Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Grace, Gratitude, and Grit

“So, what brings you to this point in time?” my friend asks, today. He is serious. “Well,” I say, a bit self-consciously, “the stepping stones provided by others. After all, you yourself have been so instrumental in my life.” He looks into, and then through me. In his eightieth year, he too has had his stepping-stones. Persons, family, and friends. Like any of us, some have been leaning-posts, some have been walking sticks, and some have ferried us across turbulent waters. For them all, one can give gratitude. For them all, one can give grace. But not all know each other’s grit.

Theresa Eldmann (a post-doctoral fellow in History, at the University of South Africa) in a 2015 essay, ‘The lingering, unspoken pain of white youth who fought for apartheid,’* writes:White South African society lived in almost complete ignorance about the scale of the war and the SADF’s strategies. Most conscripts said little about what they experienced. This was partly because they had to sign the Official Secrets Act upon joining. It was also the result of the ‘willed ignorance’ of most white South Africans and the draconian censorship laws of the time.”

Yes, Adam Broadford, in my ADMISSION, A Story Born of Africa,** endures a particular set of inordinate ordeals. (Not just while he is in the army.) The history of Africa is replete with terrible circumstances. There continues to be ugly divisions, terrible atrocities, and the disease of warfare. So too for other countries. So too for the individuals from those countries. And unless one can relate, specifically, it can all seem so very otherworldly, so very remote, so very far removed from our everyday realities that we most easily fill up a gas tank, buy a bottle of wine, and go to enjoy yet another Christmas dinner. But, (not now to dampen one’s spirits,) there are people out there, throughout history, who deserve our continuing grace, ongoing gratitude, and even our own perpetual grit in the face of daily life itself, not just on Remembrance Day.

Professor Eldmann, goes on: “Military conscription was key in the apartheid state’s ‘total response’ to what was construed as a ‘total onslaught’ by the perceived threats of communism and African nationalism. … Over the 25 years that conscription was in place, service increased from nine months to a total of 720 days including camps. … when the SADF invaded Angola after its Portuguese colonial government collapsed. This initiated 14 years of what became known as the ‘Border War’, consisting of intense military and guerrilla warfare in northern Namibia and southern Angola.  … There were harsh consequences for those who disobeyed the call-up. Their choices? A court martial and up to six years in prison, exile in another country or going into hiding in South Africa. … Conscientious objection (on religious rather than moral ethical or political grounds) [only] became a legal option in the mid-1980s…. As the more complex dimensions of our apartheid history begin to emerge, the healing and transformative possibilities of stories about conscription surfacing in the public domain should not be underestimated - especially as a way of making sense of our deeply racially divided society.”

So then, what brings you or me, or an Adam Broadford to any given point? Well, all along life’s way we have been supported and guided and steered, (albeit sometimes will-he, nil-he,) by the society into which we’re born. And we’ve reacted, responded, been inspired, and impelled. Now, as our family and friends come to celebrate, on birthdays, on Christmas, on Festive Occasions, or otherwise, can it be with deep gratitude, living grace, and ongoing grit that we look them in the eyes? Might we be glad that we can still share such ‘alive’ time with them, at all? And in our hearts, those we love, do remain, always.
                                                                     Paul Smulders' CD, Missing in Action (paul@asesa.co.za)

*See: https://theconversation.com/the-lingering-unspoken-pain-of-white-youth-who-fought-for-apartheid-46218

**See: https://www.amazon.com/author/richardpentelbury

Monday, November 12, 2018

Family, Friends, Familiars, and Foes

In the smallest inner circle, in a dart-board’s bull’s eye analogy, might we allow those we hold closest. But even among those we keep furthest away, especially on the outskirts, there can live family, friends, familiars, and foes. As differentiated as tabulations can be, within each slice of the dart-board pie, we are not always a victim of an other’s sharp points; some are soft tipped; some acquaintances we can be very fond of; they strike love into our soul; others we may instinctually like; their presence seems feather light. Some hug us, with tenderness. Then too, some sharper persons we ward away. Some may be too dull. Problem is, we are not necessarily the ones in control. Some darts, those of our enemies, can land with a severe thud, difficult to dislodge; their wounds leave scars; their memories arise in disfavour.

