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I hate reggae. I know I’ve mentioned this before (and quite recently) but it cannot really be overstated. Though raised by inveterate potheads, I was thankfully never subjected to the Caribbean Oom-pah music by my parents. They preferred Foreigner, The Scoprions, and Led Zeppelin, and for this I am eternally grateful.

It was not until I was romantically involved with another inveterate pothead – one who was incidentally raised in the Caribbean – that I spent more than a few minutes at a time listening to the inevitable Bob Marley song on whatever radio station happened to be on at the moment. Though I can’t say I enjoy the music any more than I ever did, I am forced to admit that listening closely to some of the things that Mr. Marley had to say made it clear to me why so many people were such devoted fans.

Bob Marley was, in my opinion, nothing less than a modern-day prophet.

I have heard this estimation before, and I make no claims to originality stating it here. That I dismissed it as the enthusiastic praise of permanently stoned was a function of my own bias rather than any evaluation of his message. Once I stood in the face of it, and let it sink in without the filter of my assumptions, I was moved to agree with the assessment wholeheartedly.

I know very little about his personal history, other than what I’ve absorbed through the cultural lexicon; he died young, advocated for peace and justice, and believed cannabis was a gift from Jah meant to liberate the minds and souls of man. That the last of these is his most prevalent legacy is something of a shame, because my own knee-jerk reaction to dismiss the source of the lesson without examining the lesson’s merit very closely mimics that of the mainstream cultural paradigm.

His words, stripped of all context, are luminous. His message is unwaveringly one of peace, compassion, understanding, and love. He acknowledges his own flaws and the glorious lovable imperfections we all possess with equanimity and grace. His pose is never that of preacher, but of humble apprentice vulnerable to the lessons life has to teach.

Much of what he offers has strong echoes of the words of Jesus, Buddha, Tich Nat Hanh, and many of those both wise and open-hearted. The fundamental belief is that we should extend ourselves to understand each other, to practice tolerance in all things, and acknowledge that we are each of us imperfect, glorious, and strong.

Situated as this message is, at the fringes of the larger collective consciousness, it is all too easy to dismiss as wishful thinking, romantic fantasy, or hippie-speak. Embedded in an art form I found personally unpalatable, it went entirely unnoticed until the right person insisted I pay heed to it despite my disposition. That wisdom can emerge from unexpected places has long been known to me; that I might have to look for it through a cloud of pot smoke and the sound of steel drums was a complete surprise.