FISHING in Carbet, Martinique

It’s a full moon night and I am out on the quay,
that stretches out in the bay of Le Carbet.
A tiny hamlet on the isle of Martinique,
It sits in the shadow of the the volcano, Mt. Pelee.

The water is dead calm and silver bright
and I am at peace with the world in the still of the night.
There is one other present with his pole, bucket and bait,
Who has cast out his line and sits and wait.
I had seen him before, his eyes always fixed out to sea,
contentedly whistling, never acknowledging me.
I would glance into his bucket and it would always be empty,
but he always seemed happy as if he had caught plenty.

The village behind us slumbers and sleeps
Its passions and pursuits in silence it keeps.
From the cratered summit above, down to the beach palms below,
under the moonlight, it cast a ghostly glow

Curiosity pulls me to look again into his bucket,
so I walk casually towards him trying to show no interest.
The waves lap underneath against the trestle of the pier
and I stare nonchalantly into his empty container.

“Salui,” I greet him. “How goes the fishing?” I ask.
He turns not minding I’ve interrupted his task.
“Never better,” he says, his smile out shining the moon, amused at my puzzle over his empty vessel.

“I used to come fishing here with my father,” he replies to my pry. “He died 6 months ago.”

And I begin to understand why.

“When I’m here with my rod, and my line out to sea, my Dad returns and he fishes with me.”

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I GOT YOUR BACK: A vision of the results from the 2012 election

Got Your Back Kid

 The 2012 election was a choice between a vision of a society where each person looks out for him or herself, or in one that shapes a community of shared responsibility to watch each other’s back.

“I got your back.” From the home to the sport field to the foxhole that is the mantra of teamwork and community.

I am sincere when I say that I love my country. I believe that most others are too. But if that is true why are we so divided about what is right for our nation.

The answer lies in the difference in our visions of what we believe is in our own best self interest.

One side of the divide sees its interest best served when the interest of all is well served.

This vision is of a community in which we function individually, like the eye, and the hands of the body, but which  thrives best when all parts contribute their talent. When one member fails, it is in the self interest of the others, to support that member to become productive again.

It is an inclusive vision.

Pulling up bootstraps

The opposing vision’s belief  is that the human spirit soars best when free to rise, unfettered by obligations to the community, to reach the object of its gratification. The reward from going it alone providing the best incentive to engage in productive action. The consequences of personal failure is considered the best method of accountability to the group.

It is an exclusive vision.

This vision appears  rooted in a fear of the other, whom its adherents believe will deny them their seat at the table, and in a fear of scarcity that they believe will deny them their access to resources.

But the results of this 2012 election show that there is a growing majority that is committed to the inclusive vision of a shared interest that benefits all. The questions regarding  the paths to get there are policy, but the dedication to getting there is being accepted as our common destiny. In the presidential election years when a broader representation of the people vote,  hope is being expressed in a shared fate that is made better when the common good is the common denominator.

Self interest is better promoted by  a compassionate spirit than by an impregnable fence.

The journey to a perfect union begins with idealism, although it is very hard work that will move us towards the destination. And it is the ideal of us arriving there together that enriches the experience, and makes the hard work worthwhile.

The Journey Together

PLAY-THINGS:Families make the best ones

Toys R Us

My 88 year old Play-Dad had his leg amputated last week. He wasn’t aware it had happened.

A few days earlier his daughter had discovered him suffering a diabetic crisis, and had him rushed to the hospital, an infection raging through his body. She gave her consent to the amputation to save his life. I flew to Chicago afterwards to help encourage him, and joined the other family members at his bedside.

32 years ago when one of his sons and I became friends he had accepted me as one of his sons. By the time that son died, 6 years later, his other children had followed his lead and also accepted me as family.

Following surgery his condition improved slowly. We gathered together in his hospital room with our concerns, and shared memories and stories that are ingredients of family reunions. We were happy to see each other, especially those not seen the longest.

Dad’s general orientation came in varying degrees, with his ready wit the best indication of how close to his lovable self he was.

“Why are half the people in here so happy, and half so sad,” he asked one night.
“We’re all happy,” we replied. “Are you happy?”
“No,” he said.
“Why not?”
“No women here for me,” he said, cracking up the room.

What would be his reaction when he became aware his leg was gone?

This was our greatest worry. The loss of his will to live could be more fatal than his diabetes.

6 days after surgery, it was time for me to return home. I went to visit him early not yet prepared to say goodbye.

He was his most lucid, and also restless. He wanted his hands freed from the mitts that prevented him from using them to disturb his dressings and intravenous lines.

We watched as his free hands traced over his head, down his face, onto his torso, and below. We held our breath at the shock that registered on his face as he fingered the bandages that safeguarded his healing stump.

“I didn’t know my leg is gone. Why?”
“To keep you with us. We need your love to last.”

Silence.

“Are you okay with that, Dad?”
“You tell me to, so I have to be.”His weak smile uplifted up our hearts.

“I have to run, Dad,” I said, and kissed him on the forehead.
“Why can’t you walk?” he asked. This was his old self.
“I’m late for my flight.” I said and kissed his head again. “I love you, Dad.”
“I love you, son,” he said. “I love all my children.”

I left grateful for one of my most cherished gifts; the love of my “Play-Family”.
God Bless You Dad.

CONNECTIONS

 My friend Peter died today.

Although we had been good friends in high school I hadn’t spoken with Peter in nearly 40 years. And yet I felt a profound sense of loss at the news of his death.

Why?

I remember my father. He had separated from our family in my childhood. In his old age I visited him and he took a stroll down memory lane scrolling through the names of my mother’s relatives.

“Dead,” was my response to each one he mentioned.

At the end of his list he looked wistfully out the window, shook his head and said, “I’m the only one left.”

I could see the  will to live escaping his body as his shoulders slumped down and he turned away from the light. Six months later he died from loneliness.

It impressed me most because all the people he asked about, he had disliked. During the time he was married to my mother they rarely got along. Yet news of their death was as momentous to him as the people he loved. They represented a part of his connection to his time and space in this world.

In ways, both obvious and mysterious, our journey on the adventure of life is validated by the shared experiences of those who journey along the way with us. We become the sum total of our experience. And,that includes the lives that intersect and connect with ours. Each time we lose one, we also lose a part of ourself.

Thought for the Day: “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.” Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Digital Trails: hotel reviews

I have been booking hotel rooms recently, and have been fascinated by some of the reviews written by guests.

“I dont understand how (xxx).com still offers this hotel. It’s not even a hotel. It’s a crack house.

We needed a cheap place to stay for 8 hours before our flight. We got there after midnight for late check in. First of all no one at the front desk.

Had to wait 10 min for a scrary (sic) looking man to comes give me key. I told my wife stay in car while I checked the room.

I open the door took 2 steps in and walked right out. The smell was so bad. The walls were dirty. The wallpaper was falling off.

I would not stay there if they paid me.

Seriously.”

The reviews relate experiences, many with comic virtue and some with human ones.

Who are the people behind this complaint that conjures images from Psycho?

What do they look like? How do they sound? What are their stories? How do they see the world and why?

In the digital world we occupy today we leave a trail wherever we go. It carries great risk of the loss of privacy and forces us to double down against the overwhelming reach of Big Brother. But at the same time it is a space where our voices are there to be heard.

In an age when we rarely listen to each other these footprints in the digital sand around us can offer a glimpse into understanding the other. By comparing our images from these experiences to their reality we have an opportunity to comprehend the gap in our understanding that keeps us apart.