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Saturday 21 July 2018
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Grounding ourselves



This long Easter weekend was exhilarating. For that I must thank my running partner. From six am runs to hikes up the hills, it was a blast. Also made a mental note to backpack with a thermos of coffee next hike. I could only have imagined it this time. Nevertheless, the view was worth the sweat.

I stopped for a moment on one morning run to look at the other runners and wondered, why would we all be on the road at six am or earlier, running around some field or doing hill training? What pushes people to engage in such a seemingly senseless activity? Take the idea of exercise out of the equation, what is it exactly that makes me personally want to go out at that hour when usually I would much prefer be at home catching up on sleep. But no, not on the mornings that I run. (With all this talk about running, may I state that I am not a competitive runner, lest you get the wrong idea). The main motivating factor here is that I love the high that comes after the hard work. You return to it the next day to see how much more you can push your physical and mental limits.

I recently read one theory which stated that it isn’t happiness that people search for, it’s excitement. I do tend to agree. What else motivates people to extreme sports or unconventional jobs rather than safe, monthly salaried jobs? Find your Passion, Live What You Love, those are some words that are meant to motivate us. Passion, Love all words in which excitement is hidden, like hidden sugars in food. You don’t see it, but it’s there.

While on the trail this weekend, another hiker, having picked a branch off a plant, walked all the way back with it. One of my group members remarked, "And he walks with the plant."

"Of course! Gotta lay down my roots," the hiker replied.

Off the cuff, joking but the comment returned to me (in the usual roundabout way that my thoughts tend to travel) when I passed by the site of the proposed Sugar Heritage Museum on the Brechin Castle compound, Couva, a day after, and saw a valuable project going to waste. The problem – politics – as usual. But that isn’t the only problem.

While chatting about it with some other friends, Nyla (photographer) remarked "I think the problem with Trinidadians is that we don’t really know who we are as yet so these projects won’t make sense to people." And I add, "Not even if there was the possibility of generating revenue."


Well that is a complex issue.

VS Naipaul’s observations in The Middle Passage echoed again. (I fear I may have used this book one too many times as a Bible of sorts. But then, books written centuries ago still dictate values here so what’s a little Naipaul. April 12th is on the horizon. I couldn’t resist.)

There isn’t anything wrong with borrowing ideas from around the world. The real trouble is that when we are to solve our local financial problems for instance it requires creative entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, people without a rooted sense of self are unable to expand their vision to fill in the gaping holes. A project like the Sugar Heritage Museum which was supposed to incorporate revenue generating branches, suffers because we still can’t see past oil and gas. We also can’t see that sugar isn’t the history of one group alone. This is the fault of popular discourse.

The popularity of Angelo Bissessarsingh’s work should provide a clue as to how interested people are in the history of the nation. The past came alive, packaged in a way that people could understand. The familiar made more sense through his words. Yet, unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with his vision and so, potentially valuable projects languish under the feet of administrations that take the advice, "live for today" a bit too literally.

A rootedness in ourselves and our own history opens our minds to the creative possibilities present for advancement. It makes us aware and dependent not on the sanction of some external entity but ourselves. The failure to get the museum project running isn’t the fault of the Government. It’s made up of former common citizens after all and like most common citizens they ask, "What is this history thing about again? That earning any money?"

In this sleepy island, what we need is to find a way to create some excitement (when Carnival is not around the corner) because from the growing population of potholes these days, we can assume that even fixing government property seems to be a boring task. Much less for talking about Sugar Heritage Museums and preservation of historical documents.


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