I am deeply religious but tend to experience God more powerfully in nature, particularly at seashores and in horizons, than in buildings and books. The music and stories on this site are intended to reflect that tendency of mine more consciously and intentionally than my previous work.


A re-telling of the ant-and-grasshopper fable


In the well-known story of the ant and the grasshopper, attributed to the Greek fables of Aesop, a grasshopper plays lively and enlivening fiddle music, while an ant works efficiently to store up provisions for the winter. When winter arrives the hungry grasshopper asks the ant to share some food. The ant refuses, claiming that the grasshopper did not share in the work.


About five years ago, I was pleased to hear a different version from an ethnomusicologist friend who along with her distinguished anthropologist husband had spent a great deal of time living and studying among fiddle-playing Muslim Wolof peoples of Gambia, who shared what she described as “the original” Brer Rabbit version of this story with their Western visitors. According to the West African version, the ant happily shares not only food but also lodging with the grasshopper, in exchange for lively and enlivening fiddle music to brighten otherwise bleak winter months.


I was unaware of the West African story almost thirty nine years ago, when I wrote my first tentative song about an ant setting out to cross the universe. It occurs to me now as I write that maybe the excessively efficient mind and body of the ant departed on this journey in the first place, perhaps in the bleakest hour of winter, to find out what had happened to the lively and enlivening heart and soul of his former companion, the grasshopper, whom the Aesop story had left out in cold to die of starvation. I was still unaware of it nineteen years ago when I wrote a “Black Man’s Prayer” song. My still wandering ant seems to have realized then that in order to cross the universe, you really need to act like a grasshopper and leap totally off of the well-beaten path.


As a writer who firmly believes that every character in any story ultimately comes out representing a different aspect of the storyteller's character, it seems to me that the moral of the Brer Rabbit story, which Aesop didn’t seem to pass on, is that the grasshopper and the ant are not two different individuals, but two sides of every individual doing both the work that supports the necessary play and the play that supports the necessary work for individuals, families, and communities to be truly whole. The piece that seems to be missing from the Aesop story is the gratitude for a lively and enlivening heart and soul that motivates the ant to welcome the grasshopper into his home.


Thirty-two years into the ant's journey, just seven years ago, he discovers his grasshopper spirit in the Negro Spiritual interpretations of Howard Washington Thurman--through which he realizes that crossing the universe--whether for ants, planets, stars, or galaxies--invariably follows orbital pathways that eventually bring the traveler back to his or her place of origin. Were these not the same songs that the ant had heard and sung so often as a child, but had forgotten as an adult? Were they not and are they not still songs of grieving, the very same grieving for the inexplicable loss of his grasshopper spirit at some forgotten time long ago, a spirit that the ant desperately needs to recover to become whole?


But the ant sings the spirituals differently now, because simultaneously with encountering the published spiritual interpretations of 20th century minister, mystic, and activist Howard W. Thurman, the ant was also encountering  "theologies of color,"as described by the internationally distinguished professor emeritus of religious history, Charles H. Long. So rather than pretending that there is just one color or even one perfectly colorless transparency of faith, the ant has to sing his spirituals now about ALL of the colors. Even before leaving to cross the universe, The ant had prayed with Protestants, Jews, Catholics, and Muslims, and after embarking on the trip, he had to add Buddhists, along with nature traditionalists of North America, West Africa and many other traditions as well.


So the ant sings of "Nature's Ladder" instead of "Jacob's Ladder" to include all of the colors of the rainbow, and in doing so replaces the name of any particular or specific prophet with "Ori," a Yoruba term for the orientation, or coloring if you will, of each individual head and heart to manifest the good character that leads to the fulfillment of each individual's divinely ordained destiny. So are these Yoruba spirituals now? No. For a Christian, Jesus of Nazareth or the Christ might guide the Ori. For a Muslim, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad might guide the Ori. And "Balm of Gilead" in this collection, tells a creation story of the African Diaspora in the Americas, incorporating heroic archetypal figures from both sides of the Atlantic.


So now, upon entering the fortieth year of his odyssey, the ant has returned to the path, his starting place has come into view once again, and he also appears to have recovered his grasshopper--not outside of himself as an expert musician, but within himself as a heart and a soul… learning to express the black man in his “Black Man’s Prayer” through the blued and bent notes and the syncopated poly-rhythms of Africa...  a continent whose metaphorical blackness evokes the common archaic memory of an all-encompassing universe within which all cycles, from the sub-atomic to the super-cosmic, of life and of motion, as well as of dead silence and absolute stillness begin and end... an entire universe gifted to us all through the Grace of the One, for and to whom even the entire universe gives incessant, abundant, and exuberant "thanks and praises."


The just described collection of Bakongo, Office, Salat Spirtuals (BOSS) that leads off this new (as of January 2018) website expresses gratitude for the sacred circle of every single day, as expressed in the symbology of the indigenous African Bakongo Cosmogram, in the daily cycle of eight prayers in the Catholic Divine Office, in the daily cycle of five prayers in the second pillar of Al-Islam, and in this creatively multi-religious interpretation of the Protestant Negro Spirituals.


The rest of this website is devoted to reworkings of old music and to explorations of new music. In addition to being the title of a song, however, the url of this website, "God House Ain't Got No Wall," is now also the name of a nascent (aka conceived but yet to be born) interfaith, intercultural, and perhaps even musical collaboration for addressing community problems such as homelessness... focusing particularly on homelessness of the heart and soul, which can even arise at times amongst those of us who are fortunate and blessed enough to have a home for the body and mind. More to come on that as well, (inshaAllah or as God wills)….


Amen. Ameen. Ashay. And Let it Be.