The sound of music off in the distance was a gentle reminder of where I was waking up. I was back in my childhood bedroom and the day had started. The heavy drum line of the music was just what I needed to rouse me from a great night. The cool Sunday morning did not disappoint. I looked out the window and saw in the distance the rising sun just above the Caribbean Sea. The sounds of sound birds flavored the air with joy and anticipation. I opened the window and my ears were treated to the full cacophony of morning time in the countryside. My nose was filled with the smell of Sunday morning in rural Jamaica. I filled my lungs and remembered. I was transported back decades to my childhood. I could almost smell the wood fire and the roasted breadfruit. The scent of sauteed salt-fish and boiled ackee. The slight sharpness of the scotch bonnet pepper just above the scent of salt-fish.
The sun rose more quickly than I wanted it to and I could feel the heat. The birds started to disperse and the smell of food grew stronger. The aroma of cocoa tea made me smile and reminded me of all the advantages of growing up in a rural farming community. The music off in the distance diminished and the chatter of farmers taking out life stock became the background. The bleat of goats and the moo of cows off in the distance. I was happy to be home. Missing some of the conveniences of the big city was worth it. I loved my rural up-bringing and would not trade it for anything in the world.
When was the last time you looked up at the night sky? The beauty of the natural world seems well hidden from us. This weekend I had the opportunity to send my auntie off to the land of painless rest. The sadness and joy of the occasion was not lost on us. Her relief had come. I love my extended family for how we show up for each other in times of difficulties. We came from near and far. I am proud to be a member of the extended James family. I continue to be amazed by the strength of the children of Wilhel and Clarence James. They are my heroes. What does the traditions of a funeral have to do with the night sky? It is about the beauty of the universe and the short time we have to enjoy it.
The night before the funeral is ‘set up’. It is a festive party send off before the day of mourning. As we drove to the setup at the home of my deceased auntie I noticed how dark the roads were. The darkness was intensive and reassuring. No light pollution to distract. It was a wonderful contrast to the intense sunshine of the daytime. Once we arrived at the destination we parked about a third of a mile from the home and walked. As my practice I looked up at the sky and noticed the depth of the darkness. as far as I could see there were stars and the their brightness seemed many fold brighter than the night sky I had grown used to in Florida. I looked up at the Pleiades and counted 8 sisters as opposed to the 6 I usually see in the Florida night sky. I felt an excitement to be under a truly dark sky. As I arrived at her home I hugged many family members and got introduced to some new arrivals. I love my family, because at times like these we are pillars of strength for each other.
The band arrived after 10 PM and the party went into full effect. The street was blocked off and the music rang loudly through the valley. All joined in the dancing, old and young danced. The elders seemed most enthusiastic and I noticed many in their 70’s who danced all night while the youngster exchanged social media details. This was a time of cheer and remembrance. It was a celebration of life. It was the celebration of a wonderful mother, auntie, cousin, grandmother, wife and child of God. The melodic voices of the male and female lead of the band kept us all engaged. The key board player and drummer were excellent compliments. The band played until well after 1 am and we all danced and enjoy the company of family and friends.
A wonderful night and festive remembrance came to a close and we all need some rest before the continuation of auntie’s send off. As I walked back to the car I looked up and again and there it was, an awe-inspiring star filled sky. It reminded me of how often we take life and the people who share it with us for granted. The older I get the more I understand my mortality. The older I get the more I appreciate the wisdom of my elders. The older I get the more I love my family. The older I get the more I realize that my family is not perfect, but that we make up for that with commitment to each other. The older I get the closer I get to the end of my time and the more time I want with my family.
Another one gone but never to be forgotten. I love you auntie Peggy.
As Americans we expect to be the best in every field. Our expectations have been built on both historic experience and much self-delusion. We have achieved much because of a long history of focusing on our challenges and working together to solve them. There is no golden era, just a time when Americans expected much and worked harder to achieve. Today we have gotten used to the idea of achievement, but lack the vision or leadership to achieve. Long after we have done anything to declare us better than the rest we still believe ourselves to be.
This delusion is killing us slowly. It is allowing us the luxury of contentment. It is allowing us to believe the delusion that our children are getting a world-class education. It has allowed us to believe that our kids do not need to be the best in maths or science, but that they are more creative and will still be the winners of the next generation. We will one day find out the truth. Winning as a nation means setting high expectations for all our citizens. Ensuring the continued success of our nation will depend on ensuring a second-to-none education for all.
Expecting little from the majority of our students is a recipe for disaster. All of our children deserve to be pushed hard, because they will not break. I believe all of America’s children can excel, but only if we expect them to and begin giving them a shot at a world-class education.
Rigorous and challenging classrooms are what we need more than ever. Fun and education focused homes is where we need to start. Along with car seat education every parent should be given a blueprint as to how to start their child’s education. From birth to kindergarten is where the real focus needs to be. Parents need to be guided as how to challenge their prized little ones. It is that challenge and example that will determine their trajectory in life. Let us focus some pennies on our children’s education. It will be well worth the investment.
