They roam between us, seen and unseen, known and unknown all at once. They avoid us and intrude all at the same time. We exist all together on one and many planes floating around, sometimes crossing paths, every now and then colliding, maybe it isn’t a plane at all, maybe to think of it as such is to suppose that the earth is flat and one risks falling off the edge if they get too close. Maybe in fact existence is all one big collaborative dance, and we have to learn, and sometimes we have to be lead, and eventually we will have to lead, and we have to be competent in everything if we are not to step on people’s toes. We have to be interprative and precise and adaptive and quick and always considering but never standing still too long and constantly swaying between balanced and falling. You must always be falling if you are to keep moving, always scared of the next step in order to keep on your toes. But alas I digress. What just happened?
“Footsteps across a world so familiar, yet so undiscovered.
Embarking on a journey with such certainty, yet so unpredictable.
We can know nothing of what lies beneath us, until our feet have touched the ground.
And so we move steadily forwards, one step at at time, a pathway of footprints etched on the
earth behind us.”
With a great push and a shove, and a few alternative twiddles of the clutch and gas, a burst of life finally explodes from the engine, and after a brief check of passengers and baggage, the car begins its journey up Hof Street.
The morning followed its usual path of chaos, helped none by my lack of confirmation with work that I could actually take my only four shifts of the week off to go wandering up the Transkei. A number of frantic phone calls later however, all calm was restored. Calm lasted for at least 3 1/2 minutes, until the realisation dawned that I had only half an hour until departure, at which time I was standing in the middle of reception, clad in pijamas with my hair piled atop my head, fully knowing that all my worldly possessions lay in my room, still very much unorganised and equally as unpacked. A detour past the bar saw me equipped with coffee and cigarette, returning to the room and somehow re-emerging approximately 34 minutes later in full organisation. I later realised that my ‘organised’ self had failed to pack a single item of underwear…luckily the ‘natural’ way is somewhat of a preference for me, albeit slightly breezy.
Some eight or nine hours later, after a number of humorous stops at the numerous stretches of road works littering our route, (one of which saw me climbing out the window of the broken passenger door to change by the side of the road, and all of which involved another great push and shove in place of the none existent starter motor), we finally arrived at our first destination; the very picturesque (and adequately named) Natures Valley.
I actually find it quite astonishing, how so much of nothing, can fill you with so much of something. It brings you to the realisation, that our universal understanding of such concepts are surely flawed;
We surround ourselves with buildings and roads, and we fill them with material possessions and cars, and with those things in our lives we will say, “we’re happy”, that our life is complete. We will wake in the morning and play with our toys, we may even develop a routine of how we go about it, and we will say, “This is how I do things, I am in control of my life”. Then we add to our lives a schedule, to enable us to go out every day into the world, and make enough money to feed ourselves, giving us enough energy to carry on with our schedule so that we may buy more things, thus making our lives more complete. And we will say “look at all these things, don’t you see how happy I am”, and we will of course believe what we’re saying. We may have a car, so that we may reach work quicker, and make more money to buy a better car that goes even faster.
We will pass by much of the world during our schedule, but we won’t see it, for our minds are consumed always by the next point, as the ‘next point’ is of course, “a matter of great importance”. And this is what we will say, when faced with a distraction, though we will be unable to tell you why we say this, so we will say “that’s just the way it is”, and we will feel happy with that answer, though it avoids the question.
And so that is how we will live our lives, forever to schedule, forever avoiding the question, forever consumed by the things we have laid around us and the toys we’ve bought to play with. Every now and then however, we will get a glimpse of the world outside of our tunnel, and if we so choose to emerge from this tunnel, and take a better look, we will find ourselves greatly rewarded. Rewarded by something completely exterior to our schedule or worldly possessions. Rewarded by the world, for taking the time to really see it, and rather than filling our toy box, it will fill our heart, encompassing our soul and setting free our mind. At first we may be astonished by this, by the fact that there’s so much of something in what we perceived to be nothing, and sometimes we may not accept it, dismissing such an unfamiliar concept in order to return to our schedule. If we do accept it however, if we keep our eyes open, if we take the time to balance, enabling us to walk over the tunnel and not through it, we will leave ourselves wide open, and the world will just keep filling, and so we will realise what it actually means to be full. We will slowly let go of our desires, and we will say nothing, for nothing needs to be said, within such a deeply mutual understanding. It is a sharing of energy between all entity, and once you dip yourself into that energy, as if seed into soil, you will find nourishment for growth, and slowly but surely, you will grow to freedom.
