The 9th Northern Winter Solstice Epistle

Sorrel Sorrel Sorrel

Hibiscus sabdariffa
Jamaican sorrel

Celebrate, then, the days of rejoicing and do not tire of them. For lo, none may take their goods with them and none who depart ever come back again.
~ Khemetic Book of Songs ~

The sorrel is drawn, dark and strong, biting with white rum and fresh ginger, the way i like it, served chilled, no ice, in wine goblets. I had the best intentions of making steamed pudding, the dried fruits soaking since September, and bun with stout, the Guinness standing in reproachful vigil in my fridge, but as John Lennon is credited with saying in my book - unabashed commercial, get it if you don't already have it - "Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans." (Editor General's Warning: This missive is all about The Book. If you are already weary of hearing me go on about it, stop reading now and close this window.)

Whatever your pretext for celebrating this Season, there seems to be some underlying organismic appreciation for having survived another annual cycle. At some cellular level we seem, at least in northern climes, to sense the return of increasing solar radiation, variously referred to as Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun, the rebirth of the sun, later conflated with the Birth of the Son by the Early Church fathers and adhered to unquestioningly by unsuspecting millions subsequently.

Beyond the reach of Graeco-Roman influence, the Chinese have for centuries referenced the moon rather than the sun to mark the end and beginning of years. However, The New York Times has reported official protest by a group of graduate students in China of the wholesale importation of Western Christmas practices into that ancient and now re-awakening culture. And well should they protest as the symbols and trappings have lost any real significance even in their sphere of origin, conscripted as they have been into the service of mammon. To my positivist way of thinking, rather than protest, or be anti-war, or anti-anything, they should propose, propound, pronounce.

Here is an admirable opportunity for them to co-opt, copy, as they are so often accused, a western solar-based cultural artifact and make it uniquely their own. As a northern country they have as much reason to mark the Northern Winter Solstice as any other northern culture. They could contrive, say, a sinicization of Santa Claus, transforming him into a Shaolin warrior-turned-monk who goes about doing good and bestowing gifts on the poor to expiate his former brutality and ruthlessness, so bringing him back into Harmony with the Way, an example for the benighted millions. The Eight Immortals could be persuaded to appear in concert this one time of the year. Observing a secular festival based solely on geophysical considerations, avoiding decadent and imperialistic associations with the Saviour and Light of the World, Archangel Gabriel, and St. Nicholas, should sit well with Chinese authorities as they scramble to liberalize their economy and spread proletariat well-being. For this reason, sheep-herders washing socks by starlight would be retained as a grim reminder of serfdom narrowly escaped, with oblique references to rapacious capitalist innkeepers who would deny shelter to a working man with a wife in tertiary trimester. They can even keep the reindeer and winter wonderland as those are native features too of their northern country. Southern and equatorial cultures need to consider bamboo rafts drawn by dolphins or crocodiles. You get the picture.

Eight Immortals

Ancient manuscript illustration from the classic
'Eight Immortals Have A Thrilling Adventure'

© 2002

Those old Taoists were presciently, or in Jamaican parlance previous, politically correct, including one female, and a castanet-clicking drag queen or transexual, we're not sure which, among their Immortals.

Every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again
~ Herman Hesse, 1877-1962 ~

Fun and joke aside, we have a lot to be thankful for. Just to get up this morning and see another day is gift enough. The prospect of seeing another year, infinitesimal as it in the cosmic scheme of things, should be of monumental significance, let alone that each of us is a singularity, never to be repeated. Even if you subscribe to a life beyond death in the Elysian fields or someplace inside pearly gates, or as some reincarnated entity, it will not be you as you are now. You are, as Kent Davy has put it, the "momentary concatenation of the dependently arising streams of factors that have eventuated" as the person known as you. It cannot, and it won't, happen again, ever. Appreciate yourself then, even if, especially if, no one else does.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is transformed through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expression … It is your business to keep the channel open.
Martha Graham, 1894-1991

Time magazine is right on the button to name You as the Person of the Year for your control of the information age. Each of us is at the leading edge of evolution, with more access to power and information than any pope, king or potentate heretofore. We might not individually be capable of launching armadas and conquering hordes, nor should we want to, but Rameses, Genghis, Alexander, Plato, Charlemagne, Galileo and Napoleon would give their eye-teeth to know and do a fraction of what we are capable of now. Civilization has progressed through the stages of hunting/gathering, agriculture, and manufacturing, each with its hierarchies, oppressions and divisions of labor. For the first time, each individual, albeit some more apt than others, is a centre of production and consumption of the world's current and future wealth: information.

Dale City show

Peddling information at a show in Dale City, Virginia

Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories ... I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there ... I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.
~ Dave Eggers ~
The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel , 2006
in Francine Prose, "Lost Boy," The New York Times, 2006/12/24

So how are we making the most of this opportunity that is our life? Are we spending it in drudgery, enduring each passing day, year, cast from one contingency to another, being swept along by the current, deferring our dreams until? Or are we awakened to our power, making a choice and seeing it through? Until recently i used to say i still didn't know what i wanted to be when i grew up. This may have changed as this publishing business seems to be the right fit; I get to write, draw, play, create, perform, pontificate - and get paid doing it. But then previous reinventions of myself seemed right at the time ...

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call ... By doing his work, he makes the need felt which he can supply, and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed. By doing his own work, he unfolds himself.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
Wisdom for the Soul at INATS-

At INATS-West, Denver
with Dottie Riley of Inner Wisdom Books

Sincere appreciation to all of you who have supported me all the way, have bought my book and, moreover, have introduced it to others. This is known as the WOM strategy - word-of-mouth - it works every time.