There is a continuing fight all over the world today. It is mental, intellectual and physical. I’m not talking about terrorism in its State and Non-State forms. I’m talking about the continuing fight for equality and civil rights. This fight is getting simultaneously easier and harder. The right to embrace our individual sexual orientation is to me a basic human right that is worth defending. Although homosexuality has gained much wider acknowledgment and in many countries is no longer a sentence to death or deprivation, there is still much to do. The improved prospects have been won by hard intelligent work. As with any progress, only vigilance will maintain the momentum and keep our society honest. Many will disagree but I will continue to wholeheartedly support the equal rights of all in our society.
The deprivation of rights from any member of our Society makes us all less free. Fortunately the fight for the future is already won because a much maligned generation, generation Y, has fully embraced equality. The continuing battle is to define a clear and open future for those who are unfortunately living under less equitable systems. Many in our culture still have not gotten the “memo” but the momentum is not with them, this movement is irreversible. As irreversible as the general direction of progress is, there will be setbacks. These setbacks will be reminders of how far society as traveled. I am proud to be living in an age where we are having the discussion about living up to the ideals of equality expressed in our constitutions. The march of progress is evident in the many same-sex couples that are out and open. I am proud and happy to take care of the same-sex couples in the hospital. Many are older and the acknowledgment of their decades old relationships is something that many wanted to see but never expected. They have all lived extraordinary lives because their love survived the ugliness of an intolerant society. Other groups can claim similar experiences and we should celebrate together the maturing of global culture.
As a young person growing up in a proudly homophobic society I saw many around that were different but never judged nor did I defend. I was confused by the incongruity that was religious society. On one hand extolling the love of Christ while also calling for the death and persecution of others. It was obvious to me that the love of Christ should extend to all his creatures, but that was not the a prevalent opinion. This divergence is still a puzzle to me. Older and not necessarily wiser I would not change the culture of my up bringing, but I say now with much confidence that we had it wrong. I never spoke openly about my opinion, but treated all around me equally. The truth is that there are people of varying orientations in the Church and our Father has directed us to love all equally.
The epidemic of morbid obesity engulfing the world is a testament to mankind’s greed and lack of insight. We continue to devour the planets resources without any close examination of the consequences. Some are so greedy that we think we should have a right to plunder without regard for the other creatures that share the planet with us. This gross lack of understanding of the ecosystem that we are apart is expressed as our expanding waist lines.
As we continue to grow later in number and individual size we complain about over crowding and stress. We complain about obesity associated diseases but still have giant food parties at work and home. We want what we want and will not change. This lack of insight to connect our greed with our continuing illness is continuing to kill us. We continue to teach our kids to eat empty calories and expect that they will grow into healthy adults. This gross lack of insight is a reflection of a society devoid of competent leaders.
The good news is that the upcoming generation will in fact have better insight because of the wasteland of a planet that our generation will leave them. I see the seeds already. They will not be burdened with the excess earns that leads to purchasing for purchasing sake. They will make better use of their resources and in doing so will rescue our sick planet from the brink of our self-imposed destruction.
I hope to live long enough to see concrete evidence, but I have seem enough to be hopeful.
One day the greedy self-centered industries that feed the obesity beast will be found out and regulated into oblivion. That day cannot come soon enough, but I will be patient because the patient shall inherit the earth.
Our lives are short and then we die. How are you going to make the best of your experience? Are you going to be conservative and play it safe?
We often worry more about others and are less concerned about how we are using our limited time. Ignore them, because in the long arc of time they do not matter. I say wake up and dream. Dream of your adventures, but make sure you wake up and experience them. Do it now because only you will live the regret. Do it now because there is no better time. Do it now because we hold the keys to our happiness.
Take hold, escape and live it.
Because life is what happens when we are making plans, plan less. Life is in the moment. Make your list and check it off, because time will not wait for you. We have come too far to give up now. We have survived for a reason. We have survived so we can enjoy. We are here because evolution has chosen us. She is a strict master and only those who take hold and grow will succeed.
We have gotten lucky, we have come too far to give up.
We need to raise the bar. We need to go out and take our rightful place. Do not get pushed, go do the pushing. Brush off the dust. Go dancing in the rain because you are a champion and the world is your play ground. We are like butterflies. We have survived a long birth, it is time to explore. The world will hear us. The world will respect us. The world does not matter. It is our world. Hold on, but not too tightly. Enjoy it, do not stifle it. Take hold and make it count. Be a little breathless, but mostly keep your smile on and remember that it is your world.
Having children has changed my life for the better. Having girls has allowed me to see the world through changed eyes. I often do not like what I see, but there is always hope. I am hopeful because I can see strength in my princesses and I can see the world evolving. The change is not as fast as I would like, but change is happening. My princesses have been born into a world where they have access to opportunity and much improved safety. As women of African heritage they have unique challenges and strengths, but mostly they are from a long line imbued with confidence and self-sufficiency.
