Talk about oversell: Gerald Hausman’s book, Rastafarian Children Of Solomon: The Legacy Of The Kerba Nagast And The Path To Peace And Understanding…
This book stopped living up to its title after the first word. Much less does it deliver the goods on the Kerba Nagast or about being on the path to… well, anywhere.
That said, I stayed with the book because Hausman has a really nice writing style. In fact, he has one of the most enjoyable styles I’ve come across recently. Being descriptive without moving too slowly, Hausman paints warm, fire-flickering, sea-misty scenes and introduces us to a cast of Jamaican characters that come across as true individuals.
But as for the subjects referred to so grandly in his book’s title, Hausman barely scratches the surface with his anecdotal, sometimes overly sentimental approach. What his book DID accomplish was to make me want to read the Kerba Nagast and to delve more deeply into the Rastafarian culture of Jamaica– maybe even one day visit the place. I already had my interest piqued after reading Keith Richard’s autobiography recently, since Keef spent some swell sounding days down on Da Island.
Of course, its not all coconuts and ganja… as Hausman puts it in his fine prose, an elderly person living in Jamaica has “seen the best minds of his generation destroyed by poverty, oppression, injustice, and madness.” No doubt such a rough life is one good reason that a religion of hope and good will caught fire in Jamaica in the latter half of the 20th century. Rastafarianism has provided many Jamaicans with mental shelter and emotional support during the difficult times with no end, life-times of struggle and hardship which could easily have turned Jamaicans into a bitter people. As Bob Marley said, “A hungry man is a an angry man.”
I had not realized until I read Hausman’s book that Solomon was so central to Rastafarian beliefs. I had heard about “the Conquering Lion,” Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, who was received in 1966 by many islanders as a Messianic figure, but –at least according to Hausman’s telling– in the day to day thoughts of Rastafarians, Solomon –the wisest man ever to walk the Earth– is much more present.
Rastafarians credit Solomon, among many other accomplishments, with being the author of Ecclesiastes. Oh yeah, perhaps I should mention here… it’s a given to Rastafarians that the figures of the Bible, including Jesus, were African. Which of course is certainly no harder to believe than the curiously Caucasian Jesuses one often sees portrayed in paintings and statuary.
Some Rastafarians believe Solomon is still alive and walking the shores of Jamaica incognito. As one man put it, “That man no dead. That man trod the Earth still.”
I found myself strongly drawn to many aspects of the Rastafarian outlook: the emphasis on Heart and Spirit and Good Vibes… the respect given to the power contained within sounds and words. For a Rastafarian, to say of someone that, “Him vibe sweet, mon” is high praise, indeed.
As one fisherman told Hausman: “If we do not live by kindness we are nothingness, mere grass of the field, which dries up in its season.”
A true Rastafarian does not hold one’s skin color against him. As the man called Mackie tells Hausman, “We all come black in the beginning. All life start in Africa. So it doesn’t matter what a mon’s face say, so long as his heart speak red blood.”
Hausman confirmed for me what I had heard long ago about why Rastafarians keep their hair long and in dreadlocks… Apparently, it goes back to Samson and how his power was connected with his uncut hair. A strict Rastafarian today will not touch his precious locks with comb, scissor, or razor. This is part of a larger philosophy about the body in general… Rastafarians do not believe in defiling the body in any way. For instance, officially, tattoos are even frowned upon.
Of course, as Hausman tells us, Rastafarianism is very “atomized,” and one cannot claim that one particular set of beliefs holds sway across the land. I got the impression that “Rootsmen” share the general outlook of Rastafarians but are not strictly of the religion and can cut their hair and et cetera– but I wasn’t completely clear on that.
There were also some tantalizing tidbits dropped in the book that I’d like to look into further, like the fact that in Rastafarian theology, the “Twelve Tribes” represent the Twelve Tendencies Of Man… We are not told by Hausman what those twelve tendencies are!
Lastly, after reading several Marxist papers and Anarchist manifestos during the last year, I was immediately onboard with King Solomon’s saying that “A man should rejoice in his works.” Work is a huge part of our lives. If it annoys, saddens, or otherwise brings us hurt… it’s no good, mon.