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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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Saturday, 30 April 2016

MY GREATEST FEAR

It's 4am and I'm writing this post in response to a minor existential melt-down I'm having. After listening yesterday to a wonderful and inspiring interview of my friend and teacher, Dr Roy Whitten (@WhittenDR), I was indirectly reminded of my greatest fear, which is that I  might never reach my fullest potential because I'm not sure what my fullest potential is.

I'm not even sure that I know why it's a fear. I'm not sure if it's the part of me that thinks I owe it to the world to deliver the best of me that there is, or whether it's just that I owe that to myself. I hope it's the latter. If I have to be beholden to anybody, I would rather it were just to me than to the world. The burden is similar, but at least the accountability is only to one person and not to 7 billion.

My early morning musings have left me wondering if there's still a piece of the puzzle of my life missing.  The only thing I do feel sure about is that, if I'm still here, there's more to come and more to do. In the sure knowledge that I haven't yet peaked, but have more to offer the world, or perhaps the Universe, or maybe just myself, there is a part of me which keeps on plumbing the depths of my creative space in search of the bigger piece.

And that's where the excitement is, not just for me but for each and every one of us: If you can accept that you have more to offer and to do by virtue of the simple fact that you are still here, or if you don't like that, then if you accept that there is more you could do with your life given that you still have time on earth, the opportunity awaits to discover what that bigger or missing piece really is. 

I don't necessarily think I'm going to invent the next big successor to the iPhone (or that I even want to do that), but what I am unwilling to accept is that my life is as good and complete as it's ever going to be. 

What I know for sure is that there is always going to be a part of me that looks for better ways of doing things, better ways of being in the world, bigger pieces to apply in my daily life, opportunities to share the lessons I have learned and more to offer to myself and others. 

I am also painfully aware of when I go off track and lapse into what I call stagnation mode, which is that place where we stop creating and even tend towards self-sabotage. Every one of us has the ability to slump into stagnation mode, and perhaps that's the pressure valve which has to pop every now and again so that we don't burn ourselves out with effort. However, stagnation mode also has the potential to become too comfortable, in which case we stay right in it, stagnating and eventually becoming fetid. The challenge is to recognize when we are in stagnation mode, decide how long we are willing to lurk in that muck and be purposeful about hauling ourselves out and getting back on the road.

So the learning piece here is that we all have more to offer, but not necessarily in terms of physical effort, additional time or money. In my case I am pretty much at full stretch with all of those. What we do have to offer, however, is the very essence of who we are in our most loving, humane and authentic states and the creative thought with which we have all been blessed. If we cannot give those to their absolute fullness (however they may look), then we will not have reached our fullest potential.

Thanks for listening. And thank you, Roy Whitten, as ever for your wonderful insights.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

THE ART OF NOT GETTING THINGS DONE

I've had a week of business travel and distractions from what's been waiting to be done on my desk. I knew at the beginning of the week what lay ahead, and set aside (in my head) time on airplanes, in other offices and places where I knew I would have time to kill in order to catch up on whatever needed doing. And here I sit with an accumulated backlog of admin and substantive work wondering what went wrong. For what it is worth, let me share my object lesson in #procrastination and #distraction.

First of all, you want to ensure that that you are always faced with a proper choice: either you could do something dreary that needs to be done, or else you should be able to do something more exciting, but less necessary. For instance, you could make a list of the business expenses you have racked up in your travels and need to submit to someone, or you could start reading an interesting book which someone has given you. No-brainer, right?

Secondly, always ensure that when faced with a choice of how to use your time most wisely, you choose the activity which you regard as the most wholesome and healthy for you, such as catching up on sleep deprivation from an early morning flight rather than reviewing the client agreement which you have been promising the client for the past week.

I am also quite a fan of the “I’m sure I’ll be able to fit it all in on Friday afternoon when it’s quieter” approach to pressing work on a Tuesday, except of course when Friday afternoon turns out to be anything but quiet, mostly because I’ve put too much off until then.

The fourth technique (which relates in many ways to the first technique) is the instant gratification approach to the week. It makes so much more sense to me to do what interests and feeds me mentally and emotionally first and then deal with the drudge. The only weakness with this approach is that I can almost always find the former to do (like writing this blog, for instance) at the expense of the other.

Finally, one of my favourites is to ensure that my mental tick list of things to do is never committed to paper. Written lists usually require you physically to tick things off, preferably in the order in which they appear. Mental tick lists, on the other hand, actually allow you to remove some things to do from the list if they are not especially enticing.

