Meditations on being present in a world of destractions, terror and turmoil. - these are a few posts from my blog: Earthnotes for Hope
“You can’t get this moment back!” Said the dynamic Zolani, the lead singer of Freshly Ground from the stage after the applause. It seemed like she was looking straight at me as I gingerly lowered my awkward tablet, which I had been using as a camera to try and record her mesmerizing act. It is a habit I have, to insist on documenting every moment so that I can keep it and show it later one day in the future. I had an illogical sense that it was my responsibility to record this concert. (As if it were a tribal duty. I guess I am a natural story-teller and I felt there was a historical significance. This was the last concert that Freshly Ground were playing with the beautiful violinist Kyla Rose and Zolani was so heavily pregnant with her second child.) Yet there were professional camera’s properly recording the event it was not necessary for me to be trying to capture it on my own insignificant digital device. It was not my work to record it. It was finally a chance to relax and enjoy and have fun.
“You can’t get this moment back!” Zolani reminded me, and I felt so ashamed to be trying to hoard moments.
Zolani reminded me that there was no reason to hold on to the history. It was about being fully present now. Where was my spirit and energy to join the song and move my body to the music? By doing that I would be open to receiving the incredible energy she was giving out and to give some back. I would then be fully participating and therefore able to join in the spirit of the community of that amazing moment, which was a gathering of old friends just around Christmas at this very special show. That would be living it for real. Its a drag to hold on to moments. Literally, you hold yourself back and you put a spanner in the works. Even worse, I was trying to dance and record at the same time. Thereby spoiling both the video footage and the dance.
Yet it is so often that we feel that significant moments have to be captured on some external memory in order to exist. I realize that this is a global phenomenon of the digital age. I am not the only one being so illogical. So often at my local the beach, I see tourists from the far East in their formal clothes and shoes. Their children are enjoying the waves enjoying the sensations of sand and water. Yet the adults are holding up camera’s capturing the moment madly as if it were a photo shoot. I empathize with the children whose parents are even too busy in this moment of free time to connect with their children and their environment playfully because they have such an urgent need to capture the moment. To try and own it, it is a misguided sense of power. Does recording each moment of their holiday make it feel more real? Is it a habit of being over-responsible and always having to be working on something? Or does it help them to integrate it with their idea of reality? Is the intention to record being on the beach while the children splash in the waves in this instant, so that later in their apartment they will have it as a physical memory that they traveled somewhere else. Will they have the time to trawl through those hard drives. Will they feel the moment then? Will they tell themselves that they took a long happy moment together that day, when in truth, they did not really even take their shoes off and feel the sand beneath their feet.
“We cannot hold on to this moment.” Says Zolani, who has an awesome capacity to feel. She is fearless in how far she is able to take it, Sangoma-like, she allows herself to be filled with spirit and by doing so, finds power and energy in reaching a full embodiment of complete spiritual presence in universal time, channeling the message and connecting us all with her powerful voice and lyrics. It is so spiritually uplifting that the crowd loves her. They jubilate with cries of delight. Yet many of us hold ourselves back, and remain separated from the extreme emotion and intensity that she is offering, we shield ourselves from the energy with our screens as we hold up our tablets and phones, remaining impartial, like the media. It kind of keeps us above it all. Floating like observers watching it on TV. We stand at the concert watching it on our little screens, when we could be enjoying the real thing. This also happens when we hold up our camera’s and phones to try and capture a beautiful sunset, the beautiful view, the beautiful moment. But we cannot hold on to a moment. Moments pass.
Just as lives pass. Parents pass on into the next realm. Children grow up. We grow old. We live to see another day, or we do not. The chance is only here now. Then it passes. How much are you prepared to take in now? How much are you pushing away? How much are you keeping at arms length, like me with my tablet, while I stayed comfortably neutral in my comfort zone. Yes. I heard Zolani’s warning. I put it away for a while. I got down and moved my body. Allowed myself to feel, to make a fool of myself for the love of it. Dancing to the African music enjoying the joy in it. It was a treat to be there, and I did not want to miss a second of it. Yet, like an addict, I took that tablet out again as things got more intense later and I tried to capture more moments so that I could try to hold on to them.
It is so strange to see tourists holding “Selfie sticks,” (camera’s on a stick with a trigger device) taking photo’s of themselves sitting on rocks in the ocean. In the past this would have been seen as vanity. But nowadays, the digital image of a moment seems to be more important than the moment itself. The photograph becomes evidence of ones existence. Self-realization and self image seem only possible if they exist on the internet. We become cardboard cut-outs hiding behind our social media profiles, as apposed to really just being in a place. Breathing it in, and breathing it out. Noticing the world around you.
