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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

TRASH A LIFE TO GIVE YOURSELF LIFE


In a previous posting I wrote about hunters who kill animals in order to make themselves feel more worthy.  Suppose that this principle carries through to all relationships.  When we stand in judgement of others, is that not exactly what we are doing?  Bringing the other down in order to feel better about ourselves.

As soon as we start judging (condemning) others, we are simply drawing the life out of them in order to make our own lives seem more valuable to ourselves.  So often our self-worth is tied up in comparisons with others.  We then conclude that because they are to be judged for whatever frailties we perceive, somehow that makes us better than them.

We all have our frailties and we are not going to improve them by pointing out those of others.  The truth is that so often what we see and judge harshly in others is in fact just a reflection of what we don't like about ourselves.  Hence, rather than giving ourselves worth and life by squeezing the life out of others, we in fact die some more within ourselves.

Who’s life do you trash, and why?


Saturday, 23 November 2013

GLAD TO BE ALIVE!

As I write this I am driving back from Johannesburg to Durban, having just taken part in one of the biggest bicycle races in the world.  I am passing through the very under-rated province of the Free State.

All around me are vast gently sloping plains of green grass interspersed with cultivated areas.  There are not many features on this landscape:  here a windmill, there a small hill.  At the side of the road a couple of trees.  In a field, half a dozen cattle chest deep in a dam drinking their fill.  And yet in this minimalistic landscaping, every feature takes on greater significance in defining the land around it.  

Sitting above all this is a beautiful massive blue, almost cloudless dome.  Again, the existence of two or three sparse white cloud puffs drifting around defines the enormous space above the land.

It is the space to which I am attracted.  It offers so much possibility and opportunity for exploration that it makes me excited and grateful to be alive.  

It is a bit like our lives:  the more we fill them with clutter and features, the less space there is to explore them.  It is the clutter of busyness, toxic relationships, worry about money and so on which clutter the creative space in our lives.  When we create space in our lives we can get excited about our possibilities.

It is incumbent on each of us to de-clutter our lives, make space and watch our creativity and vitality bloom.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

REJOICING IN THE DESTRUCTION OF LIFE

I am not normally given to ranting, but perhaps readers will indulge me on this occasion.

I felt disturbed and nauseated the other evening when I saw a photograph on my wife's Facebook page of a foraging elephant which had been assassinated by a hunter.  Posing next to the fallen elephant was a picture of the hunter,a woman and three children whom I took to be his family.  All were grinning from ear to ear and looking quite pleased with themselves.  Then along comes the sickening image of Melissa Bachman crouched and beaming superciliously next to an African lion she has murdered. 

I find every cell in my body filled with revulsion and judgement.  The comments of others on the elephant photograph echoed my dismay and condemnation.  A whole Facebook page has been created and devoted to putting a stop to the likes of Melissa Bachman.  

There is a part of me that would happily populate this post with my words of abuse, condemnation and judgment, but my sense is that that simply has the effect of stirring up other people’s outrage without canvassing the real issues.  Let me see if I can rather distill out some of the issues.

My initial outrage is about someone – presumably a foreigner with no sense of African heritage – coming to my continent and paying money to slay the mightiest of God’s creatures.  My fury is founded in a sense of ownership that I and so many Africans have in our wildlife and our bush heritage.  It doesn't matter that I don’t physically own the elephant or the lion:  I believe that it is my right, and the right of my children and their children to see, connect with and honour what remains of our planet in its natural state.  Unless you have spent time in Africa, you cannot begin to understand the depth of feeling and reverence which Africans have toward their wildlife.  Not all Africans, granted, but for the most part, it is difficult for the bush not to get right into your bones.

No one asked me whether it was OK for foreigners (or indeed anyone) to come and destroy some of my heritage.  No one asked for permission to destroy the rights of yet to be born grandchildren to connect with the earth.  Of course, elephants, rhinos and lions evoke more emotion and attract more attention than 'lesser' animals, but the principle remains the same:  this is our African heritage.  If Americans, Europeans, Japanese and whoever else don’t care about the planet, let them mess up their own piece of the planet, but it is not OK to mess up mine.

And as for the hunter and his family?  And Melissa Bachman?  Well, I don’t know what those supercilious smiles are all about - pride? courage? self-importance? achievement?  What I do know, however, is that it is the easiest thing in the world to get close to an elephant.  The target is the biggest one in the world.  Provided you have the right weapon, you will bring the beast down.  Canned lion hunting is even more cowardly.  With those facts, where is the sport, where is the achievement and for what possible reason can you feel proud about the destruction of such majestic creatures?  

