I have not posted to this blog in a while and have decided to present some of my artwork here in a more open and informal forum as a way of encouraging dialogue about them.
My two latest paintings, one on canvas and the other, digital, are from the same spirit. Both represent Chaos and Hope as converging realities where the endgame in the resolution of conflict is always positive and beneficial. Both offer spiritual illumination and wisdom as a path to Peace and Harmony. The path is via equanimity, inherent in coexistence and non-judgment. It is in the understanding that all things influence each other, and that the power of presence and awareness is a universal vital force that is in alignment with Divinity and Goodness. This vital force moves light as well as darkness, life as well as death, goodness as well as evil. Peace comes from knowing which alignment is beneficial in the long term.
Converging Realities – The Emergence of Being Acrylics on canvas 24″ X 30″ April 2023
In Converging Realities – The Emergence of Being, multiple realities converge, yet coexist in a flattened timeline in a pictorial compositional division of four to one. Dark despair, chaos, and destruction are dominant in the upper square area (4/5) of the painting. Those realities range from old sea battles to modern bombed-out cities; from the mindless exploitation of the earth’s resources underlying the mercurial climatic changes that lead to killer cyclones, flooding, disastrous droughts and burning forests to the excessive unhealthy pollution of our air and waters. They are also in shining glass-towered metropolises that defy the gravity of an unfortunate human disconnect with Nature, and reflect, at the same time, monumental greed oozing from the sullied hands of indulgent individualism and consumerism. Near the centre of this multifaceted world in crisis is a vortex, rotating in an anticlockwise direction, and churning out much death and destruction. We are literally drowning in our own excessive obsession with wealth and privilege.
The bottom fifth of the painting expresses illumination of the human spirit coexisting harmoniously with the other realities, but from a space of deep consciousness. A golden aura radiates from a lone meditator, symbolic of divine presence. A second vortex appears on the left, rotating in a clockwise direction like a light warm breeze gently moving inland. The calm, powerful and radiant energy of this space mollifies the oil polluted river running through it, and allows a white lotus to bloom, symbol of purity, wisdom and resilience.
Phoenix’s Rising – Christina’s Woken Original digital painting April 2023
Phoenix’s Rising – Christina’s Woken: In a hypothetical near future, Chaos may seem victorious after defeating Liberty, the allegorical goddess-figure immortalized in Eugene Delacroix’s famous romantic era painting, Liberty Guiding the People, which represented the political upheavals in France during the early 1800s. Here the political upheaval is projected onto the American continent, where ironically, the Statue of Liberty, a gift of the French Republic, stands guard over all of Western Democracy. The potential death and destruction in any eventual civil conflict today are accentuated by some morbid images taken from Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. Another icon, taken from an American artist, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, symbolic of a traditional American ruralism, reinforces the resilience of the democratic spirit. With Liberty imaginably defeated in the flames of destruction of America’s great metropolis, she spectacularly reincarnates as Phoenix, rising out of the ashes, and bringing hope through light. Phoenix, with her gift to us of a large white lotus flower, symbolic of her wisdom and resilience, represents a not-so-new American ideal, and perhaps, a new democratic world order. She offers testimony and hope to American indigenous peoples, African-American descendants of enslaved people, all immigrants and refugees to America, then and now, from lands across the globe. She shows that perseverance in holding on to one’s dream, commitment to integrity, and sacrifice of immediate and superficial pleasures often follow a long and winding road to self-realization. Like the lotus flower that blossoms out of the mud, those that finally arrive home, understand that the route to get there was the real prize.
This blog is dedicated to my dear deceased friend, Rosie Sapadin, a French holocaust survivor, whose disposition, authenticity and gentleness despite her early challenges and later health issues will always be an inspiration to me; to Tirtzah, and our meditation group in Delray Beach, Florida, who allow me the space to grow and to share my idealism, my love and my conviction that we all can contribute in building a better world, one thought, one word, one action, one relationship and one community at a time.
Blessings, Andrew Pax, Lux et Amor
Please feel free to share your comments and your impressions below. I invite you also to visit the different rooms in my Art Gallery.
I originally published this article on nonviolence many years ago on Facebook Notes. It was subsequently republished by Joanna Haynes on her website Caribbean Inspired …Globally Wired, under the section Men and their Stories. I think it is appropriate and necessary to publish it anew here on my “Peace Blog” given the palpable disquiet over the growing threat to the health of modern democracies provoked by the war in Ukraine and the many other fuming hotspots elsewhere across the planet.