So, I hope that has been a helpful summary of prime procrastination techniques. They all work individually , but are best in combination. The greatest thing about them, of course, is they are also an excellent aid to delaying the onset of stress until things really have to be done.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

I recently heard ex-Constitutional Court Judge Zak #Yacoob speaking at a function held by @BowmanGilfillan. Although his talk was on a non-contentious subject, it followed the day after the #Zuma #impeachment debate in  #Parliament the previous week. It also followed some public comments he had made saying that he was of the view that President Zuma should step down. The most notable part of his talk was his call for the need for people to “speak truth to power”.

He was saying of course that, even when a relationship is unequal in terms of power, if the powerful person is behaving unethically or inconsistently with the law or other values, it is incumbent on the person ostensibly having less power to speak his or her truth. Judge Yacoob said that, when he had been an activist against Apartheid, he had spoken up without fear of the inevitable reprisal from the then Government. Now (in the Zuma context) he was speaking despite fear of reprisal.

Like so many others who spoke out against Apartheid, Judge Yacoob is a courageous man. To put it bluntly, it takes balls to speak out against any power, whether it be a Government, employer or military power, even when your truth is a stand against evil and immorality. Reprisals can and often do follow. Somehow, the person who speaks the truth becomes the villain. Sir Thomas More would have been inclined to agree, had he still been around to tell his tale.

But tell the truth we must, no matter how scary that may be, to our partners, our friends, our bosses, our leaders and anyone else who is not living according to the Universal or at least societal laws of morality and justice.

If we don’t speak our truths, we become complicit in and compound the evil. On Monday the week before last I saw an entire ANC caucus do just that in Parliament. To a man they voted in favour of the South African epitome of all that is dishonest, immoral and evil.

How is that for a liberation struggle group who claim to have espoused the Freedom Charter? The excuse for such a disgraceful vote was that, because it was the opposition who had called for the impeachment of the President, they couldn't possibly allow the opposition to tell them what to do. So they voted against the impeachment. The logic seems to have escaped them that it was more important for them not to lose face than to vote morally and with their hearts. It also passed them by that, if they had done the right thing and driven the impeachment process themselves in the first place based on what was morally and constitutionally the correct thing to do, the opposition could not have claimed a victory. 

Sometimes it's a struggle to tell the truth because of other dynamics at play. But not telling the truth comes at a great cost.

If you're unwilling to tell the truth, the real question is: So what price for your soul?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

WHOSE #GOD IS IT ANYWAY?

Have you ever noticed how many sportsmen point a finger heavenwards after they’ve scored a goal, nailed a putt, made a century or done something else special on the sports field and thanked God for the assistance?

Which is all well and good until someone on the opposing team scores a goal and then also thanks and acknowledges God. And that of course then leads to a few questions such as:

·         Is it the same God they are thanking?
·         If so, is God just balancing the books by letting them each score a goal?
·         If it’s a different God for each player or each team, do you have to assume that the winning team has a stronger God on its side?
·         Does God actually care who wins or that someone should score a try, a goal, a touch-down or a century?
·         Is God really interested in rugby? Or does he care whether you make par, birdie or bogie on the golf course.

In South Africa we used to have an enormous thug on the rugby field called Bakkies Botha, known to his mates as “the Enforcer”. He would generally hurt people and oftentimes had a higher penalty count against him than anyone else in the team on any given day. And yet he was the one who would generally lead prayers of thanks after a match which had been won. Really? Was God a part of that? Or was it just that part of God’s plan was to give people the choice to hurt each other or not, and then let them live with whatever karmic consequences might follow each choice until they got Life’s lessons? If I was God I would have kicked Bakkies Botha’s butt, and those who behaved like him, but perhaps that’s why I’m not God.

The problem isn’t of course confined to sportsmen. In all religious wars the protagonists on each side have believed God was supporting them. Even when the wars aren’t religion-based, soldiers on both sides often pray to the same God. That of course must present God with a bit of a problem: Which soldier is less or more deserving of being killed? Little do they know that God apparently doesn’t judge, so he is unlikely to make a choice about who should die and who shouldn’t. He’d just rather leave them to slug it out and get their lessons from the combat.


There’s no real problem in believing that God gives you strength, courage, kindness or whatever other attributes you appreciate about yourself. But I do think there’s a problem when you believe that God is more of a Manchester United fan than a Liverpool fan (and that he might change allegiances from season to season).

