Who can I trust?









As I belatedly wake up my blog for the new year and start my musings, I am contemplating  the question: Who can I trust?

My parents? My siblings? My spouse? My partner? My children? My best friend? My teacher? My analyst? My financial advisor? My boss? My lawyer? My priest? My God?  My government? My community? My fellow citizens? My pets? ……. Myself?

This is a big question, a really big one.

The answer, of course is very personal. And as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I probably become ever more discerning over who I can trust. Less of a knee-jerk response, but far more considered. I concede that trust to many people may come naturally, without too much thought. But I venture to suggest that everyone will have a different set of yes’s and no’s to the short list above. And each of us can draw up our own list to contemplate.

How we answer the question will depend, of course on our personal beliefs, upbringing, social circumstances, experiences and morality. And then we inevitably ask how we can establish trust in the first place, if trust is permanent, how and when trust can be broken and once broken if it can be regained.

Trust is inevitably linked to faith and love. And for some people trust is absolute. Some would also say that faith is trust and that love cannot be love without trust and faith. I agree with many of those sentiments, but if we narrow it down to trust alone, we have enough of a personal conundrum.

Of course trust is a double sided coin. It is not only who or what I can trust, but am I trustworthy too? And let’s admit, with every trust there is possibly an element (however small) of mistrust.

As I look back on the experiences of my life – the bumps, the bashes, the hurts, the disappointments – as well as the joys, the satisfactions, the loving interactions – I can’t help but contemplate trust. Both in receiving and giving. In other words, who can I trust and am I worthy of the trust of others? I do ask myself these questions. Regularly.

My answer?

Well. For me it is never fixed. It is never an assumption, nor an instinctual response. Trust, for me is not absolute. And the more I ask the question of myself, the more the picture changes. Trust, it seems to me, is pliable and requires constant examination. And I, in my trustworthiness, am probably just as pliable in other people’s examination of me, of trusting me. I accept that probability too.

The only fixture I do aim for, however, is the last on my list. And for me the most important.

Trust…..in myself. But even that is not guaranteed.

Who do you trust? Do you trust yourself?


Flower power and other oddities











An unexpected, yet very welcome flower came my way from Write 21

A daisy.

For this, my first blogging award, thank you Justin. You described me as a thinking writer (I thought all writers were thinkers). But if you mean considered, measured and contemplative, then I accept and thank you again.

Note that the daisy depicted has nine petals. (The petal count for daisies worldwide is an average of 42. The ones in my garden range from 14 to 20.) So is this nine-petalled daisy symbolic? Well, numerology tells me that the number nine, being the last simple number is the number of finalisation or completion. Does this award mean that I have arrived at a completion? A point of achievement? Perhaps.

But why put such symbolic and mythological load onto a simple, unsuspecting flower? Because it is symbolic. The name ‘daisy’ came from Anglo Saxon words ‘daes eage’ meaning ‘day’s eye’. So named because daisies open at dawn, just at the time, when the day is about to begin. I take that to indicate newness or freshness. I like that.

But I would certainly like to know where this Daisy Award started. Can anyone please tell me?

I am told that the rules connected to this Daisy Award are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Tell your readers seven unusual things about yourself.
  • Nominate some worthy bloggers.

I have thanked Justin, so here goes with the seven unusual things about me:

