The 8th Northern Winter Solstice Epistle

Objects are defined subjectively. Since objects are defined arbitrarily, this gives rise to your arbitrary subjectivity.
~ Fuyan Qingyuan, 1067-1120 ~
You must see the infinite, i.e., the universal in your particular or it is only gossip.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1841-1935 ~

A minor cyclical adjustment within the solar system has exercised the minds of humankind for millennia, giving rise to beliefs, myths and religions. When the earth in its heliocentric orbit changes the angle of its axis to begin tilting the North pole once more inward towards the sun, marks the beginning of a new cycle. The hours of daylight begin once more to increase in the Northern hemisphere giving rise to observances variously to do with the rebirth of the sun, the return of the light, and the overcoming of the darkness. From a global perspective, this does not make a whole lot of sense to inhabitants of the Southern hemisphere who are broiling under the zenith of the solar body. It marks the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, reflecting the historical accident of the northern origins of the calendar most of us live by. So the Southerners have to adjust to the end and beginning of their year occurring in Summer, an imposition of a single world-view for all.

Vodun flag

Unknown Haitian Hounfor - Vodun Flag with Veve of Elegba
Sequins on satin

In order to start, we must make a decision. This decision is a commitment to daily self-cultivation. We must make a strong connection to our inner selves. Outside matters are superfluous. Alone and naked, we negotiate all of life's travails. Therefore, we alone must make something of ourselves, transforming ourselves into the instruments for experiencing the deepest spiritual essence of life. Once we make our decision, all things will come to us.
~ Deng Ming-Dao ~

The image above represents the Vodun loa or deity known as Elegba, who oversees crossroads, entrances and decisions. The flag is a ritual object in Haiti where i acquired it some years ago. I had left it behind when i went into exile carrying just two suitcases. It is the single item that i requested to be sent to me. My good friend, John, who had it in safe-keeping along with the rest of my detritus, duly complied, and it now hangs on my otherwise bare wall.

The mytho-poetic significance of Elegba continues to grow on me, as i've had to negotiate the many cross-roads, and make the decisions that govern my life. That the essence/concept of Elegba connotes ambivalence, the tension and synthesis of polarities, divine trickster and messenger, is not lost on me either, as i fulfill the roles that have fallen to me, and re-invent myself further into yet more manifestations.

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage. Every day sends to their grave obscure men whom timidity prevented from making a first effort.
~ Sydney Smith, 1771-1845 ~
Wisdom for the Soul at Baltimore Book 

Baltimore Book Festival

Many of you know i've been working on an anthology of quotations for some years now. Over this year, i've selected some from the collection and issued them in sets of cards, marketing them online and at events. I've done DC's premier outdoor market, Eastern Market, a couple of times, and took a booth at the Baltimore Book Festival and at the Pathways Natural Living Expo. Once a shopkeeper, always a shopkeeper. I can't get away from it even if i wanted to -- and i did at one time, but since have come to realize that connecting with others is a series of transactions, convincing others to patronize one's ideas, abilities, sensibilities, and buying into theirs -- it's in the blood. It all comes down to marketing and packaging, how you present what to whom. I'll return to the marketing circuit when i have books in hand to sell -- and when it gets warmer -- hitting the New Thought churches and New Age events as well.

While in Baltimore, i was graciously hosted by Clark and Liz Carter, formerly Elizabeth Keeling who found me through the internet by googling "Servite Convent" where we were schooled decades ago. It was great to see her again after so long; i recognized her immediately when she walked up to the booth. We spent hours talking into the wee hours, catching up on each other and alumni we could remember.

Every spare minute, days off and weekends have been spent on the book. It just couldn't get done. It's a huge project by any measure, much more than i realized and had bargained for. It really requires an entire editorial and publication team of researchers, typesetters, book designers and proof-readers. No wonder, i couldn't find an agent or publisher willing to take it on; but fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I decided to publish it myself and in August took the unheard-of (for me) step of quitting my day job to do so. I was dissatisfied with my job anyway, as the manager did not appreciate my efforts, which i realized would be better expended on my own endeavours, so it was a precipitous but not difficult decision to make.

As departed friend, Paul Williams, used to say, "life prepares you for itself." I began to do whatever i thought needed to be done, drawing on my experience in editing, graphic design and production, and business development and applying it to this new business. Dan Poynter's The Self-Publishing Manual has been most instructive. My space design capabilities have been brought into play to convert part of my already compact efficiency into work and storage areas. I'm now a registered publisher operating under the name Gnosophia Publishers, recognized by the Library of Congress and the ISBN organization. GP is a member of the Publishers Marketing Association, through which i'll be able to access national and international book fairs.

Gnosophia colophon

Gnosophia colophon, the name coined from Greek gnosis, knowledge, and sophia, wisdom -- the knowledge of wisdom

No one ever did anything worth doing unless he was prepared to go on with it long after it became something of a bore.
~ Douglas V. Steere, 1901-1995 ~

I'm gratified that i was able to get endorsements for the book from three leading authors and the response to pre-publication promotion has been positive and encouraging. The typesetting is complete and undergoing final proofing. I had to relent and engage professional help for this as it requires at least another pair of eyes to catch all the typos. Besides, trying to proof-read, without engaging the content, puts me to sleep in an instant, the only thing boring about this whole venture. Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing will hopefully go to print in January and be available for ordering online by March. And, if all goes well, it'll be coming soon to a store near you.