Observation is the highest form of intelligence. A psychiatric nurse from Switzerland recently told me this, she said that research showed that the element of surprise is the best form of “shock therapy.” Traveling to new places, taking oneself out of ones comfort zone is an easy way to introduce the element of surprise. Electric shock therapy is still found effective in treating extreme depression. “It allows your mind to relax an let go.” She said. Letting go is unpredictable, it makes open to the element of surprise. This involves being open to the new, thereby getting out of a rut.
In the modern world it is so easy to get into the rut of trying to remain in control. Being in control is an illusion. “When you slide down the water slide in Muizenberg, you have to let go of trying to be in control. You have to let go. If you try to hold on you get spun out into spirals of your own trying to control your journey. So to enjoy the ride you have to let go.” Another friend told me. One should ride waterslides more often to get used to this fact.
We are heading into a time of more chaos and uncertainty as we spiral into Climate Change in 2016. We have just begun the Chinese year of the “Shifting Fire Monkey.” Be prepared for the element of Surprise. Those who try to hold on, will be left behind.
You can’t hold on. One day you are gone. Then those you leave behind may have this photo you took of yourself on a rock in the sea. Will someone you know hold onto it? Or would the moment be better spent allowing your soul to breathe in the salt air. To feel the wind and to remember its true limitlessness. When you pass on, will that moment go with you? That moment you took to just be there, feeling the ocean around you, alive in space. Alone. Would this be on your mind while you pose for a selfie to illustrate your Facebook profile or Instagram reputation as you try to justify your existence on your digital platform of significance?
When your life is drawing to a close, and family are circling around you, saying their goodbyes, will you be at peace, knowing you have truly lived. Or will you be regretting missed opportunities to connect, to say sorry, to declare your love for someone special, or to truly feel that love. To give and receive with an open heart requires unblocking it in the first place. Or were you too afraid to feel your hearts truth? Afraid that it would hurt or that it would it would cause some inconvenience, discomfort, or shame. After years of a habitually shaded heart, it becomes calcified closed, like a rusty door. Living with true heart open and is a great risk. But living with a closed heart is much more dangerous.
We are so held back behind our records of ourselves and the stories we create of each moment, trying to hold onto them and give them meaning. I do believe stories and pictures are important and significant, but I am beginning to see that it is a habit to hold onto moments. Zolani woke me up to that. I did get some pictures of the concert, but due to some technical hitch, the video I painstakingly took, sacrificing my chance to revel in the spirit of dancing to the music, did not even come out. But at least I have these photo’s and a lesson in being in the moment.
In the aftermath of the attacks on innocent civilians in Paris, and the threat of war, the ordinary human on this planet may be feeling a little confused and traumatized. Fearing war and being swept by the outward ripples of stone that was thrown into the pond of Paris, the outward ripples of fear and terror.
Yet despite the turmoil, this is a time for tuning into one’s authentic sovereign higher power and intuition. It is the time to avoid all the overwhelming information overload from news and media (whose job is to create stories that sell – and who may be serving a certain agenda.) It is a time for not being distracted by the chaos and panic and to remain calm and strong in ones own truth. This is the only way to avoid being drawn toward the whirlpool of drama. Easier said than done, but there are tools to help you. Take this one as a lifebelt to keep you strong. It is a simple mantra from Hawaii.
“I Love You.
Please forgive me.
I am sorry.
This mantra from Hawaii is called the hoponopono, It became known globally by a popular book “Zero Limits” by Joe Vitale (who promoted using the method to manifest material wealth) but the mantra’s power comes from a place of true intent to heal. Vitale wrote about a Doctor who subtly healed a whole ward of violent, mentally ill patients by earnestly practicing this technique. When asked how he healed the patients, Dr.Hew Len replied, “I didn’t heal them. I healed part of myself that created them”.
The bottom line is that it means returning to a state of zero ego- to the essence of unlimited soul by which we are all connected- from which we all come and to which we will return. Eckhart Tolle calls this state “Unmanifested.”
It takes a certain shift of perception and a large compassionate heart to work with this, but the more of us doing it, the better. It certainly can’t hurt. One interesting story that has come out ot the Paris massacre is the description from one woman who survived the shooting of 80 people in at a music concert. While she was lying there while people were being shot all around her, waiting for her turn, she repeated the phrase “I love you” thinking of all the people in her life one by one. Perhaps that shielded her on some level.
Saying these powerful phrases with deep intent helps to wash away fear and uncertainty. If, like me, you are feeling traumatized by the news of recent events, try visualizing a positive outcome for yourself and all of humanity, and repeating mindfully:
“I Love You.
Please forgive me.
I am sorry.
The more of us who mindfully do this and apply it with hope to the upcoming extremely important Climate Change conference , as well as neutralizing and healing the dangerously destructive energies that were behind the recent attacks, the more chance there will be of transforming the situation. Repeat the mantra with hope and help to transform transform transform all of that darkness by cleaning out the shadows- and taking responsibility for our own fears and doubts and need for power and control.
At this time more than ever, the world has becoming smaller due to social media and all our technology, and we are more connected than ever. So the forces are stronger. An essential time to return to zero. Clearing the subconscious debris and reactive patterns that you base your identity on. The mantra consists of constant clearing by repeating these phrases and applying them to each and everything and person in our lives, our greater community and the world. We create our own reality. We make our own heaven or hell on earth. In each moment we can choose. Let’s choose harmony and heaven. Peace! Please.
I Love You
Please forgive me
I am sorry
Being present is not as easy as one may think.
Christmas day, birthdays, special days when gifts are given,come and go, but it is never too late to give an important present. The gift of being properly present to another human being. To really hear them, to listen, and to see them, to observe and to mindfully be in their presence and be fully present to them, is not to be taken for granted, as we so often do. Especially in this world of distractions, social media bleeps and frantic schedules and over-commitments and all the crisis we face when there is too much flying in our faces.
The gift of being truly present enough to truly connect with another being was demonstrated with great power by performance artist.
Marina Abramovic in her landmark installation at the Moma National Gallery in New York “The Artist is Present.” Abromovic sat for 3 months every day in a chair and engaged in eye contact with whoever came to sit in the chair across the table from her. She concentrated on being truly present with herself and the other. One by one their eyes filled with tears. It answered such a deep need to be seen on this kind of soul level, even for a moment. People slept all night in cues outside the museum to experience it. The exhibition was a sensation. It revealed such a deep need to engage in real human contact, that it has inspired her to found an institute which conducts scientific and art based experiments -with the purpose of meeting that need for true human connection. This was Marina Abromovic’s offering to the world in response to the overwhelming need for connection she saw in the audience who came to see her.
Watching the documentary about this exhibition inspired me to want to practice it. There are many more spiritual schools of thought and methods of learning this power of being present.
Eckhardt Tolle is another inpsiration. He writes about it in his well known book “The Power of Now.” His other book “A New Earth” is another very important document with amazing insights.
I have recently been introduced to Marshall Rosenberg’s practice of compassionate or Non-violent Communication (NVC)– a method of communication which is being used to create peace between warring factions from the personal to the political. According to Marshall Rosenberg, who is a founder of the movement, Non-violent communication is about learning to be present to what needs and feelings are alive in you in the present moment and learning how to be present to the feelings and needs of others. The practice of Nonviolent or Compassionate communication (NVC) is very powerful and valuable. It is a real tool for peace on earth.
Author Marshall Rosenberg calls the discovery of what is beneath the needs as a gift, it reveals something which shows you direction out of what could be a maze of stuckness and conflict- either with yourself or with others. So often we are not aware of what those feelings and needs are, we cover them up with layers of comfort, denial and distractions and blame and anger and then they erupt like boils under neath the layers you have created and cause pain and dis-ease. If you want to learn more about this: here’s another helpful article:
It sounds very simple, but with practice, when one is aware of one’s own feelings and needs. Really honestly looking at them without judgement, shame or blame, one layer at a time, then it becomes possible to open your ears and eyes to the feelings and needs of others. When you are able to really listen compassionately to the feelings and needs of others and to show them the kind of empathy that helps them to feel heard and understood, it is the greatest gift one can give. Some even find it hard to accept.
When things are so hard and fast it is easy to forget what it is that you need, so you go around searching to fill that emptiness or feel simply frustrated by it as you hurry along your way.
So here are some self-care notes to hang on to in order to be able to be truly present for your children and your parents, your spouses, your colleagues, your pets or whoever else needs attention. (Easier said than done.)
If one has the support of regular spiritual practices, such as yoga, taichi, meditation, or whatever it is that gets you into a calm state of mind, then being present is a little easier.
Actions that get you back into a state of presence with oneself and others may be as simple as good walk or weeding the garden. Then consciously focus on your awareness. Feel your breath and the air around you. Take a little time to focus on being here now in the world in yourself and with your fellow human beings, in community.
