Listening to a record is a physical process. I don't type a name in a search box; I kneel and flip through record sleeves. I stand, and lift the lid, and place the needle just right. The music requires attention, and after a few songs, I move to turn the record over. The records, and the player, take up physical space in my life — a rooted kind of space. They require a physical response, and like the prayers at church, they are repeated. Place and posture, roots and response, attention and repetition: these not only signal that what I'm doing means something, but that it is creating meaning as well.
There’s an aloneness to art. We type, paint, sculpt, compose in isolation. We create to realize our theologies, philosophies, hurts, joys, doubts, faiths. We create to understand and work out our lives. And because we worship what we perceive to be the fount of truth and beauty (a God or gods, self, nature, universal energy, materials), we create to worship.
But while worship begins as a personal endeavor, it involves other people around us.
In my letters I tell him, “I wish you were here so I could make dinner for you.” I daydream about how when he is released, eight years from now, I’ll have mastered new cooking skills and will prepare him whatever he wants, however much he wants. I imagine I’ll hold a spoon coated in sauce or frosting up to his mouth and say, “Here. Taste this.” And he’ll close his eyes and taste it and then smile, like we were in a movie or something.
So, in order for me to think justly about my world, I have to know my world the way my Creator does — namely, that I belong to my world and it belongs to me. And I belong more immediately and vitally to my immediate surroundings. As it relates to people, justice is rooted in God’s desire for people. In my opinion, that desire is never general and statistical but always particular and personal. So if I am to live more justly and foster truth, goodness, and beauty, I must localize. I must know, personally and particularly, the place and the people to whom I’ve been given.
We lined the jars on the familiar countertop, but first things first: blanching and cutting the tomatoes. It takes some waiting, I discovered, but only after scalding my fingers — too impatient to let the water cool down. When I asked Grandma how she knew how much salt and sugar to add to the jars, she looked at me and said, “I do it that way because that’s what my mama always did.” There is no written recipe, only paying attention.