Foes, for most of us, are seldom lifelong. Forgiveness, of a sort, happens, especially as the injuries of the past lead from way to way. We forget, overlook, and come to terms with our scars; perhaps more easily those that have been done to us, than those we’ve gone and done to others. Memory thickens. Blood thins. That ‘thicker than water’ feeling of ‘belonging’ to someone else, helps, especially if there’s been a similarity of background and experience. But some foes remain. “I shall never forgive” runs like poison. It sours memory. It inhibits trust. It stirs regret, even years later. Lifelong enemies can be ghostly, even when dead.

Adam Broadford, in his ‘ADMISSION, A Story Born of Africa,’* forgives the trespasses of others, despite their vile transgressions against his body, his psyche, and his spirit. But one person, in particular, Aikimbo, cannot forgive Adam. After a 20-or-so year gap, and during Rhodesia’s border warfare, when Adam is caught dangling by his ankle on a trap-wire, Aikimbo confronts him. Despite their childhood transgressions of foolhardiness and arrogance, their old enmity is suspended in the moment, wrought vulnerable by circumstance, and fate itself is in the offing.

“I’d get that seen to,” Glenn Snooke, (of Canada’s Denman Island,) once advised me from the experience of his septuagenarian age. “It can lodge so deep in the skin that I’ve known blokes to suffer from its itch even a decade or so later.” He was talking about cedar splinters. He’d watched me manhandle a cedar log against my bare skin. And now, more than thirty years later, I remain grateful that he was there, that he saw the incident, that he spoke into my life. The itch continues. Bits of splinter still emerge. (Thanks to Glenn, I pass the immediacy of his advice on to those who might, years later, wonder at the reasons one may still itch, in any instance.)

But some itches we do not necessarily need to redress. When the poison of a bitter directive at oneself gets received, some twenty years later, it helps to be compassionate, contrite, humbled, and sympathetic. But it does not do to receive the dart into the bull’s eye of one’s being, and so to sully the present with the other’s ongoing enmity. There are some things in the past that occurred because of immaturity, ignorance, and indisposition. Yes, too many harms can be created by intentionality too. And yes, accountability, responsibility, and recompense are all measures that mankind may exact of the transgressors. Best not to forget. But in the face of way leading onto way, one can learn to forgive, accept, and integrate the misspent passions of the past, particularly if the guilty party acknowledged complicity and regret. Such are the things we can give to our family members, our friends, our familiars, and even to our foes, one hopes.

But for Adam Broadford, caught up in the mid-century African culture of physical and mental abuse, legalized racism, social fragmentation, negative a-judgements, and an inescapable conscription to unending expectations from family, friends, familiars, and foes, there eventually appears no other recourse than to extract himself from the ongoing jabs and darts of the hateful, hurtful, spiteful, and vengeful. He absconds. But even so, he can forgive, does forgive, although he may not so readily forget.

So too for you?
                                                                                            On Facebook, By Nicola Samori


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!

Giants are most often invisible. They lurk inside us. They round the corners of the brain, clutch at our hearts, and trip us up. We do not necessarily suspect their presence. We are not readily aware that they inhabit us. We do not easily realize that the fear they can instill in us arose in our childhood, in our youth, and in our heretofores.

Adam Broadford, in ‘ADMISSION, a Story Born of Africa’, remains haunted by a giant in his path. He knows it. It prevents him ever disclosing the truth, the whole truth, to anyone. It always prevents him having open disclosure, having complete trust, or being free ‘just’ to be. Always, there is a giant called Fear and Disgust and Shame, depending on the circumstances. And given that Adam was a three-year-old child when this giant figure came to invade his innocence, despoil his future, and cloud his trust, he can but continue to keep the giant at bay by never revealing its presence. To disclose it to someone else is to make it too real. To unpack it before the prying eyes of others, and to have the past, his private past, entirely besmirched by the austere judgement of others, is to be too open to the certain vilification awaiting him.

Then too, there is the murder he committed when he was a boy. But that giant of a secret Adam feels he more readily can keep at bay. Besides, no one would really blame him. At least, no one he knows that is ‘white’.

South Africa had a legalized giant named ‘Apartheid’*. It meant that anyone looking ‘black’, be they Hindu, Pakistani, Chinese, Cape Coloured, or any member of the ‘dark races’, could not partner with a white person, could not date, could not marry, could not even ride in the same vehicle together. South Africa also legislated against homosexuals. It ruled against integrated schools. It created entrenched cultural distinctions with naturally separate values for the Bantu, the Afrikaner, and the English. At the time of Adam Broadford’s parents meeting in the 50’s, although both white, there was much cultural disapproval that an Englishman would date an Afrikaner girl, much less ‘have to’ marry her! Times, history, values, and concepts do change. But the giants of Shame and Fear can continue to haunt the populace at large. There are the indiscretions of the past. There are the lies they told their friends, their families, their partners. The giants of Self-Service do much to prove one Selfish. The giants of Shame do much to keep one Secretive. And the giant of Fear can keep one clandestine, haunted, and even Irrational.

