The hidden (lost?) soul of Bajan life
GET A LIFE. You know the expression. Could someone seriously urge you thusly?
Do you have a life? Do we Barbadians have a life? And where is the soul of our lives? That aspect that has to do with emotion and sentiment?
In this 21 by 14 place, we seem mostly governed by the flavour of the day or week or month. And it seems to sweep across the island, gathering up almost everybody.
It makes me wonder what we are in our individual lives, so easily taken over as we are by the passing parade of other things, so easily consumed by whatever happens along, so eager to be part of the wall to walling by something.
We seem satisfied to subordinate our own emotional and experiential growth to the imposed “issues” of the day – to be in muzzles (as my “dog muscles” last week ought to have been – sorry).
So, is the average Barbadian’s existence a constant search for escape from his own real life? What about the wife/husband/partner, the children, the neighbourhood, friends, emotions, fantasies, yearnings, labours of love, dreams, our health, our hopes, our stresses, causes, self-actualizings? Not as titbits of gossip or boastings or trends for dissection but as the true sharing of ourselves, the stories of our lives, the tracks of our existence?
Why is it that so little of what we talk about shows us as deeply human, with emotional lives, with personal experiences, with cravings for community, for connection?
Why are so many of our conversations not personal, not emotion-centred?
And why does it sound so much as if we think that what makes us human is analysis/ evaluation, rather than emotion, entering into experience, connecting?
Take Saturday’s tragedy. So many of the responses to Angel’s end had to do with a newsish/gossipy chasing of the “why”. If it was a why that led to an entering into the hurt, the pain of others or of a tormented soul or engagement of our own stresses, our own experiences, our own handling of difficulties, it would not be troubling, but the why was often a pursuit of an outsider’s titillative interest in juicy details or a gateway into a self-glorifying dismissal of the supposed choice the deceased made.
Of course, if that was not the focus of conversation, a discursive examination of politics or a verbal feasting on the entrails of the storied foibles of politicians would have been taken its place. (It seems that Barbadians, having watched too much of CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC and, yes, the CBC Evening News, believe that politics is the absolute centre of their world.)
Or it would have been sports. Or one celebrity or another. Or some big “cultural” event. Oh, how narrow are our engagements of each other!
Now, I am not saying that we should not have space for these things. They are, indeed, a part of our existence. But to be so constrictedly devoted to them is to lose ourselves, our souls, to miss out on chances for real connection with others, this latter the consequence of the sharing of our experiences, our stories, our emotions – not our analyses or our gossip-mongering (which is essentially a kind of evaluation).
What about our loving (I don’t mean our sexual involvement – that falls under our bragging!), our cherishing, our love for mother, father, child, our wonderful interactions, our appreciations, our wonderment, our tendernesses, our psychological aches, our struggles, our funks?
Materialism and pleasure-centredness and man’s natural egotism contribute, surely, to the absence of such, but these days, man’s recasting of himself as mostly a blob of opinion, a being of opinion, has also fast-tracked his descent into disconnection from, and insensitivity to, fellow beings – except those who share his various philosophies.
Our abandonment of story (except to tell jokes or boast or gossip or to deliver thinly veiled admonishment) may be a major contributor. Neither in the public nor in the private sphere do we plumb the narrative depths of emotive authentic “personal” experience. We have marginalized ourselves.
And the once ever-present peculiarly Bajan physical paling seems to have morphed into a psychological guard wall – either built up by others (through mean responses to our sharing of experiences) or by ourselves (through self-indulgence).
Do we now so crave partition from others that we simply wait to be consumed by every shift of the national wind (Crop Over, Reggae Festival, a politician’s statements, The Alexandra School Commission Of Inquiry, Garcia) so that we can play a non-emotional non-contact “sport”?
I, too, have not escaped. Oh God!
.Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]