Cole Arthur Riley's "THIS HERE FLESH" - Review by Felicia Murrell

Screen Shot 2022-05-17 at 1.49.09 PMIn crafting This Here Flesh, Cole Arthur Riley says she knew she wanted the book to end at liberation. And that she wanted to start at dignity, to ground people in this belief that this is a journey, something that feels most true about the black origin. “The origin story of the world,” Cole writes, “and the dark and stars that hold it is one of dignity. The divine is in us.”1

Cole believes this journey of inherent worth is one we all deserve to take. And I believe This Here Flesh, Riley’s brilliantly poignant debut book, is a worthy guide.

Paraphrasing the author’s own words: In the trajectory between dignity and liberation, Cole Arthur Riley shares the immediacy and lasting effects of pain filtered through fear and expressed in lament and rage. Then the book cycles back through repair, memory and joy.

Dr. Barbara Holmes calls This Here Flesh “a tapestry of memories and invites people in.”2 And like Dr. Holmes, I was “completely swept up.” Enthralled. Enchanted.

The journey through remembering can lead to our liberation. But it will require our participation and our surrender. “…we are worthy of tending to the pain of the past,”3 writes Cole in This Here Flesh.

Paul Young says, “the unexposed is the unhealed.” There is no trajectory to liberation that does not chart a course through Truth. “You will know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth will set you free.”4

“… I think every act of fidelity to a truth in you is an act of liberation,”5 writes Cole.

Denial does not liberate. Liberation unfolds in our moment by moment, daily participation with Love - seeing ourselves through the eyes of Divine Love, believing what Christ believes about us, aligning the ways that we live and move and have our being with Love’s truth.

“…contemplative spirituality is a fidelity to beholding the divine in all things.”6 …even in yourself. The journey through re-memberance begins with your own origin story, your inherent dignity. Remembering that you are the very good of Creator’s workmanship.

In every place within your being that you have labeled yourself as ‘not’ or ‘less’ or any measure of comparison rooted in scarcity and inadequacy, may you once again be re-membered to your significance, to the truth of your being. You are good. You are good. You are very good.

“… name the truth of [your] dignity like a mercy new each morning,”7 invites Cole Arthur Riley.

“How can anyone who is made to bear likeness to the maker of the cosmos be anything less than glory? This is inherent dignity,”8 she writes.

“…we ourselves are made of the dust, mysteriously connected to the goodness of the creation that surrounds us.”9

“If God really is three parts in one like they say, it means that God’s wholeness is in a multitude.…the individual, collective, and cosmic journey is the path of unearthing and existing in our liberation. …To answer the question of how one becomes attuned to liberation, I think we must ask ourselves: What sounds are drowning it out?”10

We can never be whole alienated in our separate selves. Our wholeness is intricately bound in a symbiotic relationship to the circle of life. Who or what is drowning your sound?

Cynthia Bourgeault uses the etymology of the Latin word personare: to resonate with and describes personhood as one through whom the whole resounds.11

How is the whole resounding through you? How are you taking your place in our collective belonging And if you aren’t, what’s holding you back from the Circle? Where do you need to be re-membered so that you can liberate your unique expression of Love?

“I don’t know if liberation depends on our reconciliation with others,” writes Cole Arthur Riley in This Here Flesh, “but I am certain it at least depends on our reconciliation with ourselves.”12

Reconciling myself to myself leads to shalom. “…like the ancient ritual that precedes the Eucharist,”13 travel around yourself, she invites, and pass the peace, grounding yourself in “embodied declarations of dignity and worth.”14


• As I participate with Love, I live and move and have my being in ways that are congruent with my inherent dignity.

• I honor and behold the divine in my humanity. Both are worthy of my compassion.

Peace be with me

Soundness of mind

• I no longer imagine vain things about myself.

• I believe what Love believes about me.

Peace be with me


• I treat myself with non-judgment and tenderness.

• I will not participate in my own self harm. I am safe with myself.

• I am a safe place for myself.

Peace be with me

Exemption from havoc, rage or war

• I am not at war with myself.

• I am no longer driven by or addicted to chaos.

• There is no rage or tempest within.

Peace be with me

“What is shalom but dignity stretched out like a blanket over the cosmos?”15

Pause and think about it. How did repeating those declarations feel? Did you note any tension or unease? Was it comforting (or awkward) to pass the peace to yourself? Where has the instrument of peace been withheld from you? Might this journey be an invitation from Divine Love to reclaim it? What embodied declarations would you add to those above?

“…dignity,” Cole writes, “was not and is not something that can be taken. Glory can’t be unborn. The devil didn’t make anyone, and I don’t think he has the power to unmake anyone. Our walk to liberation requires us to parse truth from trick. And to ask ourselves, What does evil have to gain in tricking us into believing we are anything less than glorious? I would venture to guess it swallows our belonging first; and then it colonizes our body.…And last, I believe, it steals our love. For who can accept love that they do not believe exists for them?”16

Start at your origin story. But don’t start at the pain, don’t start with negation. Start with the profound depth of Love. Start with Divine Love singing over you and rejoicing over you with shouts of joy. Remember who you are and where you come from… Remember the Love. Let it resound in every part of who you are until the whole resounds through you.

“To be human in an aching world,” writes Cole Arthur Riley, “is to know our dignity and become people who safeguard the dignity of everything around us....Everything should be called by its name.”17

In the beholding of our own liberation, may we participate with Love as agents of justice in the restoration of dignity and freedom for all. Say their name.



1 Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh Convergent Books (2022), pg. 5

2“The Cosmic We Season 2, Episode 5 podcast, “Exploring the Power of Story with Cole Arthur Riley,” Hosts: Dr. Barbara Holmes & Donny Bryant

3 Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh Convergent Books (2022), pg. 136

4 John 8:32, ESV

5 Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh Convergent Books (2022), pg. 188

6 Ibid. p. x

7 Ibid. p. 5

8 Ibid. p.7

9 Ibid. p.7

10 Ibid. p.7

11 Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart, Jossey-Bass (2003).

12 Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh Convergent Books (2022), pg. 144

13 Ibid. p.144

14 Ibid. p.125

15 Ibid. p.8

16 Ibid. p. 9

17 Ibid. p.134

January 13, 2023

November 25, 2022

November 07, 2022

October 18, 2022

September 16, 2022

October 02, 2021

August 16, 2021

November 08, 2018

October 30, 2018

October 25, 2018