We fear bees, and lions and tiger and bears, oh my! We fear hate and hurt and harm. We hide from trouble. We seek escape from threat. We can cauterize the bleedings that will give us lifelong scars, even though it be in the heart, where we think others may not see. But the giant shadows of the past linger on. They continually arise, unshakeable even in the light of our new understandings. They can be obscure, and obfuscated, just as we can be. We can tilt at them. We can make them larger than they actually loom. We can in our anxiety pay obeisance, homage, and sacrifice ourselves to them. Some we can even give names, call out their histories, and unwind the very coil within which they shuffle. Some we smudge at, misaligning their very sharp edges in our memory. But as diminished as the giants may become, so long as recollection itself is a tool of memory, there will be a word, a phrase, a smell, a look, a touch of someone’s skin that all by itself can rise up in us the giants of Fear, Despair, or Shame.

“Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!”** calls the giant. And for Adam Broadford, English as he was in a predominantly Afrikaans culture, it was a call to all that he was made to be ashamed of; a child who takes after his father, a backseat brat made to be shamed by his ‘very’ English past.

We can learn to slay giants.  But can we ever rid ourselves of their memory? Adam Broadford sets off to find that much out. And you? Do you go to battle with your giants too?

*Apartheid era[Wikipedia]

Under South Africa's ruling National Party from 1948 to 1994, homosexuality was a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison; this law was used to harass and outlaw South African gay community events and political activists.[12]
Despite state opposition, several South African gay rights organisations formed in the late 1970s. However, until the late 1980s gay organisations were often divided along racial lines and the larger political question of apartheid. The Gay Association of South Africa (GASA), based in the Hillbrow district in central Johannesburg, was a predominantly white organisation that initially avoided taking an official position on apartheid, while the Rand Gay Organisation was multi-racial and founded in opposition to apartheid.[13][14] In the country's 1987 general election, GASA and the gay magazine Exit endorsed the National Party candidate for Hillbrow, Leon de Beer. The campaign brought to a head the tensions between LGBT activists who overtly opposed apartheid and those that did not. In the wake of the election campaign, GASA declined and was superseded by the Cape Town-based Organisation of Lesbians and Gays Against Oppression (OLGA).[15]
From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the South African Defence Force forced white gay and lesbian soldiers to undergo various medical "cures" for their sexual orientation, including sex reassignment surgery.[16] The treatment of gay and lesbian soldiers in the South African military was explored in a 2003 documentary film, titled Property of the State

**  "Fee-fi-fo-fum" is the first line of a historical quatrain (or sometimes couplet) famous for its use in the classic English fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk". The poem, as given in Joseph Jacobs' 1890 rendition, is as follows:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
Though the rhyme is tetrametric, it follows no consistent metrical foot; however, the respective verses correspond roughly to monosyllabic tetrameter, dactylic tetrameter, trochaic tetrameter, and iambic tetrameter. The poem has historically made use of assonant half rhyme.


The rhyme may have originated with the ballad Childe Rowland.
It appears in the pamphlet Haue with You to Saffron-Walden (published in 1596) written by Thomas Nashe (who mentions that the rhyme was already old and its origins obscure):[2]
Fy, Fa and fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman
In William Shakespeare's play King Lear (c. 1605),[2] the character Edgar exclaims:
Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.
The verse in King Lear makes use of the archaic word "fie", used to express disapproval.[3] This word is used repeatedly in Shakespeare's works: King Lear shouts, "Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!", and in Antony and Cleopatra, Mark Antony's exclaims, "O fie, fie, fie!"
The earliest known printed version of the Jack the Giant-Killer tale appears in The history of Jack and the Giants (Newcastle, 1711) and this,[2][4] and later versions (found in chapbooks), include renditions of the poem, recited by the giant Thunderdell:
Fee, fau, fum,
I smell the blood of an English man,
Be alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he living, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to mix my bread.
Charles Mackay proposes in The Gaelic Etymology of the Languages of Western Europe that the seemingly meaningless string of syllables "Fa fe fi fo fum" is actually a coherent phrase of ancient Gaelic, and that the complete quatrain covertly expresses the Celts' cultural detestation of the invading Angles and Saxons:
·         Fa from faich (fa!) "behold!" or "see!"
·         Fe from Fiadh (fee-a) "food";
·         Fi from fiú "good to eat"
·         Fo from fogh (fó) "sufficient" and
·         Fum from feum "hunger".
Thus "Fa fe fi fo fum!" becomes "Behold food, good to eat, sufficient for my hunger!"[6]

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Thanksgiving Transitions

Waiting in a Medical clinic, Thanksgiving Day, takes on many forms. Some people are at dinner. Others, like the poor souls around me, await the next phase of their sorry fate. Thing is, aren’t we all, in any case, like turkeys being led to some eventual end in which the leftovers are used and used, until we are forgotten in the grand sweep of progress?

There are two meta-narratives that drive mankind’s meanings. First is the Positive Paradigm of the hopeful, the progressive, the accreting. Second is the Negative Paradigm of the enervating, the disillusioned, the depleting. Throughout history there have been the doomsayers, and there has been the venturers. The latter have driven us toward the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Industrial, and the Technological Revolution. They will drive us among the stars. Eventually we shall discover other places to inhabit. Eventually we shall reach Oneness. Already there is a marriage between technology and biology. Eventually we shall transform with the inevitability of The Singularity. But that very ‘inevitability’ is what the Doomsayers and the Naysayers and the Enervators are arguing against. Too many species are dying. The oceans are dying. The earth cannot sustain us (all). We are in the proverbial hand-basket on our unsteady way to an over-warned metaphor: the end is near!

Thing is, tangents take us out of our trajectory. Without them we become inured to change that is not too unsettling, such that our adaptability goes with the flow. It allows for our taking on some major changes (like Blue Tooth connectivity changing land-line-based lives,) and it shuffles along readily enough without alarming our mortal coils. But wrenched by some tangent we do protest. Ask Martin Luther. Ask Galileo. Ask Kepler, or Copernicus. Ask all those who envisaged a new world view, or promulgated a new paradigm, or who were violently opposed by those who misunderstood, or were virally threatened by an already established Old World Order.

Medical clinics can have that effect. People walk in, unsure. Some walk out with terrible news, their futures curtailed, their happiness severely tested. Such is inequity. Such are the tragedies that befall us. One moment one is having a respite from the dictum of ‘doing’ all the live-long day, the next a phone call startles one into the dreadful news that a loved one has been the victim of some accident. And in the accommodation of the new event, in the adjustment, and in the progress of the days and months and years that will not erase having to have lost a loved one, or having, in oneself, to become handicapped, adversely affected, or incrementally debilitated by the tragedy, therein lies the taking on of a new paradigm. We are creatures of habit, acquiring new habits. And our choices, sometimes, are not as freely up to us as we’d like.

“Come on down, you’re the next contestant,” Nurse Nelia, invites. She shows no compassion-fatigue, despite her evident seniority. She is gracious as a new patient arrives. Some are open and at ease with ‘the problem’, others lean forward, confidentially. Yes, we are but bits and bodies needing bolstering. We are but flesh. And within the mortal coil we each indeed do shuffle.

Dichotomies, as absolutes, are an anathema to integration. Everything is a little of this, if not more of that. Who among us is entirely right or left brained? And depending on the need, so we adopt our usage. Adept, capable, we still do not necessarily make wise choices. Maturation, insight, intuition, and circumspection allow for the progress of history to unfold, as Desiderate might’ve had it, ‘as it would’. And as for the prognosis, why, that becomes the private if not public recognition of the moment, measure for measure. Within that grand meta-narrative, we each can but try to stay healthy.

Come, let us give thanks, Individual by individual, taking on our tangents as we do, in order that the collective may be better served. But not just on Thanksgiving Day. After all, one does not easily know just when, “You’re the next contestant.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Truth Be Told (About my ADMISSION)

Here it is, since so many ask, “what is the truth?” We can hardly reconstruct our memories without smudging at the edges of the photographs we handle. Images can gather our new fingerprints. And snapshots in time, given words, become re-created and re-envisaged in all the inaccuracy of the creative, the imagined, and the impacted. A single slap can forever change a child’s perception of safety. And it can resonate down the decades, rendering that child insecure for life. So it is with ‘truth’; we add and colour and re-arrange the details, until our story (seldom memorized as exactly as a dramatic script demands) becomes a re-telling, such that our arms get wider and wider as we demonstrate the fish we once caught, ha!

