Glancing out my back door I glimpse a black and white cat on my deck, beckoned perhaps by my drum-play. One of my teenage dreams involved touring with a band, improvising with instruments night after night, town after town. I was never much of a traveler, lacking wealth, talent, and initiative. Yet still I got around. Made it here and there. Hence the “literary turn,” the turn to books and careers based on them. Books allowed me to spin off in any number of directions, across many dimensions, albeit mediated by language. Where to tonight? I slip on Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane’s The Elements and read about obstacles to black homeownership as documented with painstaking detail in Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s new book Race for Profit.
Voices lead a roving imagination — let’s call it the camera-eye — on a tour of a menu screen leading to Alice Coltrane’s “Galaxy in Turiya.”
Floating in a void, grasping at straws. I am but a mere vessel, like the “Black Panther” figure, multiplying into several semi-autonomous guises over the course of 1965 and 1966: first as the mascot of Stokely Carmichael’s Lowndes County Freedom Organization, then a second time on newsstands as a character in an issue of Fantastic Four (Stan Lee, the character’s creator, a fan of Huxley’s The Doors of Perception), only to return transformed into another political party, this time out in Oakland, the invention of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Hallucination? Spirit animal? Archetype? Fantasy? What is this product of mind that erupts synchronistically into reality, in what seems a coordinated manner — conjured, planted, determined, dreamt?
Weed helps turn profound emptiness and sadness into lovers lying in bed reminiscing about old apartments, old friends and neighbors, in honor of one of the common threads running throughout the couple’s life together, their dearly departed four-legged companion. Daphne was our greatest collaboration. The one constant. The supreme embodiment of the life Sarah and I built together. The two of us never had the money to own a home or raise kids. But Daphne made up for those. Her bunny hop. Her reverse sneezes. The way she used to urge us to play with her by pushing tennis balls at us with her snout. She was a weird, wild, autonomous little being who nevertheless loved us unconditionally and, through her evolving behavior and personality, reflected back to us traces of our own. “Death is so fucked up, though,” as Sarah said on our way to a park yesterday. There’s no way of relating to death that feels appropriate. I can certainly understand how one could find comfort in the belief that consciousness persists beyond death — some part of Daphne, for instance, watching over us from above, audience to our existence. When I entertain this thought, Sarah sternly interjects, “But she’s not! She’s just dead.” But why are we Marxists so quick to condemn delusion? Since when has truth ever set us free? I’ll admit: when a copy of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda turned up on vinyl in the bins at Goodwill yesterday, part of me was convinced that Daphne had gifted it to me to cheer me up.
I don’t see any harm in temporary alleviation of suffering, even if it comes via dream. For the latter open up vistas, abstractions of geometric space, into which minds may wander. The private language of the autopilot black hole. Sarah and I arrived at a realization along our walk. A new sense of the potential life we might live, were it not for debt. A new sense of the stakes of what might be. The challenge now will be to find a way to demand from reality the future we want, and to do so quickly, as clocks are ticking.