Look to See

Look to See

April 2, 2017  |  Fifth Sunday in Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Look to See
“We can only be satisfied and happy when: 
every child wakes up in a warm house, 
has a good nutritious breakfast, 
is able to say a loving good-bye to both working parents, 
goes to school in safe and reliable transport, 
is met at school by teachers who are there on time, 
ready and able to teach."
21 August 2012 in Kliptown

Grace and peace to you and through you

Imagine for a second an elephant – a huge bulky elephant walking on her or his tip-toes. It strikes me as a ridiculously humourous picture. And yet, you won’t believe it, but it is true for every step an elephant takes. In Lyall Watson’s beautiful book, Elephantoms he describes how elephants have the
uncanny ability to appear out of nowhere and disappear into thin air without a sound:

“This is made possible, for a start, by the construction of their feet. The digits of each limb are so steeply angled that elephants walk almost on tiptoe with a very pliant step. Behind each heel lies a large spongy pad of fatty tissue that not only supports the fingers and toes, but distributes the great body weight evenly across the wide horny sole of the foot. This inner sole forms a shock-absorbing cushion that behaves like a lightly inflated tyre. When the foot is lifted, it bulges from the underside, but as soon as it is set down, the pad splays out and smothers leaves and twigs beneath it, muffling sound and giving even these giant animals an elastic step and the stealth of a cat.”

Not only is this fascinating about elephants, but it reminds us more broadly that we need people who can help us to see. We need guides who open our
eyes to what is. We need people to help us to pay attention. For this reason, when roaming the bush it is most helpful to have a game ranger at our side to point out to us what we do not see or to help us understand what we do see.

We need guides to help us to see what we are blind to in our world and country. As Former President Kgalema Motlanthe said this past week at the funeral service about one of the great guides of our fresh democracy, Ahmed Kathrada:

“Today is the day on which we close the eyes of comrade Ahmed Kathrada, permanently; because during his lifetime he opened ours forever and saved us from the blindness of the heart. Along with countless men and women of a higher order of consciousness with whom he cast his lot in pursuance of deep ideals, comrade Kathy helped unleash human possibilities.”

Similarly we need guides to help us to see what we do not see about ourselves and to help us understand what we do see. Among other things Lent is traditionally a time of reflection. A time where we take time to look at ourselves and within ourselves. Some of us can only see the worst within ourselves while others of us exclusively focus on the best. This is why a guide or mentor or therapist or wise friend is needed – to help us to see and understand the deeper richness of who we are.

I am hoping each of us will honour this Lenten time by taking time to connect with someone who can help us to see.

Grace,
Alan

 

 


 

Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid

March 13, 2016  |  Fifth Sunday in Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Do not be afraid

Grace and peace to you

The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is: “Be not be afraid!” It is most often repeated because it is most often broken. Furthermore it is most often repeated because fear is the source of so many other commandments being broken. Which ones? Everyone that has to do with loving because fear casts out love.

Now obviously there is fear that is healthy. The fear that makes us look left and right and left again before crossing the road. This act of caution keeps us alive and it is highly developed within us. However when fear is internalised preventing us from exploring the people we were divinely created to be then our lives become severely impoverished and God must grieve our loss of abundant life.

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame, has just written a book called: Big Magic  – Creative Living Beyond Fear.

She says fear is boring:

Around the age of fifteen, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note – only one word, actually – and that word was “STOP!” My fear never had anything more interesting or subtle to offer than that one emphatic word, repeated at full volume on an endless loop: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” Which means that my fear always made predictably boring decisions…

I also realised that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that everyone’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” True the volume may vary from person to person, but the song itself never changes, because all of us humans were equipped with the same basic fear package when we were being knitted in our mothers’ wombs. And not just humans: If you pass your hand over a petri dish containing a tadpole, the tadpole will flinch beneath your shadow. That tadpole cannot write poetry, and it cannot sing, and it will never know love or jealousy or triumph, and it has a brain the size of a punctuation mark, but it damn sure knows how to be afraid of the unknown. …. So do we all. But there is nothing particularly compelling about that. Do you see what I mean? You don’t get any special credit, is what I’m saying, for knowing how to be afraid of the unknown … For the entirety of my young and skittish life, I had fixated upon my fear as if it were the most interesting thing about me, when actually it was the most mundane. In fact, my fear was probably the only 100 percent mundane thing about me. I had creativity within me that was original; I had a personality within me that was original; I had dreams and perspectives and aspirations within me that were original. But my fear was not original in the least. My fear wasn’t some kind of rare artisanal object; it was just a mass-produced item, available on the shelves of any generic box store. And that’s the thing I wanted to build my entire identity around? The most boring instinct I possessed? The panic reflex of my dumbest inner tadpole? No.

Be not be afraid …
Alan