Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Squeezing Life Out of Life

There’s a quote, and I quote :-) “God put us on this earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” I don’t remember where I first saw it. I like to remember where I first saw things. I think it was the mid-90s. Anyway, it always brings a smile.

I do believe that we were all put on this earth for a purpose - containing a number of smaller or not-so-clear purposes. The afore-mentioned “others” have theirs, too.  There’s another quote I came across in the mid-90s; this one by Woodrow Wilson: “We are not here merely to make a living, but to enrich the world with a finer spirit of hope and achievement and we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand.”

Then, there’s the adult-life awakening I experienced as I came to be at peace with myself and stopped listening to the voices of the fears in my head. It was at the time I started my CYOPro blog…oh. I’m here. Yes, this blog. And, I was able to put into words my thoughts that the many dimensions to me are no surprise to my Maker. I was at last settled in the truth that I ought not to be “so heavenly-minded that I am no earthly good.” I’m a multi-dimensional creature trying to squeeze every bit of life out of life to the pleasure of my Creator.

So, when it itched to the point where I could no longer ignore it on the 23rd of May, I had to scratch. I published a post out of the ordinary, about a matter that I do not ordinarily address in this space. And, I’m glad I did. (All blog posts for Jamaica Blog Day.)For, there are some things that simply will not ease up; will not let you go gently into that good night, until you drop what you are doing to do what you have to. And, I believe that if you have the power and the ability to do a service to make the world a better place, and you don’t do it? There will be a certain something that will eat at you and torment you and fill you with rest-of-your-life angst and regret. We have heard it over and over: no one can be you or be as good a you as you are. So, might as well get on with being yourself. For me, it is spiritual. I continually ask God to help me be the best of the me He created me to be. And, quite frankly, I need all His help I can get.

Sometimes, you don’t know the difference you make. I wrote about that a few years ago. You do something or write something or help someone and the deed takes on a life of its own as it traverses personal space or cyberspace and ignores geographical and other boundaries and deposits seeds of hope or wonder or delight into ready or waiting or yearning or aching hearts for such a moment as this. And this. And this. As moment begets moment, the effects of your deed take on new life and new meaning. It is a beautiful thing. Remember that favourite line of mine from that low-keyed movie? “Funny, isn’t it, how one moment can change a million after it?” (How She Move) Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

As for “squeezing life out of life”? It is easier said than done with all the responsibilities and commitments and obligations of day-to-day yadda yadda yawn. There are a couple of notions at play, here. One, that life has to be fun and exciting (read: filled with travel and/or wild adventurous things) and so on and so forth. For some, so it is. For some, not so much. Does it really mean that human beings are not living their lives to the fullest if they’re not doing totally wicked! things every day? I’d say it depends on what’s “totally wicked” as far as each of us is concerned. One size doesn’t fit all and…know what? Even in a generational context, one size still doesn’t fit all. 

To give you an idea of what was “totally wicked” for me as a teenager in Jamaica: One of my long-held desires was to one day climb that grand old tree out by Ferry. (Mountains and huge trees calm me. I think it’s the stature and majesty of them.) This one stood overpoweringly, amidst lesser trees, south west of the Ferry Police Station. And, every so often as I travelled to Kingston, I’d brush off my dream and picture myself scurrying…ok, not scurrying, but, climbing its huge branches all the way to the top. There was just one little…umm, hitch. I was – and still am – terrified of li*ards. I somehow couldn’t figure out a way, even in my daydream, to get rid of them; imagining them just waiting to terrorize me in the yet-to-be-climbed tree. Well, suffice it to say, on one of my trips back to Jamaica, I looked to see whether that tree was still standing. It was not. There it lay, a shadow of its former glory, roots hoisted in the air. It didn't look as though it had been brought down by act of man. I think one of the hurricanes uprooted it. I’m (mostly) over it.

So, yes, one person’s definition of a “totally wicked” life, is likely not the same as another’s. “Totally wicked” might be defined as “absolutely fulfilling” for some.  And, well, I need say no more on that.

