The American Dream was born in oblivion – the state of forgetfulness that nurtures indifference to much of what goes on inside it and all around it; an indifference that estranges people from one another – a sense of estrangement many Americans feel but don't understand.
Oblivion and the American Dream are the American paradox because they are inextricably tied together to contain and conceal what James Baldwin called the “bitter truth” - the undecipherable hieroglyphs “designed to protect, what they are designed to convey” - and so long as truth is obliterated, all we can do is dream. Real liberty and justice requires pure truth.
The mind can be defined, not as a physical activity, but rather as the mental activity that enables people (and other forms of life, perhaps) to think, calculate, remember, imagine, etc. in states of consciousness and unconsciousness; to be aware of our earthly experience in a spiritual sense.
An article posted on the internet says: “A lengthy tradition of inquiries in philosophy, religion, psychology and cognitive science has sought to develop an understanding of what a mind is and what its distinguishing properties are.” The inquiries are ongoing.
In his book, T’AI CHI CLASSICS, Waysun Liao says the mind is the only part of the human being that does not belong totally to the earth.
Continued from above
Waysun Liao said, “Our bodies are made up of earth and as such are part of it; yet our minds seem to be something beyond that. A person can easily observe that the body is readily satisfied by earthly things, such as food, shelter, and protection. But the mind seems to always demand more and more activity; it appears to be constantly searching for something, yet not knowing what that something is. The limitation of human physical development seems to have little effect on the constant, expanding activity of the mind…moreover, it can travel immeasurably fast.”
Beyond the constraints of particular cultures and the development of the religions collected within them, the properly exercised individual mind can be used to contemplate and better understand ideas of heaven and earth, of right and wrong, of life and death, and our relationship to them.
We may decide to suppress, or choose not to express our mind and we may even fall into temporary states of hypnosis or psychological possession, but the mind recovers because it is the ultimate liberating entity of the individual.
(To be continued)
What You Got
Art Taum, the pianist in the above video was partially blind since childhood. The artist, Horace Pippin, despite having lost the use of his right hand in War World I, painted, guiding his right hand with his left. Both men did some pretty good work using what they had.
A Mulla Nasrudin Teaching Story from The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Naasrudin by Idries Shah
Nasrudin stood up in the market-place and started to address the throng.
‘O people! Do you want knowledge without difficulties, truth without falsehood, attainment without effort, progress without sacrifice?’
Very soon a large crowd gathered, everyone shouting: ‘Yes, yes!’
‘Excellent!’ said the Mulla. ‘I only wanted to know. You may rely upon me to tell you all about it if I ever discover any such thing.’
Late 1970's painting by Kenneth Moore
February 9, 1953 - November 21, 2013
Rest in Peace
Romare Bearden used collage in his artwork because it helped him express things from the past into the present. "When I conjure these memories,' he said, "they are of the present to me, because after all, the artist is a kind of enchanter in time.”
Have You Lost Your Damn Mind?
Did your momma, daddy, an elder or some other person in a position of authority over you ever get angry and demand to know:
“Have you lost your damn mind!?”
Probably so. The correct answer to the question, of course, was “no.” It has alway been and always will be the correct answer.
Even in situations where there was sufficient evidence to prove us guilty of some grave offense, the answer was never "yes." We knew by instinct that "yes" was the wrong answer. It's totally natural to know that “no” means: "Momma, I'm sorry. It just looks like I lost my mind."
The tiniest of tots seem to know that claiming to have lost one’s mind is a very weak assertion. Defense lawyers use it to protect their clients, but even then it’s often unsuccessful.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by: Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
E.A. Wallis Budge described the term "neter" as an "active power which produces and creates things in regular recurrence.” In describing neter, another Egyptologist, Stephen Mehler, said: “The ancient Khemitians (Egyptians) taught that All was going and returning...movement seeking to return to the source, kinetic energy seeking to become all potential energy, at rest, in harmony, homeostasis, in balance, in equilibrium!”
In his book, LIGHT FROM ANCIENT AFRICA, Dr.Na'im Akbar's says, "everything is tied intimately and inextricably together.” Indeed, the people of ancient Kemet used the term, “neter” to describe those mysterious aspects of consciousness concerned with the natural rhythm and harmony needed to establish and preserve a connection so vital.
