South Florida is hot, and so is the temperature of our society, near and far. Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Barcelona, Spain and the provocative rhetoric between the United States and North Korea has turned up the heat for all of us. Some of us devote much of our time to meditation and contemplation of the timeless peace and love of the Divine, thereby giving little attention to current affairs, or enjoying a respite from worry about them. Many others are constantly concerned about the current global climate. Can we walk in balance between the two worlds of spirit and matter, neglecting neither, and bringing an awareness of both to our choices in life?
I am staying in North Miami Beach with my good friend Alicia, a Cuban American who is faithful to her roots even as she embraces her long-time home in these United States. She and her extended family worked very hard when they came from Cuba, with absolutely nothing, in the 1960s. Through that hard work she and her siblings, including my ex-mother-in-law, are able to enjoy a comfortable retirement in this amazing country.
Alicia is one of the very best cooks and dancers I have ever known and I have been the grateful recipient of her generous hospitality for over two weeks now. She says she is happy to have me.
She dances in her kitchen literally and figuratively as she works her culinary magic. I am eating her Cuban food with delight and appreciation. With any luck it will put some meat on my bones.
This is a traditional meal of rice, yucca with olive oil and garlic, picadillo (a dish made from ground beef that puts our American hamburgers to absolute shame) and her delicious lentils. Truly amazing flavors and textures! Garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, dry white wine, lime juice and olive oil are the fundamental ingredients of the Cuban sabor.
Alicia’s older sister, Dora Quintana,
is now living with Alicia’s daughter Ivette, and Ivette’s husband Richard Pérez.
Richard, originally from Uruguay, and Ivette are family oriented and very loving towards Dora. Dora would perhaps have gone to live with her daughter in Connecticut, or with Juan in Monterey, but neither place is warm enough for her, nor does either place have the Cuban ambiente so central to their lives here.
Ivette and Richard own and run two nail salons, both of which feature Latin manicurists and clients. Alicia sometimes spends the day in one or both of the salons just to be with her daughter and the friends she has made there.
Ivette is the queen of the operation and takes care of all aspects of the business, including wishing each customer well. Ever since I met her when she was eight years old I was struck by the ease and facility with which she would meet and greet strangers, neighbors and family. Her work is the natural extension of her love of people.
When I first got here after days on the train, I simply enjoyed the creature comforts of a bed, a shower and good, home cooked meals, for days. Then I slowly started to think about my next steps. I have decided to go to a conference in New Jersey in September and there are some people I would like to visit between here and there. How best to get from point A to point B? I have divested myself of all my wheels now and am realizing how truly amazing wheels are–they greatly speed up the process of transportation. But wasn’t I espousing the virtues of slow travel just a few short months ago? Yes, I was, and I still do. Taking the time to walk or ride a bike at 3 miles per hour through beautiful countryside is delightful and centering. But when time does not permit and distances are great, other methods become necessary.
My pilgrimage, short or long as it has been, has served its purpose, which was to enable me to live at peace with the world as it is. I am content to do my small part in making my life an expression of peace. It is enough.
It seems to me that automobiles, and even airplanes, would not exist if not for a Power much, much greater than us. That they are destructive to our environment is not because they are inherently evil but because we have not yet discovered how to manufacture and fuel them in a sustainable way. The Amish may resist using electricity, automobiles and other conveniences of modern civilization indefinitely but most of us cannot, and will not. On the contrary, the vast majority of human beings want to increase their use of such conveniences. The automobile is not going away unless we do. What must happen, then, is its continued refinement and improved efficiency.
Do you think automobiles can ever be sustainable? I would love to know your thoughts. Please share them with me, or with us.
My preoccupation with the environment may be a moot point in the light of the social unrest we are witnessing in our country and beyond. The threat to our security posed by people’s fears and hatred of one another is perhaps far greater and more imminent than the threat of environmental devastation. We could do a lot of damage to ourselves and the environment in a very short time if we were to start any new wars beyond those we are engaged in already.
As corporations refine their ability to increase their profits more and more, and to monopolize all sorts of businesses, the average person, in the United States and especially abroad, finds himself less and less able to make a decent living. I think this is at least partially responsible for the social unrest we see erupting in so many cities around the world today. If a man cannot make a living he may begin to look around for someone to blame. If his suspicions and prejudices are fanned by men in power and who seem to have what he wants, he may become even more angry, and violent. If those he condemns and opposes are equally angry and unfit emotionally and spiritually, violence will prevail. And violence, with or without the weapons of mass destruction that are at our disposal, is tragic and brutal and we all suffer as a result of harms done to others.
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and César Chavez are examples of men who made tremendous strides toward upholding the inalienable human rights of the people they represented. They did so through the practice of non–violent resistance. Rather than taking up arms against the powers that dominated them they used organized efforts to resist or undermine the will of their oppressors. Boycotts, strikes, and other non-violent campaigns ultimately did much more than any attempt to physically overcome their mighty rulers or employers.
To bring more justice, acceptance and love to any situation I need to have them within myself. I cannot transmit something I haven’t got. Violence toward others only strengthens the will and anger of my perceived opponent; love and acceptance, on the other hand, is disarming.
From here I’m heading north to the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. I once traveled up and down the intracoastal waterway in a sailboat, with friends, motoring much of the time. It was not unlike walking or riding slowly on a bike; it took months to get from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was another interesting journey at a much earlier stage in life, and a beautiful one. This trip up the eastern seaboard will be different.
Stay tuned and stay cool. ?