This, then, is the pitch for ‘ADMISSION, A Story of Africa’ (available in three formats through Amazon, as seen below, on Kindle, Paperback Print, or Audio):

Secrets haunt Adam Broadford’s extraordinary life.

The ugly divisions of race, religion, and politics in the early 60’s and 70’s of Africa gnaws at him. Beauty and brutality are constantly at odds. Happiness and sadness are locked in a dance. So much is his fault. Against a richly depicted backdrop with deeply resonating characters there are gifts, wisdom, and murder. In the vital textures of the wild-game collection farm in Northern Rhodesia there is rescue, kindness, and killing. Later, sent to renown boarding schools in Kimberley, and then Pretoria, South Africa, followed by serving in border warfare, and while working as a stoker on a steam engine in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Adam decides to go AWOL.

No longer can he take on the consequences of living in Africa.

A stowaway aboard a Union Castle ship, his pent-up secrets begin to unlock.

But will his admission, at last, set him free?

And since so many ask, “what is the truth?” Yes, this writer was raised on a ‘wild-game collection farm’ in Northern Rhodesia. Yes, this writer went to both Kimberley Boys’ High, and then Pretoria Boys’ High. Yes, this writer was conscripted into the South African army, in several Call-Ups, between late 1970 and early 1975. Yes, this writer was a stoker on the railways in Natal’s ‘Valley of A Thousand Hills’. Yes, this writer was a stowaway on the S.A. Oranje, 1975. And yes, the work is fiction!

The great art of fiction is that one is “best to work from that which is known, and then to lie through one’s teeth,” John Futhey, my old English professor once said. (In other words, should YOU not have been to Africa, don’t set your novel there!) Then again, you (the reader, and perhaps a writer too,) have grown up. You have experiences. You have memories. And you have imagination! It is as Einstein is purported to have said, “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” Well, in supplying the details by which to attempt to elucidate one’s thoughts, it behooves the writer, the storyteller, to remember at all times that the creative work at hand is one of fiction: impressions built around truths. Characters are composites, embellishments to suit the fancy. Impressions are built on snapshots in time. So too for the reader, if truth be told.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Blood on The Blinds

"Each heart hides its pain away. Some you can see it in their eyes, and others in their smile." (from Lewenswaarheid ~ Livingtruths. Grap blad vir almal ~ Joke page for all) 

We peep into our world without. We cannot possibly see it all. Some things we choose to screen from others; they choose to screen some things from us. Curious, we open our blinds to let in the sun, to see the light. Caring, we close our blinds to shade our more delicate colours from fading. Protection is innate. Blinds serve a purpose. We rig them up, or allow another, or get someone else to do it, all the while intending that degrees of privacy, of comfort, of commonality be obtained. It is a perpetuation of our acculturation. We do but remain cave dwellers. Evolution brought us down from the trees and into the firelight, yes, yet evolution still (especially with our some-what surpassing aeons of circadian rhythms,) …evolution still keeps us comfortable when ensconced by a roof overhead, with solid walls around us, and a particular privacy while we sleep.

So, we put up blinds. (Yet the JoHari window panes would have us aware of the quadrants of our lives.) We see ourselves somewhat clearly. Others see in us the things we do not even see in ourselves. We see in each other the personality we both know. And then there is that fourth pane; the unknown in either you or me, however many blinds we may release from their catch.

But some blinds are made of metal, others of plastic, or wood, and some, flimsy and perhaps least permanent, are made of paper. Yet small paper cuts from putting up paper blinds can leave blood traces, forever, down the lines.

History proves it. King William (1066 and all that) with Queen Matilda begat a Henry who also begat a Henry who, with Eleanor, begat eight children. One of them was that famous crusader! (Ha! In ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ there’s a catchy song about ‘begatting’. (Yes, I once played Og, the leprechaun.) Indeed, all down the line we leave our blood traces. Even Og becomes a human!

