Angel , Sammie Nicely, Mixed Media, 2001
A verse of some of my impressions:
FOR A CHANGEi never sported head wear
didn't think it fit
but the cold has pressed
me into hats and caps.
instead of mongooses
squirrels startle my diurnal paths
traversing lawn, concrete and asphalt
in similar self-absorbed urgency.
fool me into bougainvillea
unfurled magnolias like roosting egrets
in Bog Walk trees.
everywhere within foot's reach
unsequestered by vehicular container
apprehensive no more
of being called names
of having fire hurled as i pass
of enduring stoically
the onomatopoeia of gunfire
the simple pleasure
of going about my business.
You can never leave home. You take it with you wherever you go.
To add to the already multifarious life roles that I’ve played, I have reinvented myself yet again, as a refugee and as a writer-in-exile. Due to the barbarous attitudes and homophobic violence that prevails in Jamaica, I have applied for political asylum in the US as a member of a particular social group subject to persecution. My affidavit cited 17 persons I knew killed in Jamaica because of their sexuality. To that number can be added Michael Leroi who was brutally taken from us last month. I'm waiting to be called by the INS for an interview when they will assess my case. If I'm unsuccessful, I have recourse to three levels of appeal all the way to the US Supreme Court. If all fails, there are a dozen other countries to which I can apply. As a 21st century human being and citizen of the world, I do not consider geopolitical borders and social distinctions as deterrents to or determinants of a fulfilling and useful life.
A warrior has no honour, no dignity, no family, no name, no country; he has only life to be lived.
There is only one courage and that is the courage to go on dying to the past, not to collect it, not to accumulate it, not to cling to it. We all cling to the past, and because we cling to the past we become unavailable to the present.
Life is full and overflowing with the new. But it is necessary to empty out the old to make room for the new to enter.
Having pared everything down to essentials, I am prepared to go wherever and whenever, as opportunity permits, even on that ultimate journey.
It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
This theme has been a focus for me the past year or so, only to be brought forcibly to the fore by the events of September 11. To real-ize is to make real for yourself what is important, those things that have meaning for you. Life has no meaning beyond what you give it. Our gift of consciousness is what we use to determine meaning in our lives. It is up to us how we use it. Reaching out to touch and be touched by you is one of those enduring values for me, hence the minimal but now annual ritual of this encyclical.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Out of the many things for which I am gifted, I have chosen to write, to reach minds and enable others to arrive at their own meaning, their own power, their own fulfillment. I began working on an epic novel which would address the history of homosexuality in Jamaica and the roots of violence and homophobia. Recognizing that it needed more research from material not presently accessible to me, since I want to combine memory and imagination with historical record, I put it aside to develop the anthology of quotations that I have been collecting over the years. It is not intended to be definitive, in the sense of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations , as it is organized by themes which have a bearing on spiritual healing, drawing its content from divers sources, particularly those non-Euro/American, that traditionally have been overlooked. Selecting and categorizing these has been a most rewarding education in itself, exposing me to the minds and thoughts of hundreds of thinkers of the last four millennia. There is a tremendous heritage of healing wisdom available to us and it has become my self-appointed task, my opus vitae , to bring it all together in one book. Paul Williams used to say that life prepares you for itself: my experiences with Spectrum, Science of Mind and the Temple of Light, Prints of Whales, and all that have gone before have prepared me for this.
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
Computer technology and information systems are making this possible. Have laptop, will travel. As part of my reinvented persona, speaking tours will feature increasingly. Many of y'all know I can get up in front of any audience and chat bout anything from life to culture, empowerment, health and healing, the environment. Already this year, I spoke on Jamaican and Caribbean Art and Ethos at Emory University, and I may share my experience with hate crimes, violence, and race relations between people of colour at an Asian/Pacific American Conference at Oberlin College in March. If you can identify a slot I can fill in your corner of the globe, I would be happy to consider it. What better way to revisit and renew friendships, make new ones and see the world?
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.
Good Times, Good Friends: Sample, Me, Henry, Bobby
I've seen a few of you this year. Early in the year, I shared some stimulating and enjoyable moments with writer and JFLAG activist, Thomas Glave, in Atlanta for signings of his book Whose Song?
I discovered that Gillian Royes, my former partner in Xaymaca Craft, had re-migrated to Atlanta, following me two weeks after I arrived here unbeknownst to either of us. Her sisters Sonia and Heather joined her subsequently, increasing the size of my Jamaican family here. Michael 'Sample' Davidson continues to be my rock and salvation.
|My sister Lily was here for a couple days in September and I saw two of her progeny, Colin and Suzanne, as well. Franz, who sat my house at Gallery Way for a while, enduring the taunts of the neighborhood thugs, visited Atlanta briefly. There's been one addition this year to my family of origin: my sister Gwen's son, Ric and his wife Colleen, had their third child and first daughter, Cindy Theresa, early this month. That now makes me a granduncle nine times over.|
'Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus.
Despite advancing age which is inexorable, I am healthy and fitter than I've ever been as Sample and I have been going to the gym. Four months of almost daily workouts have made a marked difference as my legs are more powerful, my upper body defined and I boast an incipient six-pack. I felt it was time I stopped looking like a prepubescent boy and begin to look half my age. I'm still doing my yoga asanas every morning as I have for the past 25 years, and I still avoid meat. I had Lasik surgery on my eyes in January so I am no longer myopic and astigmatic, but need glasses to read fine print (I told you about that age business). Goodbye contact lenses and the sensation of gravel in my eyes. I recommend Lasik to any of you who may have visual impairment. I also strongly urge you to modify your diet by reducing your intake of fat and sugar, and increasing whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. As John Scott would say, "A moment on the lips, an eternity on the hips." In arriving at meaning and priorities, is not the quality of life worth a little discipline and self-control? There is now no doubt that some cancers, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart disease and other chronic conditions are completely avoidable.
Thou shouldst eat to live, not live to eat.
Wherever we are, it is our friends that make our world.
In July, I spent a week at the Green Gulch Zen Center in California. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, having to arise each morning at 4:30 a.m. for extended periods of zazen (sitting meditation) and work practice. It has cured me of any desire for the monastic life for now. A synchronistic highlight was meeting Diane Gerard, a temple priest and Guest Program Director there with whom I had gone to school at the Servite Convent forty-some years ago. She was very kind and solicitous of my welfare and eager to connect again with someone from her past. My thanks and appreciation go also to Freddie Barrios of Lafayette and Gerald Mullings of Fremont who hosted me before and after my retreat.
It is easy to say how we love new friends, and what we think of them, but words can never trace out all the fibers that knit us to the old.
None of all this would have been possible without the love and support of my best friend, John Scott, who continues to cover my Kingston behind, er ... base, acting as Property & Financial Manager. He allows me to be the peripatetic part of him that goes off and does crazy things. At the wonderful surprise invitation of Judy Codner (nee Limonius) with whom I grew up in Brown's Town, I'm off to New York for the Holidays. I call it my Great Northeastern Tour as I'm hoping to see many of you living in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I don't know how long I'll be gone, but that's no excuse for you not to keep in touch. I'm only an e-mail away.
No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth.
May you find the meaning in your life that makes it all worthwhile, allowing you to focus on what is real for you, and the courage to live your utmost possibility.
Have a Wonder-filled Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa