Words to light the way

By Keith Subero

The tract on the wall in Margaret’s Sewing Shop in La Horquetta has been there longer than I have known the owner, so she claims.
Every time I visited her for garment adjustments I felt compelled to pause, reread, and absorb it, always with the promise to take away some of its truths.
A couple of weeks ago, Margaret reminded me that she had offered to make me a copy, and since she kept forgetting, the tract simply entitled, “Wisdom For All”, was now mine.
This tract now ranks among my most cherished gifts of the Christmas season. Probably because it sort of complements some of the material which includes Roger Laing’s old essay on “Violence and Love” from The Politics of Experience that I was reading—maybe for the fifth or sixth time.
In the final days of 2013, I guess my mood was like everyone else’s, very reflective, so some of the reminders of the tract I found a bit comforting, for example:

— Man’s great puzzle – Life
— Man’s greatest thought – God
— Man’s most expensive
indulgence – Hate
— Man’s greatest sin—Fear
— The greatest thing in man’s world—Love

Laing also raises some reminders about our lives. Violence and love, he sees as polar opposites, but he argues, interestingly, that we keep destroying ourselves through violence masquerading as love.
He writes that in extending true love, we let another person be—but with affection and concern. But through violence we attempt to constrain another person’s freedom; we attempt to force that person to act in a way we personally desire, with ultimate indifference to their own existence or destiny.
We all live in two worlds, he reminds us. There is an inner world, “our personal idiom for experiencing our bodies, other people, the animate and inanimate world, one of imagination, dreams, fantasy and beyond -- a spiritual space”.
Modern man, in gaining control of his outer world, largely lost touch with his inner experience. “We have become strangers to our own experience, we are alienated from ourselves,” Laing writes.
And as domains of experience become more remote, it requires greater open-mindedness even to conceive of our own existence. This devastation is the work of violence that has been perpetrated on each of us, and by each of us on ourselves.
“When we begin to rediscover our inner world, we come upon a small world that is in shambles. I refer to ourselves. Bodies half-dead: genitals dissociated from genitals. Without inner unity, with just enough sense of continuity to clutch at identity, that current idolatry. We live equally out of our bodies, and out of our minds,” Laing writes.
Haunted by what he sees as the destruction of our inner world, Laing questions: “Why has this happened?”
Every rational Trinbagonian, I feel assured, will be personalising this same question as we cross over tomorrow night into a new year.
As we look back on 2013, I expect that we will reflect deeply on its events, seeking to work out what has happened, assess how far we have travelled, and what we have achieved as a people.
The year, regrettably, has been a blood-soaked one. At most times, there was the atmosphere of uncertainty, one filled with questions, and at times, near chaos; the average citizen appeared to have been negotiating his daily life through a minefield.
Every aspect of his life and his society—his safety, family, schools, tradition, sex, youth, religion, the environment, his institutions, holders of public office—all came into question.
Fortunately, he was very much a part of that questioning. He is now more involved in the landscape; his voice was heard loudly in four elections—a tribute to the democratic process, and to the current Government for upholding it.

It also meant he experienced an awakening of sorts, and can no longer be considered naively unaware. The year showed that people are now in a deeper search not only for meaning in their lives, but also for that elusive narrative, the so-far-invisible web of power, greed, nepotism and corruption.
Holders of public office should be deeply concerned that after the signs of an awakening, citizens will be more alert and rational in 2014; their search for that secret centre will intensify; hidden agendas will no longer remain invisible. In every aspect, citizens will demand more of their political leaders.
A few days ago I was asked, “Who is your Man of the Year?” “Environmentalist, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, of course,” I replied, “but he tied with a man called Brian Ghent, who resigned from The UWI’s Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business to protect his personal integrity.”
The tract from Margaret’s Sewing Shop reminded me:

— The most dangerous person—the liar
— The greatest deceiver—one who deceives himself
—The greatest need—common sense

Sincere wishes to all for 2014.

* Keith Subero, a former
Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management.
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