Dan Poynter writes in The Self-Publishing Manual which i used as my indispensible guide, that your life changes once you become a published author. This i can attest to. The entire experience of self-publishing and promoting Wisdom for the Soul has been a joy and surprisingly smooth, contrary to the dire warnings and cautions of conventional wisdom. I recommend self-publishing to anyone who is serious about writing and, like Dan says, please don't die with a book still inside you.

I have never traveled as much as i have this year. The book has taken me to San Francisco, Denver, Baltimore, Rehoboth Beach, Deerfield Beach, Miami, New York, and all over the Washington metropolitan area. I've been interviewed on NPR Baltimore and, within a few months of publication, WFTS won the Best Books 2006 Award in the Non-Fiction Anthologies category. Sales have been moderate but steady through book wholesalers, Amazon and independent bookstores. For a while there, i thought i might have to take a day job but so far i've managed to pay the bills. All this has been very gratifying and augurs well for the New Year when i expect to release another title or two.

I share in the pride and joy of the Temple of Light family on the ordination in July of the Reverend John Scott. John's elevation to the ministry and the assistant pastorship of the Church holds much personal meaning as i might have been beside him in a similar capacity had i not taken another path. I take full credit for introducing him and his mum, beloved Daisy, to the Temple and Religious Science. He is the part of me that remained to serve.

John's ordination
Ordination of Rev John Scott, with Rev Dr Elma Lumsden and Rev Dr Candace Beckett, President of Religious Science International (right)

Congratulations to Gilbert Dunkley who has already been promoted from City Desk to the Editorial Page of the Washington Post in the short time since he moved to DC from Miami and The Herald. I bucked him up at DC Pride in June. Others who have turned up in the capital are Peter Austin, Raymond Knight and Webster Bennett from Gallery days; Howard Batson who is now proud owner of a home in SE DC; Courtney Hogarth who was with me in tai chi class with Yan-Yan at 10A West King's House Road and is now doing his PhD in Chinese brush painting in Beijing; and Joseph Pomper who is home in between assignments.

With Gilbert at Pride
With Gilbert at DC Pride

Aboriginal art

Australian Aboriginal painting

In September i had the distinct pleasure of entertaining Wolfgang Binder visiting from Erlangen, Germany, as he swung through on his North American tour. He provided the oft-missed opportunity to visit some of the US capital's numerous museums which i had heretofore deferred, ironically because of their very propinquity and admission-free accessibility. Among the most memorable exhibits we saw were the Renaissance Venetian School of Painters, especially Titian's "Man with Glove" at the National Gallery, and an amazing collection of paintings by Australian Aboriginal women at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

At Hirschorn Museum

At the Hirschorn Museum

With Wolfgang at Hirschorn Museum

With Wolfgang at the Hirschorn Museum


Mid-November Miriama Patterson was good enough to accompany me on the Florida trip to the the Deerfield Beach signing and the Miami Book Fair. We were fortunate to get her daughter's staff discount at Econocar to facilitate getting around. My niece Gillian Moo Young and her husband Bertie hosted us.


Long-time friend from Kingston days, Sydney Garcia, who lives in Boynton Beach surprized me by dropping by Inner Wisdom Books. I didn't spend as much time with him as i would have liked as i had my public to deal with. It was good to see him however briefly. He and Mira got on famously.

Melanie and family

With Melanie and family, from left Brian, Glen, Mellie, Alexa at Inner Wisdom Books, Deerfield Beach, Florida

Niece Melanie and her family came by Inner Wisdom Books, Deerfield Beach, where i was doing Wisdom Card readings and signing books. I was constrained to make the highly original observation of how fast kids grow.

In Miami, old family friend Peggy Simons Richards and husband David had me over for dinner. Niece Carolyn Chin also took me out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory when i got to meet her new partner.

In New York for the Small Press Book Fair early December, I had dinner with Elena Oumano, communications professor and journalist who penned the Village Voice article on dancehall. She's working on a book about Jamaican politics and music. Bryan Feol showed up at the fair to give his support and make his purchases. Bryan had encouraged me in the early days of my asylum application, having gone through a similar exercise on behalf of his then partner who is the first Jamaican we know of to have been granted asylum in the US based on sexual orientation. He came along also, affording me the historic moment of meeting the one who had set the precedent for all subsequent Jamaican LGBT asylees. Bryan originates from India and recently got his US citizenship. We all had much to celebrate over dinner.

Bryan Feol
Charm as Cindy Charm as Roberta

Charmaine as Cindy Birdsong and Roberta Flack

If you are in Jamaica, make sure to catch Charmaine Limonius in cabaret. She gave up her linguist position at the UN to follow her passion to sing. She does great R&B covers but her forte is Jamaican folk. We go back a long way, to Brown's Town and the Servite Convent where we, her sis Judy and bro Derrick, who was my best friend, got our rudiments from Sisters Lucilla, Christine and Dominic, OSM. Those hours spent wrapping unaccustomed mouths around "Sur le pont d'Avignon" and "Linden Lea" were obviously not wasted. Sing out your heart, Miss Charms.

As we begin a New Year, let us do so with passion and vision that we can be and do all that we are capable of. Right here, right now, you are and have all you need to proceed; this is the entry point; begin now. I have no warm, florid feel-good wish for you. It is only for you to choose. Then i will celebrate with you your courage, your greater idea of yourself and the inevitable and subsequent expansion beyond your present limitations.

Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward – your destiny – are here and now.
~ Dag Hammarskjöld, 1905-1961 ~

Year-end 2006

In response to the interest expressed these annual epistles have been archived for ready retrieval:
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

Quotations from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing , except as otherwise indicated.

© 2006