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“People say ‘memory like an elephant’”, says Peter, “but what does an elephant really have to remember?!” It’s a good point. I know I say it often. Having seen the skull of an elephant in the museum in Swakopmund, I know it has a
really big head
. Perhaps it’s more about ‘if an elephant had a lot to remember, it would have a lot of space to store it all’. But if you have more info, do let me know!
I’ve become very aware of how we use expressions without even thinking, they seem almost genetically embedded in the language.
He, on the other hand, seems to forget a lot. Particularly things that
said. “I don’t think we can blame it on…”
“Well actually, I raised it only because
Occasionally it’s quite endearing when you catch him quoting your words as though it was his idea. Though it would be nice to get some credit! I used to think that he just didn’t care. But now I think he really doesn’t remember. In some ways I admire this ability to start each day anew, with no regrets or doubts, or indeed memory, of what you said yesterday.
Yes, it’s true, sometimes I juxtapose bits of conversation that didn’t actually happen at the same time. But does this make them fiction? Isn’t that the role of any artist? Are van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” the
flowers, or how
the light really as Turner painted it, or did he aim to show you what you might be missing? One thing I can promise you -- except in the case where my memory has unwittingly failed me -- every word I attribute to anyone (names are never changed, only left out) was actually said by that person.
I am coming to realise how expensive patience is. I am standing in a cue at the bank. It is moving very slowly, but I am not frustrated and ratty like I used to be in this kind of situation. I realise that in the days when I was working full-time, and had no option but to/was a poorly paid worker, the time allotted for this task would have been my entire lunch hour. But now it’s just one out of a day with a few more to spare. I have the means now to be generous with my patience.
Why on earth did I dream about him? But there was his name, as clear as day. I remember him as a kind man, who used to write in obscure little parts for me in radio plays. I haven’t heard of him for years, and felt sure that he had immigrated. But sadly, a google search shows that he died last year in Cape Town. (We are all getting older.) I didn’t realise that
, the 5.45 pm programme that signalled it was bath time for me when I was eight years old! RIP Brian O'Shaughnessy.
At the same time as she tells me I’ve failed her as a friend, the stranger says: “you may never know how powerfully you have impacted my life”.
This reminds me of my relationship with my father. Often unable to be there emotionally as I would have liked, after I left home he met my stepmother and helped her raise her four-year-old. In the end the only father she knew. Someone once asked, “Aren’t you envious of their relationship?” But no, watching them I saw a reprieve, for us all. What we need doesn’t always come from where we expected.
I dream of prostitution and pregnancy, as we discuss the pros and cons of selling our ideas. Sure, you have to
an idea if you want to make a living as a writer. But at what point is there an investment in clinging to an idea that you no longer believe in, when you have become “the definitive” voice on a subject, and are being paid to remain so? What space for change, when new information flows in? Rather I want to read of your
experiences on the path, including the paradoxes that you encounter.
Angles… You are a supporting player in my drama in which I take centre stage. And perhaps I don’t even feature in yours at all. (It’s usually a sobering moment to realise that you were just a moment in time to someone who had major impact on your life.) And occasionally I discover that I even had a cameo in a story of someone of whom I was unaware. But does this make any of these more important than the other? Any more or less true? (I loved perspective drawing when I was at school.)
“Waves or particles?”
It’s an unexpected conversation -- we lost touch years ago, and know each other from another time and space -- and yet an affirmation, at a time when I am evaluating relationships, and what I want from them. “You were a catalyst” she says, “for my getting out”. I’m surprised. I was so young then, and feel that I have grown into some wisdom, if only by virtue of age. But I guess I understood even then the value of leaving behind what is causing you unhappiness, and moving on. Having the courage to do it is the pivotal point.
My dreams seem to be haunted by ghosts from the past. I remember her as someone who lived her creativity. Once during our drama school days, her boyfriend painted a painting on her face, and she kept it on for a week. It was lucky that it was during my snap happy days, and I still have the photographs. In the dream I hug her and tell her how much I’ve missed her, and she can come and stay any time. I know I need to have the courage to focus more on my creativity. It’s improved, but needs commitment.
