Started writing this to the somewhat surreal strains of Sheena Easton singing ‘For Your Eyes Only’ for about the 93rd time. It’s been on a loop with some other 80s pop faves in the hotel restaurant and is driving me slightly mad(der). But that is the only downside to the setting – looking out over the becalmed Caribbean Sea soon after a pretty hefty lightning storm (it is the start of the rains and hurricane season, as i never cease to remind people who might be remotely jealous of this assignment). Been in Jamaica for a Langham Partnership preaching conference (21-24th May) – having come for the same thing this time last year. Sounds cushy and it is certainly a real privilege to be involved. But having got to know some of the folks here reasonably well after two visits, i would still want to spend time with them even if they lived in the most inhospitable places on earth. But before bringing news of the conference in a later post, here are a few fun moments and observations.
For the other two facilitators on the conference, Gordon & Paul, these rules became rather a leitmotif for our week in Jamaica. I do think that there are some general principles to learn from here so felt it valuable to publicise them. In particular, i would like to draw attention to rules 2 & 3. Having ‘wound or sore’ is clearly a threat. But the clincher has to be the ban on ‘blowing of nostril’. How breathing is possible is not clarified. But I suppose hygiene is more important that respiration, when push comes to shove.
We had one morning free before the conference began, so Gordon & I made a pilgrimage to the place that Bob Marley is buried, at his birthplace of Nine Mile (about an hour and half’s drive up into the Blue Mountains). He died at the age of 36 from cancer in 1981. As a long-term fan, it was a real thrill and gave fascinating insights into Rastafarian way of thinking. Was amused by the somewhat ironic injunction in Rasta colours on the front gate stipulating “Smoking is Prohibited”. Incidentally, the colours are those of the Ethiopian flag and mean:
- Red – for the colour of the blood that runs in every living creature and especially every human being regardless of skin colour. This was especially important for Marley’s view of the world because he was the son of a white English-Jamaican and a local black Jamaican girl.
- Yellow – for gold and treasure and for the life-giving sun
- Green – for the earth and the life that it sustains.
We were given our tour by the renowned Fuzzy – an old school-mate of Marley’s – he was quite a character – and would sing various Marley songs at each stop around the small compound. A highlight from Fuzzy’s impressive repertoire was his rendition of Is This Love, in Bob’s actual minute bedroom, where there is appropriately enough a single bed. We were assured that this was Bob’s actual bed as well – but somehow i doubt it. But maybe i’m too much a cynic:
IS THIS LOVE by Bob Marley
I wanna love you, and treat you right
I wanna love you, every day and every night
We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads
We’ll share the shelter, of my single bed
We’ll share the same room, JAH provide the bread
Is this love, is this love, is this love
Is this love that I am feeling (repeat)
I wanna know, wanna know, wanna know now
I got to know, got to know, got to know now…
Incidentally, JAH is the Rasta name for God – presumably a contraction of Yahweh – and the Old Testament and its apparent links with the royal house of Ethiopia and the former Emperor of Haile Selassie (who was actually identified with God). For more details see the Wiki article on the Rastafari movement. What especially struck me was the syncretism of it all though – especially around his tomb. We couldn’t take photos of that, which was fair enough, but we could walk around it inside the small purpose built mausoleum. It was full of OT imagery and even some identifications with Jesus. The stained glass window of Bob as the ‘Good Shepherd’ was rather too much, and i can’t help but feel that he would have been appalled by that. But there were also Hindu and Buddhist images and sayings that had been left there by people, as well as bits and pieces from Bob’s life (like his football and guitar and Bible).
Behind the house was a small hill which was known by locals as Mount Zion – so now i can honestly say that i’ve visited Mount Zion (a real place of pilgrimage) and I produce a photo of it here in glorious Technicolor. Fuzzy also sang us this one. Somehow all felt very ‘authentic’!
IRON LION ZION by Bob Marley
…I’m on the rock, (running and you running)
I take a stock, (running like a fugitive)
I had to run like a fugitive just to save the life I live
I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion (repeat)
Iron Lion Zion, x3
Iron like a Lion in Zion…
Fortunately, this is still the only WallMart on Jamaica. And long may it continue and thrive in independence and prosperity, away from the clutches of the evil capitalist empires of the west. Quite a local character in the town of Runaway Bay where we were staying – Ziggy was only too delighted to have his photo taken. What a dude. Certainly has much more style than its commercial namesake, and definitely more soul. A great poke in the eye for rampant globalisation.