We cannot truly walk the path of nonviolence and hope for durable peace until we come to terms with the violence that is both in us and around us. Violence has become so much part of our daily lives that many of us hardly even notice the insidious impact it has on our physical and mental health, as well as on our spiritual well-being. It is everywhere, in the media, on our streets, in our work places, in our schools, in our homes and sometimes in our intimate relationships. Many of us may or may not be aware of how, when and why we use violence as a means to satisfy our own needs. Some may not recognize that an unease they experience may be a result of violence. All violence is based on some inadequate strategy that is used to satisfy the need to control others. Perhaps it is in raising your voice to intimidate and impose your will; or sulking in order to manipulate compliance; or playing the victim to solicit sympathy or to make someone feel guilt; or in the attitude of the schoolyard bully that finds power through intimidating those he or she perceives as weak.
Whatever its form, an act of violence demonstrates a deficit in the ability to know and to communicate one’s emotional needs. It also shows a lack of respect for the integrity of other beings. It reveals weak self esteem and limited self-awareness in spite of projected outer appearances. However you look at it, violence rides an immoral “low” road to desolation and chaos. On the contrary, self-restraint, ascends the moral “high” road to self-fulfillment and peace. The energy wasted in trying to control others would be better invested in controlling oneself wherein the dividends are vastly superior at all levels.
Many people have a limited perspective on what violence is and may see it only in its most dramatic manifestations. Violence has many different faces and may appear quite differently in a war zone than it would in a monastery. However, its roots are from the same soil: non-respect of one’s higher nature and the nonrecognition of the other as being part of the same divine consciousness. Our culture’s obsession with the physical world has created an uneasy separation of body, mind and spirit which conceals the unity inherent in universal order.
When we understand that each one of us is a complex and organized system of cells, intelligent microorganisms and conscious energy; that we are an integral part of that magnificent system we call the universe; that our existence in this present moment occurs at the intersection of micro and macro universes, we will begin to see that all violence is malignant to our spiritual evolution and ultimately to our survival as the human race. I offer you a more holistic definition of violence that infers the element of spiritual unity.
Violence is any thought, word or action, conscious or subconscious,that does not recognize the just value of a person (including oneself), of an animal or of all living beings including insects, trees and plants.
I consider “the just value of a person” as each living being’s existential right to dignity, integrity and the liberty to achieve his, her or its fullest potential. Consider that the ant and the bee are also systemic beings that function, like us, in a communal system and that they also play a vital role in our survival and that of the planet. From this perspective, animals, intelligent and sentient beings that they are, also possess personhood and like us, have evolved relatively complex communities for their survival. “Just value” also applies to the environment, for which deep respect flourishes from the understanding of the vital role nature plays in maintaining our well-being and our survival, individually and collectively. The endearment inherent in the terms Mother Nature and Mother Earth celebrates a symbolic ‘personhood’ of Nature and thus accords her rights. We cannot follow the path of nonviolence without experiencing the awe, the appreciation and the gratitude that comes from the realization that we are part of a living planet and a conscious universe; that we are part of the divine.
Nonviolence is not just an idea that preaches no violence, but a conscious commitment to follow a spiritual path to peace and self-realization. Where the shadow of violence is moral weakness, the light of nonviolence is spiritual strength. It is here, in the light beyond the shadows that we connect, you and I, united as spiritual brothers and sisters.
Andrew Lue-Shue originally published in February 2017
Dear Mom, I wrote you this poem for Mother’s Day 16 years ago, yet the sentiments I expressed is as fresh today as it was then. Today is your 67th Mother’s Day and still counting as you continue to be Mom, not only to me and my siblings, but also to many others who had the luck to have known you. I vividly remember the teenagers and young adults in the neighbourhood on Chacon Street, San Fernando, who hung out at our home; I guess as a young mother, they responded kindly to your gentle nature. There were often kitchen activities and the smell of fresh-baked goodies in our home. I also remember the group physical fitness exercises and the sharing of knitting and crochet patterns. You were already then a role model for many, some of whom were soon to be newly wed. Perhaps this is where your cake baking and cake decorating talents developed. Mom, you were always curious, creative, generous and ready to share and to help others. I have noticed when I meet people who know you, they always speak to me about your kindness and your generosity.
Mom, today I honour you… for all that you have done to show how deeply you cared about your family, friends and all the other people with whom you developed relationships over your 95 years on this Earth. Your actions have always shown us a devoted wife and mother, a virtuous and respectful person, a patient teacher, a good listener, a good friend and always a good spirit.
