the galaxy (the same way Rev. Donna spoke on being at one with the universe); how carefully we would act and speak and think. How precious life would become in its integral wholeness. While I believe we can be inspired and guided by our Creator, I feel that man is the leading figure in his/her destiny. The greatest revolution in our lifetime is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of the mind, can change the outer aspects of our lives. As a guy named Arthur Eddington said, « I believe that the mind has the power to affect groups of atoms and even tamper with the odds of atomic behavior, and that even the course of the world is not predetermined by physical laws, but may be altered by the uncaused volition of human beings ». That quote in itself says a lot. But it’s within these concepts that we may learn to appreciate and respect the mind and through study and reflection, learn how to use it for the common good. It all begins with our first thoughts.
PRAYER. AS spiritualist prayer is and should be a major part of our lives. Prayer is a merger of our minds and spirit speaking a common language. I don’t think people in churches now days understand prayer, its purpose or the power of it. The most powerful form of energy one can generate is prayer. Prayer, like radium, is a luminous and self-generating form of energy. Prayer is a process of centering our energy, consolidating it to begin a mission. It’s kind of like being at a beach and you start gathering the sand into one big pile and then you build some sand castles. Often, prayer is looked at as a means to seek mercy, to get away from something. If one is using it for this, they are using prayer wrong. Prayer is not flight; prayer is power! Prayer does not deliver a man from some terrible situation; prayer enables a man to face and master a situation. Supply does not come through prayer. It comes as a result of an attitude of faith, a condition of mind and heart/spirit, in which the Invisible is depended upon solely for all things necessary, instead of upon the visible and earthly. Prayer in the form of begging and beseeching God to kindly answer our request is not capable of producing supply itself. It is immature to think of prayer as personal gain. It takes from one the responsibility of conditions of one’s life. Everything in creation is based on universal laws. Cause and effect work perfectly in accordance with this law. Yet mankind attempts to escape the hurt brought on by his disobedience to higher law by praying to God to violate his own laws. We must reanalyze prayer. I smile at the saying of « People pray to have a mountain moved when all they need to do is climb it. » Prayer can be a tool of good for us. It coincides with our thoughts- that energy we send out to the world. Let us remember that we are but drops in the eyes of the Creator. Prayer is about humbling ourselves to something so great and divine that we can’t even comprehend. Thus, prayer is not an easy way of getting what we want, but the only way of becoming what God wants us to be. Here we find the path we should be on and here we gain all the power and insight we need to make the journey.
ACTION. Action is the final piece to this puzzle. Knowing is not enough; we must apply it! As a man of African heritage and one knowledged of my people’s plight, I am familiar with how religion was once used as a weapon of oppression instead of the tool of liberation it’s supposed to be. Once it was given to us to simply get on our knees and pray, hope for that big « pie in the sky », to sit around and be idle. I’ve never agreed with this methodology. We were given minds, bodies, muscles, etc… for a reason. Perpetual motion is the eternal law of life. Action is the single most effective antidote to many ailments. I’d think it’s hard to be depressed and active at the same time. Through actions we’ve created civilizations and societies. The only way to know truly is through practical experiment and experience. Theory and speculation, if they are not followed by trial and demonstration, are useless! Knowledge itself is of little or no value if it does not lead to action.
I’ve presented us with the 3 most paramount things to manifest. First, we think of it. Second we pray on it and ask the Creator to guide us, to guide our actions for a greater good. Thirdly, we go to work. Through these three things we will manifest, we will make things happen. All people have a purpose in life, it’s up to us to discover it and manifest it. I’ve found my gift through socio-political activity and so I follow these three steps in carrying out a greater good. Each step is dependant on the other. Thought and analysis are powerless to pierce the great mystery that hover over the world and over our existence, but knowledge of the great truths only appears in action and labor. I do pray that ones like us will send this energy to the universe and have it sprinkled down to mankind. SO BE IT!