As first time parents, one of the many pieces of advice that was given to Joanne and I, in order that we might better the odds of the occasional stretch of sleep, was to be mindful of creating an environment that would not cause a sensory overload for our baby daughter.
Having achieved this with varying degrees of success, we went on to learn that all that remained was to navigate the well-populated minefield of breast-feeding, colic, constipation, diarrhoea, nappy rash, teething and not least of which, the propensity of an infant to want to speak, in the language they know best and without regard for the surrounding societal norms.
Beyond the backline
Almost ten years later, the advice seems even more applicable when held against the backdrop of adulthood. The number of platforms that allow us to communicate, to access the latest news around the globe, to attain and to verify information, to receive an endless flow of advertising – threaten to overwhelm the senses, and in some cases, to the point of having a particularly tenuous relationship with one’s sanity. Perhaps the growing resurgence of meditative practices such as mindfulness and yoga, serve to strengthen the suspicion that there are an increasing number of us who find ourselves beyond the backline in a limitless sea of voices.
So then, why write? It is a good question and perhaps several months down the line, one that will need to be faced again; for now, it is a question that has produced the following by way of a simple response:
The line of work in which I find myself, requires me to speak relatively frequently at a variety of public gatherings. Some time back, one of our country’s finest broadcasters and vocal trainers, pointed out my natural inclination to speak in a style that reads better than it sounds. This critique not only evoked a desire to work harder at ‘my trade’, but also to explore a dormant curiosity that lay around the crystallisation of a thought into black and white. Simply put, I would like to try my hand at writing.
Organised religion is often not a popular thing to speak about and although parts of the church played a significant role in opposition to, and ultimately toward the downfall of, Apartheid, ‘her’ subsequent place in society appears to have slid further and further to the outskirts. As South Africans, we live in a fascinating country. Few of us need to be reminded of the vast beauty that surrounds us, of the depths of our cultural and sporting talent, and the range of languages, beliefs and rituals that colour our understanding of birth, life and death. Regrettably, there may be even fewer that need to be reminded of the untold damage that has been caused by the fuelling of fear and hate, the desire for power and popularity, and an entitled self-indulgence, which together with the great complexities of our past and present, have been magnified through the lens, and the related agitation, of Lockdown 2020. It is especially with this context in mind, that I believe it is imperative to engage in conversation about the sacred nature of life – simplicity – free speech – gratitude and guilt – polarisation – prejudice – inclusion – individual/group identity – mental health – privilege and responsibility – care for the elderly – and the list goes on. I would further contend that the perspectives that emerge out of the history of the Christian Faith, stand to form a central and life-giving part of these discussions.
Finally, I am compelled by the nature of the platform. While I believe that it is fair to say that no woman is an island and that the concept of a self-made man has its obvious limitations, there is nevertheless indeed a privilege in being able to speak with a degree of independency, especially when compared to those whose livelihoods depend on producing work that would appear to be required to fit into a predetermined narrative, as outlined by employers or advertisers; CNN and Fox News illustrate clearly what is undoubtedly evident in a nuanced way throughout the world. My privilege is to be able to hope to join the company of those who write simply to give expression to the things that they believe to be of value.
Fireside will aim to speak with the openness and candour that is found amongst friends around the braai over the weekend. The invitation is to pause, to let our guard down and to reflect on life around us and within us. Please do feel free to ‘grab a seat’ and to join this perpetual student in attempting to drink more deeply from the well of life.
It is an old ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.