Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Power of Love

In early 1966 I went down to the Jazz Workshop on Broadway in SF to hear John Coltrane's group. The club was jammed full so about 15 of us were out on the sidewalk and pressed up against the open door. The club was one long narrow room with the band at the far end, so the full sound carried out the door, and also, being tall and standing on my toes I could watch as well.
At that time the band had TWO drummers (Elvin Jones and Rashid Ali), had Pharoah Sanders (screeching as loud as possible, achingly beautiful to my ears) on tenor sax, and John Coltrane's wife Alice on piano playing full, round chords with both hands on the lower register. It was a raucous cacophony of sound and Coltrane's tenor was barely audible in the mix. I strained to hear Coltrane, and when that sound connected (not the melody, but his pure vibrato-less sound) it became a conduit of warm energy directly into my heart, filling it like a balloon with a feeling of love for the whole world, a feeling that expanded to the point of leaving me with only one option: stop everything I was doing in everyday mundane existence; turn my life around; and go SAVE THE WORLD.
About 10 years later when with Dr Ajari on a visit to the Coltrane Church, I listened as Bishop Franzo King described an experience almost identical to mine. He had gone to the Jazz Workshop to hear Coltrane's group, and the sound so filled him with love that on the spot he made a vow to restructure his life, start a church, and preach the Gospel. The John Coltrane Church is going as strong as ever today, Bishop (now Archbishop) King's family and friends and church members playing inspired derivations of Coltrane's music every Sunday:
That night in 1966 returning from the Jazz Workshop with a heart full of love to save the world, I was completely oblivious of all practical aspects, such as how to go about it, even the first step. I didn't account for my own complete lack of ability or knowledge or experience, or my own obstructive bad karma, continuing to accumulate day-by-day, not to mention the ineluctable modality of the bonds of society which prevent one from "leaving home." It would be another three years, including grad school at Cornell and employment as a civil engineer, taxi driver, and mail carrier before the actual "leaving home" could take place.
But the seed was sown in the power of love emanating from John Coltrane's heart to all who listened. Before that time I had been thinking about enlightenment, but the experience at the Jazz Workshop caused the Thought of Enlightenment to step up one level of intensity and become the Determination for Enlightenment.

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