In THE TAI CHI BOOK, Robert Chuckrow says that all people aspire to use creative intelligence to increase the harmony of themselves and the world.
We often think of harmony in musical terms such as it is described at Wikipedia. “In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches (tones, notes), or chords, The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them, Harmony is often said to refer to the ‘vertical’ aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic line or the "horizontal" aspect.
In its spiritual sense, it is the “vertical” aspect of harmony that, when it is achieved, causes creative intelligence to rise. Likewise, it is the "horizontal" or rhythmic aspect that causes creative intelligence to flow. Together they can help us rise up and away from chaos, discord, and disagreements; conditions dominated by our lower intelligence.
Rhythm and harmonic consciousness can us raise our creative intelligence. “When we succeed in our purpose,” Chuckrow says, “we are ecstatic. When we fail, we suffer.”
The Old "New World" Blues
Nothing in the world is new unto itself. Everything presently perceptible - the new, today - is begot by an indissoluble continuum that reflects yesterday, the past, the old, and things that sometimes cause the blues to rise. In those blues, wisdom can be found that makes the things to come, the future, tomorrow, brighter. The new, the present, today erases nothing and it can't stop the blues from rising, yet the new, the present, today, is life’s greatest treasure because it contains the best opportunity to do better.
What Matters Most
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Many people have been inspired by the above quote. What does it matter that there is some controversy concerning the quote’s attribution to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Certainly, the inspiration to move is what matters most.
Off The Beaten Path
Jazz legend Nate Morgan dies of heart failure
‘Did what he came to do’
Article by Cory A. Haywood from Our Weekly 11/27/13:
Longtime Jazz pianist Nate Morgan died recently of heart failure at Gardena memorial hospital in Gardena, Calif. He was 60.
Rene Fisher, spokesperson for the Morgan family, says funeral arrangements are pending.
Before his passing, the famed musician suffered through a series of debilitating illnesses including a stroke that temporarily sidetracked his career in 2008. Morgan’s eclectic artistry behind the ivories put him in elite company among other Los Angeles Jazz musicians and solidified his place as a bona fide master of the genre.
In 2002, a community-wide tribute was held in response to Morgan’s failing health at the then newly opened Jatkodd Cultural Fine Arts Center in the Crenshaw District. Over the years since then, various benefit concerts and gatherings have taken place to honor Morgan’s legacy.
Philomine Morgan, his wife of more than 30 years, says she has fond memories of her husband’s loving spirit and playful attitude.
“These last five years he kept me laughing,” she recalled with a chuckle. “He made sure to say ‘I love you’ every morning and every night. He also sang to me every chance he could get.”
She continued, “Before he died, he told me that he has no regrets, that if he passed he did what he came on this earth to do.”
During his final days, Morgan’s diminished health almost required the removal of his arm, Philomine added.
“I couldn’t let that happen” she said earnestly. “He’s not just a musician, he’s an artist. When the doctor told me he might have to amputate Nate’s arm, I said: ‘if you can’t save his arm, don’t wake him up.”
Morgan spent part of the 1970s playing for Rufus and Chaka Khan and collaborated in the early 1990s with rappers Bone Thugs N’ Harmony. He’s also been touted as one of the best kept secrets of the Los Angeles Jazz scene.
Morgan is survived by his wife and their six children. Darius Nathaniel and Deshonda Johnson, and Nymekye, Jabari, Dors and Yusef Morgan.
A Little Traveling Music Please:
La Familia Valera Miranda
“La Familia Valera Miranda has been practicing the traditional Cuban music known as Son – the style recently popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club albums – for generations!!! Music is a family affair for these famous musicians… Since the 19th century, several families have played a significant role in Cuban culture, acting as a crucible of ethnic groups, collecting deeply rooted local traditions that have a bearing on the country’s unique musical identity.
La Familia Valera Miranda is one of the most interesting families of this type. Their ancestors were subsistence farmers who populated the rural areas of the Oriente (eastern Cuba), primarily the Cauto River valley near the villages of Bayamo and Las Tunas. From there they migrated to the areas of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, and the legendary Sierra Maestra mountains. The fact that La Familia’s ancestors gradually spread throughout the Oriente is important in that it flavored artistic exchanges in their music as well as in their daily and social life…
The Valera branch contributed the secular & festive, popular & religious Hispanic elements as well as the Afro-Cuban elements derived from Bantu origins. These influences are detected not only in their songs but also in the musical instruments they used…
From the Miranda branch came elements that were specific to the Canary Islands and Andalucía, as well as the unusual Afro-Hispanic mixture…
Although world-renowned for their outstanding technical and virtuosic skill, the most important element of La Familia’s musical heritage is in the traditional authenticity of their music as well as the purity and eloquent simplicity in their style."
