South Africa and dilemmas

Most South Africans take their annual leave in December. It is mid-summer and those of us who live in Johannesburg travel down to one or other of our beautiful coastal towns to soak up the sun and enjoy the surf. I don’t usually travel during this period. Instead, I like to soak up the quietness and ‘non-rush’ that prevails in Johannesburg during this time.

My usual ‘stay at home’ pattern changed this season. In early December, I spent 10 days in Cape Town with my son and his wife who were out from Zurich. It was over the soccer World Cup draw and Cape Town was buzzing. There was a lot of excitement and optimism. South Africans are outgoing people who love sport. We are hospitable and want to make this a memorable event for those who decide to visit our country in June 2010.

Just before leaving for Cape Town my wife received a horrific email (that was doing its rounds) from a family member. The email depicted violent crimes in gruesome detail that were being carried out against our farmers. The email called on South Africans to boycott and not support the soccer World Cup due to the violence that was occurring in our communities. There was the feeling that our Government was not doing enough to combat crime and violence in our society. The country was not safe.

South Africa is a country of dilemmas. It is a country where good and bad; order and chaos are in constant interaction with each other. It is a country that challenges your values and often tests your resolve to live in an honest and respectful way. There may be events that unsettle you and get you to question your beliefs and/or your faith in people.  Living in South Africa, I find myself recalling a statement that Neale Walsh wrote in one of the ‘Conversations with God’ books: ‘Forget not who you are in the encirclement of what you are not’. It is a country that continually challenges you to align yourself to your highest vision of ‘who you are’ and on a more expansive level, to how you want to participate in the community that you live in.

We had our extended family over for Christmas day. While it was a joyful occasion, there was a part of me that felt a little sad initially. I have two sons, both living abroad. While I had one son celebrating Christmas with us, my other son, was alone in Richmond, Virginia, many miles away. There was nothing I could do about it. This was the nature of the situation. As I pondered on this, I felt my dilemma dissolve when I realised that special relationships transcend time and distance. And with this realisation, I felt an inner peace.

Christmas pudding at its best

In the first week of January, I find myself ‘getting ready’ for the new year. I actively go about creating order and space around myself in my home and my work context. I usually do a spring clean and get all of my admin work up to date. On a basic level, I like to take the first week or so of January to get organised. I like to write a reflection of the past year (trying to identify patterns and processes that may have been of value to me and to capture those patterns of behaviour that may have hindered me or blocked my expansion). Once I have considered the past patterns, I take time to look forward and to write a ‘vision’ for myself. This vision helps to remind me of those parts of myself that need to be developed and those parts of myself that I am appreciative of. My written vision is a reminder to myself of what I want to align myself with and how I want to live my life.

Today my wife and I dropped off some old clothes, a computer that we no longer use, computer games, sports equipment and some old furniture to a charity a block away from our home. This charity is run by one proactive and energetic woman. She has worked there on a voluntary basis for the past 10 years. Whenever I take stuff to her, she is very appreciative. When I arrive to off load stuff she helps me unpack my car. She is spontaneous and nothing seems to be too much trouble for her. She is not shy of work. She is self-sufficient and does not have any helpers to assist her in her work.

She liaises with needy communities and passes on furniture, books and food that has been donated. She is a go-between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. I admire her. She is a wonderful living example of the true South African spirit.

May you always see yourself in your highest vision and brightest light in 2010.

4 thoughts on “South Africa and dilemmas

  1. Different kettle of fish

    Hi Ken

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I found it to echo some of my thoughts and to look at being more positive which is how I started the year. Unfortunately I had a reality check earlier today. Something dreadful had obviously happened in our neighbourhood,from settling into a comfortable state of feeling peaceful I was shocked back to reality when numerous police cars with sirens blaring came rushing into our gated suburb accompanied by a police helicopter that circled over our house and the whole area for about 10 minutes. There where policemen with their AK47 rifles standing on the corner. From the positive point of view – the police where doing their job and fighting crime and from the negative side I felt very unsafe, insecure and went around my house making sure that all my doors where locked. I found that with all my good intentions of being more positive once again I ended up in a negative frame of mind. I think its easy to get comfortable with life but the reality checks seem to be there constantly. Even though we’re all excited for the World Cup and the great vibe that will come with it there are still the negatives that cause one to be anxious and yet again I’m left in a quandry.

    I wish for you and your family to have wonderful safe healthy and happy new year

  2. Hilton Stander

    This just puts everything into perspective in a simple yet logical way. May 2010 bring you all that your vision reflects, not only for you but for your family as well.
    While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article I now look forward to aplying the priciples.

  3. Ken Jennings

    Thank you for your comments. Such comments always open up further insights into the dilemmas we struggle with.

    There are no simple solutions and answers to the problems that we are encountering in South Africa regarding personal safety and security. It is always unsettling and scary to experience situations as what you have shared with us. And many of us are experiencing such events too often. This is unacceptable.

    My philosophy of living in South Africa should never be seen as ‘accepting the unacceptable’.

    I have always held onto the philosophy of ‘looking internally’ to find insights, understandings and sometimes answers to anything I encounter in my life.

    If I apply this philosophy to living in South Africa, then I attempt to align myself to the values of love and respect to anyone I interact with. This may be very difficult for those who have experienced a violent crime – since such events have caused deep pain and hurt. I have noticed that there is a lot of anger in South Africa. While there are many causes of anger, usually anger is nothing more than masked pain and hurt.

    In dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Reactions, it is necessary that a person who has experienced violence deal with his/her anger, but more importantly, work on accessing those parts of yourself that no one can take from you. For example, knowing that you have a choice in how you want to respond to anything that happens to you in life. This is the nature of living life in a self-empowering way.

    The spiritual process is nothing more than ‘moving internally’, holding onto the power of love, and more importantly revealing that love to those you interact with; from the teller in the store, to the driver in a taxi, to those closest to us in our families.

    Living this philosophy is not as easy as the words that I have written, especially if you have had a traumatic experience.

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