“Did it hurt much?” one might ask of the beleaguered. But no, at the evidence of bandaged paper cuts, revealed at a dinner conversation, I first asked my friend if he’d "left blood smears on the blinds?" After all, the permanent is what can really signify. All down the lines of our family constellations, since the very long-ago history of Adam and Eve, we’ve been affected, imprinted, imbued with, and acculturated by the versions of our past. Whether being a reincarnation, or not, our very DNA continues the physical mold by which we are procreated. And whether self-made or not, there is a Biblical sense of the “sins of fathers” being perpetuated down the lines. But when do we water them down so much as to leave “no traces no-more”? (“True love leaves no traces,” goes the Leonard Cohen song.) So, is there a moment, if not a given lifetime, in which one may indeed spill over and become so large-a-lake as to leave but the original vessel of one’s birth-passage just that, a mere corridor by which one found one’s own door? Yet not even adopted babies escape their natures. Nurturing may indeed layer the psyche with new enlightenments, but deeply at root go the bloodlines, all the way back, and at some provocation, history proves, some trace of the past, like a seam or a crack or a scar or a vein, surfaces to show that in our reaction (as opposed to a response) we are composites of the past, atavistically, a-spiralling toward what?

There lies the question! What’s it all about? If not about contributing-toward-the-health-of-the-Whole, then what? (And never mind whose “Whole”!) Problem is, there’re so very many of us at variance with just what that “health” part means! The economy? The populace? The family? The self? The nation? The world? What about the universe? How (the hell) do I contribute to that?

My friend jested, hurt: “What about me?” he asked, showing bandages. “Never mind the blinds!”

Ha! Indeed. Each thing that we do, each moment that we have, each intention, followed by an action, impacts an ‘other’; it resonates.

Yes, one best be careful with one’s blood, (especially ‘bad’ blood) one trusts, all down those lines.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Curiousity Kills The Cat

Phrases can be so damaging. We can emasculate boys. We can forever chastise girls. Shame is insidious and slides its shadow throughout the entirety of our lives, such that we are more easily undermined than we may give our insecurity its childhood credence; after all, “Just who do you think are?”

Children experiment and evolve toward maturation under the yoke of their culture. Boys are brought up with expectations. Girls are brought up with restrictions. (Somehow, it all “levels out.”) And although the general population perceives their standards to be proper and right and sanctioned, there are (evidently) comparatively few populaces that allow for overt individualization, that easily accept transgressions. At least, that is, as history would have it, until lately.

Nowadays, with television and the internet, with the ongoing liberation of autocracies and the (devilishly) deliberate dissolution of religions, there is an unprecedented crawling of cultural conceptions toward more and more integration. It is as if we are intermeshing. It is as if we are losing our (cherished) identity. It is as if the intermarriage between types and castes and cultures is making of our world a blend of all the Petrie dishes in which one hitherto was contained, even comfortably so! After all, a curfew, a curtailment, a leash, a set of expectations and rules and regulations (and appropriate proprieties) can render even the most curious of us with a sense of ‘safety’. We can always retreat to our domain. We know where our fence is. We know what our constraints are. And we can live with that.

But of late we are inundated with the call to commune with other cultures. Despite the difficult and debilitating differences of language, of cultural practice, of expected standards of living, of habit, and proclivity, and patterns of conduct, we are bound to progress toward intermingling. We are called out of our cages. We are made to cross fences. We are expected to accept and to shake hands and to be compassionate. We are dragged by Time itself toward a future in which the very sustenance of our (cherished) particularities becomes clearly problematic. Yes, ‘Clubs’ can be too restrictive. ‘Males only’ is a thing of the past. So is ‘Whites only’. And nowadays we will no longer support a business with a sign that reads, ‘No Jews.’ We are becoming integrative.

Yet we still control our children with phrases that can cauterize curiosity. If intelligence may be defined as the ability to keep curious, then why do we level someone with a sarcastic phrase like, “curiosity killed the cat”? Or persist with the, “tall-poppy syndrome”? Or, “Your head is too big for your boots!”? Then too, there is, “Don’t stand there, counting teeth, (go play with the other children.)” Thing is, the Bell Curve will naturally shove one into the preponderance of the populace, (individual instincts aside). We each have personality and character traits (in what we do, and how we do it,) that define our individuality, but collectively we tend to adhere to the theory that, “birds of a feather flock together.” Thing is, little children are raised to follow the status quo; if not by individual families, then certainly in the school system. And as the school culture changes, albeit ever so slowly, then so too do society’s cultural norms. Once, “I don’t give a damn,” became de-rigueur (following ‘Gone With The Wind’,) we promulgated an industry that promoted the acceptance of the hitherto ‘forbidden’. The slippery slope of casual indifference to the effect of one’s word choice upon sensitized others (around oneself,) has the upside of also not caring about the choice of one’s (inappropriate) apparel; of whether or not one wears a cap in a restaurant; of whether or not one smokes in the.... oh! We’ve made a law against that!

