Coates doesn't take the turn into religion and I thought, well, his journey is very spiritual. He doesn't go into conventional religion, but questions, and delving into the self and the nature of humanity and ideals and all spiritual in my book. Religious institutions don't own spirituality. My atheist friends are some of the most spiritual people I know. And they do better on religious quizzes.
But I was thinking about something I read in social work school about how some immigrants turn to spirituality and high religiosity because of feeling dispossessed by society, powerless.
I thought about the connection between mental health and high religiosity--that can be a symptom of someone going round the bend. But I had a patient once that just talked about the bible the whole time and I really liked him. He was exploited by others, and was too passive, but he had schizophrenia. His spirituality was well developed and beautiful.
My own turn to spirituality happened when I was moving from teaching to social work, that's a challenging time, but certainly not the most challenging.
We have to distinguish between crazy, disempowered and desperate spirituality and effective spirituality, and I think Coates has effective spirituality.
Coates spirituality is about curiosity. One of the ideas of Zen is utmost wondrousness. That is one of my slogans. That is what I would call my books if I had the attention span to finish a book.
Just as the great documentaries by Ken Burns (Jazz, Civil War and Baseball) are about race, race is at the heart of American history. Curiosity about race is what it means to be American, from the closed end solution of exploiting it, to ignoring it, to addressing it, there is a continuum.
Coates explorations is specific but it raises to the great universal in it's fierce engagement in what it means to wake up. I wonder if my son, when he turns 15 and I tell him to read this book, will even know who Treyvon Martin is. It was his son's bitter grief, the disillusionment, the unconsolable injustice, that gets Coates to write this heartfelt letter to his son.