Another notion is that the definition is wont to change over time. I don't desire to climb trees, anymore. (For the record.) When folks bother to ask what I do for fun, it’s easy for me to tell them that I write or read or watch movies. (That’s someone’s definition of boring, I imagine.) Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t look forward to going out and talking to, y’know, people, once in a while. Ok. It’s not that bad. Point is, travel and get-togethers are also on the list occasionally. And, glad you asked. Yes, I’ve decided to do more of that now. I’ve attained a higher level of peace after off-loading to the Lord the other day. Hadn’t realized how much stuff/worry I’d accumulated since the years-ago awakening – even with all the recent decluttering. So, as I mentioned to someone the other day, I’m free, single and able to do whatever the heck I want. I said heck.

Some of that squeezing life out of life and “living it to its last drop” (Erma Bombeck) means doing for others. Some of that doing will get no recognition whatsoever. But, that’s okay. My duty is to be obedient and show up – even when I don’t want to. (Lord, You want me to do what?) Scroll up. That’s why I need all His help I can get. Serving should be done cheerfully. It doesn’t even have to make sense to neck. There is one thing that He seems to have built into serving/helping others. When you do something with all your heart, and you give it your best? You get a nice, warm feeling of joy in your spirit. And, you can’t help but think that He is pleased.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ja Blog Day 2013: Police & Security Force Abuses


I had not planned on writing a post for Jamaica Blog Day. My blog is dedicated to the 8ths of the month. But, one and two times in the early years, I’d missed and posted on the 19th. So, I imagine, an extraordinary post on the 23rd won’t kill me.

Speaking of killing. That's what the first annual Jamaica Blog Day is doing – speaking of unlawful and unnecessary use of force and unlawful killings by members of the security forces in Jamaica. (By the way, would a change in name, to, say, Jamaica Police Service, help any? (Nuh badda cue the JPS jokes now.) Could that help to drive home the idea to many new enlistees what the membership should be about. Thoughts?)

I have never been abused by a member of the security forces in Jamaica. I don’t feel special about that. It just is what it is. I am, however, thankful. Folks can always talk about what and what they would or wouldn’t do if they ever found themselves in this or that situation. Monday morning quarterbacks and veranda commentators abound. All I know is that, based on the record of killings and instances of abuse committed by some members of the force, I am thankful not to have had that experience. I can hear somebody saying, “Knock on wood” or, “Don’t talk too soon.” Mi nah knock pon nuh wood.

In a conversation with sis @MizDurie, (her #JaBlogDay post here), I mentioned that the incessant focus and messaging that Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has maintained on this issue has likely reached the point of "noise". Y’know? As children we used to call it “static” when JBC used to sign off and so-so rice grain come on the screen? Kinda like that.  It’s present but, to a large extent, the volume isn’t deafening anymore. And, to an extent, we have tuned out. The occurrences are no less abhorrent, but, for myriad reasons, our attention span has significantly declined. That’s why I think this thrust via social media – blogs - and the extended arm of Twitter – is a timely one. It’s not an aleatory twist that the movement has been birthed on Labour Day.

Living away from Jamaica – residing in the US and in Canada – has inevitably helped shaped my perspectives on a number of things. There was a particular notion that I struggled with for a while. And, it was frustrating to no end as I could not put what I was feeling into the appropriate words. Ever get that? One day, as I read a comment on an article, it helped. Before I get to that, though, let me share this piece first.

A few years ago, I was walking along Bay Street downtown Toronto one morning on my way to work. I heard a man at the top of his lungs saying words that I couldn’t quite then make out. As I got closer, I noticed he had a placard hung around his neck as he paced the walkway along City Hall. His words became clearer and clearer: “Write to your MPPs! The only way these things will change is if they legislate! Legislate! Legislate!” Now, Queen Park/Legislative Assembly is a few blocks up the road. But, I figured that he probably hadn’t secured permission to carry out his action on the grounds of QP.  Can I tell you? When I heard the man’s cries, as Miss Lou sang, “water come a mi eye.” I felt a pang of longing for the advancement of Jamaica that I had never felt before.  For, why on earth could Jamaica not be like this?!  Why did many people have to, or feel that they have to, resort to crass-like behaviour, jumping up and down on TV, just to get their points across to MPs for whatever the problem – road, water, tax…? The answer came. Education.  And, self-respect. If ours was an educated society, we would know that we should expect better from those in public office; demand more when they carry out mediocre work; hold them accountable and demand answers when they fail to carry out their obligations. We’re not expecting miracle workers in public office. We should expect them to put Jamaica – and not their party, nor themselves – first.  And, because we’d have a thinking, and self-respecting, society, they wouldn't dare expect that they would be ushered back into office come election time.

