I’m not sure if it’s the changing season or if we finally realized we can’t stay in a dour, disconnected place indefinitely, but the last couple of weeks we’ve eased back into an old, very nice, routine where Laura plays me music she thinks I’ll like when I’m cooking dinner. So as I chopped vegetables for soup tonight she found a bunch of cool pieces, which I’m going to tell you about briefly (it’s late and I’m tired so this’ll be more like a word collage than a proper letter).
The first thing she played is Julianna Barwick’s new album, Healing is a Miracle. Her music is categorized as ‘experimental ambient’ and it’s quite lovely. I couldn’t hear any lyrics properly and the lyrics to the title song aren’t available so I don’t know what her take on the idea that healing is a miracle is, but I’ve been mulling on it off and on all evening. One review opens with how you can cut your hand and two weeks later it’s healed up and looks just fine (at least for most of us, most of the time), but what I kept coming back to is that healing can really on happen when the conditions have changed sufficiently to allow the system to repair itself. If the cut keeps being reopened or gets infected then it can’t heal. If the trauma is ongoing or one goes from one trauma into another one and another one or there’s constant stress, then a person can’t heal. So really, healing is a miracle.
Honestly, though, I didn’t think about it this way until I heard two other songs in Laura’s playlist. The first was by Run The Jewels and it’s called JU$T. The line that snagged me goes as follows: “Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar.” Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Grant, and Franklin all owned slaves (apparently the record isn’t clear on Hamilton and we know Lincoln did not) and having them on our currency signals just how baked in systemic racism is and how conditions have not changed sufficiently to allow healing. The descendants of enslaved people regularly have to handle currency that honors slave masters. If we had engaged in a real reckoning around slavery, we would not have those men’s images on hundreds of millions objects that we all have to deal with all the time.
The second song is by Jay Electronica and JAY-Z and is called “A.P.I.D.T.A.” or “All Praise is Due to Allah.” It’s basically about all the people they’ve cared about who’ve died as reflected by the many phone numbers they’ll never get calls or texts from ever again. It’s quite haunting. As I thought about these two Black men and all their dead people I couldn’t shake the idea that healing is a miracle that’s probably pretty damn elusive when conditions remain such that Black men’s life expectancy is more than six years less than White men’s, when people keep dying on you and you’re pretty sure you aren’t going to make it all that long either.
So yes, healing is a miracle and it’s wonderful when it happens, but we have a helluva ways to go before the miracle of healing is available to whole huge swaths of us.
May we all have conditions that are safe and conducive to healing.
May we be willing to question it all, down to every last detail.
May we trust that we are strong enough to root out the rot that’s preventing us from healing.
May we all accept that everyone deserves to be whole.