Monthly Archives: March 2012

#91 ~ The Welcome Unknown

Why are we so afraid of the unknown? When we were colonising the new world, the idea that we could meet humans that looked different, acted different and believed in different things to us, terrified us so much we dehumanized them, made them into something other, to better quieten our conscience when we removed them, massacred them, resigned them to the fringes of acceptable society. Yet we take that fear of the unknown into other parts of our lives too. Unsure of what may be around the corner, or who may be knocking at the door, instead of looking for the most simple, most obvious and most normal answer, we create ghoulish fantasies which have a taste for the…uncomfortable, the dark.

The same concept is taken towards space. Having watched Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey star in the not-too-remarkable-but-not-shockingly-banal Contact, I was slightly peeved at the all too readily delivered role of the religious fanatic, complete with wizard-white hair and demon possessed eyes. No he couldn’t be a normal church-goer, he had to err on the side of the vampiric, the possessed, the maddened crazed weirdo that no-one wanted to be friends with. Suffice it to say, in the mildest of terms, he is against the project that pertains that crux of the story.

The idea is that we make contact with Space through receiving a signal which translates into a mathematical formula which enables us to create some form of equipment to transport ourselves into the great-unknown *phew*. Great. Until the Christian-fanatic starts casting the scientists as the Anti-Christ, people begin to worship the anonymous Aliens and low-and behold a religiously inspired terrorist attack takes place to prevent the ‘launch’ from occurring.

Why is there this animalistic fear in such a developed society? Why do we fear the other? Particularly I wonder, in view of the possibility of making contact with  ‘Space’, why do we fear what’s out there? As is regularly repeated in the movie, if in the entire Universe we are the only life forms, then that’s a pretty big waste of space. An extraordinary waste of space considering the numerous galaxies and universes we are continuously discovering.

What gets me most though is the religious fervour and out right dismal of the potential of other life forms. The fear that anything out there must be evil, demonic, and counter to what our faiths, what our very concept of God is.

It seems to me the fear, especially from a religious perspective comes because we limit the potential of that Divine Creator, whatever people want to call Him. In the beginning there was a phenomenal architect who had a vision which was executed on the minutest scale to perfection, a harmony that the universe resounds with. Poets have encapsulated it in the signing of the celestial spheres, musicians in the structure of harmony which is in accordance with mathematical harmonics. There is a sense of congruent unity that rules all conceptions of life, whether that be Earth, the Universe or a grasshopper. And so I say to the crazy-suicidal-fantatical-apocalypse-screaming religious fantastic who fears the potential of what is beyond our horizon: don’t we proclaim that the infinite God wherever He might be created Life, the Universe, everything that is?

Then if there is alien life out there – didn’t He create that as well? And if so – why are we afraid?

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#90 ~ Communication

When I was little my Father tried to teach us big words in simplified ways. The same way my mum broke down words like business into bus – i-ness or people into pe-o-ple to successfully pass spelling tests, so my Dad did, but for another reason. At the time I don’t think I realised, but in retrospect, the philosophical depth and insight he was sharing with us was a lot vaster than our nine-year-old minds could fully comprehend. To us it was just Dad going into one of his lectures just when we wanted to watch that specific Disney movie, or to finish the last pages of the enthralling fantasy or action book we begrudgingly held in our laps under the dinner table after being caught surreptitiously devouring a paragraph between mouthfuls.

One of the words and the way we learnt it really struck me today.

Communication: Come You and I into Action ( Come U and I into Action)

At the very essence of the word, which the concise OED defines as ‘1: the action of communicating 2: the means of sending or receiving information 3: the means of travelling or of transporting goods,’ my Dad, the Wise-One, has it spot on. Communication was and is the process of individuals or parties coming into action to share, receive, impart something.  It is an integral part of our lives, our very essence of being. As humans we are made to be in relationship with one another, and not just in the way we conceive relationship today, but in its simplest form (reverting back to the concise OED) ‘1: the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected. 2: the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.’ We are called intrinsically into a connection with one another, to co-exist. Relationship is fundamental to the way we behave, and part of the that is the act of communicating.

So what happens when we can’t? Currently the only person left in my accommodation, there gets to a point when the music that blares from your speakers can only do so much to fill the void of human bodies. It becomes like your favourite blanket that once seemed to be a canvass which blotted out the night sky, and now hangs stretched and deformed, arthritic cloth-hands barely reaching over your midriff. Underneath it all is the permeating silence, the visible sense of loneliness which only leaves you. ‘You’ can be an extremely claustrophobic being. Suffocating and invasive.

‘You’ begin to crave communication in a way that transcends seeing Facebook notifications. The desire to hear the timbre of someone’s voice, see the crinkle of an active mouth. When my twin and I (finally) parted ways after sharing the same room, friends and schools since we were born, a sigh of relief and the muted cry of freedom filled my heart. Yet that distance made me desire contact even more, just as the quiet kitchens and bathrooms make me want my room mates to return, with all their quirky late night cheese eating, solo wine drinking, stressful juice gulping antics.