Shaming another does much, in later life, to make perhaps too hesitant one’s intuition, one’s curiosity, one’s belief in oneself, one’s ability (or one’s freedom) to make choices for oneself in the maze of trials that life entails. We learn to play it safe. We abide by the rules. We learn to fear the reach of the law, the condemnation of the crowd, the curtailment of our instincts. Our intelligence itself becomes suspect. Who do we think we are? So, we crouch into the bulge of the bell curve, adopt definitions of ourselves given to us by parents and peers and significant others, and presume we are too forward when we feel, somewhere down deep inside, that where we are ‘at,’ just simply isn’t enough. What’s around the bend? What’s over the horizon?  How dare you think that! Who do you think you are? Or... has the cat now got your tongue?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Without or With You

Determined for your response, (yes, yours,) I persist. Are we at a disconnect? You go your way, I mine. Life goes on. Your life has details, a daily dictum. So too for me. The dictionary of life gets heavy; keep it simple.

But we may forget one another. How ‘light’ is that? How very watered down picayune memory can become; or is that: the memory of picayune matters? Still, it’s not quite like forgetting Schroedinger, let alone the name of his cat. Ask Pavlov. Names can no longer ring a bell.

Let me not remain obtuse. Of what significance is the name of another if not knowing or recalling how it makes richer your life? Yet place names are often based on people. We do not necessarily know the origins. And all places have significance to someone. Some are generic: Peter’s Drive Inn; Andy’s Gonna-Bar; Carol’s Care Centre. To whom might these, specifically, refer? Yet, how can we possibly stay aware of the myriad milestones such names have left in people’s hearts? How may they demarcate any given memory? Places or people, we know so very many in our lives. And each, in some measure, has an impact. Indeed, others have learned lessons from us (as we have, from them) in how to be, (let alone how not to be!) We each glean from life according to our own proclivities. Surely, it’s better to keep as aware as we can of our impact on this world? A single phrase can be so upsetting. A small act can appear so puerile.

Letters to friends reveal much. When we do not refer to their last intimations it as though they remain unheard. So, in losing another’s letter, or accidentally misplacing it in the waste, or in inadvertently deleting it from one’s email account, the details disappear! Memory does not necessarily serve (me). Especially if not answered almost right away. And if one has very many friends, the recall of another’s details, especially for me, can be altogether too fragmenting. I shall surely get things wrong! As for my own immediate details, reporting them can be like a child’s; they can absorb so much of the here and now, excited only by the instant: “I wore my new blazer that I got from Tailor Maids, and my shirt that you saw me in the last time we met, and we went to the new movie, Momentary Madness; it was brilliant. So, as I was coming out there was this accident on the corner of Blind Spot and Intersection, but no one was hurt too badly, thank goodness! Next week we’re flying off to Tie-land, and I shall celebrate my birthday there. A pity you can’t come!”

So it goes. Manufactured truths can extend into reality. (How to be forgiven if, hoping that my recollection is right, I hazard at calling your brother, “Roy”?) One tends predominantly to be left or right brained. Left is rational, sequential, concrete. Right is abstract, metaphorical, random.

Point is, either way, maturational insight takes time. Compassion take time. Awareness is not always immediate, and like enlightenment, it is not so much a product as a journey. And so the details (for a right brainer) evolve predominantly into feelings (“which is all,” according to the poet, e.e. cummings). Yes, sparse details can devolve into the smudge of forgetfulness that mangles our clarity with each other. We each have so very many things, so very many other friends, so very many thoughts. And as the awkward dictum goes: talking (predominantly) about things is shallow; talking (predominantly) about people is hollow; and talking (predominantly) about ideas can be pompous. Best to incorporate a little of each; better to be comprehensive, inclusive, and integrative. (N’es pas?)

With or without you, life goes on. If you’re reading this and we have not personally connected over the last long while, then believe please that should I see you (given that we both may well still be alive) .... believe that I shall feel warmth and care and interest and well-wishes for you and yours, for your endeavours, for your proverbial hopes and dreams. But of details of your past, specifically, or even mayhap the recall of your very name, I shall perhaps be found remiss, forgetful, and abstract. With or without you, or me, life goes on. But.... is that enough?