Making sense of oneself

As I get older, I find I try to capture in memory more fully than ever the passing marvellousness of an ordinary day by writing down what happens in a journal.

Uncluttering one’s life

About to arrive at the age of 86, so suddenly after being born, I recognize very clearly that I am slowing to a jog, approaching a hobble.

A blessing for my mother

Perhaps my oldest memory—I must have been two or three—is of my mother hugging me at night when she put me into bed and holding the palms of my hands together while she said a simple prayer, which I soon learned by heart.                                

The value of time

My father was a gentle, calm, and wise man. “He never raised his voice except to give encouragement nor raised his hand except to greet a friend.” But in his gentleness he was also strong in his convictions.

Cracking under pressure

There are times when even the best sportsmen fail not for want of talent, pride, serious application and commitment.

We are not rational

We often wonder why those around us – very much including those in supreme authority – are making such a mess of things.

The birth that re-started history

So many Christmas poems from which to choose. E.U. Fanthrope’s lines:   “And this was the moment When a few farm workers and three Members of an obscure Persian sect   Walked haphazard by starlight straight Into the kingdom of heaven.”   And always, but I won’t quote it again, the greatest Christmas poem of them all, T.S.

Even in the worst of times

Even in the worst of times – and who can doubt that the times are pretty bad– reading comes to the rescue by revealing other worlds of experience where cruelty and mindlessness and man’s inhumanity to man do not continually have the upper hand.

In Canada

My wife and I have just returned from one of the great cities of the world. 

Ageing well

I apologise if this appears to take the form of a health and fitness page in this newspaper.

Read to Succeed

I remember “Read to Succeed” was once the theme of the activities and exhibitions organised to celebrate the work of library services for the children of Guyana.

The habit of finding things to do

My younger friends – and at my advanced age virtually everyone is younger – particularly Generation Xers (born 1965-79) and the millennials (born 1980-2000) – complain about being over-scheduled and over-committed.

The responsibility to use words accurately

A very great asset is the ability to write well. Just as the gift of speech first separated man from animal, so has the ability to set speech down in written form gradually raised man up from his first beginnings as brute to the high level of science, art, and social organisation which he now precariously occupies.

The Robin Hood principle abandoned

It would cost US$700 million a year to immunise 250 million children in poor countries against polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis. 

The mark of a free society

In the old Soviet Russia one of the more outrageous features of life was that their greatest creative writers for years were barred from publishing in their own native land.

Silver linings

Samuel Johnson, that great man of letters and heavyweight of good sense in eighteenth century England, commonly said the people whom we should most beware in the world are those who constantly insist on finding fault, those whose clouds are never lit by silver linings, those who everlastingly “refuse to be pleased.” I am often reminded of Sam Johnson’s suspicion of such people and their moanings and gnashing of teeth when I read the newspapers or look at the news and commentaries and interviews and panel discussions on our TV channels.

Guidelines

At the ripe old age of eighty-five, when one is very aware that it is time to make sense of what has happened in one’s life, I have become convinced about two major things.

What is the good life?

Having retired years ago after 52 years in the sugar industry, including working closely with governments and regional institutions along the way, if there is one thing I have learned it is the extreme frailty of all grand plans.

Is CARICOM still relevant?

In 1991 and 1992, when I was working with the West Indian Commission, a feature of many of the presentations made by scores of experts and academics and businessmen and educators was how often they cited other countries as influences we needed to recall or examples we should strive to emulate.

Please teach poetry to the children

I have said before, and will keep on saying until my strength gives out, that there is nothing more important in society than teaching the growing generations to express themselves in good, clear, concise, forceful English.

Truth does not grow old

Good poetry holds its truth and relevance throughout the ages. It may retail the facts and thinking of its own era, but part of it will always express what is eternally true and recognizable.

How to deal with terrorism

The world is terror-stricken. A condition of advanced paranoia is spreading everywhere. The fastest growing business in country after country is the security business.

The truth about love

At thirteen, I think it was, I was reading love poetry. At seventeen, love-lorn often, I was writing it – very badly, full of inconsolable sighs and lamentation, but at least I was trying.

Travelling

My tutor at Cambridge, Professor Nick Hammond, authority on the history of ancient Macedonia and on the life of Alexander the Great, used to coach me on what he called “exercises of the mind.” He knew I played tennis for the University and he put it to me that just as I trained hard for the tennis so should I stretch to exhaustion the muscles of the mind.

The end of the world

This is an easy column to write. A previous column I wrote about the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, drew a lovely response from readers who told me by notes, emails, even phone calls, overseas and at home, that they enjoyed this poet very much.

Deaths that tear the heart

Of all the expressions of unconsolable loss I have read concerning the death of anyone greatly loved, the following lament by Henry James, the novelist, when his older brother, William James, the scientist and philosopher, died is the most heartfelt: “I sit heavily stricken and in darkness – for from far aback in dimmest childhood he had been my Elder Brother; and I still, through all the years, saw in him, even as a small timorous boy yet, my protector, my backer, my authority and my pride. 

No fort is strong enough

In last week’s column I wrote about a pervasive anxiety about the state of things in general which currently focuses on the seemingly unstoppable spread of criminal activity and violent crime in society.

Fear of crime

The word angst derives from the German meaning fear, but signifying something a lot more than simple fear.