Coltrane was a true virtuoso. Unlike Mozart, though, he wasn’t born a musical genius. Instead, he practised, practised, practised. On the bus during road trips, he would shadow exercise his fingering on the sax for hours on endlessly. Endlessly curious, his musical career changed jazz and popular music’s trajectory like no other artist—encompassing Be Bop/Hard Bop, Blues, Pop, Avant-Garde, Free Jazz, and Ballads. What sets Coltrane apart from his contemporaries and modern artists for me is that his musical voice helps smooth my worries, has eased my pain over some of my most wretched heartaches, has helped me discover patience within myself, and continues so effortlessly to permeate my cerebral and spiritual faculties like no one else. Not everyone can say that their favourite artist named a song after them either (wink wink). I’ve been listening to a lot of Coltrane while I work from home—indeed, as I write this—to encourage a flow that sweeps me into an effortless effort. Coltrane has such a massive discography from his tragically shortened life that I thought I’d highlight some of my favourites to get you started. All albums here are hyperlinked (click on the pictures) to their Hoopla links. The album above, from the superb 2017 documentary, is a great general introduction to the breath of his work. What follows are some of my favourites.
Have you been stuck at home, social distancing from people, when you come to realize that your space is crammed with stuff? Is there a lingering feeling that your surroundings are breaching your space? Are you overwhelmed with an abundance of thoughts that leads to a lack of focus? Perhaps you’ve never really paid attention to your living space until now because of time, energy or alternative priorities? Since a lot of us are confined to our homes for the next little while, you might have become more conscious of how many things you own. You might have also noticed how much money you are saving now that most shops are closed! Our self-isolation has a positive side: we have ample time to reconsider our daily lives and the actions that we might not have scrutinized before because of a distracting and consuming world we inhabit. Since life has slowed down considerably, and in perfect time for spring cleaning, now is a good time to explore why I became a minimalist and why you might want to flirt with the idea too.
Minimalism has a long history that entails art, philosophy, and religion, but for our sake, I’m referring to minimalism as the cultural practice of owning less. Minimalism has been in the zeitgeist for a couple of years now: the centripedal force that has drawn in most to this cultural explosion is cleaning guru Marie Kondo. Her best-selling books—that we have on Hoopla and Overdrive—as well as her Netflix show have solidified her presence in many people’s (cleaner) lives. I first started on my minimalist journey in the summer of 2017 when I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up after a patron called the library and ask me to put it on hold for them. I’ve been collecting video games (I had over 500) and books (I had 7 book shelves) for years. However, even in the fleeting ecstasy of obtaining a new game or book, I always had a nagging feeling that I’d never hit the end point of satisfaction: an event horizon that was always buried by the increasingly growing pile of unplayed games and unread books. Her methodology promotes keeping only things that “spark joy” in your life. I devoured her debut book in a day and then that weekend I went through my possessions, in “KonMari” style, and excised two giant bags of recycling (why was I keeping boxes for stuff that I bought?!) and one large bag of clothes for donation. I finally honed my “spark joy” radar! Continue reading
W.E.B. Du Bois (pronounced Due-Boyss) was a literary colossus: born in 1868, he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D at Harvard; one of the founders of the NAACP; a prolific author, essayist and editor; a visionary and architect of Pan-Africanism; and a model for authentic living. Reading and writing was illegal for African American slaves until 1865, causing many critics and cynics to question the legitimacy of slave narratives from giants like Sojourner Truth and Fredrick Douglass. Published in 1903 amid Jim and Jane Crow laws, The Souls of Black Folk, itself barely a generation removed from slavery, enlightens the 20th century with a prophetic fire. On August 28, 1963, MLK and hundreds of thousands of brave souls – of all colours, creeds, casts, and stripes – had a dream together. Ominously, Du Bois passed away the day before the March on Washington at the mystical age of 95. His wisdom, though, reverberated within the crowd as they had a moment of silence for the Morpheus of their dream. It is thus easy for me to say that The Souls of Black Folk fuels my own dreams.
The Souls of Black Folk takes an unorthodox form: a collection of personal essays about Jim and Jane Crow Laws and their many insidious manifestations, expertly interwoven with slave sorrows and spirituals that preface each grand chapter. Du Bois begins Souls with a courageous proclamation that clairvoyantly frames the century at its embryonic stage: “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” In Race Matters, Cornel West reiterates that the problem of the twenty-first century remains the problem of the colour-line. One needs to only take a quick glance at the atrocities of the 20th century – and the failure of Western modernity – to prove Du Bois as an oracle of our epoch.
Furthermore, Souls continues to push our intellectual vision with another moving concept, double-consciousness: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Double-consciousness poignantly provides us with an ability to conceptualize our split identities, where our culture, race, religion, sexuality and/or a myriad of other factors are placed in juxtaposition to the norm. Double-consciousness, especially in a globalized world (and library), is increasingly relevant for us.
The Souls of Black Folk is, unequivocally, my favourite non-fiction book, and I’m confident in my assertion that it will continue to be my favourite throughout my lifetime. I place it as my favourite non-fiction book, as opposed to my favourite book, because of its subject matter. By highlighting its realness – in its lived realities, authenticity, and in the Hip Hop sense – I hope to lend you, dear reader, the encouraging fire that ignites in my belly when I think about this art piece—an art piece that blossomed from the profane when Jim and Jane Crow’s tentacles had a tight-knit clasp on American consciousness.
In the history of the English written word, so rarely has a collection of thoughts produced such profundity that applies to us all.
See below for more Du Bois: