Sick Souls and a Saxophone Colossus

Radio Open Source
3 min readApr 16, 2023

In the past month, we’ve made two shows on heroes—specifically, on William James and Sonny Rollins—that should not be missed. Find them at our site, or wherever you go for podcasts!

Saxophone Colossus

Sonny Rollins.

Sonny Rollins’s biographer Aidan Levy—author of Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins—introduces our listeners to a range of music, but also to “the great legend of Sonny Rollins,” meaning the famous “bridge sabbatical.”

He did spend up to 16 hours a day performing on the Williamsburg Bridge. He’d really reached the peak of his fame up to that point in his life, in 1959, getting top bookings and making a lot of money as an artist after toiling in the salt mines for years starting in the late forties. It’s right at this moment that he makes the shocking decision to leave it all behind, knowing that perhaps it would all still be there if he ever decided to come back, but also not caring. He had loftier ambitions than just making money, and that was always the case with Sonny Rollins.

Nobody knew that he was on the Williamsburg Bridge, night and day, rain, sleet, or snow, kind of like the postal service. But he was out there. He was playing out of view, by an abutment to the bridge. So people crossing the bridge would encounter Sonny Rollins as a sound.

Find our Sonny Rollins show here.

Aidan Levy.

William James Can Save Your Life

William James.

On our William James show, John Kaag, professor of philosophy at UMass Lowell and author of Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life, explains what James’s philosophical and psychological insights offer to dark times.

When I look around my students today—I’ve been teaching for 14 years now—my students sometimes feel this lack of freedom. And James speaks to how to break through that experience. He describes the sick soul in The Varieties of Religious Experience as a person who experiences the possibilities of the world as flat, dead, cold. This is Sick-Soulness. And the whole point for a sick-soul individual, at least according to James, is to figure out how to be twice born, in his words, which really means to break through the malaise, to break through the cloud.

John Kaag.

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Radio Open Source

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.