But, our politicians, and those who somehow benefit from the illiteracy of “the voting masses” would rather not have that, you see. I am convinced of that. Why would they want to change the status quo when it would likely mean that they’d be ushered out of power quick o’clock? So, in lieu of long term and far-reaching help – to educate and empower communities – it’s a concrete wall here; a plate of food there… And the voting masses are somehow left with the impression that their interest is at heart; that the money they receive through remittances plus a superficial glamour-look and feel, fed by a steady (North) American diet of fashion and other pop culture, is the shizzle!

Enter the notion I had struggled to put into words: First World lifestyle on Third World mentality. Like putting a coat of paint on a rusty car. We have all the trappings and accouterments of ‘foreign’, but, when it comes down to the substance of what would make Jamaica "the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business"? As my grandmother used to say, “Cananapo!” (read: all now, not a word!) Because, explain to me, for example, these allegations by citizens, of how police officers chose to discharge their weapons. ("Dem put the guns over the zinc (fence) and start firing," she alleged.) How so many killings by members of security forces could go “jus soh”? In many developed countries, swift disciplinary action under the provisions of the governing Act is one thing; criminal charge is another.

And the deafening silence of those “in charge” (quotation marks intended), is yet another. In some countries? The minister would feel so ashamed that he or she would resign. But no. No one is willing to expend political capital to tackle this. And, neither will they pack their bags and go.

We have a role to play, too. It starts in the mind. If it is not at peace, sometimes, all hell will break loose. It is in the perception of, and respect for, self.  It is what Scripture Willy, when I was in second form at Wolmer’s Girls, called “respect for life.” Also, it comes from an understanding that we deserve better from those we put to lead us; from an understanding that, if we do not do something about this haemorrhaging, we might not have anybody to turn to and to speak for us if our time should come.

And, if this continues, for many, it’s simply a matter of when.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Writing For A Cause

There must be many, many people all over the world who have experienced some feeling of strong emotion and simply wanted to shout what they were feeling from a roof top. Many. To be more accurate, I'd dare say, most. And, that emotional feeling may range anywhere from getting a fantastic end-of-year school report to being wronged by a conniving co-worker (worse, boss). It may have come from having your heart broken by the love of your life and you wanted to let everyone - including his mother - know that the things he told them about you in the end that made you seem all crazy and clingy were not true and you just want to set the record straight because he must have left out the part where he... Oh! Umm, I digress.

Ahh, yes. That elusive roof top. Until now! For, behold, dear reader, Social Media.

As I thought about the series of posts for this month (don't hold me to it; sometimes it pops into my head as a series and sometimes it doesn't), I imagined that there was room for a three-fer: making your mark on life through postings/writings; how social media is that roof top from which we shout and scream and show off and gwaan bad / get on bad, and, finally, how there are those among us who write for a cause - whether political, educational, inspirational, etc.

As I pondered "Social Media As Roof Top", however...wait. Look at that. SMART. Sheer buck-up. And, oh the irony. Anyway, I couldn't help but think how neatly it fit. I don't think I have to expound on the idea. Once you make the link, you'll get it. All that's needed is to make sure that the person or persons you'd like to shout at (not to be confused with giving a shout out to) are no more than, say, two degrees of separation. And, nothing shouts "disclaimer" like a subtext/subtweet or two.

So, without the need to carry on with that point and beat the dead horse to glue, I'm moving to that last bit - and save the next post for something related.

