Ode to We

We, the bold ones, open-hearted thinkers, tradition’s pests
We are the children whose tongues eject the inappropriate and unexpressed
We, aficionados of our brother’s and sister’s cries wrapped in rage
We are the promulgators of our affections, the heroes of street and page
We don’t fear judgment; we dare to embrace its belligerence
We are warriors rebelling against our inherited ignorance
We acknowledge that in the torment of another’s heart we are alien
We are incarnations of our dead, we are present, we are ancient
We see the notions of pain; we’ve been visited by violence
We’ve midwifed annihilation, we trust our resilience
We travel to the ends of our own trauma through our unease
We tread across our apprehension to collect our peace
We proclaim that housekeeping our collective shit is an inevitable mess
We invite our neighbours into our soul’s kitchens unkept
We are bona fide healers of hearts, designers of destiny
We are fearless creators of the sweetest harmonies
We have high expectations of us
We are no longer the dying celebration of us
We are infinite, we are strong
We are the refrain in humanity’s endless song

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Get out of your mind. It’s not yours.

This morning at work I did something I often do – speak freely. We had returned to our desks from a meeting and a few metres away the wallpaper on someone’s desktop (computer screen) caught my eye. “Why does Sam* have a picture of a bergie** on her desktop,” I blurted out aloud. A few heads turned to look and then someone said it’s a picture of Jesus. There was a few laughs; it was a weird moment. I didn’t mean to put anyone of the spot.

Looking at the image again I noticed that it did indeed look like the countless replicas of the white Jesus many of us may be accustomed to. Sam had turned and asked, what if Jesus was a bergie? (Our teams recently moved into the same office and we didn’t know one another too well.) She didn’t appear to find the situation humourous. She seemed offended and a bit angry. She didn’t engage in a conversation about the topic; she just turned to screen and continued working.

I find it scary that our minds are so easily manipulated; that one man’s personal agenda can become a prison for a multitude of minds with little or no coercion. It’s even more profound that people perpetuate ideals, visions and missions that they do not fully understand out of fear or complacency and throughout their lives never, ever, question it.

This week I had a moment of weakness and decided that I should give people a break (sometimes). It must be hard, especially in adulthood, to learn that the fundamental parts of your life and your belief systems are not necessary for survival. I imagine it would be near impossible to admit that some parts don’t even make a shred of sense and actually cause harm in the greater scheme of things. I love this dialogue from The Matrix:

Neo: “Why do my eyes hurt?”
Morpheus: “You’ve never used them before.”

I suppose what’s real is simply what we choose to perceive as real. And the truth is what you accept to be true, regardless of it’s sensibility or source. We are that powerful. We bend minds, break them, give it away, take them. We waste minds. We write and re-write our stories, our history. We are, in essence, gods and that is scary.

*not her real name
**bergie – slang Afrikaans reference to a homeless person

Are we changing for the better?

Most people in my social circle would ask me what church I attend (or which Christian sect I align my beliefs with). When I respond that I’m not Christian they ask which religion I ‘belong’ to. I’m not sure where I got off the wagon but I don’t ‘belong’ and prefer to quite simply… use my brain when making decisions and be informed by what I feel.

I think that’s acceptable.

I enjoy finding literature, videos or music which expresses what I believe (or don’t believe) in an effortless way. Here’s some by the British Humanist Association. A related YouTube channel is available, but here’s some of the video clips.

Plain people (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of this one. It also follows on from this train of thought on the topic of freedom.

Our stories are age old, rolled over and into new generations.

We spawned nations, rewrote our gods into continuation.

Every other king succumbs to his honest urge for more.

And during the quest he lost his way and watered our appetite for war.

Though I wasn’t there, I am entirely familiar with some of the effects of apartheid for this period in our history did considerable damage to our view of ourselves and one another. I see it daily; I think it often. I have to chide and coach and coax myself internally to redirect my behaviour from the perceptions I’ve inherited. Today it takes more effort than it should to connect and collaborate because we have become suspicious of our world.

Today there is less physical threat from those outside our communities. We fight among ourselves for resources – we have become a threat to our own existence. In addition to this we also have to make a tremendous effort to survive because we have to dodge our own bullets and we fail to see what silently, subtly, takes ownership of our livelihoods. It’s not corporations headed by old white men. It’s not the government and its poorly devised policies that continue oppressing us. It’s not these opportunists we have crowned kings.

