by Kenneth Justice
~ “I haven’t smelled this much weed since my college days 30 years ago” said my friend.
Last week we were sitting at a trendy little beach-side restaurant alongside the Caribbean Sea in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is in Central America with the Pacific Ocean on one side of the country and the Caribbean Sea on the other side.
The Caribbean Coast gets a lot of flack in the travel brochures as being the ‘Seedier” part of the country which tourists should avoid…..but that is mainly due to racism, ignorance, and the ‘unofficial’ apartheid that lasted until 1975 when all of the Jamaican immigrants were forced to live along the Caribbean Coast and any who wandered too far west towards the capital city would be arrested. Of course, this small historical fact is left out of the history books since its not the kind of thing people are proud to tell tourists.
Drugs are definitely abundant along the various beach towns that hug the Caribbean Sea, and on weekends its not unusual to be sitting at a restaurant and see the various patron’s smoking pot and passing joints from table to table. Although drugs are technically illegal in Costa Rica, the laid-back Pura Vida philosophy toward them is that as long as you’re not getting into trouble the police will leave you alone.
The only real inconvenience regarding the drugs is that every 15 minutes or so you have to turn down one of the many Rasta-Men who come to your table hoping you will let him roll you a joint or sell you some cocaine for later (while smoking Weed is acceptable in public; doing cocaine is apparently something you better do in the privacy of your room or you’ll find yourself in jail pretty quickly).
The Rasta- Men are fascinating people and over the course of my week in the Caribbean this past trip I spent countless hours talking with them about life, their philosophy and everything else in-between.
The vast majority of them are vegetarian and while they obviously smoke pot; they themselves tend to never touch the more harsh drugs like cocaine (kind of ironic since they are more than willing to sell cocaine to the tourists). Yet, its not their dreadlocks, or accents, music, or cool-beach side attitude which mesmerizes me….its the way they connect with strangers and treat them like brothers and sisters that they’ve known all their lives.
Even if you tell them you don’t smoke marijuana it won’t put them off from sitting down at your table and hanging out with you. Rasta want to hang out, connect, share stories, and they don’t have any walls or the typical barriers that so many of us from the Western World walk around with in order to protect ourselves from others; they are who they are and they are not fearful of you seeing them.
Working in the jail and at a rehab clinic, so much of my time was spent trying to connect with the various clients and break through the multitude of emotional and psychological walls that they had built up over years and sometimes decades due to chemical substance abuse, bad relationships, physical and emotional abuse they had suffered from those close to them, and more.
So for me, it was refreshing to hang out with these Rasta who live in an entirely different world than I…. and yet to be treated by them as though we’d grown up together and known each other since childhood.
On one hand, what do I really have in common with them? Born in Chicago and reared in the Midwest my entire life, massive amounts of hours spent commuting in traffic, so much of my life revolving around schooling, college, studying, and computer technology overwhelming every moment of every day……….and they the simple Rasta who live in a third-world country, who spend most of their days hanging out with each other and sharing stories………aren’t we simply too different to be able to connect?
I suspect that is the problem with a lot of people in the Western World; they think they can’t connect with people who are too different.
—-) How often do millionaire businessmen/women hang out in the ghetto’s and drink coffee with homeless people?
—-) How often do Presidents and Prime Minster’s really spend hanging out with the middle class and experiencing real life?
—-) How often do pastors and priests step outside of their study and truly get to know the people of their community who hang out at bars, pubs and coffee houses?
My personal belief is that we are social creatures who have an innate desire to connect with humanity, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe its the cultural distinctions of the Western World which has led so many of us into being fearful of being open and honest with others.
Whether its the evening NEWS where we’re almost exclusively told that the world is filled with violence, murders, stabbings, and drug busts. Or its the bullying that is allowed to exist in schools; there are so many elements of Western Culture which seem to reinforce within us an inclination to close up and prevent others from seeing our true self.
I believe that its through connecting with each other, through sharing our experiences, and by breaking down the barriers that we’ve erected in our lives that we will each be able to grow and mature in a more healthy manner.
For me as a Christian, I have a lot of work to do in setting aright the intolerance and bigotry which the Church perpetuated for many hundreds of years, and I’m reminded that I have a responsibility to be open, less judgmental, more accepting, and to practice peace, for as the verse says, For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.
Just a few thoughts as I sat here drinking my coffee this morning,
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour visiting 100 coffee shops throughout the 2014 year. Check my website for dates and locations.
Categories: Culture & Society