You were also a good cook and an excellent chauffeur (except for the time that you let dad’s classic MG Magnette 1958 roll down the steep driveway of our new home into the ravine on the other side of the empty lot in front of the house). You were always on the road: drive dad to work at Pointe-a-Pierre for 7 AM; return home to give us breakfast, then drive us to school; do your grocery shopping; return home to prepare lunch, then drive back to San Fernando, where you parked, near our schools, in Paradise Cemetery, and where we would go on our lunch break to have a hot meal in the car; you then would return home to finish your other chores and then back on the road to pick up Dad, and then us on Harris Promenade. Not to mention the additional trips for our other activities like private tutoring, scout activities and ballet classes, etc.
It is no mystery why you won a Courtesy Car Club (CCC) badge at the club’s dexterity trials. Under Dad’s time as president of the club, you were not only secretary, receptionist, switchboard operator… and literally chief cook and bottle washer, but you also actively participated in all the rallies, driving exercises and social activities. You were and still are a real cheerleader.
Today, for Mother’s Day, I offer you another badge: The Mom of a Lifetime Award.
Thank you, Mom, for always being there for us and for all the loving things that you have done to ensure that we understand the true value of love. You showed us, by your example, that the currency of happiness is love and self-sacrifice. Today, I pay homage to you as a way to mirror your success. Your own quest for happiness has been more than fruitful and I wish that you profit well of it. I love you forever.
Happy Mother’s Day
With love from all of us: Your children and children-in-law, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yes! We must not regard each other as enemies, even when our dishonourable behaviours deceive our higher selves and our ethical norms. The real enemy is our insistence to represent ourselves as separate from each other and from nature; as distant from past and future; as disconnected from the Divine Spirit. We fail ourselves when we do not recognise the inherent unity in our physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions, sustained by an intelligent and conscious universal order.
Like the moon, we all have shadows in our nature; our dark side. Know that the beast in us thrives there, and so wisdom tells us that we must turn ourselves toward the light to reveal the best of ourselves. Do not judge the beast, yet be alert and discerning; be compassionate; understand it; tame it with light. In the universal order, the beast also serves a useful purpose: to remind us to be mindful and so to keep us on the path of illumination, of peace, of unity, of eternal love.
We lose ourselves on that path if we do not listen to compassion crying out from our souls, and know then that the pain we feel is real when bombs rain down on our brothers and sisters somewhere else than here. We are not separate. How can we not realise that the fear we try to block out from our consciousness is exactly the same fear that they are feeling? How can we not know that our souls cry in despair when others cry in despair? Listen quietly… look inward… accept your feelings of vulnerability; cultivate your empathy. When we look away, we cannot see that our humanity wanes as others die because of our lack of compassion. The truth is we cannot save ourselves by indifference and inaction. Tyrants evolve in the same dark cruel alleys of humanity. Our ancestors knew it and our children may pay the price.
Dear Brother, dear Sister, promise me now, while the sky is clear and the sun still shines overhead, that you will open your heart to the light and beam it back to the world through the glint in your eyes and the smile on your lips.
Peace is our nature, if we let us be. Its path is Love
Andrew Lue-Shue April 28, 2022
Recommendation, was written in 1965 by the renowned Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, to his students at the School of Youth for Social Service in the midst of the brutal Vietnam War which was ravaging his country and had already claimed lives among many of these students and their families. It illustrates the core of his spiritual teachings on compassion and nonviolent action.
Credit and thanks to the Plum Village website and community for permission to republish the deeply resonant poem “Recommendation” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
What better time to refresh our creative energies than the Spring Equinox. Here I present the evocative work of Lydia Erickson, visual artist, poet, sound and light healer and a meditation guide with an illuminated spirit. She is a certified Soundcode therapist and a Kundalini Reiki master, has been training in Yoga Nidra and leads regular nidra-inspired Healing Sound Meditations.
This years, Spring Equinox on Sunday, March 20th, with Nancy Anger, she will be “Honouring the Goddess Within” and re-awakening the wisdom of the Divine Feminine in a Day of Sacred Embodiment retreat for women.
This is a meditation that is meant to be read very slowly with mindfulness, allowing the ‘caring‘ to generate deep sentiments of lovingkindness and compassion, and radiate from the inner being to the outer world. If you do care, please take this energy out into your communities to create a wave of healing across the planet.
To speak of peace in this way may seem insensitive to the suffering that many Ukrainians are experiencing at this very moment as their security, their lives, their dreams, their illusions … are being pummelled by the narcissistic actions of a tyrant. I recognize that this way of looking at peace may even be a radical departure from our habitual ways of responding to aggression; a primal defensive reflex of fear and anger through which our very survival could depend. Yet, there is great courage and much wisdom in the notion of Peace as being inherent in the present moment and that we may find it by accepting what is; accepting reality as it presents itself. Yes, one may call it radical acceptance, and we can perceive it in the resolve demonstrated by the Ukrainian people presently under siege. To survive, they have had no choice than to accept the urgency of their reality as it is presenting itself and they arerising up stoically to the challenge of defending themselves. Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement and non-denial, reinforced with discernment and assertiveness. It is grounded in truth, and thus, would resist conspiracy theories and alternative realities.
You may argue that it is pure folly to suggest that we should accept vulnerability in the face of grave danger. I can retort that in the practice of nonviolent communication, an honest acknowledgement of one’s vulnerability can be a powerful and effective tool in disarming the threat of an adversary by appealing to his or her innate compassionate response. But that is not what is suggested by radical acceptance. I admit that radical acceptance is based on a deep spiritual point of view, and could be a difficult concept to grasp, and even more so, to put into action. It requires much effort and due diligence to change a paradigm that is deeply rooted in our primal responses. Byron Katie’s iconic book “Loving What Is” is a highly transformative spiritual psychotherapy about which she rightly calls “The work.”
Our primal reaction to a dangerous threat is fear which triggers our inherent survival toolkit of fight, flight, freeze. After all, this has allowed us to survive as an intelligent species up to now. However, fear is the antithesis of Peace, and even as a strong vibrational energy, it is still, by far, less powerful than that of peace. Although fear triggers an alert to dangers that may help us prepare an adequate defence, it could also reduce our capacity to fight by provoking an inefficient panic response. However, if it is modulated by calm presence, moral resolve and a strong will, it may give us a defensive edge in challenging an adversary, as in the story of David and Goliath. Of course, flight is always an option and the sudden flow of adrenaline may well give us superhuman speed, but in some instances we may not be able to outrun the danger. Freeze may work too, but your fear-induced heartbeat may not fool a cunning fox. Then again, the wisdom to choose the best course of action in the moment comes from peaceful presence or mindfulness. As long as a defence strategy stays within moral and ethical boundaries, it has a moral argument and the power of peace will be in its favour.
The capacity to remain in calm presence and to act with moral clarity comes through spiritual connection from the heart-space, the abode of Peace. The foundation of the heart-space is built from gratitude, joy, loving kindness, compassion, understanding and universal love. To have ready access to this connection, we must cultivate its building blocks in our daily lives. This is the foundational teaching of every religion on Earth. Peace doesn’t disappear behind the dark clouds of chaos and turbulence; it always shines through to the calm mind and the pure heart.
As you have seen, fear is a necessary survival tool; it is an emotion that instructs us about imminent dangers and prepares us to act in defence. However, as it is often the case in our busy modern lives, a state of constant fear is a serious affliction that depletes our vital energy and leaves us on a spiral of suffering and depression. Peace, on the other hand, is not an emotion, but an elevated state of consciousness. Its energy field is extremely powerful and it is impervious to the sapless energy of negative judgments. However, these judgments, usually born out of fear and ignorance, will block the path to peace and leave us more vulnerable. Negative judgments bring negative energy into our reality and weaken us. Also, Peace is not a passive phenomenon; its energy is not generated from brute force, but it radiates quietly with cosmic power.
This powerful vibrational state of Peace is sourced in the energy field of life itself, which some call God, some Light, and others, Consciousness; it is this all-powerful and intelligent energy field that manifests everything that exists in the universe. It is a universal creative platform from where we all came and to where we will eventually return. We can see it expressed in the magnificent glow of the lotus bloom that evolved from murky mud beds of a stagnant pond. We can see it expressed in the same way in the tiger and the elephant, in the dolphin and the shark, in the eagle and the dove. It is also why we can perceive it in the sunrise and the sunset, in the forest and in the sea. Peace can equally find its expression in art as in war. It is up to us, as individuals, to understand how our personal life choices, through our thoughts, our words and our actions, influence our world and create our reality.
Peace is who we are at our essence, if we let it be.
May peace reign in the hearts of the people of Ukraine… and also find a path to the hearts of tyrants.
In memory of the 2nd anniversary of the passing away of our dad, Neville Lue Shue on January 26, 2020.
The substance of this poem presented itself to me three mornings ago while I was semi-awake in my bed. Some of it was almost word for word, but mostly it was a sentiment of presence like a faint whisper from someone yet unseen. I awoke in a particularly peaceful mood and proceeded to give form to my inspiration, knowing intuitively that it would serve my expression to Dad’s memory today. In this presentation, I added one of the black and white photos from his photography work in the earlier days of my childhood. A time from when I hold deep memories of him working in his darkroom, the smell of the chemicals and the magic of images appearing on film in the red light. I remember him giving me a Kodak Brownie camera when I was about 7 years old and then an old Twin Lens Rolleiflex camera by age 10. Dad eventually gave up photography and concentrated on camera repairs as a sideline. Although I never took up photography on a professional scale, I have always dabbled in it and once bought myself a second-hand Ricoh camera at university from a professional photographer. That camera served me very well to take slides of my artwork, much of which I have now digitized. I have also photographed some of dad’s old prints and digitized some of his own slides.
The camera captures much more than images on the other side of the lens, it also captures the thoughts and the spirit of the photographer. Today, I can perceive Dad’s loving spirit in the many photos that he took of Mom, my younger sister, Deborah and I. I am deeply grateful for all those photographs that documented a time from our past and help us remember how he expressed his love; a love that never dies. I share some of these photos here as testimony of Dad’s devotion to his family. Dad, although these photos are frozen in time, through your own eyes then, we can see you again today. Today, your family raises a toast to you in heaven. Know that you too are beloved.
When I began the genealogical research into my diverse family, I had no idea that it would challenge how I viewed myself and perhaps even my sense of identity. The journey began around 2007 when my parents visited me in Montreal and shared with me a copy of the Hart family tree that was given to my dad by his cousin, Ian Hart. Since childhood I had always heard that we were related to the Hart family that lived two doors down from us on Chacon Street, San Fernando and that my paternal grandmother’s father was a Hart… I do not think I even knew his full name then. Curiously, when my family moved to Palmiste Estate a few years later, I discovered that our new neighbours two doors over, the Lynch family, were also related to us via Hart. I guess I took in this new information at face value and beyond the initial curiosity, my relationship with them developed more into close friendships than family connections. Nonetheless, in Trinidad culture, every adult connected in any way to our parents is either Uncle or Aunty. Thus, Uncle Rolf and Aunty Marilyn became role models and confidantes like others among my uncles and aunts.
Discovering the family tree though was not a curiosity, but a shock. Family ties to other people I either knew or knew of were popping out all over the document pages. The names of persons about whom I never imagined any family connection suddenly took on meaning that would probably have changed our relationships. Hmmm! … Aunty Janet S is Uncle Ian H’s sister? … X on whom I had an adolescent crush is now related to me? What a hoot! … Also Y and Z, previous college classmates, are my cousins… distant nonetheless?
I launched headfirst into this adventure, first by manually entering all the Hart family’s data into a genealogy program on my Mac. Then, seven years later, during my sabbatical year, I started actively building an online family tree on Ancestry and began researching the other branches of my family. I founded two Facebook Messenger groups to connect with family members and share information on both sides of my family. I also co-moderate the Hill Family Tree Facebook group with my cousin, Kimberly. Thus, I have been able to reunite with lesser-known family members, many of them from across the planet.
My paternal great-grandfather, Henry Eric Hart (1872-1950), had a daughter, Nasaria Alexandria Lopez (1906-1953), my grandmother, with Christina Constancia Lopez (1888-1960). He is the grandson of Daniel Hart (1806-1869) and the seventh of ten children of Michael Albert Hart (1834-1906) and Maria Emilia Felicia Gomez (1839-1913). Henry trained and raced horses in Arima, Trinidad. He also fathered nine other children from different marriages. The Harts were prolific progenitors and the family lineage today seems to be everywhere in Trinidad and elsewhere.
My other great-grandfather, Thomas David Emmanuel Hill (1872-1960) was born in British Guiana. He married Florence Pryor who gave him four children, but she died in the childbirth of my maternal grandfather, Martin Welles Hill (1906-1989). Thomas then moved to Trinidad with his children. He remarried with Lydia Caroline Gibson and fathered ten children with her… the last, being my great-aunt, Jean, who was born in New York in 1927 when Thomas and Lydia lived there.
Aunty Jean is a year younger than my mother and after Lydia returned to Trinidad with her in 1930, she and Mom ended up in same class at school. She was the last survivor among his children for many years and died recently in Boston on the 21st of October 2021, a month before her 94th birthday. She leaves four surviving children; Judith and Jonathan Herbert, Leah Hill and Ian Sue Wing, and her two grandsons Francis Hill and Andrew Wood-Sue Wing.
Thomas also had a daughter, Hortense Watson, in Guyana before his first marriage. Recently, though, through a strong DNA match to me on Ancestry, I discovered Linda, another cousin from South Carolina, whose mother, Maude, was born in New York to Thomas and Helen Amoroso the very same year as Aunty Jean. Lydia returned to Trinidad in 1930 with Jean who grew up with my mom, her niece. Around the same time, Thomas left New York for London where he stayed during the war years and eventually returned in 1959 to Trinidad where he died soon after. I vaguely remember him sitting in the gallery at my grandparents’ home. He was quite sick and was being cared for by my grandmother, Mary, his daughter-in-law. I was about five years old at the time and did not understand the nature of his relationship to me. I do not remember communicating with him even though I spent two weeks there. He must have died soon after that, because I never saw him again.
Thomas and Lydia’s children mostly migrated to the US and some had successful careers in the military and/or in the arts. The eldest son, Hector, moved up the ranks of the military and was also a musician. His grandson, Theo Hill, a very accomplished Jazz pianist, was famously accompanied by Bill Clinton on the saxophone on Martha’s Vineyard.
There was also Collington Carl Gibson Hill, who started gaining recognition for his watercolour artwork in New York, before World War II brought his career to a tragic end. He was an objector of conscience, but was forced to enlist in the Merchant Navy. He went down with the USAT Dorchester, torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Newfoundland on February 3, 1943.
The most noteworthy, though, was their younger brother, Errol Gaston Hill, whose extensive and accomplished international career in the theatre as a performer, playwright, writer and historian made him a recognized authority on Afro-American and Caribbean theatre history. He taught at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire from 1968 to 1989. Among his published works are the plays Man Better Man (1964), Dance Bongo (1966), and Strictly Matrimony (1971). Among his books are The Trinidad Carnival: Mandate for a National Theatre (1972) and The Theater of Black Americans(1980).
My grandfather, Martin, stayed in Trinidad and married Maria “Mary” Presentacion Rojas (1898-1982), my grandmother. They had five children: three boys and two girls. Granddad was also an artist and it was he who gave me my first set of gouache paints and sparked in me an early interest in art. My mom, who is also very creative, noted my interest and sent me for weekend art classes in the early 60s with Hettie Mejias (now Mejias-de Gannes). In the years before leaving for Canada to study Fine Arts, I often visited my granddad in Port of Spain and took pleasure in viewing his work.
I knew very little about my paternal grandfather, 刘树 Lue Shue, who travelled to Trinidad from Guangdong Province, China at the turn of the last century. He took the name Randolph. I never knew him because he died the year before my birth. He married my grandmother, Nasaria, and they had eight children. I was told that he left a wife and children behind in China and I knew that he sent my uncle Kui Loy, his first Trinidadian-born son, to China to learn Chinese. However, I was surprised to discover from some newly discovered travel documents that my uncle was only ten years old when he left for China in 1934. He travelled then with Nathaniel Lue Keow and his daughter Vera Ayin. He spent four years there before returning to Trinidad. I also discovered, written on his return travel documents, the name of my Chinese-born uncle, Lue Tin Fook, as well as the name of the ancestral village, LiLong. I also found in my research via a recent obituary in a Trinidad newspaper that he had a daughter, Beulah, from an earlier relationship in Trinidad. We have since met and welcomed her children into the family.
Researching my Chinese heritage has been difficult, mainly because I had so little information initially, but also because I do not speak Chinese and did not really understand the historical context of Chinese immigration of the time, nor the cultural customs such as clan names, generational names, school names, names of married women, etc. I spent hours plodding through thousands of names in the ship manifests of Chinese immigrants looking for any clues about my grandfather’s journey to Trinidad. So far, I have found relatively little.
However, I was lucky to find information about the ancestral village, LiLong, which no longer exists as such, as it was bombed twice during World War II. The area is now a part of Shenzhen City, but the old village was the site of the Basel Mission Christian seminary after 1856. It was the first Christian seminary on mainland China. I discovered the online Basel Mission Archives with many photos and documents of that period.
I also figured out how to use Google Translate to effectuate a search in Chinese and then translate the results back to English. I devoured the information that I found about the life and times in the region of Guangdong Province and on the Hakka culture from the districts of Futian, Bao’On (Sun On or Xin’An) and Toong Koon (Tung Kun) which gave the name of Fui Toong On to a Chinese Association in Trinidad of which Lue Shue, my grandfather, was a founding member.
Unfortunately, I could not share this information with my dad since he was already by then in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Dad eventually died at age ninety-two, in Trinidad, on the 26th of January 2020, just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, I have had many strokes of luck in my research, almost as if Dad was guiding me. First, knowing about my research, my sister, Deborah, shared a letter with me that she found among Dad’s belongings; it was dated 2008 and was from his longtime school friend, Father Kelvin Tam, a Catholic priest, now stationed in Cali, Colombia. The letter explained to Dad how the Lue families in Trinidad (Liu 刘 in Mandarin) were all related and were all descendants of the fourteen sons (branches) of Liu Guang Chuan Gong, considered the “father” of the Liu genealogy in Guangdong Province. I also learnt from the letter that Fr. Tam’s mother was a Lue. I immediately seized on his email address in the letter and contacted him. To my surprise, Fr. Tam is still alive and in full possession of his mental faculties. We have been corresponding fairly often since. I am also in communication with other members of his family via Facebook.
I started to uncover other similar stories on Chinese immigration to Jamaica, Guyana, Cuba, Panama, Canada and the Americas, including Hawaii. The administration at the Chinese Benevolent Association of Jamaica has been very helpful and their website has a lot of information, maps and an index of ancestral villages. I attended online conferences and webinars offered by the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles and have made contact on online forums with other Chinese persons researching their ancestral roots. I joined My China Roots and recently attended the 2021 Toronto Hakka Conference which was presented online because of the pandemic. I have also initiated the process to become a member of the Trinidad and Toronto branches of the Fui Toong On Association.
One particular custom I learnt about from the research into my Chinese heritage that I have now incorporated into my life is the honour and reverence shown to ancestors. The traditional Hakka rituals associated with this custom were pejoratively called Ancestor Worship, considered diabolic and were discouraged in the mid-1800s by the growing influence of the Christian churches in Guangdong Province. Without delving into the merits or faults of these rituals, I can say that I do not see much difference from the Christian traditions of cleaning grave sites on All Souls Day and adorning them with flowers and candles. I remember my dad always threw a shot of alcohol on the floor whenever he opened a new bottle of rum or whisky; he said it was for his father. Today, I now name and salute my known ancestors at the start of my daily meditations and prayers. I invoke their presence and invite them to sit with me… I can say that I do often feel their vibrational presence. I also ask them to help me create zones of protection and wellbeing around me, my extended family, my friends and neighbours, all of whom I name individually. Through this ritual, I have the impression of reuniting the past and the present and infusing the future with hope and confidence.
My research has allowed me to appreciate the historical, cultural and social contexts that underlay the decisions made by my ancestors and the outcomes that played out in their lives. I have learnt to suspend value judgments on their choices and to recognize how deeply the legacy left by their passage on this planet are imprinted in my own DNA. I am who I am, here and now, partly because of those choices they made and my life is enriched by the gratitude that I feel for their sacrifices. I realise that the meaning of our lives become more profound when we recognize the spiritual continuity that their lives have imprinted on each of us and which we in turn pass on to our heirs. Our choices make our legacy and it is our responsibility to assure that the baton is relayed smoothly to the next generation.
I understand that family is everything and we are all part of one big human family. We are not only connected in space and time via spiritual and emotional dimensions, but also on the molecular quantum level. For example, I recognize that I presently live on Mohawk ancestral territory and that part of my own Indigenous roots from Guyana, Venezuela and Trinidad is also linked to their ancestral path. I now see why Destiny brought me to Montreal rather than to Paris or London which were my original choices of cities to pursue my university studies. To think that I danced proudly at a Pow Wow at Kahnawake in the early days of my arrival in Montreal without knowing then that my DNA was already connected to the region. Genetic analysis of my patrilineal and matrilineal haplogroups shows that the Mohawk and I share common ancestors. My conscience glistens with warm gratitude and a deep feeling of belonging to the lands and to the peoples with whom I am now connected. That I have long considered myself a Citizen of the World can no longer be considered a personality quirk nor is it a mystery; it is very real for me. My DNA evolved out of four continents and from multiple expressions within four major ethnic groups: European, African, Asian and Native American. I also recognize four religious influences in my own spiritual inclinations: Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Indigenous traditions.
I can often see reflections of myself in the faces of people from other ethnicities and the reverse has also been true. I know this because my appearance has occasionally aroused some curiosity on the street and I have also been mistaken for other nationalities and addressed in other languages, usually in Spanish, Portuguese or Arabic.
Family is everything and we are one big human family.
In loving memory of my dad and all of my other ancestors.
I am free to love as I please, You, the skies, the seas, the birds, the fishes. You are free to love as you please, Me, the skies, the seas, the birds, the fishes.
You are sky and I am sea. I support you on my blissful undulating body and you cradle me in your wide cozy arms. I let you drink from my essence, You replenish my spirit in return, in an eternal, ecstatic dance of life; …of death.