Thursday, 7 April 2016

PARTLY ETHICAL? WHY #ZUMA CAN'T STAY

‪#‎S‬&P have said that SA's politics are hindering growth. Duh! There is every chance of S&P downgrading SA Inc. to junk status if the on-going‪#‎ANC‬ debacle continues, apart from our other economic woes.
#Zuma has disappointed us in every way since PRIOR to taking office. He has squirmed out of corruption and rape charges, pillaged the coffers of the land, dishonoured the Constitution and the Public Protector, befriended the ‪#‎Guptas‬, abused his position and, and...
However, leaving all of that aside (even if it were forgiveable for a President), the ANC are trying to make us believe (actually, trying to make themselves believe) that Zuma actually apologised on Friday night for violating the Constitution and by this humbling act everything is now just dandy. Firstly, he didn't apologise for violating the Constitution or dishonouring the PP. Listen carefully: he apologised for the delays in finalising the matter and for confusing all of us. So he remains unrepentant.
There is a bigger point at play here, however. If he has violated the Constitution once - and the ANC have taken no action but in fact supported him in this - he can apparently do it again with impunity.
He is clearly not contrite. He has behaved unethically and violated his oath of office. However, even if he were truly contrite, the trust between him and every ordinary South African is gone and can never be restored. If he can violate that part of the Constitution, what else might he do?
How is it possible to say: "I honour and respect the Constitution of SA", and then vote against the ‪#‎impeachment‬ motion? It is a clear statement from the ANC that it is OK to violate the Constitution and that some sort of a "sorry" will then make it all OK. The incongruence between what ANC MP's say, feel and actually do is both glaring and appalling. It is like saying: "Yes, of course we respect the Constitution. It's just that we aren't fanatics about it and won't respect it when it's politically expedient not to do so." Like pregnancy, you can't be partly ethical. Either you are or you aren't
The Parliamentary vote on Tuesday was, in my view, THE greatest shame heaped on SA since the new dispensation in 1994. Cry the beloved country!
Which is why Zuma must go: If I were an investor with discretionary cash to invest in Africa right now, South Africa is the last place I would do it because we have a dishonest, lying, cheating President surrounded and supported by a bunch of hypocritical and incongruent sycophants. Who can blame S&P if they downgrade us to junk and bring an already ailing economy to its knees with a begging bowl held out to the World Bank? Who will come to the aid of a country run by liars and cheats?
"Junk" would be a very fair reflection of and apt description for the quality of people presently in Government. President Zuma: Please go now. (Oh, and take your mates with you.)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

LOSING THE PATH TO #ENLIGHTENMENT

I met a bloke called Brian last week who made me realise that I may be lifetimes away from enlightenment. Brian runs a shop on the South Coast which I shan't identify for fear of defaming the man and driving customers from his shop. It generally takes quite a bit for someone to get up my nose, and Kazalette thought I managed myself quite well in the process, but nonetheless Brian ranked highly with me as one of the most irritating human beings on the planet and I reckon I only scored 3 out of 10 on the enlightenment scale, the points being awarded for restraint and not being rude.

The sign at the entrance to Brian's establishment invited first time visitors to report to the management for a "non-optional welcoming chat". "Quaint", I thought. "A bit presumptuous, but if it's advertised as welcoming how bad can it be?" 

Well the welcoming chat turned out to be a recital of a number of rules and warnings about not taking photographs, not touching the wares, not leaving without buying something, a mandatory inspection of 15 year old used wares to show how well they had worn over the years and prove how good the craftsmanship was, advice that Brian's new Great Dane had just completed its training and was likely to bite anyone who didn't purchase anything and generally in-your-face marketing which, in its politest terms, was bloody annoying and anything but a 'welcoming chat'. We were both ready to run a mile and would have done so but for the fact that I had been asked by a friend to call in and collect something for him. (I later found out that he couldn't face Brian for a second time, which is why he had asked me to go. I hope there's some bad karma coming my friend's way.)

We escaped the moment we could, amidst a frantic hustle by Brian for us to try out his coffee shop and apple tart. We made our excuses and fled, both feeling overwhelmed and almost violated by Brian's pitch.

Anyway, what's the point of the story? Well, it was pretty clear to us that Brian's pitch wasn't working. It chased us out of there, his coffee shop (in a gorgeous setting) was empty on a morning when it should have been full, there were no other customers in his shop and the pitch was as desperate as it was insistent.

With hindsight, it might have been more helpful for Brian if I'd given him a bit of bold support and suggested that he rethink the content of his welcoming chat. Although every instinct of mine said "run!", and my mind told me I'd be starting a fight if I shared with Brian how unwelcoming his welcoming chat was for me, perhaps that would have been the enlightened and more thoughtful thing to do. There was of course the other part of me that thought that Brian was un-rehabitatable, that it wasn't my job to rescue him and that Life would help him learn what he needed to know. 

So now I'm left wondering if the path to enlightenment is to try and help people to help themselves or if it is to trust that Life will help them to see the way and my job is not to get in their way. 

With hindsight, perhaps scoring myself at 3/10 was a little generous. I clearly have some lifetimes to go before I attain enlightenment.