Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Here Comes the Pitch!

A stowaway, anxiously awaiting the ship’s departure from Cape Town, twenty-five year old Adam pens the date: The Ides of March, 1975. As the Bietjanie Zimba, the Little Lion, he intends at last to fulfill his childhood promise to his old mentor. Write!
Chosen to be the word-monger of an old Matabele’s insights, and immersed in the life-blood of Northern Rhodesia and South Africa, Adam’s writing springs from a soul wrestling with his destiny. His single word chapter-headings, throughout, unpack into the searing significance of a tempestuous life. Origins. Betrayal. Hate. Love. Murder. Sacrifice. After his childhood on his guardian parents’ game-farm he hopes for freedom when trying to abscond with his real father in England, but is made to return just before the blistering birth of Zambia. The devastation that follows forces him to go to South Africa. An illicit inter-racial love, abuse in the name of redemption, and drastic choices forge his future. At boarding school he tries to sever the ties to his past. Conscripted as a sniper into the Army, he works on reprieves as a steam-locomotive stoker in Zululand, but after a poetic retribution with an old enemy he determines to escape Africa for good. But it will cost him the love of his life. And now, hidden aboard a Union Castle steamer, at last prepared to write, Adam faces his promise: iAfrika!
In the vein of Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Laurens van der Post, Bryce Courtney, and Wilbur Smith, iAfrika! is a novel not only about the complexity of Africa, but of us all.

Love on the Rocks!

"There's nothing you can do or say to change me." Her eyes bore into me. I blink. Neil Diamond sings those very words too. In my blink I stifle the defense of my multifold ministrations, my egoic need to be the one to succor her back to security, my real want to rescue her from an assured yet untimely fate. In her I see the looming rocks as the very vessel of her soul plows on toward self-immolation through the wave upon wave of her indecisions. And in my blink I feel dreadfully disheartened by my ineluctable ineffectiveness; torn on the rocks of her very words.
My friend is young. She lies in her hospital bed. Anorexia has her by the throat. She cannot control herself. Nurses come with concoctions, day after day, week after week, for well over two months now, and although her body can but respond to the balance of nutrients and the force-feeding and the controlled regime of a daily dictum she has let us all know that “the voices in her head” won’t let go. Once free, she asserts, she certainly doubts that she won’t resort to the self-destruction of her former ways. But at least she’s still alive!
She does not want others in general to know her condition. She makes me promise. Yet around her bed are cards and flowers and gifts and the heartfelt scrawl and scribble and penmanship of the caring and the despairing and the hopeful and the urging. And they are very real; real people each of whom reaches out with love and faith and love and faith and love~ the very source of the soul’s journey toward fulfilling the passage of a long life. Yet young as she is, my friend continues to choose to die without the means being disclosed to her peers at large. Irony.
Self-protection! Therein lies the rub! Therein lies the very glimmer of the soul that cares still for what others think, that has a self that says it does not want others to see itself so self-destructive, so deeply dissolute in its apparent choice. Therein lies that sinking soul that knows down deep that in the fathoms of others there may well be judgment and censure, not necessarily care and compassion and the nature of nurture, despite the hope, the concern, and the ongoing grief. And therein IT, the voyaging soul itself, still cares for what others think. Egoic or not, her love for others is not yet entirely on those rocks!
I want to extort an answer from her: With what words, what care, what key may we reach you? What of parents, friends, family, community, life itself? But we’ve talked before. “Nothing,” she says. And I watch her face as she reads the big colorful card on which loving others penned their words of genuine care and affection. And some of us know her real condition, know the choices she cannot yet make because she cannot yet seem to decide to flick the fundamental switch in her soul that allows her control; that she has given over to those “voices” in her head.
In the old days we resorted to exorcism. Now? Now we try not to tick her off, not to oblige her, not to guilt her out, not to impose, order, bark, get angry, or force her to love others through quoting Jesus, or the Buddha, or Gandhi. But there is something she needs to know if she ever reads this: We really are very really worried; it comes through very real love. How then do I keep my promise to refrain from letting the others know about her condition? And whether or not she makes it through to the other side of her current passage, surely there will be questions for each and every one of us as to whether or not we called her away from those rocks!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Abuzz in The Bee Chair

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,” W.B. Yeats
There is no release. We can but be what we be. But we do have choice! My friend and I sit now as two relatively old men, with me in the bee-chair facing him, its black and gold cloth ablaze with the bright gold badges of seemingly crawling yet clearly inert bees. In this chair, my friend tells me, people come to pour out their souls. And in the condition that we two old warriors now face each other, we know there is no immediate escape. We are contained by our separate inabilities. He has his ankle propped up, its cast almost grotesque in the small room. I have a pillow stuffed behind me. But while my pain is a constant burn and grind and the occasional jolt of nerve-pinching, his is more disconcerting. His malady is more life-threatening, immediately more disabling. Still caught in the grip of a recent stroke, and before he could do physiotherapy, his ankle needed fusing.
Acceptance has its own grace. Our conversation runs the gamut of selflessness, self-mastery, the ways in which our conditions may serve others, the meta-cognition of continual awareness, the
essential paradox of the emptiness of everything, the necessity of being non-conforming, the transmutation of passion, the great gift of non-attachment, the goodness of a peaceful mind, the patience of humility, the effort without concern for results, the meditation of a mind that lets go, the wisdom of seeing through appearances.
Ian tells me of his friend, X, and of his friend, Y, and in the telling the complexity of their lives become a metaphor for the condition of all. We are souls feeding the nest, looking out of our individuality to contribute to the collective hum. And some of us do not conform. We are not bees that serve only a community, create cells of sustenance, and gather un-differentially. And neither are those who come to sit in his chair perceived like the nine bean rows of the bee-loud glen, whittled down to wattle sticks of similarity to satisfy another’s poetic longing for a Yeats-Ian “Innesfree.” Rather, we are seen as most likely come to the bee chair just to be.
It’s all we can be. We bring the buzz of who we are to what we are in the moment. And moment by moment as we maneuver our way in this passage of life we presume an authenticity of reaction to the conditions of our ever-changing lives. Some lives are subtle. Some are chaotic. Some are chosen. Some appear ineluctable. But in our being we surely make choices in our search for the self that is actually a search for the light. And in this state of enlightenment that is my friend, Ian, I see the acceptance and grace and assimilation, absorption, inclusion and compassion that emblazons his eyes with his inner fires of awareness. There is purpose to his passage. He will do more than merely survive.
So too, I surmise, for bees.