Monday, May 19, 2008

The Magnificent Seven

Every direction you turn, every paper you pick up, every news channel, all talk about the negative happening in a country and in the world. It really makes you wonder is there any good, any beauty, anything to enjoy in this world. I rarely watch the news, rarely read the papers cause it seems as if it’s the same thing, every single day. There is good out there, there are people out there doing good, embracing and sharing the human spirit, it just never makes the headlines. So I decided that I wanted to write about the good and beautiful norms and traditions of the people here, the things that make this island so unique.

We have these seven old Colonial Buildings called The Magnificent Seven that line the Savannah. I love old buildings and while these edifices are indeed impressive, I want to highlight seven things, the genuine Magnificent Seven that make a Trinidadian a Trinidadian. These are not things that have been financed by foreign powers but rather have been developed as original Trinidadian-grown traits and behaviors. I not only have some of these traits but I really admire, respect and regard deeply how they overlap and intertwine into every aspect of everyday life and add to the rich tapestry of my delightful, diverse, gem of an island that I call home.

The first magnificent norm is perhaps the most obvious: the ever-ready capacity of Trinidadians to enjoy life, leisure and the passage of time. It goes without saying that we Trinis love a “lime” (Trinidadian slang for a group of friends hanging out together. It can be large or small, pre-arranged or impromptu. It often involves food, and ALWAYS requires beverages (not necessarily alcoholic, but it certainly may). It is NEVER a hurried activity. It can occur on a beach, by a river, at someone's home, or on a street corner.) It goes way beyond this ordinary pastime and yields significant evidence of its utility.

It speaks of a parent’s joy in simply sitting and watching their developing children having fun at the beach with friends, easily forgetting the multitude of work and other responsibilities they might otherwise be engaged in. It speaks of the growing child’s productive use of their daily recess and lunch time to discover themselves, relate to others and dream of what the future may hold. It speaks of the benefits of time spent in peaceful solitude, not doing anything, where one comes languorously to an understanding of their place in the world or how they can help to change it. All these ways of valuing, using and thinking about one’s time on earth are splendid reminders to enjoy it and not necessarily “make the most of it.”

Second on my list would be the extensive and generous sharing of positive emotions and genuine, spontaneous displays of non-sexual physical affection. To smile, laugh and joke with each other in all kinds of settings is commonplace and so is the public display of affection. This includes the many hugs, touches and smiles between men and women, girls and boys and parents and children but also between young women and other young women, fathers and babies, even men and men. It is not done in way that might suggest homosexuality but more naively carefree, bodily expressions of true feelings that say I’m glad to see you and be with you, I like you and wish to share this warm feeling with skin to skin contact.

The loving public care of babies is especially very touching, which actually reveals a lot about the nature of native parenting. We live in a time where many places seem to do whatever they can to physically distance themselves from these newcomers with bulky plastic infant carriers, car seats, strollers, etc. The level of affection between adults and infants bodes well for the future human capital here.