After a busier-than-usual month, I woke up this morning with a startling thought—“I have nothing on my list. And all day to do it.” Sounds heavenly, but once you get a rhythm going with work and it’s over, there’s a steep transition to negotiate. You don’t just fall into the luxury of life in the hammock. It can be disturbing, a whole day and this weird sense of “how am I going to fill these hours?”
So after knocking out the last five remaining e-mails, I went to my default setting—the piano. Worked my way up and down, around and about the stairs inside the sublime architecture of Bach, Mozart and even a bit of a Crossfit workout in the house of Liszt. Then into the juke joints of jazz, where the interior decorating was all my responsibility, no imported marble from Italy, just the alchemical transformation of tapping toes, gyrating hips and snappin’ fingers into some swinging, soulful sounds. Yeah!
And then the rare luxury of reading a book mid-morning, finishing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ extraordinary piece Between the World and Me. Continuing the theme of all the lingering ghosts of our country’s brutality towards people of color, all the still-bleeding wounds that keep us from the Holy Grail because we keep refusing to ask the right questions. But Mr. Coates does, so powerfully and eloquently that reading his book was like listening to/ playing good jazz. A rhythm and cadence that brings so much pleasure even as it speaks of deepest pain. An eloquence that lifts you up even as it sets you down into the muck and mire, inspires not with easy answers, feel-good platitudes or promises of spiritual redemption, but with the simple act of facing truth head on and speaking so well it helps you bear up a bit.
This encounter with the power of words, the power of tones, to speak the world is perhaps the most hopeful human faculty we have. The list is the list, it gets us our groceries and balances our checkbook and organizes the chaos of the world into manageable bits, but when we get to the end of it, there better be something waiting more worthwhile than daytime television and shopping at the mall.
And I, for one, am grateful to have found it today.