As I prepared to end my call with my father he ended our conversation with a phrase he’d often retort, “Nothing is free”. This is a phrase my father would often say to sum up any experience.
Hearing that today hit different. As a kid hearing that phrase made me wince. I hated the ease in which he would utter it. It was as if he knew something I didn’t know and refused to share it. I lived my life as a reaction to that phrase, motivated to disprove a theory I hadn’t thought to examine.
He shared details of his life today, many of which I was already familiar with but today was different. The details shined like a bright light and I was interested in exploring each of them.
“Why’d you choose to do that?”, “How?”, it was as if the stories had new life in them. And they did, it was what I now saw. The details in his unwavering devotion to arrive somewhere. For my Dad it was owning a home. As he shared this story from his kitchen preparing a surprise dinner for my Mom I now understood the phrase loud and clear.
Life is an onslaught of things. It’s just that, things. Whatever the costs were he was willing to pay. He was right, nothing is free. Everything has a cost. Even freedom.
I'm interested in what works. I'm not moved by magic or mystery. I want to know the truth about a thing purely for its own sake. Most of the luminaries that I was inspired by were whimsical. They were filled with mystique. But I found when matters of life emerged, the mystique quickly faded. That alone tells me that even with the allure and mystique they created, it was no match for the truth.
Sun Ra left his birthplace of Birmingham, Alabama for Chicago during the great migration. Then moved to Philadelphia, then to New York, then to California, before returning to his family's care in Birmingham, after suffering a stroke. This was the span of a 60 year career. If it took a stroke to bring Sun Ra back to his birthplace, if it took dire circumstances, then it begs the question and validity of everything that came before it. That tells me that the truth is far greater and far more dire than any mystique or allure can offer.
It is this that I realized is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing that lasts. That alone is magical and mystical in itself because no one explores that space. I believe Sun Ra was always Sun Ra, the journey around the world was for his eyes to see and his eyes only.