“Few cross the river.
Most are stranded on this side.
On the river bank they run up and down.
But the wise person, following the way,
Crosses over, beyond the reach of death.
Free from desire,
Free from possessions,
Free from attachment and appetite,
And rejoicing greatly in one’s freedom,
In this world the wise person,
Becomes oneself a light,
Pure, shining, free.” From the Dhammapada.
It is indeed a funny thing, that which you get from a trip into nothing, ‘nothing’, being quite the opposite of expected.
That evening we ate our first proper meal, a lengthy production due to my perfectionist (some might say controlling) tendencies. After we ate, we sat, surprisingly comfortably on the somewhat uncomfortable couches, and there it was hereby decided that no energy consuming pitching of the tents was to take place that night. A brief trip to the car saw us equipped with sleeping bags and pillows, and there we lay comfortably for a good ten minutes, until I was rudely convinced by Chris that we were under attack by whatever was living in the wall between the room and the kitchen. Then followed the ridiculous escapades of me tailing Chris around the room, armed with candle and pool cue, checking all the doors were locked before standing with our ears pressed against the wall, cautious and ready for attack, frantically trying to hush Hannah’s shrieks of laughter coming from the couch. Finally, about half an hour later, we managed to crawl back onto the sofa, and the creatures in the walls seemed to stop their noise. This we put down with certainty, to Fahnie’s baseline snoring.
We awoke as planned with sunrise, so as not to get caught sleeping in the lounge. It was then, during our morning coffee and cigarette, that we found the culprits of the night time’s great attack. There by the edge of the terrace, running frantically between the plant pots collecting bits of bread, was a group of about six small mice. Some may have felt stupid, but regards to this we shall worry not.
The planned sunrise departure went as usual to a different plan. Hannah got considerably sick, and the rest of us spent the day eating, smoking, napping, took a short hike to a waterfall, came back, ate, smoked, and slept there another night.
The following morning, after my attempt at a shower which ended with me wandering round the garden wrapped in a towel and covered in soap (much to the amusement of the local school), until one of the women working there took pity on me and let me use her bath, which gave out about two inches of cold water that I had to throw over myself with a plastic cup, and after this endurance of commotion, we were finally ready to depart Nature’s Valley.
It had been decided, that the mission on which we were to embark, was the straight stretch right to the Transkei, supposedly lasting about nine hours. Fourteen hours and a distinctly un-straight route later, after a few near misses with large pot holes and a fair number of dogs, we once again finally arrived at our second destination; Coffee Bay. It becomes apparent, that we must first see out a heated discussion with the receptionist over our arrival time and lack of booking, before we are granted entry through the gate, and on finally being permitted entry, we find that the car wont, under any circumstances, allow life into its engine. And so with the help of a few locals who, only minutes earlier had been trying to tempt us with their ‘trippy confectionary’, we managed to manually park the car and trailer safely within the perimeters of the backpackers.
More drinking, smoking and showering later, I checked the time (for the first time), only to realise that my watch had somehow crept to 5am. In aid of this realisation, more coffee and another joint was made, leaving myself and Fahnie sitting silenced, absorbed by the beauty of the rising sun, and filled once again by the never-ending energy of the world’s natural wonders. Despite this new lease, when the time came to adopt the horizontal position within the safety of our (now erected) tents, I had a definite struggle in persuading my one leg to follow the other up the steps.
The following day was filled with beach dwellings and somewhat precarious rock climbs until late afternoon, eating and smoking our way into the evening until the drummers commenced, bringing with them the desire for indulgence in the said trippy confectionary, and indulge we certainly did. The rest of the night was filled with a combination of giggling, and a distinct loss of coordination of one’s feet, seeing the majority of us make close contact with the floor on a number of occasions, thus leading to more giggling and further depletion of one’s coordination.
It must be said that you become significantly closer to those who you travel with, not always by choice, and often to a greater degree than would be ordinarily comfortable. I think we would all be in agreement that the past few days had been prime examples. After all passing out at varying degrees of reality; Fahnie within approximately three and a half seconds, Chris to such an extent that he became apparently oblivious to the world and everything in it (including himself), and me, not even making it to the tent due to an uncomfortable swaying of my senses, sprawled across the bench by the side of our camp. It was possibly as a result of this outdoor dreaming, that I awoke the next morning bearing distinct resemblance to Egor, with my one eye swollen almost completely shut. Needless to say, i spent the rest of the somewhat rainy day, clad in sunglasses so as not to scare unsuspecting passers by to the same extent that I scared myself on looking in the mirror for the first time that morning.
