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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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Saturday, 20 September 2014


I had a curious experience on Thursday.  A colleague and I had spent an intense two days in Richards Bay, presiding over an inquiry.  In the mid-afternoon we walked out of an over-cooled air-conditioned boardroom into a wall of heat, with an outside shade temperature of 41 degrees C (say 106 F) and then set out from the port to drive the two hours back to Durban.  

As we reached the main road leading to the highway which would guide us home, we saw a huge fire sweeping through the dry grass a couple of hundred metres off the road.  A little further on all traffic had come to a virtual standstill, with thick white smoke billowing across the road.

Tentatively and slowly I followed a car into the smoke.  Once we were in it we could see a different fire which was burning on both sides of of the road and had clearly jumped across four lanes of traffic.  As we moved slowly and anxiously forward, feeling how I imagine a roast on a spit might feel, we came across two cars which had collided in the smoke. A kilometre further we emerged, unscathed, from our fire-run and made it to the highway.

Driving south along the highway, we saw half a dozen other major fires burning along the way, some close to the road, others further away.  There was smoke as far as the eye could see and the heat of the day raged outside the car.  A stiff south westerly wind had blown up in the meantime, and as it grew in intensity the greyness of the smoky sky became shaded with red dust, which was being blown up everywhere.  The wind grew into a full-on gale and the car shuddered and swayed for the next 100 or so kilometres as we made our way down this treacherous piece of road.  The sun, looking like a weak light bulb, could barely pierce the smoky, dust-laden smoky sky.  It truly felt as if we were driving through hell's gauntlet, with evil lurking behind every tree and hill.  There was something a bit terrifying about the experience, especially lasting as long as it did, but there was also a part of me which simply knew and trusted that we were protected and would be granted a safe passage.

And so we remained focused and got back to Durban safely and in time for me to deliver a lecture at the University.

What's the point of this story?  Well, I'm not sure that there is a point, but in the telling it came to me that most of us will at sometime(s) feel as if or believe we are surrounded by or in the presence of danger or evil.  There may also only be so much to be done by way of physical protection.  However, I hold a view that if we can somehow push on, transcend our fear and hold our line of purpose, the danger or evil will move on to prey on those who are moving slower with little or no purpose, or perhaps those who are incongruent in their ethics and behaviour.

If we take this observation into our daily lives, we see that predators (scam artists, criminals and so on) tend to prey on the weak and vulnerable.  The predators are the evil all around us, they are the red and smoky sky and fires lapping at our flanks.  The invitation is to live our lives in a way where they are rendered harmless, or at least neutralised.

And what does that take?  A transcending of fear; a strong and resilient backbone; ethical behaviour; total congruence in aligning our behaviour with socially acceptable values; a trust and knowing that Life is for us, so long as we can align with its whims rather than demand it should be different; living with true purpose.

Of course, my experience was nothing more really than just a weird collection of climatic conditions which created an uncomfortable situation.  My mind did the rest about the lurking evil and hell's gauntlet, but the story seemed worth telling, because there is evil in the world and at some stage we are all called to deal with it.

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