(From the La Familia Valera Miranda website)
Oh No Not Jazz!
"I've got some jazz, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gil Scott-Heron,” presidential candidate, Barack Obama once revealed in describing what’s on his I-pod. "You've got to mix it up,” he said.
Right on Mr. President.
Most political pundits from the right and a growing number from the left have piled on President Obama expressing their disapproval of his handling of recent events at home and abroad. “He’s done nothing to inspire confidence,” says one while others are calling him incoherent, indecisive, an unserious confused amateur who’s over his head as commander-in-chief and is now stumbling around just letting things happen, hoping and praying they’ll magically resolve themselves.
Negative epitaphs like these are not unusual, but political pundits should be careful about accusing our first Black President of improvising because some folk might think they're attempting to denigrate someone for doing what comes naturally to most Americans. Improvisation is the essence of an art form that's as American as apple pie!
Political pundits and others who attempt to belittle Americans by accusing them of improvising expose their ignorance. Indeed, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn't fall from heaven engraved in stone requiring no modification to their fundamental themes. Our Founding Fathers are among the greatest improvisers to ever live and Jazz, America's quintessential art form, is a testament to that fact.
Right on Mr. President.
Forgetting is not a matter of choice or decision. Forgetting is a matter of time. Only the passage of time can completely dissolve a memory and since the passage of time may be never-ending, wanting and trying to forget something may be a futile activity.
“Until the moment comes when we, the Americans, are able to accept the fact that my ancestors are both black and white, that on this continent we are trying to forge a new identity, that we need each other, that I am not a ward of America, I am not an object of missionary charity, I am one of the people whose forefathers built this country...until this moment comes there is scarcely any hope for the American dream…
...I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Some things are worth remembering. The thing may be confusing or depressing or maddening, etc., but the deliberate act of remembering taps into a powerful sources of spiritual energy.
Hymn For The Unforgotten is not an attempt to indict, depress, or embarrass anyone. Rather, the three part video is an attempt to inspire the deliberate act of remembering people who should not be forgotten. The video uses music (an original three movement hymn) and vintage photographs of African American people who experienced slavery and of their descendants who experienced its aftermath. Theirs is an important story.
Enslaved African Americans and their descendants helped make America great; a place where people come from everywhere in the world seeking freedom. But, in finding it, they should not forget its price; that America's very foundation of freedom is a paradox, a contradiction; the the freedom we enjoy today is also a testament to human frailty. All Americans should be deliberate in keeping slavery and the African American people who experienced it, uppermost in our nation’s collective consciousness. There's no better way to sharpen the meaning of freedom.
Dance is defined as a form of nonverbal communication; the movement of the body to rhythms or to music often with others and in solitude as well. One source describes dance as “a form of emotional expression, social interaction, or exercise, in a spiritual or performance setting.”
Great Migration Blues
To this day, the vast majority of “Black People” continue a migration from the nightmare of slavery to acceptance and assimilation into American society and culture-at-large. Their migration is more a movement from one physical location to another. Its in and out of the underground culture established by their forefathers and foremothers as a retreat from their peculiar predicament in America.
The dictionary tells us that reality is “the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them… a thing that is actually experienced or seen, especially when this is grim or problematic.”
Life is real. Life can be really good and it can be really bad, regardless.
An article posted on the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial website reports that “the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.” The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 believing Jewish people were racially inferior to them, "an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.” The post continues: “During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived ‘racial inferiority’: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.”
The idea of a “delicate balance between body and soul” is as powerful as it is ancient. Its ritual representation magnifies an essential interplay between material things and immaterial things. It illuminates the possibility that what is invisible and difficult to perceive may be as significant as that which is not, but most of all, the idea of a "delicate balance between body and soul" brings a renewed and heightened sense of stability to mind that can make it easier to deal with reality and make the best of life.
"... In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." –Anne Frank