On Purpose and Family- Interview with Jay Alexander Brown



Q: If I say the word “family,” what happens?

A: A tickle of thanks warms my skin. My heart pounds again. What I anticipate is celebratory. What I live for is their aura and aurora.

Q: Family as a collection of aur(or)as reflecting and refracting one another.

A: The aurora borealis is non-ending.

Q: And passed down across generations. Chain-lighting as if chain-smoking (you know I’ve just quit smoking; it’s on my mind.) Does your glow in different shades for your mother, wife, kids?

A: Each light adds a dance.

Q: If family is a long-running lightshow of collaborative dance…

A: We keep bringing each other up.

Q: And yet I know too many families burning with disapproval of each other’s dance and colour.

A: Many people believe in heartbreak. I raise my world not to do so. I can ask the world not to give permission to the underworld.

Q: Right, I don’t believe in heartbreak. It’s more like this: experiences we fear as heart-shatter only shatter the glass cages we’ve built to protect our hearts and then called them the organs themselves. The raw heart is always alive underneath. Perhaps it’s among the family’s duties to fortify, to strengthen one another to shatter our glass cages on purpose, or to resist building them…

A: The great presence of approbation is the language of the heart – to speak it, to be fluent and affirmed. It’s a lonely act to be helpless. I learned it here, in front of my family. I am affronted and confronted, but my family dismisses the shackles of helplessness. They form me in the image of G-d, and I them.

Q: As you know, I’m recording an album right now. One technique we’ve used is called the “ghost track” – an ambient vocal or instrument low in the mix, whose job is to add fullness and a rich texture to the sonic pallette. You don’t even notice its presence, but if the track is muted, the music feels suddenly barren or empty. The analogy isn’t perfect; of course you do notice your family – but in their constancy and ubiquitousness, perspective wants to know: without your family, where would you be?

A:  You would be on the planet in defiance of the air. And there you wouldn’t be betrayed any longer. But the “ghost track” serves the same purpose as the soul. The support for air is always filtered through the soul. The quest for G-d is that purpose again. It’s a redirection and then an interaction. I want to give a blessing to my family. To my children – I always bless them with a variation of the notion that they always have a cradle in my arms. And to Karen – time is an exponential expansion of our love. Even yesterday was a sweet recollection of our youth.



Q: What does ‘purpose’ mean to you?
A: I still want to take G-d’s purpose as the question. Being mystical and magical is to know that everything subjective is known to be objective as well, because the beauty in discovering inverts is to believe with all your heart to be temporal. It is living with a great belief in drive while knowing that drive is limited. You could be beyond yourself in wonder, just because you exist. And you enter the “is” of life. This is a self-embrace of purpose.

Q: So you want to take G-d’s purpose as the question. Do you mean G-d’s commanded purpose for the human being?
A: I mean the achievement of conjoining G-d’s will with your own. A blending of wills to a beautiful concert. It becomes the paradise you’ve always sought. You become the gardenmarker; you become the river with the flowers, or the sky, or the plants. It’s a community of lovingness.

Q: The way you describe the ascertaining of G-d’s purpose – it sounds like a matter of intuition, of attunement. You don’t ask yourself what to do as much as how to do it.
A: Chasing after, pursuing, seeking – it refines you. When we speak to each other, from behind our silence we look for the poetry and living words of creating ourselves together. My mother had typhus and tuberculosis coming out of the camps. But she had poetry; she conversed deeply and even spiritually.

The quiet of purpose is the small mankind inside us, puny pieces of thought. And G-d has high hopes this time. We are at the backwater side of the River Jordan, and the sea is not giving crossover. The Dead Sea dies inside a people with no harmony. And G-d asks us always, “what is your purpose?” Such a very important question confronts. This gift of childhood, and yet – the undertow undoes the man. Life’s undertow removes us from purpose, Jay. And we have forgotten the query.

Q: I’m intrigued to hear you speak of this emotional experience of purpose, because I find myself approaching the question intellectually. Requesting meaning, torch-probing in dark philosophical corners, ridding my mind of false idols and invented burdens. Whether wisely or regrettably, I do not trust emotion easily – and why not? Because I am unnerved by the fact that one can feel great
G-dliness and be, in fact, a murderer. At some point, though, purpose must be felt and trusted, yes?

A: Because you believe in art, you have to write the sequence of your poetry. There the emotion splays you. A man gives up the womb to be vulnerable. And he still wants to know his love. He’ll risk that exposure for the sake of the poem inside him. And there lies your emotion, really lies. Because if the poem is really good, no one else will understand. It’s just that personal.

Q: To savoir-know your purpose or to connaître-know it?

A: Yes.

Q: Yes.

A: The second one. Eventually the conundrum goes. You are placed in no-purpose. G-d doesn’t need us in any rational way: he adores us through our emotive manners.

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