  1. I am one of only 3.5% of the world population with an A- (A negative) blood group. Not as rare as the AB- but still in the minor leagues. I recently became a blood donor and soon realised that the extra attention I received from the nursing staff was more to do with my quite rare blood group, than the fact that I was giving blood. Not all blood group types can mix and the compatibility tables showing which donor type with its red and white cells and attached or unattached antigens and which blood sample matches which recipient type, could look like material for a TV soap opera. Happily my blood can be used on A+, A-, AB+ and AB- recipients – some 40% of people. So I am glad if I can help.
  2. As a wine lover, nay enthusiast, I tend to annoy some food people by selecting food that accompanies wine rather than the other way round. For example, if I select a nice fruity, spicy, full-bodied shiraz, I will look for a Cajun steak or something with a pepper sauce. Isn’t this looking at life the right way round? I think so.
  3. When I write and wish to make a point, I often use three adjectives or three verbs. I don’t know why three, but for me it amplifies, enhances and encapsulates what I am trying to stress. Three is of course the first odd number which also fits nicely into this list of my own oddities. (And remember 3 x 3 = 9. The daisy petals again.)
  4. I like Joshua Cooper Ramo and in particularly his book “The age of the unthinkable” which has inspired me more than any other book for a long time. It really appeals to my enthusiasm for approaching life in unconventional ways. The book is billed as a New York Times bestseller, but I have searched and found very little comment or development since its publication in 2009. If I am one in a minority here, that makes me a little unusual. But I may have missed something, so please somebody prove me wrong
  5. I am told by my three adult children that I am unusual in that I have encouraged them all not to follow just one profession or one employment. The result is that one daughter is an English graduate and a freelance journalist, film maker and copywriter; second daughter is an arts graduate who now earns a living as a freelance interior designer; my son is a drama graduate who plays jazz saxophone for a living, in between copywriting, teaching and flying aeroplanes. If that makes them individuals, then I am a proud father, if slightly unusual.
  6. I like Mondays. No blue Mondays for me, I rather like the start of a new work week.
  7. My jazz musician son tells me that my taste in music is unusual. He probably (son like) thinks that as one from the baby boomer generation, I should be constantly reminiscing about the wonders of popular music of the 60s and 70s and then have graduated into being an orchestral concert buff. Well, I do that to a small degree. But I am generally not given to nostalgia. And who can not marvel at the enduring brilliance of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner? But back to my current music preferences, I have been assisted by my son’s active knowledge of jazz and now quite readily seek out the likes of Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove, Brian Blade, Renee Rosnes and the SF Jazz Collective. Is that unusual?

I now nominate the following bloggers for the Daisy Award:

Moon under water

Moment matters

I read encyclopedias for fun

Are you a subject or a citizen?

I am always impressed by citizens who take a stand and work constructively for change in their communities and countries. This is surely our right if we live in so-called democratic systems. And I believe our responsibility too.

When we are active in support of our schools, hospitals, police or local communities, we do two things. First, we acknowledge that our elected bodies and officials are limited in their ability to provide us with top value for our taxes. So we  get involved. There are few countries, to my knowledge, where bureaucracies delivery top notch services, although seeing the emergency services in the USA hard at work in support of people and property affected by hurricane Sandy, this may prove me wrong.

Secondly, by being actively involved we can measure the service we receive and can hold our elected officials to account should they fail to live up to their election promises.

In South Africa, we are beset with numerous ‘service delivery’ shortcomings from both local and national government. Many of these deficiencies appear to stem from political interference in the appointment of public officials, where allegiance to the ruling party seems to outweigh any decision based on competence.

Eminent South African academic, medical doctor and businesswoman, Dr Mamphela Ramphele is unwavering in her criticism of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) in her newly published book ‘Conversations with my sons and daughters’. But she is equally bemused by the apathy amongst voters who allow corrupt malpractices to carry on unchecked. She therefore puts out a forthright challenge to all young South Africans to make the essential transition from being ‘subjects’ to becoming ‘citizens’. That is from being  ‘subjects’ to authority, to becoming a rightful ‘citizens’ of this new constitutional democracy and as such play a role in enforcing changes where they are needed.

‘We have to shed the identity of being subjects under traditional African governance, colonial governance and apartheid governance,’ she says.

In the context of South Africa today, this is an emotive, yet necessary stance. The current ANC led government is consumed with infighting, corruption and self enrichment and a large majority of the voting population seem either to accept their status as ‘subjects’ or do not feel empowered to challenge the status quo. This is further complicated by a blind loyalty to the ANC movement, the party of Nelson Mandela, who ‘liberated’ South Africans from the horribly divisive apartheid of the past.

Dr Ramphele continues: ‘Our identity as citizens has yet to manifest in our attitudes to the rights and responsibilities we assumed on the dawn of our democracy.’

South Africa is of course a young democracy. The first post apartheid government with Nelson Mandela as our first president was elected in 1994. And in Ramphele’s words, ‘the majority of South Africans [still] lack [the] experience of what democratic governance should be.’ This is understandable, but after 18 years of new government, we are now beginning to see and hear rumblings of dissent. This is the mood that Ramphele captures and is building on.

In the more mature democracies of the world, the public services have had a lot longer to develop and in many countries they are highly efficient in their service of their citizens. I often wonder if this is simply as a result of there being enough competent people to carry out the required duties. Or is it because of  the active involvement by citizens and a constant calling to account of the elected officials?

And then, once the state organs become effective working entities, do we (once involved and active) citizens absolve ourselves of further responsibility? And become subjects again? I hope not.

Are you a subject or a citizen?


If the world is about to end, how do I live out my final days?

