Saturday, December 22, 2007

Another year

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. 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.

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.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Postcard from the zen

If you meet the Buddha on the way, kill him.
- Zen koan

I was hurrying down Georgia Avenue to satsang which i convene so i didn't want to be late. I swept past a male version of the baglady, a rotund African-American freighted with shoppers, greeting everyone calling them by name. They addressed him as Baby Ray.
"How ya doin?"
"Hey Master, Teacher!"
"Piece a shit!"
Only then did i realize he was addressing me. Already way ahead of him, i didn't stop or turn back even to look at him, but burst out laughing. It's all the same, no distinction.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another one

Proverbs are full of poetry and twists. They are made up of words that have been molded for centuries, if not milleniums, until a minimum of words carry an extraordinary potential for meaning.
~ Gaston Kaboré ~

Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted than when we read it in the original author?
~ Philip G. Hamerton ~

The new book is out and i've planted promotional seeds, waiting patiently now for something to sprout. Barnes & Noble have said they'll start with 75 copies but i've not seen evidence of an order yet.

The experience of producing a book for the so-called urban market has been interesting but not surprising as the responses received to date have been more or less as expected. Seeing me in person, folks do a double-take as my visage does not tally with their idea of what the author of a black text should look like. The forthcoming ones will ask what prompted me to undertake such a project to which i reply that being Jamaican, a predominantly black culture, i feel capable of recognizing wisdom that resonates with black folk. Both black and white have questioned whether souls have any color, which i think not, but i make the distinction that black folks' souls collectively share in a particular ethos, mythos and experience which would predispose them to respond favorably to selected information. My spiritual training, literary sensibility, transpersonal psychology study and multicultural exposure all combine to prepare me for this task. In any event, wisdom is universally applicable beyond the narrow confines of limiting identities.

There have been many anthologies of black quotations before this but they have been limited mostly to African American sources. One of my intentions was to broaden the scope so folks could know there's a whole lot more out there. Some of this content is familiar only to black literati and cognoscenti. We get a more complete, balanced picture reading the words also of Carthaginian theologians, Ethiopian philosophers, Martiniquan poets, Senegalese griots, Jamaican pioneers and African, Afro-Canadian and -European writers.

In the dedication, i acknowledge Anansi, Akan deity of wisdom and Caribbean spider-man, whose stories i absorbed as an infant even before i was able to read Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin and Mickey Mouse. Many are unaware that Anansi is the direct forebear of Brer Rabbit.

I've started work on the third anthology featuring quotations from LGBT sources, called Wisdom for the Soul of Queer Folk. Let's see if i can complete it in time for Pride 2008.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Taking a break from the break

The book is done and out - not down and out, hopefully - on bookshelves in stores and libraries across America, and in homes across the world, in some pulpits too. I've done what i could to flog it through personal appearances, interviews and book fairs, and will continue to promote it as a perennial, if not best, seller. It's up to you all to hold up your end and go buy a copy. If the brick-and-mortar bookstores don't have it in stock, they'll order it for you; it's all over the web, even Walmart and e-bay list it, for God's sake. I don't quite know what to make of it when sellers on A Libris and AbeBooks ask over a hundred bucks per copy, more than twice the cover price. Should i be flattered that it's so highly appraised or is it just an instance of rapacious capitalism?

The flurry of activity having tapered off, i've started working on the follow-up Wisdom for the Soul of Black Folk and other projects. God knows, i have a million things to do, but it's been difficult to come down off my high and tackle the tasks in front of me with the same level of energy. I keep going from one thing to the other, instead of working steadily on one thing to completion. It has, however, given me pause to reflect more than i have been lately, basically to stop and smell the roses, or the coffee which i happen to love. I've resolved to go out more, see people, movies, exhibitions, the like. Not to push myself so hard, but just do stuff, like writing in this blog.