“The True Essence of the Funk is the Power of the One”

The power of the one. That’s what Bootsie Collins was talking about in a recent interview on WNYC. He was speaking of his latest album of the same name. Bootsie’s 69. I felt he’d been around so long he had to be older – or even dead. But he is exceptionally alive, and generous and philosophical — and funky — talking about the power of the one. He says it’s most simply an understanding that we as individuals have power within us, and that when we all work together with our powers, great things can happen. His album certainly happened, a collection of collaborations that include Snoop Dog, Christian McBride, and George Benson. It was a really uplifting interview and obviously amazing music was played, and I most certainly need to buy the album! (And yes, I mean album). Here’s a link to the title track’s music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoGoKe8z7Ok. It’s funky!

As lots of people have probably been doing, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the one in my own way. I’ve thought about the concept on a macro level, as in the presidential election, and the micro level, as in me. Individual power, collective efforts, solos, collaborations… This thinking then brought me to the concept of loneliness, what it means to be alone — and if isolation is different than loneliness. Is there actually any power in the one?

I’m in a new place, moved all across the country — during the pandemic. “It’s going to be hard to meet new people,” I was warned. Yes, yes it will be. But I think it’s always hard to meet new people because I find it incredibly wearying to start fresh with a human being at any time. That is one of the many reasons online dating is so unappealing to me. I’ve been meeting new people here through tennis, and it feels a lot like online dating must feel: lengthy communications to arrange a date; judgement on first appearances; disappointing wastes of time; and once in a while a rare moment of connection.

In my vast knowledge of science (not) I know that the word isolate is used when extracting something into its purist form. Or when stopping a current from connecting to an object that would allow that flow to continue. These days we hear the word isolate a lot because people are isolating from COVID — to stay “pure” — or because they have COVID and don’t want their particular energy flow to get transferred. At the same time we are also being told that “we’re all in this together,” which is a pretty heartening idea until you accept the fact that it’s kind of a lie. Because there are a whole bunch of folks who are not in whatever this is with us. They don’t even see it as a communal experience, and that’s their own personal power of the one.

A lot of my students probably feel isolated right about now. And I am wondering if that has contributed to their emailing me at the 11th hour for an extension to an assignment they knew was due since the first week in September. Because it’s just one email as far as they are concerned. But what happened was that all those isolated particles — I mean students — formed into one and proceeded to pelt me with email requests on a Friday night. The power of the one exploded! In turn I felt isolated, as a professor, because none of these emails acknowledged my experience. I wanted someone to know that all those single actions had affected me. But I can’t say that to the students. So I responded to each one, individually, perpetuating their feelings of individuality — or isolation.

In his interview, Bootsie Collins was relating stories about his various collaborations for the album and how they changed suddenly once COVID hit. From playing together in the studio to Facetiming in order to lay tracks, Collins said it forced them all to be creative. There certainly is a lot of creativity going on these days. But sometimes I wonder if maybe it’s a tad misdirected. All this energy behind the need to connect, to de-isolate a situation, to revamp typical experiences into COVID-friendly ones. To be together. Is it possible that all this screen time is simply perpetuating our feelings of isolation? Perhaps it’s just me, but when I “attend” a lecture or concert online I am deeply aware of the fact that I am alone in a dim room staring at a laptop screen — not participating in a community experience whatsoever. At least when I’m reading a book or writing a story it feels right because they are activities meant to be performed as solos.

The light leaves the sky earlier these days. Night time is a reminder for many of us of our alone-ness. Outside activities wind up and human presence becomes less palpable. If we live alone we might even feel lonely. I am not sure if that is so bad, though. For it is when we are alone that our thoughts have a chance for our attention. I’ll bet artists like Bootsie Collins have some pretty cool thoughts when they’re alone. I write this blog alone, isolated perhaps in the physical sense, but communing with the one who will eventually read this. Maybe that is my power of the one. Maybe you are the one that provides me power. Maybe together we are the essence that makes up this funky world we live in.

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