Contemplating time and life
Apologies for my long break. I had hoped to be away for just two weeks but, as fate would have it, two weeks turned into a few more.
We don’t seem to have enough time. Many persons complain that there are not enough hours in a day. Now it seems that there are not enough minutes in an hour. Is it just me? When I was younger, it felt as though time was dragging along. Now time seems to be speeding up.
I actually hear several people say the same. While we know that time is the same, the amount we wish to get done or have to do consumes our time. We live in an age where we have many more demands. The time we have will definitely appear shorter. The ad which talks about adding quality to your years rather than quantity rings true. We have to live quality years rather than expecting to live lots of years.
The increase in sudden deaths in Barbados brings this reality even closer to home. While we all can strive to live healthier lives by eating better, having regular check-ups, exercise etc., death is inevitable and can come at any time and at any place. Whether we are fit or sick, death will strike. What we as human beings must do is always be prepared for that reality. Very often, we overlook that reality and instead of preparing for it, we live as though we will live forever. Those with faith in a life after death will concur with the following statement found among the sayings from teachers of my faith: “Work for your worldly life as if you are living forever, and work for your Hereafter as if you are dying tomorrow.”
What we put into life is certainly what we will get out. If we all recognize that we have such a short time to do so, then it makes it even more urgent that we all get to the task. I speak to the issue of limited time as events over the past weeks, which consumed my time and diverted me from writing, caused me to reflect upon the time we are really given on this earth and what we can do and should do.
In early July, I got an invitation from the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies in St Vincent to present on the topic of the Middle East Crisis and its impact on the Caribbean as part of their lecture series on international events. I welcomed the opportunity as I have never been to St Vincent. As I began the flight to Kingstown, the captain made the point that St Vincent is only 100 miles away from Barbados. So close to home but in all my years of travelling to many parts of the world, I never visited such a close neighbour. And such is the reality I suspect for many Caribbean people.
We travel regularly to North America and perhaps Europe but we overlook our very own Caribbean. I know many persons will argue that airfares to the United States are often times cheaper than a ticket to a Caribbean island. That is an ongoing struggle that never seems to be properly resolved.
Making each Caribbean destination attractive and affordable by way of travel and stay to fellow Caribbean travelers can allow a momentum to be carried where intra-regional travel becomes the norm. I am sure my opinion is not new or un-tested. Just we need more people saying the same more often and hopefully those who can make the change, will hear.
St Vincent is a wonderful island with wonderful people. Didn’t get to visit the Grenadines but hopefully one day I will go back. Much appreciation to the staff of the Open Campus who were great hosts, especially Mr Ronnie Davis who pulled the whole event together.
Many Vincys have a close relation to Barbados either through the fact they have to transit here for international flights, although I saw the new airport being built which may cause that reality to disappear; or through those that choose Barbados to study, work and reside. I also came across the reverse, a Barbadian with St Vincent connection, choosing to work in Kingstown because it was easier to get a job there than it was to get one in Barbados.
My tour of the island took me to the west and the east and several historical landmarks. As noted by one writer, Louise Mitchell, “the history of St Vincent is a compelling story of settlement, occupation, resistance, fortitude, battle, attempted genocide, and survival. The conquest of St Vincent eluded the British for far longer that they would have liked.”
The writer goes on to point out that historical evidence points to human presence on the island from as early 160 CE. And further, in 1676 prior to British colonial conquest, the island had some 3 000
Africans. Several theories are given to explain how the island came to have Africans but the writer suggests that while not a popular viewpoint, she believes they “may have navigated their way to St Vincent, by simply following the Trade Winds and the natural ocean currents, long prior to the trade in enslaved people.”
The significance of these Africans, however, is that it is they who shaped the history of colonial resistance on St Vincent.
It was the persons of African descent that put up the most successful fight against the British dominion of St Vincent. And it was these persons who were to become known as the Garifuna and later to be exiled to Belize.
The ancient petroglyphs (Rock Art) of St Vincent was also part of my tour. I am told such exists in Barbados but not well known to the public. Would like the opportunity to see them. These are the evidence of people who left footprints for future generations, markings as to their existence. They carved their time on this earth into the rock and it remained for us to witness today, thousands of years after.
Such is the time we have on this earth, to leave behind some markings that would be of interest and benefit to future generations. The good we do should not be interred with our bones, as the words found in that famous Shakespearean play Julius Caesar suggest, while the evil lives after us. The good we do should live on and be of help to those who come after us.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: suleimanbulbuliahotmail.com)