Guest Post by Chris Morrow, Northshire Bookstore
"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." —Pablo Picasso.
I don’t remember March. April is a blur. There was a birthday in May. Just not much time or energy for anything beyond Covid juggling. "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls," said Pablo Picasso. Dust... or saturated, encrusted Covid mud. No live music, no museums, no theater… what to do? Read! For many weeks, I couldn’t read much of anything, but now I am back. I just finished a very well-written, ponderous book called Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time. It raises many good questions about where we are and how we got here, including an exploration of the origins of the human notion of time, forays into Native American mythologies and a back and forth with owls - both “real” and metaphorical.
James Baldwin: “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.” I would venture that the truth of this applies to other emotions as well. There is a thin veneer of habit between judgment, arrogance, and stress and the underlying pain. I feel it in my own life these days – somehow the Covid nightmare has served to pierce the flotation device of emotion and left the underlying rawness, the pain. And maybe, just maybe, this is good. It is so real. It forces a paring back to essentials, to meanings perhaps forgotten in the speed and ambition. A good launching point for new beginnings or for the hard work of recovery or addressing racism or inequality or climate change. Or just giving ourselves a break.
And there are books coming out to help us transmute the pain into action, to envision a better future. Here are two which are available for pre-order now. In September, Stakes is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith arrives to hold up a mirror and to lead us forward. Robert Putnam, famous author of Bowling Alone, has a great book coming out in October called, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. The common theme: community. We truly are in this together, whether we like it or not. The politicians aren’t going to do the heavy lifting - it is up to all of us, together.
P.S. - There is a great new book about James Baldwin and his lessons for today: Begin Again by Eddie Glaude Jr.
Note from Linda Albert: This article originally appeared in Northshire Bookstore's August 2020 e-newsletter. Reprinted by permission of store co-owner Chris Morrow. Support independently owned bookstores! Northshire Bookstore offers free USPS Priority shipping in the USA.