To come into action with other people. To speak, to share, to impart to relate to other people. It is a precious gift, fully realised when it is no longer present.

So i write these words, hoping that as you read them, regard them, as your behaviour changes in response to them, you and I will come into some form of action, the action of imparting something, an idea, a feeling, an insight, a part of me into a part of you. Let’s get relational.

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#88 ~ Life Lesson No.11

Make the time to take the time to fall in love with everything you ever did love all over again.

#88 ~ Innocent Voices

Observing their undocumented lives I appreciated the delicate importance of giving a voice to the voiceless, which innovative writing is able to do.

That was the clinching, award-winning, we-will-give-you-a-place-at-University  line of my personal statement. It became my tag-line, my mantra, the focus point upon which all my energies turned after spending 10 days working with orphaned HIV children in the township of Sweetwaters in Durban. Giving a voice to the voiceless. Why? Because, I said gallantly with my ‘i love english literature’ cap screwed tightly over my growing-afro: Everyone has a story that should be heard. Knowledge is power, by educating people we bring about a real change in the world. If we cannot speak then we cannot be heard etc etc – wow, you should win the Noble Peace Prize and get an immediate job at the UN.

But I sit here, after just watching a film on the El Salvador civil war, and i ask myself – what does that mean?!  That drivel up there [insert vertical arrow]! That mindless, ignorant, optimism. What does it mean to give a voice to the voiceless? Who are the voiceless? Why are they voiceless, what are you  saying?! If you check my tag cloud it becomes very clear very quickly that I am verging on if not having fallen off, the cliff of obsession when it comes to the ‘Voice’ as a concept. It consumes me. I say, I want to speak for people who cannot vocalise their feelings, their experiences, the world through their eyes, because they are oppressed, uneducated, they have neither the means nor the strength nor the opportunities not just to speak  but to be heard by the right people. And I look at my life, I look at the potential I have and I think, instead of being an English graduate who eats baked beans, or rather, ‘eats cereal with her fork to save the milk’ (thank you Kanye and the Broke-phi-Broke fraternity), I’ll do something useful, I’ll be a game changer, a world changer.

Yet I am silenced. Censored by the disgusting, vile, insane madness that lives inside of me that is called humanity. The malice, the blind, consuming, ravishing and destructive potency of bloodlust and power that sits so smoothly within the cold steel held in childrens hands. I watched as children younger than my nieces huddled under beds as bullets shredded their homes into swiss cheese –  then got up, went to school and watched fire-lights glide through the prematurely silent night. As they knelt in the mud and felt the bullets pass through their neighbours heads, or lay on scalding-hot corrugated iron roofs to avoid conscription…and the innocence of childhood was replaced by fear, anxiety, that gluttonous presence of hatred.

My God, how can we live in a world like this? And it’s not the first time. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this, I’ve watched, read, cried over things such as this. I revel in finding out about this information, it sets me on fire and as I said before, gives me a focus.

But tonight, tonight, i am vilified and lost. How do we navigate a world that has no rules, that is so alien from anything I could comprehend? I can’t imagine myself running through the forest snapping photos of guerrilla fighters, interviewing and screaming down a tape recorder as the mud beneath my feet blows up into shrapnel decorated geysers. I would be shitting myself, my urine coating the insides of my thighs like liquid cocoa-butter as I watched rifle butts press into the heads of eight year old children, punching holes the way I punch printed essays before placing them in my lovingly made book-themed wallpaper wrapped folders. Except the holes that remain in their heads get filled with the squiggling bodies of worms, maggots, oozing-decay-eutrophication-sprinkled river water, the iron of their blood merging with the alloy bullets that fall like man-made raindrops creating the most glamorous hailstorm you could imagine.

We hear the cry of their innocent voices, we are galvanised to fight the good fight, but how the hell do we do it? How do you write about something like that? How do you incarnate their reality into words that not only strike the hearts of an apathetic world, but light an all-consuming fire for justice that effects change? When our own governments are perpetuating it, when the miry, filthy corruption that masks any sense of ‘truth’ can barely filter onto our TV screens, when we just don’t understand.

That’s the problem. I have never experienced war. I’ve never seen or held a gun that doesn’t shoot anything more than paint-pellets. I do not know what it’s like to smell fear when I’m not at Thorpe Park. I don’t know what it means to love enough that you run screaming onto the streets waving a white handkerchief, crying – don’t shoot, there are children in the school – as snipers shatter the windows that your children, your siblings, that kid you don’t even know the name of, gaze out from instead of writing down their poetry assignment.