Listen and observe what is alive in you in you right now. Identify what you are feeling. Observe your energy without judgement or criticism. Be empathetic towards yourself for how you are feeling. When you identify your own feelings and needs you are able to work with them properly and attend to them. Then you will be practiced and available to apply the method to helping others.
In this world of social media and a million distractions it is necessary to constantly challenge yourself to really engage … as if this was the last moment you have together on earth. As if you are about to say good bye forever. That is being present. Then go on and live the days you still have together and apart as if they were the last days of your life, because they are. Do all the things you have been putting off, or just one of them, and enjoy yourself. Stop beating yourself and others up. Compassion is about empathy- which is love and understanding. Not sympathy, which comes from a place of being stronger than the other.
Peace is possible. Love is possible. Having a heart is too. Not being afraid to feel it and allow it to open like a flower. We have all closed our hearts a few times by having them broken. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to let them open up again. It’s worth the effort.
Photo taken by my daughter Michaela (aged 9). Feeling what is alive in yourself and others is like looking at a flower, and allowing it to open one petal at a time.
P.S. NVC practice groups can be found all around the world. They are a space in which to learn and practice the Non-violent communication methods taught by Marshall Rosenberg. This work is extremely valuable and I believe that the more people practice it, the more peace their will be on earth. Perhaps there is one near you. If you live in Cape Town here is a link to the local group
One chilly spring morning, Justin Wong -my visiting airbnb guest film maker from Malaysia and I set off down the beautiful ocean road that leads to Rocklands to shoot a short insert for an NGO called SEED. Rocklands is an underprivileged area-of Mitchells Plain- Cape Town where gangsters roam and the icy South Easter prevails, but it has also has decent community of (mostly coloured) people (still living in the group areas designed by apartheids town planning) trying their best to survive against all odds. Justin and I were delighted to find beautiful maiden Tanya Jacobs lovingly tending to the plants of the luscious abundant vegetable garden in the school grounds. The garden itself is a miracle, in such a sandy, windy place.
Tanya (who looks like a beautiful girl in a fairy story) and her colleagues at SEED had manifested this garden over a number of years of hard toiling. They have created rich soil, with the help of a lot of organic waste collected from the school and community using strategic organic gardening methods (Permaculture). These include an impressive earth-worm farm in a couple of old bath tubs – a good way of getting some help from some earthy little friends and other organisms!
The garden is an outdoor classroom for the children at Rocklands Primary. It teaches the children -and through them, their parents and relatives, how to grow their own food. This piece of sandy land was once under the ocean, so they have had to build the soil up from scratch. Real pioneering work. The first step is to make fertile soil from waste. Then once the soil is ready, one needs seeds. Ideally seeds, which are fertile and organic. Organic seed is natural and un-touched by technology. It simply grows into a plant, which then gives off its own seed the following season. So you only have to buy seed once -if you are prepared to carefully collect the seeds from the plant at the end of its life-cycle.
As a wise man once said: “Man put a fence around the tree of life, and we have forgotten why it is there. Now we have to pay each time we need something from the tree.” It is just a matter of remembering that man put up the fence, so man can take it down, or walk around it. We have come to take it for granted that food comes from shops. So we starve when we cannot afford to buy it. Yet, there is also this option of thinking ahead like a farmer, and planting crops for the next season. Although farming comes with its trials and tribulations. (They have had some trouble keeping vandals out of the garden in Rocklands.)
Tanya’s job is to look after the seed bank. She collects the seeds and keeps them safe. Over a few years, she has painstakingly collected an impressive seed bank of organic heritage seeds to plant. They are her magical riches, which come from the abundance of natures creative ability to thrive and multiply. No money needed! Nature supplies her own bounty if you know how to look after her. The seedbank and the garden also come out of real hard work and organic gardening processes, which rely more on physical labour than money, to create free food.
Apart from the obvious benefit of food, the gardening work and its fruits are a modest method of healing for the community and school children, who are often traumatized by the gang warfare they witness around them. Life on the Cape Flats is super tough. According to research by Tim Conibear (who started a surf therapy program for youth on the Cape flats) “45 per cent of youth under 18 who have grown up here have witnessed a killing; 56 per cent have been a victim of violence and most display signs of post-traumatic stress.”
On top of the psychological trauma residents have to deal with, poverty and food prices mean that their diets consist of the cheapest food available in the shops which are usually processed carbohydrates with very low nutrition levels. (White bread and sugary tea or maize porridge made with genetically modified maize.) Sugar diabetes, TB and AIDS are epidemics as is the kind of obesity that comes from eating junk, but the worst problem threatening peoples lives is addiction to drugs like Tic, which cause a violent psychosis and is a main cause of crime. So there are too many of those walking around causing more trauma. It’s a hopeless vicious cycle to be caught up in.
