A long, slightly rambling blog. Like the tentacles of an octopus. My October.
Children are easily embarrassed by their parents when they get to a particular age. They are from a different generation dealing with different parts of their growing selves in ways they cannot yet fully understand, and we have long forgotten.
Truthfully, I don’t believe we, as adults, even 50- year- old adults ever stop growing either. That, to me, is probably one of the most exciting things about being alive in this complex fusion of humanity where we occupy our microscopic blip on a planet which can be seen from outer space. Extraordinary. Our little insignificant selves, weaving our way through life to who knows where. It doesn’t really matter. It’s all about here. It’s all about moment to moment.
October has been an interesting month for me. I thought I’d share some of it with you because… because this is way I process stuff that happens. Writing. It’s one of my connections in a world which I increasingly believe is plagued by similar things or maybe even just one thing wherever you happen to be.
Those ‘similar’ things in a jumbled up way amount to recognition, (big time), support, being valued, appreciated, understood, heard. And yip, you guessed it, LOVE: A funny four letter word that assumes more time, analysis, contemplation, and life- long searching than any other concept I can reduce this whole mess to. It arrives the minute you are born, it reinvents itself constantly in ways you will never quite grasp, it is the thing, which if you don’t have you will look for indefinitely, which though you have it, you often don’t know how to show it or give it or even receive it, but which holds us all together.
That’s my little intro. It probably has nothing to do with anything I wanted to tell you about this month. But in this moment, that’s what I wanted to say.
There, I’ve said it. Moving on….
#1. the state of our nation
So, in South Africa, at the moment, there is so much kak. There’s a president who is oblivious to his external self, who is a corrupt rapist (rest in peace Kwezi- it was never for nought), who perpetuates polygamy and patriarchy which is a great sadness because women deserve better much better lives too. There is massive inequality, anger, hurt, resentment, chaos, violence, corruption. Our universities are under siege, Gordan, the Guptas, poor Tim Noakes, the risks , the Rand. It’s quite tricky living in a place like this. You never quite know what the next day brings: whether government will ever get it right to provide for all its citizens fairly, the housing or education or medical or basic social care that most of a massive majority desperately, desperately need. You don’t know to visualize the future for your children because you want what’s best for them, desperately, but who knows what that’s going to be? The first thing, after food and shelter is education. How do we do it without infinite resources and impatient expectation?
This could be a long blog but it is not where I wanted to go with this… bear with me. But I believe that it lies in a basic respect for each other. If I was a poor, underprivileged student but knew that my salvation lay in my education which I cannot afford, I would be indescribably peeved. I get this. I would be targeting rich business and rich people and may even throw stones and stage protests and maybe this is the only way for some, but it must be done within the framework of the law. There must be some control, somewhere and whether you like it or not or believe in its efficacy or concept of justice, it is the only way. It is the rational, reasoned way. Hostile, uncontrolled conflict causes damage and hurt and wastes money rebuilding when this could be spent on moving forward.
And you know what else? It’s my country too and I don’t want to leave. It gave me all I have so I will stick with it and use my gifts of privileged education to help and heal, if that’s what I must do. Maybe my children will have to leave and give their gifts elsewhere but this is where I’m stuck at the moment.
#2. my city -Cape Town
There’s no place like it: with its mountains and seas and landscapes and vineyards and waterfronts and people. A whole flippin’ mix of us. In our little secluded cells we live, like hamsters on a wheel doing what we do in our cultures, sometimes worlds apart in looks and expectations and hearts and habits. And in the middle of it all, with all the great privileges I have, I found one of the greatest gems, this October. In the middle of Bonteheuwel .
I did. And it’s called
#3. the jazz yard academy
So, on Saturday afternoon , there I was, driving into the heart of this land to a school, to listen to a bunch of young, underprivileged, unbelievably talented, children (our future, remember?) playing the most uplifting, heart warming jazz. It lifted my soul to some place close to heaven. It lifted my soul because in the midst of all the stink and stuff, these kids who have so much less than I do, lift me up. How is that possible?
It’s that one thing.
#4. that one thing
A friend of mine told me of a book with this title and it just sprang to mind. Perhaps it’s all about just finding that one thing? That thing that makes you feel safe and inspired and invincible and it doesn’t matter about the colour of your skin or the parts of your body or size of your house or texture of your hair. A passion. Or perhaps its all about education? This thought struck me the other day when I read some FB posts about the #feesmustfall debacle and a comment by Eusebius McKaser, gay black, male and I , a white, heterosexual woman. What makes us think the same?
Maybe it’s not your thing . You probably have your own thing. But do that thing.
Use your education. And your privilege. It makes a difference.
Other vitally important things- dare I keep mentioning them?
Constant gratitude for the fact that I get to spend time with both my loving parents who are well and healthy and a vibrant ball of energy that is my sister, apart from having daily meaning from insights of my own children.
One of the pieces that the Jazz Yard Academy played was written by one of their teachers, Heinrich Isaacs, a saxophonist, whose mother who had passed away recently. It blew me away. As did other things: the 14 year old keyboard player, the vocalist, the guitarist, the whole damn lot.
What do I want to say about this? The love of a mother. Sorry. But I believe that this thing, this little thing, holds the key to so many other things.
Hold them close.
#7.books on my reading list
How Proust can change your life : Alain de Botton (re-read)
How much is enough? Andrew Bradley et al.
Marianne Thamm: Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me. I read somewhere that her resilience was attributable to her mother’s love. I get that.
Helen Zille: Not without a fight. The title says it all. Does it have to be? Which leads me to the last
Unfinished Business : Anne- Marie Slaughter (recently brought from USA from a very special friend. The book I have been on about now for awhile but not actually yet read )
Brene Brown: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead. (which just above covers it all, doesn’t it?)
Elana Ferrante : My brilliant friend (book club, as yet untouched) . Lots of stuff around her anonymity as a writer recently.
#8.somewhere in between
This is a big, scary reveal for me, but it’s time to get it moving. It’s the title of my new book which is now with my editor though still requires months of work. It’s somewhere in between Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter. It’s about lots of things, but mainly women things: women in the gender debate, women in law, women’s role in societies, in South Africa, where I live.
And of course, mothers.
(Oh. I started on children being embarrassed by their mothers! Because this mother now drives around Cape Town with Ramon Alexander’s CD, playing at full volume, my windows down, my hands tapping on the steering wheel. Especially Track number 7, Sons and Captains)
Listen to it if you get the privilege and imagine it has the power to unite us all.