It was Diamanda Galas who sang it. Admittedly, I had a crush on her in college. For years I did not even know what she looked like, but it was her voice. She boasts a 4 octave range. She sings in Greek, Latin ,and sometimes in English. She played piano, for a time in the early 1980s, with Ornette Coleman.
Her grand work, The Plague Mass, addressed the rampant spread of AIDS in America and was written for her brother. Her take on the disease blew me away. She was an artist, an activist. She felt deeply. She said that we all have AIDS because it is a societal problem. She was right and I felt it right along with her. It was gorgeous and grotesque. Parts of it are hard to listen to for many reasons. I remember falling asleep to it and waking up in what I thought was a lucid dream: the room dark with booming drums and other-worldly screams echoing through my small house on Pemberton Street in South Philadelphia. I remember hearing those words echo in the halls:
The title of one of her songs stuck with me from the first time I heard it. I was sure that it was the name of an old gospel song, but I could not find it anywhere that I looked.
You Must Be Certain of the Devil
It came to take on different meanings to me over my life. Right now and for the last several years it has meant one specific thing. You must know what it is that you are fighting so you do not waste your time and energy on the wrong things. Too often, we spend time on the symptoms of our
problems rather than getting to the root cause. Before you spend time on what you suppose may be the issue in your life, your relationships, your school, or your self–stop. Make sure you are certain that you are dealing with the real problem and not just the symptoms. We do not have the time or the energy that we once had. In dealing with education, we cannot waste what time we have to correct situations that are so crucial to the lives of our students.
I look at my students. I think of their strengths. I cannot wait to know how brilliant they will be. It makes me think of my own daughter. It makes me eager to know how brilliant and beautiful she will become. Do not waste a second putting another band-aid on that peripheral issue. Get to the heart of the matter and if you cannot, get help. Just be certain