It’s our own ignorance; and this we own well. In fact, we don’t want to give it up and admit to our part in the failures of our country. We demand leaders because we need someone to blame for not building our homes, raising our children, feeding our families – this keeps us sane. Imagine the trauma we’d experience if we gave up this shield of timidity and accepted our self-created chaos.

Imagine how scary it would be to surrender our continued acknowledgement of inferiority and our proud ownership of our poverty. Perhaps we would realise that our blind ambition to hold on to the little we have is because we have no concept of co-managing our resources. Our fear of reverting to a time when we had nothing has disabled our sound reasoning and perceptions of the world. Ironically, in the past the lack of money and assets provided the playing space for our intellect, empathy, creativity, entrepreneurial ventures and success of our communities.

Let’s go back there where nothing is.

Nothing lasts forever; it’s not hers nor is it his.

There is no waiting room here, everything’s free.

Here we are endlessly wealthy with currency in creativity.

As long as we are led from outside our neighbourhoods and continue to rely on this leadership to the extent that we are free from blame when things go wrong in our streets and our homes, we will always be followers. The only freedom we’ll have is to be free from, and unrestricted by, ownership and accountability.

I was born into it, but it’s not my skin

If you were born into a family that was Christian, Muslim, Xhosa, Indian, Zulu, Sotho, Hindu or any other religion or culture that would probably be the first set of rules that would mould your speech, your behaviour and your thinking. It would be the only way to live because every other way is not that way. That would be the right way to live because your parents live that way, and their parents and all the parents before them.

Let’s read the bible and say a prayer before sleep.
Genesis is good and for a child, not too deep.
God made the sun on day one, 5 days thereafter he did more work.
On the last day he rested – like Sundays when we go to church.
He made us in his image, so we can be just like him.
He gave us everything we need to live well and without sin.
He made Adam and Eve as the very first beings,
Free to live and populate but not eat from the tree in
The garden’s centre, for this was forbidden.
But they failed – they sinned and had to leave Eden.
Fortunately for them our God is good,
He let them live as only a forgiving God would.
Even though they were bad, and disobeyed
God loved his children who in his image were made.

But if god made the sun on day one and the moon the next day,
Then shouldn’t Sunday be first and the second day Monday?
I thought god was alone as he made our world,
But who was he talking to when he made the boy and girl?
I’m glad god made me to look like him,
But I’m a girl, Mom, was there a girl with them?
How did they come from heaven and make us here?
Why’s my skin brown and hair curly if god is blonde and fair?
Why did god throw them out of the garden just for eating a fruit?
I’m glad you’re not so strict with me, but god must surely think I’m no good.
My friend says their Allah and our god are one and the same.
So why do people say they are not saved and call them names?
This story is nice but it’s not real like today.
If I get it wrong I hope you won’t send me too far away.

 

I remember the first time I read a part of the Bible and asked questions that, for a young mind, were very reasonable to ask. And as a child, I asked these questions out of natural, guiltless curiosity before my family’s way become the only way for me to understand the world and I adopted the concept of faith and (cultural) roots. I had no idea what I was really struggling with then; I had not yet made high school. But it’s basically this: what makes this way better, more correct, than everything else?

Since we’re born into it, and it’s not a part of my anatomy, I don’t really need it do I?

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James A. Baldwin

Qualified to live

In August I attended POWA‘s Cape Town workshop as part of the Women’s Writing Project. It was an unexpected experience – I went in thinking it would be an informal, structured writing course where I would have no choice but to share personal stories with strangers. Not that I was opposed to sharing – I simply was not prepared for the precious connections I made there with the talented sisters who attended.

The dialogue was stimulating, emotional, sometimes controversial, and always inspiring. We unpacked ourselves; we re-arranged beliefs; we discarded some myths and stereotypes that are irrelevant to our existence. We left at the end of the second day feeling like we had begun something that needed to continue

Yesterday, I met with some of the women again for a few hours. Over sweet treats and personal tales we worked on writing we wished to submit for the 2013 project – the value of feedback from fellow artists is indispensable. POWA provided a cool resource: The Wayward Woman’s Guide to Writing. In it I found this precious gem by Alice Walker:

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
(Uncool)
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous
Fools.

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

 

Don’t you just love when Art plays it’s part: unpredictable like the weather and perfectly-timed for each season.