From One Michael to Another

Text of a recent letter, sent along with a package. Story contained herein.

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Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman died today. I am saddened that the universe no longer includes him, and heartened by the thought that it once did. When I was 15 years old, broke and bored in a world without a car or an Internet, the local library’s vinyl collection held high a tiny torch of hope. And there in the racks was Ornette, carving a new world out of the empty air. Maybe it was Song X I heard first, but Free Jazz and The Shape of Jazz to Come weren’t far behind. Like all those who move me – philosophers, musicians, and the rest – he showed what was possible as though I was invited to play and think and create with it. He taught me that there is a fearlessness born out of joy, not just anger. That a world in flux can be embraced, not just feared. That there are ways of living without feeling the ground beneath your feet in which you are flying, not just falling. That there is always more music to play.