Monday, July 23, 2007

Haiti and the Law of Attraction

Everyone in the States is wild about the book "The Secret" which in a few short pages summarizes the Law of Attraction. Simply stated it is that Universe gives us what we ask for: we draw unto us the life experiences that we wish to experience. This, some of the "teachers" explain, is why 5% of the people have 95% of the wealth. The same theories have been put forward for years, by Deepak Chopra in "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" and through countless books on New Age Thought. I am not completely rushing about with my hands waving above my head shouting "I believe I believe" but on many levels, I do believe. Many times in my life I have received exactly what I envisioned. The harder I envisioned, the sharper the manifestation.

The workings of the law of attraction hits hard in Haiti. I sat in a room with some Haitians from Anse A Pitres, on the southern border of the Dominican Republic. They were part of a bi-national theater group which had been started by Jessica Heckert, a most remarkable Peace Corps worker, who was twice evacuated from Haiti and went on to finish her service on the border. The Haitians sat in a circle and started to sing - piercingly beautiful singing. One of the songs was a lullaby, telling the baby the facts of life - that the rich will get richer and the poor will have nothing. I contrast that to the song I was sung - that if I stayed much longer in my cradle, which my perverse parents had placed high in the treetops, I would be smashed to smithereens. That sort of song certainly fosters a sense of self determination. No one else is going to do it for you.

There is a fine line between poverty and simplicity. I remember watching the tourists come to Haiti, thirty years back when there were still plenty of tourists. They seemed to divide in half, into those who were immediately enamored by the spirit of the people and those who were uncomfortable with the poverty. And not just uncomfortable with the poverty but with the smiles of the people in it. We are raised in America, at least, to believe that money can buy happiness. Or a fine replacement for it. And if these people are so poor, why is there so much art, so much music, so much sort of unbounded joy? I often thought that if I stood still long enough in Haiti, someone would paint me with the same bright colors that they used on their buses, the tap-taps.

Bob Corbett, who runs an English list-serve on Haiti, and is probably the foremost foreign authority on the country, believes that Haiti's original dream, of small self-sufficient farms, is a valid one. They lacked the needed knowledge for the preservation of their land in their farming techniques. They still do. But their land is not polluted. It was never used to produce toxic material. It does not have heavy metal toxins. It does not have the noise of traffic, or the hum of electrical wires.

The measures of our world on how well nations are doing are skewed to material prosperity, education, health care, longevity. And by those measurements, Haiti always scores near the bottom. Yet if we were to change the scale to "who can do the most with the least?" or "who makes the lowest carbon footprint on the planet?" Haiti would perhaps score a lot higher.

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