Sorrel Season's Greetings

The 17th Northern Winter Solstice Epistle
December 2014

I'm beginning to weary of this annual exercise but it's good discipline, imposing a modicum of constraint on my otherwise unstructured life. I've found it useful as a summary of a particular year whose events and details would otherwise escape me almost as quickly as they have transpired. I surprise myself reading previous entries as though i'm learning about someone else's goings-on. And it obliges me to reach out to you at least once for the year.

We are social in many ways and for many reasons: because we desire company, because we depend on one another for survival, because so much that we care about is collectively created.
~ K. Anthony Appiah ~

Not much happened this year so this will be conveniently brief.

The high point of the year was the publication of Biesik Jumiekan at the end of May. I had intended to release it on May 9 in honor of my sister Gwen's birthday but editorial exigencies and technical difficulties made me miss the date. Gwen played such a critical role in my upbringing that i wanted to commemorate her in that way. She would upbraid me severely for speaking Patwa, demanding that i speak "properly" — meaning Standard English. Despite enforcing language orthodoxy she herself spoke Patwa, as almost all Jamaicans do, and especially Chinese shopkeepers who have to in order to communicate with customers. She later embraced the vernacular, freely posting to Facebook in her own romanization. In a complete turnaround, she supported and encouraged me while working on the book. I know she would have delighted in it and i am truly sad that i cannot share it with her.

Presenting Biesik Jumiekan
Showing off the cover of my own design

Not much else of note, just that since August i've had this internal sense of shifting. It manifests as a realization that it is time for me to move on from DC. From a very mundane if practical point of view, my savings are running out and i'll not be able to live on the projected yield from my annuity, DC reportedly clocking the highest cost of living in the US. Genteel poverty doesn't work here. If you've been wanting to visit DC while i'm here, i suggest you do it in 2015 as i may not be here beyond that. This may be the last epistle with a DC dateline. Where will i go? Somewhere warm and cheap (rules out ground floor, start-from-scratch Detroit, cheap but far from warm) where i'll have space and climate to grow food and orchids. If there are like minds and kindred spirits to share the journey, so much the better.

For all the impact i've had, it is clear that i will not be saving the world. Not through sustainability. Not through a new economic paradigm. So i may as well follow my dream of living simply in community.

Simplicity of living means meeting life face to face. It means confronting life clearly, without unnecessary distractions, without trying to soften the awesomeness of our existence or masking the deeper manifestations of life with pretensions, distractions and unnecessary accumulations.
~ Duane Elgin ~

I'll continue working on PANACEA, my proposed economic theory. I still have hopes of finding that person or team that will take it and implement it. And then there's the idea for another book on how we know. Here i go again with the grandiose ideas, first attempting a compendium of the collective wisdom of humanity, then revolutionizing the global economic system, and now epistemology, none for which i'm vaguely qualified, forever tilting at windmills, thinking to change the world by changing individual consciousness, by re-thinking how we measure value, not to mention getting Jamaicans to accept their own language by attempting work that best would be left to linguists. Each passing year makes it easier for others to humor these fanciful notions as harbingers of dotage in my advancing years.

Or, look at it another way. I'm just a diligent student of Rev. Dr. Elma Lumsden who passed recently. The idea came through you, so you do it, she would declare. My years of study under her tutelage were formative indeed, and have provided a solid foundation for my metaphysical and existential awareness. Her consciousness endures through all her students and everyone whose lives she has touched.

Death results in simply a different form of belonging to the community. It is a lesson from nature that change is the norm, that the world is defined by eternal cycles of decline and regeneration ... Death is not a separation but a different form of communion, a higher form of connectedness with the community, providing an opportunity for even greater service.
~ Malidoma Somé ~

From that foundation, i've progressed from New Thought through agnosticism, to Zen humanism. Having once come out as gay, each subsequent coming-out is progressively easier; Second Coming-Out as Hakka Chinese, a formerly despised minority (See 1996 essay), the term Hakka once pejorative in the sense of 'gypsy'; and now as a no-god-fearing atheist, though i prefer the more positive humanist designation.

Chinatown 2014
Makes me think of Mr. Miyagi


Gwen and me Brown's Town PO
Gwen and her friend Shirley Tyndale in St. Hilda's Diocesan High School uniform complete with jippi-jappa hat, me in between and my dog Whisky, Brown's Town post office, circa 1953.


Ionopsis utricularioides
Memory of Orchids Past
Jamaican endemic Ionopsis utricularioides
Gallery Way, Kingston, 1998


Memory of Veggies Past
First attempt at growing tomatoes,
organically of course
Martha Brae, Trelawny, 1999


Rev. Dr. Elma Lumsden
Rev. Dr. Elma Lumsden

As a last ditch attempt to connect with someone who might get the concept of the Planetary Index and be able to help move it forward, i ventured out of my hermitage to attend the DC Solidarity Economy Summit. Most of the usual suspects were there but i did manage to meet some new people, particularly since we were drawn together by choosing the break-out group discussing the concept of emergence. That has led me to attend another meeting of the Building the Supplemental Economy group. We'll see if anything significant comes out of it, or if they will be limited to feel-good talk of localization, cooperatives, and alternative currencies, ignoring the inherently flawed and inequitable predation of the monetary system.

Economic Summit
Emergence discussion at DC Solidarity Economy Summit

It's important to clear the decks and to be free of everyday worldly concerns in order to explore fully the realm of the spirit. The world can easily distract from this higher endeavour. But the soul has an equal task and commitment, to find the treasures and explore the ins and outs of life by being attached. Just as there is spiritual practice in search of the highest and most refined reaches of human potential, so there is soul practice in pursuit of the juices and nutriments of life's entanglements.
~ Thomas Moore ~
True enough, we all have obligations and duties toward our fellow men. But it does seem curious enough that in modern, neurotic society, men's energies are consumed in making a living, and rarely in living itself. It takes a lot of courage for a man to declare, with clarity and simplicity, that the purpose of life is to enjoy it.
~ Lin Yutang ~


Awareness is all. Know that you are. Bliss. Joy. Here. Now.


Washington DC, Year-end 2014

These annual epistles have been archived for ready retrieval:
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Quotations from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing except where otherwise noted.

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