As this crazy year winds to a close, one of the most common images of it for most was the year masks went on. I have been wearing one for months now. But during this time, more than anything, it was the year that true “masks” came off. This is a big topic and I have not given much thought to it yet. Right now, I’m not sure how to describe the revelations of this past year for me.
It all started when masks of all sorts of people in our current culture came off and I was able to see them (and things) in a new way. The world behind the mask I might say. Like having a great Truman Show type of set suddenly blown over revealing nothing behind it but a few guys that work on the studio set.
Usually, around our elections for president each four years (an important cycle of symbolism few have ever seriously studied) masks are put on to communicate to those outside the party religion, those not members of the party choir. Outsiders to the religion that need to be brought into it. For this task, parties put on a certain mask. The main mask wearers are of course our current presidents and their challengers. The masks represent the two symbols of the parties in conflict (in battle) the election.
At the same time, masks worn by the two symbols must come off. Messages and signals need to be sent to party members and voters and groups within the party church. These are large groups and need to be sent through mass media via certain codes.
I began to see a new world without the mask on it I had seen before. Maybe this has happened to others during this year?
The real pandemic “year” started for me in the middle of March when McCoy Tyner passed away. I discovered his music the third year of working for a global corporation in downtown San Francisco. It changed my life. Here was someone who expressed so much of the way I felt. After hearing his Inner Voices my life changed and I slowly turned to a music my father had always loved and played when I was growing up in LA: jazz. I began writing a Jazz Newsletterthat had a growing circulation in the Bay Area.
I started writing about Tyner and his album Inner Voices. I began hanging out during the evenings at jazz clubs around San Francisco and Berkeley. I was a board member of a new group in the city that promoted loft jazz. I began promoting some live recording dates at clubs in Berkeley. And, working full time for the big corporation during the days. I resigned a few years after discovering Tyner and jazz. I had been at the big corporation for five years.
The year I resigned I got a consulting position with a company in Oakland and started to write a piece about a person the music of McCoy Tyner directed me towards the music of John Coltrane. With the music of Tyner, I worked my way back to the music of John Coltrane and the famous Coltrane Quartet he was a part of. The article on Coltrane grew into a chapter and then a few chapters and more. Eventually it become my manuscript Spirit Catcher, a biography about the life and art of John Coltrane.
It sat as a manuscript typed up on my electric typewriter with white out applied now and then. A literary agent represented it for a year in NYC but said it was a little too spiritual in tone for them to take a risk on. The manuscript sat in a box for a number of years. I decided to self-publish it ten years after it was written. All copies were sold out. Perhaps someday I would write a similar biography on McCoy Tyner?
I listened to the elegies for McCoy Tyner in mid-March of this year. All over KCSM, the Bay Area jazz station my friend Kathleen works at. I stream the station all day. They operate from the basement in one of the buildings of a junior college on the San Francisco Peninsula. The other breaking news on national media was about a new type of virus called Covid-19 and the threat of a pandemic. The death of McCoy was such a bigger event for me in my own life. It was the death of a true spiritual hero of mine. A person who had been able to express what I felt with his piano and his music and compositions. This served as the beginning of the 2020 Pandemic Year for me. The death of a lifelong idol. What better start to something could one ask for?
The first part of the time of lockdown and orders to wear masks by medical people were not taken all that seriously by my friends and me. There was our state governor on tv almost every day at two in the afternoon. With our state’s top public health officer.
* * *
For me, it was a time of the proliferation of conspiracy theories. The period was started by a good friend sending me a brilliant PhD dissertation. It was about conspiracy theories. It provided an incredible alternative view of conspiracy theories. Rather than define them with a Wikipedia political bias, the PhD thesis my friend sent me argues conspiracy theories are useful memes for controllers of culture.
It allows serious challengers to the narrative of the world created by the media to be labeled as little more than theories and conspiracy theories at that. The alternative narratives to the main stream media narrative receive labels or marks (like a modern “Scarlet Letter”). This label defined them for a large group of people, putting a stop to any more serious consideration of alternative views or theories about the current events.
As the pandemic moved into its second and third months, masks began to appear on people at all times, even when driving cars. But as more masks were put on, more masks were also taken off. The election was coming in a few months and coalitions within the parties needed to be firmed up, talked to, energized. Sometimes in code, sometimes through private, secret meetings.
A large mask to fall for me was the belief that the medical community was one grand united body of truth. Disagreements in the medical community about the seriousness of the pandemic became a daily topic of debate. The medical community became divided on the matter and some began to question whether the pandemic was real or another creation of the media. I no longer viewed it as one “community” but as two-sides battling each other.
Medicine was one of the last sacred cows of culture for me. It was never like the rest of the professions and occupations of life caught up in politics. It moved ahead in my mind similar to the blind lady of justice without prejudice to one political party or the other. It moved forward by pure science and technology. But I discovered that even medicine had a political agenda.
As the summer of the pandemic moved forward, there were even greater masks to come off for me.
(Continued in future blogs …)