It has been a year now since i was been granted asylum by the US Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS). I'm therefore now eligible to apply for permanent residence, commonly referred to as a green card. I've downloaded the forms but have not submitted them yet as the CIS website estimates a 10-15 year wait since the quota reserved annually for asylees is far exceeded by the number of applicants. So i figure there's no hurry. I already have Work Authorization and a Travel Document that permits me to travel abroad and return to the US without any problems. I hope to test this in the coming year, maybe visiting Mark Ramsay and Tony MacFarlane in Canada, but if you hear i'm stuck in transit without a country, you'll know why.

I've heard of two other Jamaicans receiving asylum this year in the US on the basis of their sexual orientation, but i have no details. Any new information received will be posted to the website, Seeking Asylum. In April, i was invited by Amnesty International to take part in their annual Get-On-The-Bus protest in New York City. I spoke before an audience of about 2000 college students from all over north-eastern US. This year the Jamaican consulate was targeted to protest the violence directed at gays in Jamaica and the government's seeming lack of concern. A scheduled meeting between AI officials, Jamaican activists and the Consul General did not take place as we were literally misled by the State Department agent assigned to him, to the wrong location. Dr Bryan could therefore claim, as i have read, that he was sitting patiently waiting in his office with tea and biscuits prepared, but we did not show up. Back down in the street among the vociferous demonstrators and counter-protest mounted by a NY-Jamaican organization, we spotted Dr Bryan peering through a window. We rushed back upstairs, to the correct office this time, only to be told curtly that we had missed our appointment and he was no longer available.

A high-point of that experience was meeting a young Jamaican lesbian who protested along with the GOTB crew, waving the national colours vigourously. She presented me with a copy of a poem she had written in strong language, "Blood on my flag," which percipiently decries: As the bodies hit the floor / You ask for evidence / People are dying / Where's your conscience . The poem is unsigned and i don't remember her name. She was studying film-making. I hope she contacts me again.

I-95 Form

Asylum document



With student protester at GOTB, NY, April

A week or so later, i spoke at SUNY-Binghamton on the invitation of the Rainbow Pride Union, and was warmly received by them and friend, Thomas Glave, who is Assistant Professor of English there. Thomas has a new book out, Words to our Now: Imagination and Dissent .

Meanwhile, bak a yaad, controversy rages as to whether Steve Harvey, a Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS) worker was killed because he was gay, or happened to be gay and was killed, along with hundreds of other Jamaicans who have met their death by violence this year. Whether or not it was a hate crime, we mourn his loss and call upon the government, presently distracted by the matter of party leadership succession, to take steps to protect the lives of all Jamaicans. To join in this conversation go to Jamaica Land We Lgbt .

There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.
~ Hannah Senesh, 1921-1944 ~

Joseph Robinson
The last time i saw him, September 2000, when i left Jamaica

The Spirit of Ashe has now been released into the Universe, no longer only the god within, but now without, around, above, below. The instrument has been put away, the power now unfettered, available for all to draw on even more than before. The individualized expression of Consciousness which we knew as Joseph Robinson is now universalized. Today is its birth. Let us rejoice and celebrate the life we were privileged to know and share, the spirit that now imbues us all.

We also mourn the death from cancer, December 2, of Joseph Robinson, a very dear friend and remarkable person. Joseph was a founder of JAS, but is much better known as co-founder, with Paulette Bellamy, of the internationally acclaimed and innovative arts-training and edutainment entity known as Ashe . Originally from Turks Island, he came to Jamaica to attend the Jamaica School of Dance where his recalcitrance led him to cross swords with Rex Nettleford, resign from the NDTC, and later, fall out with Cathy Levy with whom he had joined up in Little People.

His fearlessness led him to establish Ashe Centre in volatile Nannyville, which they eventually vacated after the killing of their security guard there, and to invoke the wrath of the Church, in the person of Monsignor Mock Yen from the pulpit, for his sex education manual, Vibes in the World of Sexuality , published under the auspices of the MOEC with input from teachers. His legacy is the cadre of young Jamaicans he has trained to be open, questioning, creative and self-possessed, who continue to run Ashe as if he is still there, for he has imbued them with his spirit, the spirit of Ashe.

Other highlights of the year:
In September i met my sister Lily in Knoxville, Tennessee where she has a house, and where her daughter, Suzanne, lives with husband, Mikey. It was good to see them and reconnect. I spent Thanksgiving in New York with Carl, Sharon and her family.

A new website i created to promote patois, LangwiJumieka has attracted the support of a number of scholars and the Society for Caribbean Linguistics. I've been invited to contribute to the Jamaican Creole section of the Language Varieties Website of the University of New England in Australia. I haven't done it yet as i've been up to my neck with getting WFTS to press, but hopefully in the New Year ...

Life is found only in the present moment. I think we should have a holiday to celebrate this fact. We have holidays for so many important occasions … why not celebrate a day when we can live happily in the present moment all day long? I would like to declare today “Today’s Day,” a day dedicated to touching the Earth, touching the sky, touching the trees, and touching the peace that is available in the present moment.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, 1926- ~

Year-end 2005

Following the appreciation expressed for these annual epistles, they have been archived and readily retrieved:
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

Quotations from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing