The Passion

Forró music in the bus on the way to Baucau. About being “louco de paixão” (crazy out of passion), and I get the chilling feeling that the only kind of crazy passion the Timorese allow themselves in public is destruction. The dances kaer malu, is rather stiff still, there is fun, and groping I’m sure, but I really wonder how much passion and love Timorese allow themselves. Sex, well, there is no question that there is a lot of it!

Anyways I’m exhilarated hearing Brazilian music, I remember my Brazilian friends in Lisbon, one of whom is an amazing forró dancer, who I probably won’t see for quite a while. Just as I am savoring the “Brazil” mood, I get an SMS from Pedro.

“Anito” is in the hospital. I immediately think he means family from where I am headed. I did not imagine he could mean a friend in Dili, who had given me his draft paper on Conflict and Ecology in my area of interest.

Seconds later a text from Docogirl saying she just visited Nito in the hospital, he was hit with a Rama Ambon. A metal-tipped, spiked arrow. It was immediately surgically removed. He was ok. I thought I would text him and offer to transmit news to his family, to avoid bad rumors getting to them first. He writes back almost immediately, nonchalantly, saying he’s fine, and yes tell everybody. He’s still headed to a conference on Conflict Resolution in Manila four days from now. I couldn’t tell whether he had been targeted or whether he was caught in some kind of crossfire.

I rode on, entering Baucau, through the rushing spring water past the Laga rice paddies below. I hopped out near Pedro’s sister’s place.

Nito in Dili his tetanus booster working overtime, his body hit by a crude homemade arrow.

I remember what I used to tell tourist on my walking tour to Belém, and the famed Southern portico of the Monastery of the Jeronimos. The arrow as a mystical symbol of God’s love. God as a Cupid. Let it wound you as you enter.

Later after waiting the whole afternoon for a ride up the mountain with no success (see photo), and tea with Pedro’s sister, Father Jojo, a Filippino missionary priest who I had met with Queen three years ago, invited me to play basketball.

He had just moved to Laga earlier in the year from Fuiloro and proposed the basketball court, to bring his weight back to the 60kg he weighed 15 years ago when he arrived in Timor. I was a little coy, watched them play 5-on-5 for a while. Actually I was sleepy. So after a while they invited me to just shoot around. I made a couple of shots in a row. This was a past life of mine: 13 year-old basketball star. They convinced me to play. Our center was a short guy with shaved head, and had studied Anthropology in Bali. He was the only guy of the group with a job, teaching at the Middle School. The rest were halimar deit, just playing around, or pengunsi.

They had game! I am pleased to report that “spaz” quotient (excuse the un-PC term) was very low in Laga. I played up to their level, they weren’t too hard on me. They seemed to be playing for fun not too win which is always the best way. It was a feeling of belonging, alertness, aliveness that I hadn’t experienced in a while. Just like the kid I heard later singing his hear out to “Hotel California” (even though he only knew the words “Hotel California”) as I was taking a shower. Adulthood systematically robs us of these joys – singing, playing (for fun).

Dinner with Jojo and a great conversation about God. I brought him up, along with Good and Evil and Milton. And free will in the mix. Judas as a “hero” to Milton.

Jojo told me that he believed man is good, that man is good because God is good. God is good because he allows men free will. I told him I knew in my heart that man tends to Evil, but that I fight this, that I can only look to the good around me. That I must live and work towards the Good around me, even though this is Sisyphean. I explained how the Golden Rule is a guiding principle for me and only recently had I recognized that. “Do unto others…” The Golden Rule works, Father Jojo says, because man is good. And because God gives him the choice to be good. Judas, he said, did in the end have a choice, even though God was omniscient. He was not “set up,” he of course violated the Golden Rule in the most terrible way.

I wasn’t really wrapping my head around Father Jojo’s logic. Perhaps it was lack of theological mental exercise. After all, my main reference was a class on a book written in the 17C by a heretical, blind English poet. I couldn’t help thinking of Nito and the Rama Ambon. He seems like a person more than any driven by belief, by belief in the common good. Does he believe man is good? What has kept him going throughout the resistance in the 1990s, the militia mayhem and now this?


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