She seems to interpret my sense of the inevitability of some things, as negativity, or a lack of caring. In truth, I suspect it has more to do with the pragmatism that comes with getting older. I hate to say it, but I suspect she’ll develop it too -- if only for self-preservation -- in another decade or so.
Said Harold Whitman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” That’s about where I’m at right now.
How is it that I so often find myself on different sides of the same argument, without my position having shifted? It seems there’s a compass inside me that will not let me deviate too far from the middle way, always avoiding extremism, and striving for balance. If you present one argument, then I must present the other, so that it’s included in the equation. But my position hasn’t shifted. It’s just that I feel the need to contribute what’s
being said. I know it can be confusing to people, but it makes sense. To me at any rate.
I wonder why it irks me so much that he disses them, but says essentially the same things that they do, only using different language. Probably mostly because I just expect more of him. It seems as though it can’t be anything other than blind prejudice. He is an intelligent man. He looks, he listens. So why does he not see anything other than the immature extremists. And then he spreads the word to save us from them. He tells us how we create our own stories, and then he pigeon-holes them neatly into his as the exploitative village idiots.
Listening to a discussion between members of the Glastonbury community, they come to the conclusion that they are not like-minded, but rather like-hearted.
On the wall above my desk: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us..." said Nelson Mandela at his inauguration. Many people attributed these words to him, but actually he was quoting New Age guru Marianne Williamson. Bizarre perhaps to think that their words could be confused, but in essence they are like-hearted I think.
She and her study-partner have spread themselves out across the table. She tells me she is just here to write her final exam. “I live in Melbourne now.” I ask her how she likes it there. “ Well, in many ways it’s like here. But in others, it’s not. For example I wouldn’t be having a conversation with a stranger like I am now if I was there.”
We whities forget how African we are, until moments like these. I remember in London, in the midst of crowds, feeling as though if I fell down, I would be stepped over.
Today is both
, in remembrance of the 1976 Soweto riots, and
, a symbolic reconciliation perhaps in the old and the young being celebrated together. It would be easier for me to write about Youth Day, and tell you more about SA’s history, and subsequent evolution. More difficult to put into words how I feel about Father’s Day -- my father having been gone now three years -- and the liberation and loss of no longer having him in my life. Liberated from his despair about the state of the world. And the loss of his love.
Doing a search on “Harold Whitman” -- to see who he was and what else he said/wrote -- I can find only the one quote… 169 times. I guess it’s better to have written 32 words that inspired people, than reams that were meaningless. I wonder why I am making this observation in the past tense… I suppose we’re all concerned with what will be remembered of us after we’re gone. I am a words person, so I’ll definitely remember things that you said. But perhaps you will remember a look, and the quality of the light at the time.
today (not outside the window, just the movie). Kirsten Dunst looked familiar, but I couldn’t think where I’d seen her before, so I did a Google search. Turns out we have the same birthday. Well two decades apart that is. She’s done quite a bit of work for someone so young.
Yes indeed, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I guess that’s why I’ve never really wanted power. My own power, yes. I hate others having power over me (am arguably not fun to ‘manage’). But I’d hate to really have power over anyone else. Too much responsibility.
It may seem strange, but toothache finally prompted me to do my will. (Well that and talk of a healthy friend’s sudden development -- at 36 -- of a life threatening heart condition.) But rather than the bolts from the blue, perhaps it’s the slow and almost imperceptible decay of the body that makes us begin to feel our own mortality. Or as someone put it, 35 is when you start coming to your senses, and your body starts falling apart. Does this sound depressing? I’m really not. I feel a sense of pragmatic peace about life in this moment.
We discuss what we leave behind… Of course most important is the impression that we made. Did we leave things better or worse than when we came in? Quite literally, did we make a dent? Or (in my view at any rate) did we at least clean up after ourselves before we left.
But we shouldn’t pretend that what we are able to leave materially for others is not important. If it weren’t for an inheritance from my American grandmother, I would still be struggling. Now I own a home. Such are the ironies too of the rand/dollar exchange rate.
When my father’s father died he left everything to his second wife, for use until her death, when it should have reverted to his children. But
then left everything to
children from a previous marriage. The sad thing was that her children were relatively well off, while my father continued to struggle financially till the day he died. My grandfather’s actual wishes I only discovered from my father’s sister after my father’s death. So for nearly twenty years, he had thought his father’d forgotten about him once the new family came along. I saw the pain it caused.