Many write for any of the afore-mentioned (or other) causes. Of course, there's no way I get to read all these blogs. But, now and again, whether because of my job or someone sends me a link or something pops up on my Twitter timeline or the al-things-to-all-people Yahoo!, I get wind of some pretty interesting and insightful material. Remember the quote attributed to Plato? "Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something." Yeah, it's like that. The dedication and thought applied is evident in these writing. It is clear that these folks are here to help; to make you think; to inspire; to encourage and so on. What usually happens is that once you start tuning in to a particular blogger, you tend to look forward to his/her material. And, that's another aspect of that conscious writing - the discipline to keep at it. Of course, life happens. But, generally speaking, they can be relied upon for some good work.

(I got wind from @MizDurie - whose politically provocative blog is at www.facebook.com/ThinkJamaica - that May 23, (Labour Day in Jamaica), will be recognized by many Jamaican bloggers and social media peeps as Jamaica Blog Day - Blog Action Day. According to @JaBlogDay, it will be "focused on police and security forces abuse in Ja."  For the post on the 28th, I hope to provide links to those bloggers who participated in the event.)

Shout out to all you bloggers who do good work! We're learning from you. I'm learning from you. For all you've done so far, thank you.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

You were here...

“Sue was here but now she’s gone. She left her name to carry on.”

Ah, yes. The timeless signature in the toilet stall.  These, and others like it, were what would greet me as I did my business in the toilet stalls back in primary school. There were fewer in high school - stall signatures, i.e., at our high school (Wolmer’s Girls’ School) we were constantly reminded that we were ladies. (This didn't stop some who’d get their crassness fix, evidenced by a few scribbles – and other unmentionables. I digress.) Usually, the notes seemed to be written kind of lopsided, as if the author had done the scribing as she (and, I imagine the same was for the boys, so, he) was on the throne. Always, though, the unwritten rule: No overlapping. So, each notation of presence, “carved in stone” – until the next coat of paint – was not only as legible as could be. No, it was also written with enough space between itself and its neighbours. After all, if you’re trying to stand out, why would you go for fusion?

Surely, there were also love notes as well as the ones that would not be fit for polite company. But, those aside, I was thinking recently that we, (I mean, people in general), have come a long way from stamping our names on the timeline of humanity via toilet stalls. Pretty sure it’s still done, but, gettn to a point here. I’m also sure there were practices that preceded that one. Whatever they were, from generation to generation, the authors mainly have been after one primal thing: making their mark.

We all have a desire to not be forgotten. As well, there’s an inherent desire in each of us to stand out; do something unique; be distinguishable and memorable.  Some go for the weird. (I think I wrote about that in a post a few years ago during Charlie’s elongated “Winning!” moment. Maybe we could safely include many of those wacky stunts dressed up as reality TV.) Some go for the bad. (Public shooters in mass killings, for example, come to mind.) Others go for none of the above and try, in some other way, to distinguish themselves. And, when that’s done, it’s tied in with the desire to be remembered.

Funny thing is, as the quote goes, “No one on his deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office,’” the memories that likely matter to most of us would be those had by loved ones after our timely departure from this weary sod. In that moment, would we really care whether we were responsible for finding the cure for cancer? OK. We might care about that. But, y’know? All the achievements and what not, how far down the list of priorities would they be – if they made the list at all – in terms of what we want to be remembered for and whom we’d want to be remembered by?

I guess life’s like that. (This is not where I intended to be when I started this post.) We get here. We have dreams and goals and work hard to achieve them and do. But, in the end, it’s really the relationships and the love that matter.

So, where had I intended to go? That social media have provided us with new, freshly painted, ever-expanding walls on which to write. There’s a lot of space for those individualistic notes – and write away we do. Sometimes, given the ease of access to our material/notes and the speed with which they can be shared, we have to indicate that we’re quoting ourselves when we quote ourselves!

I dare say that for some, writing these notes is not so much about making a mark on the frail human fabric of life. Nor is it about doing something to be remembered by. Instead, it’s simply a way to grasp life in manageable pieces; to keep from being overwhelmed; to keep from suffocating.