Although I promised at the beginning of this post not to start bandying labels around, I am left with no other judgement but that these are acts of pure self-indulgence which amount to nothing more than the hunter's way of proving his or her own self-worth.

If the destruction of life is the hunter’s way of proving self-worth to the world, it seems to me that he or she has many lifetimes to go.



Friday, 15 November 2013

STRANGULATION BY SYSTEMIC BELIEFS

When I was growing up many years ago I was taught that Blacks were inferior beings in every way, especially intellectually.  That was the teaching of the political system on which our society was built (apartheid).  The teachings were reinforced by what I saw as a child.  Blacks were the gardeners, domestic servants, tramps, meths drinkers and marijuana smokers of our country, so that proved the belief.  And if they were truly inferior, there wasn't much point in having anything to do with them other than in a master servant context.  So, with that simple belief in place, 85% of my fellow countrymen were excluded from my life.

I was also taught that children should be seen and not heard, that Communists were dangerous, smoking was cool, steaks would make you healthy, apartheid was sensible, if you spared the rod you spoilt the child, you were a loser if you didn't go to University, get a degree and find a steady job, people without degrees were stupid, women should stay at home and cook, look after the kids and do the housework, men were more capable of looking after themselves and their families than women, you shouldn't have sex out of wedlock and you certainly shouldn't be born out of wedlock.

These were a few of the beliefs of the political, educational, economic and social systems in which we lived at the time.  All of them have been challenged and shown to be what they were: beliefs without foundation.  (And funnily enough I can't find anyone in South Africa now who will confess to ever having harboured any of those beliefs.)

Anyway, the point is that once particular beliefs have been put in place by the systems, we find ourselves constrained to conform with those beliefs.  Our behaviour is then moulded by them and our creativity and ability to live life fully is suffocated out of us.

It is incumbent on us to test every belief we have for validity, no matter how "true" it may seem in the moment.  When we act on unverified beliefs, rather than on the verifiable data which Life itself gives us, we end up excluding life as it and rather living it as we think it should be, or as others have told us it is.

And how do we verify anything? Simply acknowledge what the actual experience is.  What is the real hard experiential data?  That is the rock on which we can build our actions. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

WHAT IF YOU'RE A WORRIER AND NOT A WARRIOR?

In a previous posting I sketched some thoughts about how a Warrior lives his/her life.  But what if you are actually a Worrier, and the life of the Warrior is eluding you?  Well, you might be a Worrier if any of the following is a fit for you:
  • You are paralysed into inaction by fear
  • You make your choices based upon your fearful or reactive thoughts
  • You run from the truth and pretend that things are not as they actually are
  • You withhold your feelings
  • You don't tell the truth, or speak of Life just as it is
  • You don't trust yourself, others or Life
  • You avoid risk and always play safe (think relationships, career...)
  • Your default motivational state is survival ("I have to ... or else ..." is your default inner dialogue)
  • Your default expectation is that things will turn out for the worst
  • You believe that Life has it in for you
  • Your default response to most situations is 'wimp'
  • You don't play Life to the full 
If any of the above have a ring of truth for you, isn't it time to stop worrying and to start taking a Warrior-like stand for yourself in every aspect of your life?  Time to stop playing small.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

YOU MIGHT BE A WARRIOR...

'Warrior' (n): One who is engaged in conflict or battle; known for skill and courage.

You might be a Warrior if:

  • You are faced with any conflict, whether inner or outer
  • You recognize the dynamic in your life as a conflict 
  • You are committed to dealing with the conflict 
  • You are engaging with the conflict rather than ignoring it, or hoping it will go away
  • You will do what it takes to resolve the conflict, no matter how scared you might be and no matter how much pain you must endure
  • During your engagement with the conflict, you will draw only on the attributes and skills of your highest and most noble self
  • If you do not have the skills you require, you will do whatever is required to acquire those skills
  • You will not escalate the conflict 
  • In resolving the conflict, you will do no (further) harm to any other person, or to yourself
  • Your purpose for resolving the conflict will be to end the conflict, heal your own wounds and heal those of any others involved
And you are in conflict if:
  • You are wrestling with your shadow
  • You are lost, or have little idea where you are going
  • You are disconnected with yourself, others or Life
  • You are scared or in any sort of pain
  • Your behaviour is getting in the way of you being the best you can be
  • You don't love, honour or respect yourself
  • You are out of touch with your highest and most noble self
  • You are not experiencing or feeling gratitude for everything in your life
So, are you a Warrior?