If you look up ‘end of the world 2012’ on your web browser, you’ll be instantly taken to a world of thought that is claimed to have been known for thousands of years, yet of which most of us are oblivious. This is the impending, cataclysmic demise of our planet on 21 December this year.

The idea is that because of the arrival of a planet called Nibiru into our known solar system, there will be a ‘polar shift’ and our earth’s crust will move on its core, resulting in an obliteration of most of us and a complete reshaping of our world. This, according to many theorists (some call them conspiracy theorists or even ‘crackpots’ and ‘nutters’) is reportedly backed up by ancient Mayan texts and their associated calendar which puts ‘E-Day’ at this December solstice. Much has been written and debated on the subject and the film 2012 gives us disturbing simulations of seas swamping cities and mountains with a new ice age to follow.

Not unexpectedly, a number of scientists, including NASA linked astronomers have debunked the theories as completely baseless.

Fellow blogger, Dianne Gray, in her novel The Everything Theory, cleverly weaves her intriguing tale around some of the theories expounded by Zecharia Sitchin, who devoted his life’s study to ancient Sumerian texts and myths. One of Sitchin’s many books, entitled The 12th Planet focuses on the planet Nibiru, which he says is in its own elliptical orbit that coincides with our solar system every 3,600 years, always with destructive results. Dianne’s novel is compelling as are Sitchin’s interpretations of the mythology.

I read Dianne’s novel and then quite synchronistically came across a South African author, Michael Tellinger, who as it happened spent a large part of his life studying Sitchin’s work. This work includes convincing references to an extraterrestrial alien intelligent species called the Annukaki who came to the earth and to Africa to mine gold. Tellinger himself writes of his discoveries of ancient rock formations in South Africa, which he attributes to long lost, ancient, even intelligent extraterrestrial  life.

The theories are well considered and make fascinating reading. The counter arguments are equally well researched and articulated.

So, as we approach 21 December 2012, we, mere mortals, surely have some choices. We can choose to:

  • Seriously examine the hypotheses and give their authors some credence for their work
  • Join the debunkers in dismissing the impending doom as gobbledygook

If we choose the latter, then it’s life as usual – end of year festivities, holidays, hangovers and resolutions for another 12 months.

If we chose the former, then we are invited to:

  • Shrug and then carry on with our lives and pretend that nothing will change
  • Panic and find an underground shelter contractor
  • Accept the possibility (because the future is unknown to us) and have a good look at ourselves and the relevance of our lives and how we might best live out our ‘final’ days.

I am not a debunker. Nor am I given to panic. So I am persuaded by the third option. Perhaps such introspection, albeit forced by possible impending disaster, could mean that I will be a contented soul on my final day, whenever that comes.

Let’s talk again on 22 December.

Or not.

What is privilege?

In this world of have’s and have not’s, rich and poor, happy and miserable, well-fed and hungry, healthy and unhealthy, it is salutary to ask the question: “Am I privileged or underprivileged and what makes me so?”

In simplistic terms I might regard myself as privileged that I have a material standing in society that others do not. That I have access to communication, education, literature and social interaction  that others may not. That I know where my next meal is coming from, where others do not.

But then I might equally regard myself as privileged if I have warm weather, a beautiful countryside to live in with access to plants, animals, mountains, rivers and beautiful scenery, even though I have  no shoes to wear. And I might not have access to international electronic communication, but I have friends and relatives who provide me with all the attention, support and discourse that I need. That too might be a privilege.

For my part I am privileged to be happy and healthy, to be able to savour and appreciate the world around me, to have access to learning and great literature (and great wine), to have friends and to have interaction with many people of like mind who stimulate and energise me, to be able to write this blog!

I wonder how others view privilege.

Asking the wrong questions?

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
– Albert Einstein

I am reminded of this quote from Albert Einstein when I reflect on some of today’s worrying issues.

I my home country, South Africa, the population is still reeling from a disastrous confrontation between the police and a crowd of striking miners. The strike remained unresolved, became violent, two policemen were killed and then an angry mob stormed a group of outnumbered policemen. The result, a tragic 34 dead and 75 seriously injured after an onslaught from police automatic rifle fire.

As the nation mourns, the political leaders seem to be in confusion, the trades union movement is perplexed, the mine owners are offering platitudes and, quite understandably, the families of the dead and injured are outraged. Everyone who is remotely connected to the incident seems to be bent on blaming everyone else. The employers are blamed for not giving in to the strikers’ demands; rival mining unions blame each other for the incitement; government ministers call for an inquiry; crowd control experts criticise heavy handed police methods; the police plead self defense; and other political leaders jump on the band wagon to claim the sympathy vote.