Our bloodline is of the stars, our children are mountains, trees and streams, theirs, birds, bees and fishes. Our native tongue is Freedom, our culture is Joy, our spirit, Love.
I am free to love. You are free to love. We are free. We are love. We are… We.
Andrew Lue-Shue – 2019
Je suis libre d’aimer à ma guise, Toi, les cieux, les mers, les oiseaux, les poissons. Tu es libre d’aimer comme tu veux, Moi, les cieux, les mers, les oiseaux les poissons.
Tu es ciel et je suis mer. Je te soutiens sur mon corps ondulant bienheureux et tu me berces dans de larges bras douillets. Je te laisse boire de mon essence, Vous remplissez mon esprit en retour, dans une danse éternelle et extatique de la vie ; …de la mort.
Notre lignée est celle des étoiles, nos enfants sont montagnes, arbres et ruisseaux, les leurs, oiseaux, abeilles et poissons. Notre langue native est Liberté, notre culture est Joie, notre esprit, Amour.
Je suis libre d’aimer. Vous êtes libre d’aimer. Nous sommes libres. Nous sommes amour. Nous sommes… Nous.
Andrew Lue-Shue -2019
This is a poem that I wrote in 2019, but have refined it and am presenting it here during World Unity Week. It expresses love in its essence as ubiquitous, infinite and unconditional. Love is a primordial force that unites us with the rest of life on Earth and beyond. It is the centre of who we are and who we were at birth. It is probably what we will encounter at Death’s door. In reality, Love is a choice: we are free to embody it or to reject it. The only thing that changes by our decision is the relationship we have with ourselves, with others and with nature. Our choice either reinforces the vibrational energy around us or weakens it. It is perhaps what some refer to as creating Heaven or Hell on Earth. The last line of the poem We are … We is the essence. It means that we are unity even when we are separated by time or space.
Note: The poem was written in both English and French simultaneously and as part of my creative process, the subtleties in the syntax of each language served to nourish each other. They are presented here together. For the purists; native tongue is not literally one’s mother tongue, but our native disposition that expresses who we are inherently.
Why am I proposing the personal pronouns we and us instead of the non-binary they and them? Nor do I mean the royal We and Us, but the humble we and us …the inclusive we and us. Perhaps then because they are even more powerful. We live in an epoch of divisiveness where they and them can signal mean discord in our communities and sometimes even in our families. They can accentuate otherness in a negative light. “I am a social democrat but those right-wing conservatives make my blood boil”; “I am a straight God-fearing man and those sinful gays will bring doom to my safe world view”; “I cannot stand to pass by those ugly neighbourhoods next to the highway… I cannot fathom how those folk can live like that”; “Strange food odours are coming from the new neighbours from wherever.”
You get the point… and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Judgement and its offspring Prejudice corrupt civil societies and they blind us to the reality of who we really are. They not only colour how we see each other, but they also mask how we see ourselves. On one hand, we see ourselves through a telescope that enlarges our ego, but on the other hand, we look at others through a microscope seeking out the defects.
What is a judgment? It is an opaque label that we stick on our mental image of others… and sometimes our self-image, thus blocking out the real person behind that label. The same is true for situations; our judgment in that case is a lens by which we try to make the situation a reflection of our values. All we may see on the label is a nomenclature and a fine printed list of ingredients with arbitrary percentages of daily values that help us choose whether we invest or not our energy. The truth is… our judgment is nothing but a projection of ourselves that blocks our view of reality and restricts our ability to see our true selves reflected back through the eyes of the other. What we like in others is what we find admirable in ourselves and what we dislike is what we detest in ourselves.
“Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur” – Saint Thomas of Aquinas1
Excessive judgment is learnt behaviour imparted to us from our society and so it can be unlearnt or at least, managed. Through conscious effort we should replace it with discernment which is necessary for our survival. The difference is in the engagement… the willingness to not judge, to accept reality as it presents itself to us and to understand it. Conscious non-judgment allows us to be in a mindful relationship with life, with others and with ourselves.
Non-judgment brings truth and integrity back into our relationships and infuses life into our communities. We can dethrone the I and me from the pedestals of incivility and indifference in the increasingly individualist society that we have become. We are certainly more powerful than that and together, we can make miracles. Let Us shine our light into the dark and become beacons on the route to a better world.
Dear reader, I do hope that my words inspire you and that inspite of any differences we may have, we can all consider ourselves an integral part of this We are One community.
Andrew Pax, Lux et Amor
1: Whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver – Saint Thomas of Aquinas
Who we truly are as persons, communities and nations and where we are in our own evolution is reflected in the way we treat each other and the other species with whom we share this magnificent planet that we call home.