Walking along the street, I am struck again by the role that sport plays in unifying people. Particularly in South Africa.
(“World Cup? Wazzat? Football? Is that soccer or rugby?” Well that’s me. But not so seemingly the rest of the country.)
Workers peering into windows of corner shops and restaurants, “Senegal…Turkey” I overhear. I suspect for many of these men the world cup makes these countries more real. They will never get to go there (unlikely to ever fly in a plane). But soccer… soccer rules! Us all! No movies on tv tonight. I’ll have to hire a video.
I dream: “Whatever wealth you leave your children comes and goes, but their name lasts forever”. (Not surprising. I’ve been watching the Ralph Fiennes movie
I dream of Danya, whose name I was responsible for suggesting.
At dinner one evening with her parents -- who were unhappy with all the girls names they could think of -- I asked her mother, an expert cook, what the herb was in the stew.
“Danya” (cilantro) she replied.
“That’s a nice name for a girl” I said, half flippantly.
But so it was. And I can’t imagine her as anything but Danya.
It seems the strangest concept that we name a child at birth, with no clue of whether the name is going to ‘fit’ or not. Most of us, I suspect, just grow into our names. “I come when I’m called…” I once heard. But mostly perhaps, our parents shape us in the image in which they’ve named us.
Once when I was little, and playing around with my identity, I signed my name “Andy” on a card.
“Spell your name properly!” my father said.
He had decided that I was Andie. Of course now I can’t imagine being anything else.
When there’s been a suggestion that I copied the spelling of my name from Andie McDowell, I’ve always prided myself that I’m older than her, and had it first, but no, I see today that she is 43. Way to go girl!
In African culture the meaning of names is very important. Most African people usually have an African and an English name, and the English names are very often quite literally English. Not unusual for someone to be named Precious, or Goodwill. I met a Blessed today. Unfortunate I suppose if you’re a morose person with the name Joy!
A few months ago I thought I could smell fear. My own that is. Whenever I became anxious, I became aware of a particular smell. Not unpleasant, indescribable really, just
, seemingly emanating from inside rather than out. Today I began taking antibiotics again, and the ‘smell’ is back. And I realise that it’s in fact related to the
(vague underlying anxiety) that I feel when I take penicillin. I’m not allergic, and VERY grateful for modern medicine as a last resort when all else fails, but it’s time to have the tooth out, and be done with it.
I realised today what it is about his writing (and communicating with him) that alienates me… there are no people or conversations in it. As Alice put it, “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Pictures I can manage without, if you conjure them up for me with your words. But endless abstractions leave me cold, much like an algebra problem. From Alan Watts: “I want to know - a what, b what and c what?” I’m only interested in your philosophy insofar as it serves to illustrate your journey, and your interactions along the way.
I am reading Susan Griffin. I admire her ability to weave together the personal and the social. Not academic political theories and philosophising about the world, without including her place in it. Or personal introspection, without any thought for the world around her. She says: “All history, including the history of each family, is part of us, such that, when we hear any secret revealed, our lives are made suddenly clearer to us…Just beyond your own body you can feel the presence of another body, amorphous but massive as it surrounds you… made up of trees and sidewalks and ideas…”
I wonder if I am feeling more sensation in my body, or if I have just become more sensitive to it. On the first day, I feel the presence of the antibiotics acutely. Not altogether unpleasant, but then I have to believe that -- as unpopular as they are -- they are helping me kill this infection. I have had two teeth extracted. In the end this is less traumatic than the ongoing infection that I am struggling to get rid of. Sometimes I think it’s remarkable that we survive at all as a species. We must be pretty tenacious!
It’s been a thoughtful, if inert month. I justified it with the excuse of winter, but there’s still another two months of it. (Well not if the clothes in the shops are anything to go buy – misspelling intentional.) Time for me to get up off the couch and go back to my exercise class tomorrow. Scary to realise that we’re now halfway through the year. How they flash by. Perhaps I can think of it as a new beginning. The end of the first half, and the beginning of the second, with infinite possibilities ahead, and spring on the way.
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