Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:
The birth of Herman Poole Blount on May 22, 1914 was, for him, the least significant of all his births. Blount begat Bhlount and Bhlount begat Ra and Herman begat Sonny and Sonny begat Sun. Sun Ra left Alabama for Chicago and Chicago for Saturn, until he never quite understood how he got to planet Earth in the first place. The name ‘Ra’ — the Egyptian god of the sun — brought him closer to the cosmos. Each rebirth erased the one before it, until Sun Ra’s past became a lost road that trailed off into nothingness. The past was passed, dead. History is his story, he said, it’s not my story. My story, said Sun Ra, is mystery. Sun Ra’s lived life between ancient time and the future, in something like the eternal now. He told people he had no family and lived on the other side of time. Rebirth might not be the right word for the journey that Sun Ra took. Awakening is more precise, like how the ancient Egyptians were awakened. As Jan Assaman wrote in Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, to be a person in ancient Egypt meant to exercise self-control. In powerlessness, unconsciousness or sleep, a person is dissociated from the self. The sleeping person, then, is like a dead person. But the awakened one is a person risen.
A great one is awakened, a great one wakes,
Osiris has raised himself onto his side;
he who hates sleep and loves not weariness,
the god gains power…
Sun Ra believed that the whole of humanity was in need of waking up. He wanted to slough off old ideas and habits, brush off sleepy clothing and shake off drowsy food. Because present time mattered little to Sun Ra, they say he rarely slept.