I am at odds.
On the one hand are the succinct, sage but fatalistic words of Trini (West Indian? African diaspora? Universal?) sayings like:
- “Like who like you”
- “Bat in yuh crease”
- “Goat doh make sheep”
- And the blood-chilling end to the fable that lives in different incarnations in different parts of the world (the scorpion and frog in Aesop, the morrocoy and scorpion in Trinidad): “It’s in my nature”.
I guess there’s a fatalism and pre-determination – a hopelessness – in some of those sayings that disquiets me sometimes. They’re practical pieces of advice. Invest in the people who care about you (assuming the “like” is not conditional). Work within your strengths and limitations. And some genetic predispositions do inform if not determine a person’s character and actions.
But then I think of the ennobling words of the ever inspiring Mother Teresa in her famous “Anyway” poem:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
She calls on us to see, do, and believe beyond the practical, the expedient, the fatalistic – something that appeals to this idealistic pragmatism, or perhaps pragmatic idealist.
The prescriptions aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, because at the end of the day we have the limitations of our own mortality and the basic things we need to survive. We cannot and must not be all things to all people. We must believe in something better, and invest in kindness and hope, or I’m not really sure what the point is at all.