I have some fans who say they look forward to this column in every issue of the newspaper. Trust me, I really don’t want to disappoint on the occasions that I do. This is my profession, to write, and I feel fulfilled when I can satisfy my readers.
In Belize, I would say that the majority of black men who are gainfully employed have more than one woman. For sure I caught your attention with that categorical statement opening this paragraph. You know what I’m saying is true, but such things are not discussed in polite society. It’s possible that this column entered “polite society” years ago, because it is often these days that I think of a subject and then I say to myself, oh oh, better not fool around with that.
There was a time, roughly between 1969 and 1977, when yours truly was definitely not “polite society,” and I felt free to tell it like it was in those days. I was not making a living off my profession those days, however, and this had really negative implications for my responsibilities as a father.
Once I focused on parental responsibilities, that meant I had to give up some honesty. To write creatively, you have to be completely honest, you have to give your all emotionally. Serious.
I have an aunt on my father’s side who recently completed a novel. She is in her early eighties, at least, and the work took a lot out of her. She gave it her all, and I hope she can get it published. The novel needs some editing, but it is a major, massive effort, and will be historic in Belizean literature.
I don’t know if I can find it in myself to give my all emotionally anymore, because I was hurt too often and too grievously when I was writing creatively. Crybaby vibes. Please allow me. The power structure can always find reasons to belittle or ignore your work when your work does not abide by their rules or cater to their bigotries.
There was a prophet who came along six centuries after Jesus Christ, and that prophet, called Muhammad, addressed the issue of men having more than one wife. I have said to you before in these pages that one of my friends, who is in the American foreign service, told me that in Botswana there are women who have more than one husband. I’m just saying that it appears this polygamy can cut both ways, so to speak.
I suppose the key thing is to avoid promiscuity, which is dangerous and unhealthy behavior. Christianity is very strict on the matter of monogamy – one man, one wife. Muhammad’s Islam created a new dispensation – one man, several wives. And the two religions have been hostile to each other ever since, for more than a millennium, so hostile as to have engaged and to continue engaging in murderous violence against each other, mostly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. What is the main bone of contention between Christianity and Islam? Have you ever stopped to think deeply about this? Judaism denies the divinity of Jesus Christ and is still waiting for the birth of a Jewish Messiah. Judaism’s adherents, in fact, may be considered as being responsible, to a great extent, for the crucifixion of the Christ. But, Judaism and Christianity are no longer hostile to each other. Today, Judaism and Christianity are like “sweet Josie and Betsy syrup.” Both subscribe to monogamy.
I think my aunt’s novel is a love story. The plot has colonial and early anti-colonial Belize for a backdrop. I consider it basically Christian in its values. There is mention of one or two male characters who have sweethearts, but these are not major players in Chrystel Lynwood’s novel. I believe that if the power structure here were to be fair, her novel will end up being studied in our secondary and tertiary schools.
The thing is, when my aunt began writing she had absolutely no guarantee that her work would reach an audience. She no doubt hoped that it would so reach, but she devoted herself to the exercise of creation because she had something she wanted to say, she had a story she wanted to tell, a story she had to tell. She wrote without an ego. She wrote because truth is good in and of itself. Truth may be excruciatingly painful, but truth, ultimately, is purifying.
I am so proud of my aunt. Evan X Hyde has succeeded in surviving as a professional writer, but I doubt I still have the courage necessary to deal with the truth, the courage to create. You know, the very first course I took at Dartmouth in September of 1965 was one called Comparative Literature 24. And the first novel Professor Peter Bien threw at us was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Ulysses, a revolutionary literary exercise in what Joyce referred to as “stream of consciousness,” represented academic trauma for this poor black youth from British Honduras. The American kids around me in the class were devastatingly comfortable; they seemed to have some previous knowledge of these matters which were so strange and intimidating for me.
James Joyce hated journalists. He considered journalists the very lowest species of writers on the planet. Where writing was concerned, he considered journalists the scum of the earth. This aspect of Joyce’s perspective, I will never forget. I never wanted to be where I am today. Needless to say, beloved, a story goes with this, and it is what it is.
Most people, after all is said and done, live lies. That is one reason why poets and musicians and painters and sculptors, who are a tiny minority of humanity, are often revered. They are different, and they are daring. They are treasured, more than bankers and politicians, because they not only express truth: they live truth. So, then, can you express truth if you don’t live truth?
In the bee hive, you know, the queen bee all on her own one day just ups and chooses one of her worker bees to mate with her. The genes of that fortunate but also tragic worker bee will be the genes of all the bee babies the queen bee will deliver. The artist is like the chosen worker bee, doomed. If he had a choice, would the fortunate but tragic worker bee have it any other way? In giving himself to the truth, the artist assures his own destruction. At the same time, he reaches for immortality.
Does it make sense? Does life makes sense when it must always yield to death? Silly earthling. Seek, and ye shall find. The truth will bring you pain. It is written.