I continue to be sure of their success because they have great role models. My instinct is to protect them from all that is bad in the world by building a wall around them. My struggle now is to determine the height of that wall. I want them to grow by learning from my successes and failures, but understand they will learn best from their own experiences. All parents have that nervousness, but for a father of a women of African heritage the world is a little different.
My princesses are still innocent to the crazy world and I will protect them from it for as long as possible. They are three and five years-old and their life is changing fast. My five year-old is ready. She is the love of my life and I worry, and I am excited for her. I am ready for her to discover more of what the world as to offer. The world has already expressed their low expectations of her, but like her ancestors before she will perform above and beyond because her corner expects her to be the best. High expectations lead to commensurate performances. I will continue to protect and love her, and be her shield and sword. I am a parent, I am her father and her friend for life. I will always expect more.
I am not big on holiday celebrations. Most holidays have degenerated into a shopping experience. However, like many others I have a special place in my heart for mother’s day. This year more than others I feel the pull of the celebrations. Being a mother is a tough job and the challenges are many. After 9 months physically attach to another human I am not sure how one can ever let go. The challenge of letting go is a skill that nature has had many opportunities to refine. I am glad that the tires that bind are stretched not broken.
I am very thankful for all the mothers in my life. All the mothers that took me in and made me the person I am. Looking back over my very short life I realize that the mother that carried me for 9 months was just the principal of a my “moms” committee. I had an exceptional committee and will continue to shout their praise from the mountain top.
Mothers are special people. Mothers are special woman. Mothers are those special woman who have and continue to lookout for your best interest in spite of yourself. They are the women in your life that have kept you going. They have kept you on the difficult path because they know that the fire of life creates strength for the ages. Mothers do not see genetics, they give love because we deserve it.
Mother’s day is an anti-climax. It is a let down. It is not sufficient to celebrate the depth of love I have for my mothers. In spite of the inadequacy of the day, I want to express a sentiment not said often enough. Mother I love you. Mother I love you because you have been and continue to be my safe resting place. Thanks for the love and the pain. Thanks for the joy and let down. Thanks for the commitment to a better me. Thanks, because you have been my champion and I will continue to be yours.
As the sun rises above the gray misty sky I remember. I sit facing the sun with the warmth slowly climbing up my arm and bathing my face. There is a cool breeze that ruffles my shirt and the stars and stripes above me. There is peace in silence. The chirp of a distance bird can be heard and there is peace in her melody. I put my feet up and accept the gift that nature is giving. I accept because I have no control. I accept and love it because love is my only outlet.
I love because I need love. I am a lover because she requires it. Mother nature gives as she gets so I give love. Mother loves because she knows no other. I accept because I am her son.
There is loss but we have her gifts. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit. We are more resourceful than others credit us. We are more resilient than we can imagine. We are powerful, but only if we believe. We are greater and stronger than our loses. Our tears express our strengths. In our tears is expressed our resilience. In times of great loss we may crack, but we will not break. The cracks only serve to expose the depths of our strength. We hold ourselves together in spite of the tears. We hold ourselves together because of our tears.
We are sad and we are happy. We are complex and simple. We are strong because it is required. Our strength is required and is ever-present because we know no other way.
Mother nature gives and she takes, but we are strong because she has strengthen us.
Happy are our days, because we have the strength of our tears.
Often life gets in the way of living and we get carried away with the emotional. The beauty is in the living not in the life. Our experiences are the sum total and the after life is irrelevant. That view of life is much disputed, but it is my view. The constant attempt of the religious to guilt us into prescribed behaviors is admirable only in that it has so thoroughly succeeded.
The complaints that will spring from my expression of this opinion is so perfectly conjured, by the religious, as to make even the most noncommittal give credit to those views. The oddity is that the same people who believe in the absolute power of scientific evidence in the care of patients ignore the validity of those rules to justify their beliefs.
As I tell the story I lost my religion in the sixth grade when a teacher seeing I was bored gave me a book about the solar system. Not far into reading about our tiny part of the universe the story of creation as proclaimed by Genesis lost all meaning. As a 9-year-old I was not sure about what I was reading, but the seeds were planted.
Those seeds grew into my love of science and evidence. I will allow you your belief structure as long as you do not attempt to guilt me into compliance with your view of the universe. I will acknowledge the evidence and your freedom to do otherwise. I am comfortable with the knowledge that I am not in control of the universe. I am comfortable that your religious convictions do not give you any more understanding of the universe.
Religion is about ignoring the uncertainty and providing platitudes to explain the unexplained. I will stand with the evidence and follow it where it leads. I can live with the uncertainty and strive to find the evidence to answer the important questions. Because I am looking for evidence does not make me any less of a person than you are. It makes me less ideological.
Enjoy your Easter, while I continue to look for the evidence.