How do you do it? How do you give, not a delicate, but an authentic voice? How do you capture that innocence that slipped out the same time the consistency of their stomach melted into fast-flowing diarrhoea – that was when the first gunshot sliced through their mattress as they said good night. And then when you’ve done it once, twice, El Salvador, Congo, China, Russia – how do you go back? How do you write that story, from that other perspective, the smell of someonelse’s fear clogging your mouth, another language screaming for the mercy of God. How do you keep on writing? How do you maintain that concept of a ‘delicate importance’. When do you become apathetic, so sick of the bestiality of human nature, that you become one. A beast. Hating the victims and the perpetrators.

How, I cry, can innovative writing do that? How can I? How can mankind do that?!

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#87 ~ Night Cycle

Darkness covers the roads, they are silent, watching, heaving under the glow of the yellowing streetlights. Out of the shadows comes the raucous laughter, as four wheels zoom by, wheeling and nearly colliding, wind whipping through thin layers a they cycle through the night, pregnant with potential, with the dawning of tomorrow.

#86 ~ Shine out the Brighter

I used to think I was the sun

Golden brown and strong

A fiery tower of talent, passion and power

Blazing through the night, redefining the day

And you? You were the moon

Pale and silent, waiting, timidly

to encroach on my space.

With patience you reflected my glory back out into the opaque curtains

that wrapped the stars

Until I returned.

Yet now, as I rest on the other side

Of this turbulent hemisphere

I see that our places are interchangeable

In fact, they were never determinant.

We were two suns, blazing brightly

Except now, I can see you clearer

I can watch you shine out the brighter

And realise – you are stronger, more passionate, more powerful

In your own, sunburnt, star fire way

That is just you.

Slow, steady and constant.

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#85 ~ Ararat

What is the greatest  act of genocide man can enact? Is it the systematic eradication of a race? The slow torture and obliteration of the very scent, sign, or inclination of their existence? Is it the removal of a name? A language? A faith, a culture and eventually a history?

Can we be consigned to silence?

Or rather, within the silence that permeates our lives, is there a definitive version of the truth?

Because silence breathes. It lives, it eats, it moves. It encroaches, and if you listen hard enough it speaks. We often think its voice is timid, muted, creeping along the floorboards, tugging at our trouser leg like an intimidated child, trying but not really wanting, to get our attention. We think it is shy, it suffers from a speech impediment, and therefore lets its older sibling Noise steal the lime-light. Often we believe that Silence is in an intimate relationship with the very distant relative who is ‘accidentally’ excluded from family events, Death. Their love, we assume, is a deep love, sensuous, perverse, and all-encompassing. It is inescapable making them symbiotic beings, intertwined, intermingled, like the ecstatic eye-beams of Donne’s erotic Ecstasy. They begin to allude to one another, Silence becomes Death just as Death becomes Silence.

But Silence has her own story. At times it is contrapuntal to History. That’s right, her cousin History. He is the ‘nerdy’ one. You often find him in the library till the early hours of the morning, sometimes just waiting for waking sunbeams to strike the corners of his lenses, illuminating a missing fragment of a forgotten letter. Yet even the stories that History tells as they sit round the bonfire, eagerly awaiting the creation of new lands, new voices, new people and characters, Silence has heard and seen before. Look closely and she is there. Watching that dawn break, peeping quietly over his shoulder to also read, also interpret and also remember that forgotten piece of text.

Silence speaks loud and clear and often. In fact she speaks the most. She resides within the breaths that Noise hurriedly snatches from her permeating tranquility. Neither is she confined to the external, but gently caresses your mind,when you sleep, when you wake, she is speaking. She steals into the fragile pages that History greedily consumes, at every blink of his eye she eats her way further and further into the story until she is immersed, she has merged, she is the story. Even within History she is present, sometimes unseen, unacknowledged, simply ignored because she appears to be of no harm, but she is there waiting.

Waiting for one question.

Why?

When you ponder aloud, when you actively read and simply ask that question, even if it’s – but why was he called that? – she will answer. She will tell you another story, one that History missed, or didn’t think was good enough for his bonfire tales.

Silence will sing you a lullaby. Sometimes it is joyful, often mournful, it may be long, tedious, confusing and convoluting, but her voice is sweet. If you can stay awake long enough, if you are lured by the siren that hides deep within this stuttering-child, you may be enticed to ask more questions. To say that word again, that question, yes, why?

Silence speaks in the fiction that dares to ask another question. The fiction that dares to approach Mount Doom from the raging eyes of a vulnerable, insecure, inflamed eye, and not the golden hearted hobbits with cut feet and stomachs full of lembas bread. Fiction dares to give the archetypal nemesis who raped and ravaged the body of child of 5, the exposure of his humanity, fragile as it may be, as he tends the ailing body of his mother, eaten up by cancer, his depravity acknowledged alongside other parts of his fractured identity. Fiction dares to acknowledge the massacre of the Armenia people and their genocide of 1915, which, if acknowledged is consigned deep in the recesses of memory,

What is the greatest act of genocide a man can enact?

To remove the voice of Silence, by preventing fiction from capturing memory, and within that, perhaps not the  but a truth that informs us of someone’s very real, very human, identity.

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