Overlooking Lisbon from Miradouro de Graça one of many miradouros, or lookout points from the city's sete colinas, seven hills.
True adults are those who have learned to continually develop
I've just re-read last year's epistle and am persuaded that i need write nothing further as what i wrote still obtains, at least as far as the perilous state of the world is concerned. Nothing much has changed. Indeed, things may have gotten much worse considering the devastating impacts of climate change in the California and Portugal forest fires, powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean, and rising sea levels all around. Obtuse governments, patriarchal fundamentalism, and sabre-rattling which could easily slip into nuclear war, only serve to hasten our demise. Yes, i have made a few personal changes so i guess i owe it to myself and to the handful of faithful readers to record these, augmented by whatever musings i can muster.
Highlight of the year was my visit to Jamaica in May to deliver the keynote address at JFLAG's Larry Chang Human Rights Seminar, held annually to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). This year's theme celebrated LGBT culture so i gave a brief historical overview from ancient times and peoples up to contemporary Jamaican activism. It was wonderful to see many familiar faces and to be impressed by the energy, engagement and enthusiasm of new generations of LGBT Jamaicans. An indication of our progress was that the seminar was held in broad daylight at the Jamaica Conference Center and was well supported. On an inpromptu bus tour, i was able to show a group of young people the sites around Kingston that are part of our history, like Leroy Marshall's clubs, Maddam's, The Closet where GFM was born, Brian Williamson's place at Haughton Avenue, and my former home at Gallery Way which was like a community center in the early days.
This visit was historic and memorable as it was the first time i was returning to Jamaica since 2000 when i sought asylum in the US. It was good to reconnect with friends and family, and rekindle memories. I noted signs of development, decline and stagnation, so a mixed bag, but it was good for once to see through the eyes of a visitor.
Niece Betty (Lee) and husband Bobby Chung met me at the Sangster International Airport where i found the automated immigration and customs entry smoother than Miami's. It was dark so i missed seeing fully the changes wrought by the Duncans-Rio Bueno bypass. They hosted me in White River where i also met up with Elise and Darryl Yap of Blue House fame, before i moved on to Kingston.
Most impressive were the North-South Highway which reduced travelling time from Ocho Rios to Kington to 40 comfortable minutes, and the modernized bus system in Kingston with digitized tickets and relatively clean buses, far better than what passes for public transportation in Chiang Mai. I was fortunate to have been given a quick tour of downtown Kingston and a visit to the Biennial Exhibition at the National Gallery by Chris Lue, former president of the Jamaica Society of Architects. After, we took the bus from Parade through East Kingston by way of Mountain View Avenue to Liguanea where i was able to check out the health food shops and eateries. For as many years as lived in Kingston i had never visited the Bob Marley Museum but that was remedied courtesy of Tony Henry, BMM tour and IT director. Not only did he treat me to a tasty lunch of vegetarian mushroom wrap and a put-it-back smoothie, but he also presented me with a humongous Bombay mango from the property.
Rev. John Scott, pastor of the Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living, and BFF, hosted me part of the time in Kingston. He invited me to speak at the Sunday morning service. It was great to be back at my old spiritual home to greet so many familiar faces like Clive Thompson, Sonita Morin Abrahams, Garth Sanguinetti, Tricia Evelyn, Rev. Sonia Davidson, and maestro Noel Dexter. The building has been expanded and the grounds are as well-kept as they ever were, augmented by the addition of a sacred labyrinth embedded in the lawn.
I had been living in Guimarães, a small medieval town in northern Portugal for a year. While very charming, with convenient modern amenities, there was not much else to do after having done all the historic sites. When Karen McMorris who i knew from Maryland and Thailand asked me house-sit her apartment with dog and plants in Lisbon, i happily went. I took the opportunity to explore the city, found it very appealing and discovered it had much to offer. It took me 6 weeks to find an apartment i could afford as the rents are much higher in the capital than elsewhere in Portugal as there is high demand as more people move to Lisbon. There are a lot of empty buildings but a lack of capital to renovate and make them habitable has led to a housing stock shortage. I'm told Chinese investors having been buying up property but have not yet seen evidence of it.
What you are, the world is. And without your transformation, there can be
Remembering Brian Williamson at Haughton Avenue, site of his home and businesses where he was killed.
Coffee at F&B Downtown with Chris Lue.
Mushroom wrap and Get Up Stand Up smoothie with oats, peanuts, spirulina, Irish moss, and banana, at Bob Marley Museum cafe.
Street food at Heroes' Circle.
Vegan version of classic Jamaican breakfast of ackee, callaloo, fried plantain and roast breadfruit, specially prepared by the barefoot chef, Darryl.
Delivering the message at Temple of Light.
Photo Michael Cooke
Just before i left Guimarães Michael Cooke visited from the UK.
Lunch with Karen and her sister Roxanne in Obidos, a small town outside of Lisbon.
Riding the old tramcars is more fun than any amusement park ride.
Approach to my flat in Beco dos Contrabandistas (Smugglers Alley), the living area, kitchen and window looking back out at the alley.
We know how difficult it is to change ourselves. How much more difficult it is for widespread change to take place? Perhaps in vain, i will continue to float the idea of a Planetary Index that will take hold in time and at scale to salvage what is worthy of what remains our brief civilization. I am cognizant that we are all too invested and embedded in moneytheism to allow even the inkling of an alternative way of managing resources to emerge. There are a few positive impulses like proposals for a universal basic income in selected jurisdictions, providing the homeless with homes, universal health care in developed countries, but these are not enough to turn the tide. Nothing short of a systemic shift away fungible units which are manipulated and accumulated, which limit and constrain every worthwhile effort, which corrupt and corrode every transaction, will succeed. The hype around Bitcoin will dissipate as it proves to be nothing more than a digital version of fool's gold. Fungible units and their pursuit appeal to the worst in human nature, vesting power in a few, and condemning the rest of humanity and indeed the biosphere to certain decline.
At this point in history, the most radical, pervasive, and earth-shaking
transformation would occur simply if everybody evolved to a mature, rational, and responsible ego.
~ Ken Wilber, 1949 ~
I have come to the conclusion that there is not much that any one of us can do to turn the tide. We are too puny against the forces of nature which we collectively have set in motion. We have not the collective will do better. Despite our supposed evolution, the behavior of our men is still at the level of male animals, dictated by testosterone modulated drives for power, sex and dominance. Every crisis presents an opportunity. Now is the time to become fully present, become the best we can be, live fully and heartily. Now. Defer not your dreams.
Do not let yourself be disturbed by what is to come;
rather, be in that which is still around you and which enters with
an immeasurable past into the present that is yours.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
It's a precious opportunity we have, to be alive as human beings. It has
been said that the chance of having a human life is something like being picked up as
one grain of sand out of all the grains on the beach. It's such a rare chance and yet
somehow ... some error arises ... present in each one of us — not fully appreciating
what we have just in being alive.
~ Charlotte Joko Beck ~
Awareness is all. Know that you are. Bliss. Joy. Here. Now.
Lisboa, Portugal, Year-end 2017
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, 2014, 2015, 2016
Quotations from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing except where otherwise noted.
Images my own unless otherwise credited.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.