“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” – James 5:16 

Relatively recently, my mother’s brother, who is less than nine months away from being a nonagenarian, and with whom I visit most Sunday mornings, said to me “Basil, I remember the year you were born – 1941. Do you realize you are fast approaching three score years and ten?” Implicit in his response was the question “When are you going to slow down?” He took me by surprise and my equally implicit response was that “Age is just a number; you are as old as you feel”.

His father lived to ninety nine years of age, and two of his four sisters (including my mother), each within five years of his age on either side, are still alive. Notwithstanding that, he was concerned about me, some 21 years younger.

Soon after my uncle’s observation, there was a spate of deaths of people, within 10 to 15 years of my age, with whom I had been in contact one way or another:  (1) Mr. John Rollock (a family friend from Sunday school days who died suddenly in Toronto – younger than I am); (2) Dr. Kathleen Drayton (with whom I interacted most recently at BARP and Counterpart Caribbean); (3) Hon. Grace Thompson (a member of my wife’s musical fraternity and whose son is a Rotarian in my Rotary club); Mrs. Enid Lynch (with whom I have interacted over the years and whose nephew is a Rotarian in my Rotary club); Senator Sir John Stanley Goddard (with whom I had many business associations); Ms. Marjorie Blackman (a longstanding friend of my parents); Mr. Richard Kirton (a colleague in the agricultural sector); Mr. Harold Hinds (whom I respected as a builder of local business and with many of whose children I have interacted professionally); and most recently Sir Cecil (Dr. Bertie) Graham.

My first relationship with Bertie was as a paediatrician when he expertly provided professional emergency, preventive and curative care to our children in their fledgling years.  Since then, through mutual friends and family, we have interacted on many occasions. I grew to know him as a Rotarian travelling to Rotary International conferences and was very impressed with his appreciation of the finer things in life. As we celebrate the lives of the above we recognise a common thread, the thread of humility which has one way or another been manifested in their influence upon mankind. I extend sincerest condolences to their families. May they rest in peace!

Then, all of a sudden, reality set in. You do not call the number, but you must be ready when it is called.  I must heed my uncle’s words.  I must humbly set about the first day of the rest of my life. The concept of “retirement” is not well defined in my mind. In fact, I try my best to maintain the formula of good nutrition, regular exercise and deliberate management of stress (peace of mind), as if retirement did not exist, in the hope that this will in someway remind my genes that they have a tradition to uphold.

On a more mundane note, I read an article in the Nation last Friday by Tony Best with a headline in red “Population density one of the highest”.  How sensational!  Then a dramatic opening statement “As the illegal immigration debate rages on Barbados, the country is the most densely populated in the Western Hemisphere”… “The issue of population density entered the immigration debate when current or former Barbadian officials, who defended Barbados’ immigration policy of amnesty for many undocumented immigrants but deportation for others without jobs, insisted that the country was too small to have open borders for anyone desirous of entering the country in search of employment or a better way of life, or both.”

Whereas a country has the right to determine its immigration policy, I do not think that one should hide behind “population density” in support of the argument.  When one compares population density between two countries, one is looking for an indicator which quantifies the relative internal claustrophobia (physical or socio-economic). The lower the indicator of internal claustrophobic experience, the more comfortable it is to live in that country. The traditional population density statistics (2008) for Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados, for example, are 206 and 652 people per square kilometre, respectively. Based on this statistic and its assumed correlation with claustrophobic experience, the conclusion would certainly be that it is more comfortable living in Trinidad & Tobago than Barbados.  But is this the reality? I think not.

To resolve this apparent paradox, one must introduce the concepts of “effective population density” and “accessible land area”.   The effective population density is the number of people in a country divided by accessible land area.  In the case of a Trinidad versus Barbados comparison, Trinidad & Tobago has mountains, forests, rivers, swamps, the Pitch Lake and large areas of dedicated agricultural land which are not accessible for normal human habitation. I estimate this to be in excess of 70% of the total land area. We need to subtract that area from the total land area to get the accessible land area.  Whereas, almost everywhere in Barbados is accessible. A quick calculation then reveals that the effective population density of Trinidad & Tobago is greater than Barbados. This, in my humble opinion, resolves the apparent paradox.