The somewhat rainy day, as well as drawing questioning looks towards my choice of eyewear, drew us out of Coffee Bay and back down the coastline towards Cinsta. We arrived for once in daylight, and apart from a minor episode involving Hannah, the car, and a tree, we arrived fairly smoothly. It was therefore particularly unfortunate, that our traveling companions had come down with a severe case of ‘cold turkey’. It would have appeared that we’d come to the only place on the South African coastline, with a shortage in the ‘alternative tobacco’.
Once again the tents never reached the upright position, and when myself and Hannah decided to indulge in a dorm, our two distinctly disgruntled companions decided to sneak in with us. Myself and Hannah’s antics with the epilator seemed to cheer them up significantly, as I’m sure the image of Hannah practically chasing me round the room with a million tiny rotating tweezers probably would. And so we had our first peaceful night in actual beds (except for Chris, who slept on a mattress practically under my bed for fear of getting caught, and who disturbed the said peace on a regular basis convinced that ‘the woman’ was about to come bursting in…despite the fact that it was somewhere around four in the morning).
Everyone seemed to waken refreshed and a little happier, not at 6am as planned, but rather closer to 9:30. After a brief panic about the discovery of our lodgers, and a quick exit down to the car, we were packed up and ready once again to depart, this time for ‘greener’ planes, boasting an abundance in the cure for the cold turkey traumas. About half way there, outside a gas station somewhere along the N2, our distinctly tempermental mode of transport finally took its ailments to another level. It was discovered, whilst I was in Spar fetching tape to repair the now non-existent music system (and airtime in an attempt to resolve the somewhat pressing issue of cover for that night’s shift, commencing in 17 minutes, and counting0 that there was a significant amount of petrol escaping from somewhere under the car. Following the discovery was a good half an hour of confusing and amusing escapades around the car park, between Hannah being convinced that she must fetch all her belongings from the car “in case it bursts into flames and we have to survive alone”, Fahnie and Chris trying to balance the car precariously against the kerb, and then on a rock, and my contribution of repeated visits for cigarettes, money, water, each time leaving Chris in a panic that I might just knock the car off its balance, therefore landing directly on top of him. My last visit did nearly that, though I’m convinced I didn’t touch the car.
And so it continues, with yet another great push and shove, the car disappears down a hill, reemerging a few seconds later following the sound of the engine spluttering once again to life, holding an impatient looking Chris gesturing for us all to get back in.
“We often seem to find ourselves asking the question; what comes next? But we must also ask ourselves, when it comes down to it, whatever ‘it’ may be, what relevance actually lies in ‘next’?
Life simply goes, we go with it. Past follows future with unsurpassable intent along its path into forever. The moments created and lived in the present, combined shape all three. Forever is now, next is simply a concept.
So live each moment as though it were your last, live with love, laugh with life and its often curious sense of humour. Continue to create your moments in ‘now’, and when ‘next finally comes, when it essentially becomes ‘now’, do exactly the same.
Don’t live in hope, live in life.”
This is not the end.
A logical progression from the realisation that ideals are not always ‘ideal’ (unless you’re an extreme cynic, in which case you will probably always be pleasantly surprised, unless of course you become so cynical that you fail to recognise anything positive because you’re too busy questioning it, which in actual fact probably comes full circle back to the same scenario of the optimist, who is so certain that their ideal exists somewhere out there that they spend their whole life worrying about how to get there or whether or not they will miss it as a result of being where they are, as always we come back to the same point; Balance.)
Advice on career and general life choices from the German guy sitting next to me on the plane. For the record, his name is Martin.
As always it starts with a metaphor, in German it is “stallgeruch”, which directly translates to “the smell of the cage”. In the dog eat dog career world, there are two main categories; on the one side you have the pedigrees, and on the other; the mongrels, the heinz 57s, the pavement specials. The pedigrees are born knowing exactly what they are, and they spend their lives grooming, preening and living according to the book of whichever they may be, because there have of course been many pedigrees before them and a system has been devised on how to exceed at being that particular breed – what food to eat, how much exercise is necessary, how often should one be groomed. On top of this there are certain traits that have become favourable in that particular breed, and this is what should be worked towards if one wants to become a so called ‘prized pedigree’, the absolute pinnacle point in their field. The point I’m trying to make is that everything is predetermined, there are no maybes or possibilities or forks in the road, there is one path to success and if you follow it then I am quite certain you will find it, or at least rest assured that you are moving towards it. You will make the logical progression along your chosen path and while you will of course encounter obstacles and inclines and declines and probably the odd pot hole (in varying frequencies depending on the path and its upkeep and how many people walk it, or don’t), and sometimes you may look at another breed with envy and wonder what your doing as a poodle, but the thought never occurs to you that you could possibly be anything but, and without this niggling distraction of “but maybe I’d make a better pit-bull”, all your energy can be put into being the best at whatever it is that you are.