If Einstein was around, he might have taken a different view. Might he not have looked beyond the obvious tried and tested ways of reacting and the accompanying linear reasoning, in trying to make some sense of this tragedy? Might he not have asked why there is such a propensity for violence in the individuals who make up the strikers, the police, the unions and the politicians? Might he not have looked at the makeup of the society which allowed people who were crying out for leadership to take the law into their own hands?  Or how much the miners understood of business, economics or mining? Or what was actually understood by either party in the communication between employers and employees, authorities and the people, leaders and their so-called followers? I feel sure that he would have asked all these questions and many more that I have not yet considered. He would, I suggest, have looked for understanding, not in the traditional, logical and conservative methods and approaches. He would probably have known that to do so was to be asking the wrong questions.

In his book, The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo offers an inspiration and an invitation to explore new methods, techniques and approaches in our attempts at understanding and solving present day problems. He urges us to look at a much wider context as we try to make sense of our situations; to think completely out of the box, so to speak; to ask, if we can, those questions which have not yet been thought of.

“Some of our best minds of our era  are in thrall to an older way of seeing and thinking. They are making repeated misjudgments about the world.” he says.  And he continues in comment about our present day leaders: “They lack the language, creativity and revolutionary spirit our moment demands. We have left our future largely in the hands of people whose single greatest characteristic is that they are bewildered by the present.” *

How many of us too, are bewildered by the present?

*  http://www.ageoftheunthinkable.com

From despair to hope

What we imagine is not always good or positive. That is a reflection of life itself. But often, our immediate reaction is to reject the bad and focus on the good. In my experience we do this at our peril, because unless we can accept the bad and take it seriously, we run the risk of redoubling its effect. Again, from my experience, if we give the bad (negative) as much attention as the good (positive), we have a chance of helping to transform it into something which might be less bad, or even good. Of course there is no guarantee of this. Bad things are sometimes just bad.

I have tried to look at the potential of transformation in my previous two posts and this is a further attempt. But this time, it is based on an unsettling statistic that in sub-Saharan Africa as many as 150 out of every 1000 teenagers will fall pregnant, some as young as 12.  And in many cases, there is little support structure for these child mothers. While the majority of these pregnancies may reflect teenage promiscuity, some of them are the result of rape – a scourge in South Africa particularly.

However uncomfortable a thought this is for many observers, it is another tragic and perhaps another ‘inconvenient truth’ (to quote Al Gore) in today’s world.

Faced with such uncomfortable statistics and real life despair, we naturally (humanly) try to look for solutions or resolutions. But many of these cases remain statistics and we hear few of the individual human stories and their outcomes.

Whilst desperate situations will not always transform into more positive and constructive outcomes, we have little choice but to accept that. But we can imagine different outcomes and maybe in that way, inspire a change, however small.

Can you imagine a young girl? She has been raped and a child is growing in her womb. She is halfway through school and knows the three boys from her class who gang raped her. She feels shock and confusion, anger and powerlessness. She feels dirty and horribly violated. She is confused by the conflict between her own feelings and the despair at the apparent tame acceptance of her situation by her peers, by her community. She cries in anguish – often. And asks: “Is this the way life works? Is this how it is in her world? Must I hate boys, because they do these things? Must I cry out in pain, because my classmates say nothing? Must I just shrug and let it all pass?”

 She has no parents, but lives with her aunt and grandmother. Both are her ‘mothers’ and both treat her lovingly as a daughter. She knows and feels their deep compassion and support. They will help her overcome her ordeal – assimilate it and reach beyond it. She likes school and loves to learn – to read, to write and to speak well. She knows that she is a good speaker and that others want to hear her. She understands that she was attacked and raped because of her abilities and her popularity. She is learning about jealousy, envy, power and brutality. She has discovered that to stand out from the crowd is not popular, but she is equally convinced that she must do what she is good at.

 She can feel the new life inside her and she knows that she will become a mother – a teenage mother. And that her own two ‘mothers’ will help her to become a good parent herself. They will help with the child and allow her to complete her studies. She knows the love from her ‘mothers’ and that she will love her own child and learn to care for it. The child will be her strength to speak out against physical and sexual abuse. She will also speak out for better education – education that instills self-worth, respect and responsibility. She will discover that her future will be built on her ability to talk, persuade, counsel and negotiate. She will find that she will have a role to play in her future society. Her own experience will allow her to inspire.

Can you imagine a future with such a person in it?


