If you have read some of my postings of late you may have noticed a sudden interest in Brazil. What is going on? There are two reasons: one is simple but the other one even I do not fully understand.
The simple reason is that sometimes my interests snowball: I learn about something and that makes me want to know more. And finding out more makes me want to know still more. And so on. When I was eight it was dinosaurs; when I was nine it was ants. Now it is Brazil. I am like that. And I can read just enough Portuguese that I am dangerous.
The other reason is a cloud of mystery, but let me try to put it into words as much as I can.
Even though I have never been to Brazil I feel like it is where I should have been born and, even now, where I should live. Strange, I know. I do not understand it myself.
I live in America but I have always felt out of place. Few of my friends are native-born Americans. New York is the only place I feel at home. Everywhere else I feel like a fish out of water, like I am always wearing new shoes, like I am on a different wavelength. If America were all I knew of the world I would think there was something wrong with me.
Of course Brazil may be no different or even worse. I cannot even speak Portuguese, though I can mostly read it.
America is richer, safer and more comfortable than Brazil and English is my native tongue. Most of my family is here too. So I stay. But it is not a hand-in-glove fit for me. Not even close.
I am Catholic and so, in a Hilaire Belloc and Thomas Merton sort of way, I feel that Latin roots are the true roots of the West, its true heart – not the Barbie dolls, Wal-Marts and dead smiles of Anglo-America.
I think I would feel more at home in a place that was black and Catholic with Latin roots – and a language that comes from Latin. One where family and love and even faith and prayer are more important than money and having a big house and a big car. Where living is an art not a race, something to be tasted and enjoyed not rushed through like a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. Where the people are not made of cardboard and small hearts.
I doubt any place is like that – it is just a strange dream I have. And no doubt Brazil is picking up all the worst things about America daily and going to the dogs, just like Jamaica is. But from what I know Brazil is still more like this than America. At least it would be a step in the right direction.