Then you have the mongrels. The cross-breeds, as with any combination of things, come in varying degrees of complexity. You get your Labrador-cross-Golden Retriever, or your Collie-cross-Alsation, then you get that funny looking wiry thing whose mother’s great grandma’s father was a Cocker Spaniel who mated with an Afgan Hound leaving a creature with so many different genetic options that its entire being is the epitome of confusion; its fur doesn’t know if it should be straight or curly, long or short, silky or fluffy, is it a hunter or a family dog, a finder or a fetcher, well groomed or just out for a good time in a muddy puddle? Sometimes, often, too many options can lead to a state of disastrous confusion, unsure of what to choose it is very easy to end up with a crazy jumbled mish-mash of different traits and characteristics. However, in my opinion, a successful mongrel will far exceed any given pedigree, however prized, simply because they have more options to play with, they are suited to travelling along various different walks of life. It is of course much harder and more risky and more painful and more confusing and there will constantly be ups and downs and not just the potholes of one road but off all the different roads you happen to find yourself on and each time you will have to become reacquainted with the nature of the hills and potholes of that particular road and how best to navigate around them, but when you do, and when you have done that for seven different roads, you will become a master of such things. They say the more languages you know the easier it is to pick a new one up, rather than just knowing the nature of the language itself you become acquainted with the principles behind language as an entire form and…. alas, as always, as the mongrel with the pedigree great aunt Margaret, I have digressed, and completely failed to offer any explanation whatsoever for “the smell of the cage”, which is probably a lot easier to understand that my metaphorical interpretation of the English translation of a German metaphor.
“The smell of the cage” refers to the labels applied to and the interaction between people in the corporate world. The idyllic view is that you can have all your different cages containing all the different animals; horses and rhinos and elephants and cheetahs and giraffes and monkeys and so the list goes on. In an ideal world, the horse could happily trot on down to the rhino cage and be all like “hey guys, let me tell you what it’s like to be a horse.” and they would be all like “awesome, do you wanna know what it’s like being a rhino?”, and so through willingness to accept this other species and appreciating the fact that they may be able to teach you something about being a rhino, they will be able to learn something from one another, and if they work together, with their combined strengths they will be able to achieve more. But the sad reality is, apparently, that the horse will come in all proud of its horsie abilities, and it’ll be all like “look how fast I can run, look how much weight I can pull!” and the rhinos’ll be all like “we don’t give a shit, we’re rhinos and we’ve got big horns and thick skin.” This all started when I voiced my desire to try my hand at absolutely everything, in the hope that I eventually become super skilled and sought after. In the corporate world of cages however, people don’t like to mix their skills, you can be super talented at being a rhino, but if you look and smell like a horse you’re never going to be welcome in the rhino cage, well, if you look and smell like a horse you’re probably going to encounter a few more problems along your road to success, but that’s another story entirely. Actually, it’s written by Kelly with the 44 faces, and it’s called Arthur the Hornless Unicorn.
Overt your eyes through a second, third and further glance and the wonders of existence in all their perfect, beautiful complexity, from the predetermined destiny of an ant to a single humble potato, a daring dragonfly and the vast wonderment of the woods. A collection of ironically whimsical literary miniatures, embroidered in a way that only the French can muster with an intricately indulgent wit and a sly sense of humour.
Pierre-Jules Renard was a French author and member of the Académie Goncourt in the late 19th till the early 20th century. He had a morbidly cynical view of humanity embellished in subtle humour and sharp, sometimes cruel wit, the resulting literature in spite of its whimsy is indulgently dark and strangely reassuring.
“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”
– Jules Renard
Oftentimes we realise, this is just the beginning. Reggie Watts. A being of such altitudes and multifaceted brilliance he deserves to be knighted and write-d and worshipped and quoted and studied and filmed and analysed and then, discarding all of the above as empty concepts with little more than distant connotations of something meaningful, simply revelled in.