PS. This post is not essentially one of protest. Rather it is a possible glimmer of hope for those who are caught up in a desperate situation. Rape is an enormous problem in South Africa and there are many protest/action sites. Writer/editor Helen Moffett pulls no punches in her blog as she attacks the authorities over their apparent inability to tackle these issues. http://helenmoffett.bookslive.co.za/blog/

The artist

My previous post entitled ‘Can you imagine?’ was my attempt to highlight some the most important attributes that I would hope to see in our children, in order for them to lead meaningful, happy and creative lives. In writing this I am reminded that if any of us are to live such fulfilling lives there is one attribute that we can hardly do without. That is imagination itself. Without imagination, I would not have written the post, nor would I write anything creative for that matter. Without images and imagination, there is little that I can really understand. Without being able to imagine, I can’t possibly make much sense of those around me. Least of all what my future might hold for me.

So let’s imagine some alternatives. This one I have entitled: ‘The Artist’.

Can you imagine a young child playing in the gutter? His playthings are stones and pieces of paper and plastic discarded by passing traffic. His bare hands and feet are dirty, but he doesn’t know this. His thin arms and legs are scabby and attract the flies He doesn’t know flies, but is aware of the irritation, He has not eaten a proper meal for days, but knows that any scraps of food given to him, help to keep him alive and allow him to carry on playing – in the gutter. He does not know the gentle hand or the warmth of a mother’s embrace, but does feel the comfort and love of a kindly person who gives him shelter and a mat to sleep on at night. He will learn to speak – the rough talk of those in the street. He will not know how to write, but will draw pictures in the sand. He will learn survival. And what is not given to him he will steal. Stealing will become his necessity in order to live. He will learn that stealing is wrong, but continue because he needs to and all his friends in the street do the same. He will feel hopelessness and futility and see it in the eyes of others in the street. But he will steal paint and make pictures on walls. That will become his creative reality. That is how he will tell his story. In prison he will learn to fight in order to protect himself. He will suffer sexual assaults and brutality and will know that by surviving them he will be stronger – stronger than those who commit the assaults. He will recognize his choices – join them or beat them, survive or succumb, live or die. He will speak and draw and paint his experiences. He will know of a world outside of prison and away from the streets, where colours are bright and food is plentiful. He will know that to get there he will have to paint pictures and tell his own stories.  And when he gets there, he will not steal. He will discover faith in himself and know that by creating pictures he will give – to those already there – and to himself.

Can you imagine such an outcome?

(Remember: He = She)

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine a young child playing in a garden, creating games and totally absorbed in that world of self creation? For him, his creative world is real and is totally permitted, encouraged and supported by all the adults in his life. The child is well fed, has a sound and loving family base. Although he doesn’t know it yet, there is a plan in place for an appropriate education that will bring out his best creative abilities and empower him to carry them through his life ahead. This child will have every opportunity to develop his inherent abilities and will have free reign to exercise his creativity. He will learn to know and apply his own moral codes of behavior – what is good or bad, appropriate or out-of place, creative or destructive, necessary or un-necessary, helpful or disruptive. He will discover what he wants and does not want for his own life’s purpose. He will be conscious of his failings and his successes and be able to embrace them both in equal measure. He will claim reward for achievement, with dignity and humility. He will know that if he comes close to finding his life’s purpose and can live it out, he will be of service to all humankind. He will live his life to the full, with no regrets or recriminations, no unresolved issues to hinder him. He will know contentment and be able to infect others with it. He will know his prejudices and be able to accommodate them in his interaction with others. He will know his own darknesses and see them as opportunities for transformation and creativity. He will know his goals and be constantly aiming for them. He will celebrate his achievements and assimilate his failures. Adults in his life will provide a loving support base, not an imposition. He will live his life unfettered by imposed moral and social structures. He will know who he is. He will create. And live.

Can you imagine that for all the children of the world?

(Of course: He = She)

Completing things

Have you ever found yourself in a state of stress and dissatisfaction that nothing you do seem to do helps to lift the tension? Well, I have. Many times. That is until I stopped to examine what it was that was getting me so wound up. Then I discovered that what was frustrating me most were the number of loose ends in my life – those things that were incomplete.

I had started fixing some windows in the house and for whatever reason, I had stopped and not finished. I had started writing a novel and kept changing my mind and I am still no further. I had started on this blog and my mind had wandered and I still have to finish it.

These incompletions are constantly nagging me. They are doing me no good. So here goes. First to finish this blog. That’s it!