So with all this going on in the background, it is easy to appreciate how much the children at this school really love Tanya’s gentle kindness and the hope she gives them.. She grew up there too and has become a real role model. Tanya learned her skills through the organization SEED and has made the seed bank her own business, which makes her an eco-entrepreneur, so to speak. So we were there to tell her story: a success story about eco-entrepreneur.
While we were there interviewing her, little children came up to her during their school breaks to buy seeds from her. She spoke so kindly to them. They told her what was happening in their lives. Afterwards, she told us that the children save up their money and choose to buy seeds instead Nik Naks and sweets from the school tuck-shop. One little boy (the one in the insert) was buying Coriander seed for his grandmother, so that she would not go out to buy the essential Cape Malay Seasoning (known here as Dhania) for her cooking and leave him alone at home. The reason he didn’t want to be left at home was because recently the gangsters came to their building. They were after someone. Children are regularly caught in the crossfire of these gangland incidents. Tanya told us that the other day (recently) a girl was shot in the head at the school gates and children had to pass her body on their way to school. My co-film maker Justin Wong – who has lived all his life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was quietly appalled. In Malaysia crime and murder on a daily basis is unheard of. “Unacceptable.” He said, when I probed him for a reaction. (Of course crime and murder are unacceptable everywhere but somehow we accept that we have to live around it. It brought some perspective home for me to have him with me. After a while we get sensitized, we accept these dangers and take precautions. I live down the road from that place, read about these children being hit by stray bullets in the daily news, and carry on living. Most people don’t take it in because of course its unacceptable. It’s too disturbing to think about. However if you know the child who took the stray bullet, it is traumatic. Life shattering.)
No matter where you are in the world, and especially in these crazy times. Planting seeds, creating life, nurturing growth and cultivating own food is the most healing, hope -creating and self-nurturing thing one can do. It is about starting small. Starting at home. Putting in time and energy tilling the soil. Connecting with the earth. Research has shown that working with the soil has an anti-depressive effect on the brain. It is calming, and it bares fruit. Slowly, growing ones own food garden puts one in touch with the seasons and the weather and the cycles of life. This is healing for in times of uncertainty and chaos. Most importantly, it means that even if you are unemployed, even if you have lost your fishing rights, even if you cannot afford transport to get to town to look for a job, you can still be working on your patch of soil, whether its in a container on a balcony, or in the ground – you are making progress growing food for the family table. It has also been said that cultivating plants is the best therapy for dispossessed migrants and war refugees who have lost their homes and found them selves rootless is foreign lands-there is so much of that in the world right now. Urban agriculture – through community gardening builds communities and heals hearts while feeding bodies and calming minds.
As one Mitchells woman said: “Even if I don’t have money, at least I have spinach.”
P.S. We had been asked by the founder of the NGO Leigh Brown, to do the video to support a funding presentation. Leigh (a former journalist) has worked tirelessly to secure funding for this amazing work since the epiphany she had one night after clubbing in Cape Town. The sight of poverty stricken children outside the nightclub was too much to bare and she decided to dedicate her life to making a difference. She gave up everything and went to Australia to study Permaculture with a view to creating community gardens. When she returned she set up theorganisation SEED. The project is still in dire need of funding. There are also some great ideas for creating more video stories about it. Producer Jemima Spring has completed a few so far on the project including this one about food freedom, which shows how the community have responded to learning and practicing healthier eating as a result of their involvement in this community gardening project.)
The stories we tell ourselves are our paradigms. What stories are we choosing to tell ourselves and our children? This is the question I ask. The questions we ask ourselves are the keys to the knowledge we already have, we just have to look for it.
School holidays, winter: my children are offered tickets to the movies. This is very exciting. We check the program. The only movie on the circuit is the new prequel to the unfortunately named blockbuster “Despicable Me.” I reluctantly agree to take them, having read the dubious summary. I guess that in a bid to keep the bucks rolling in, the film company stretched out the story by inventing another section. The scriptwriters were probably briefed by their producers to make something out of the popular minion characters who have already done so well on the merchandising side of “Despicable Me.” So they decided to take the story from the beginning of time, answering the question; who are these “minions?” So the movie starts with the little creatures going through the evolution of the planet somewhere far away. They reach a stage in their evolution where they have grown comfortable in a cave, isolated from an icy world, playing games and going nowhere. They are a depressed nation. (Sounds familiar? An echo of modern society?) They need purpose. They need a hero. They need a master. But for some reason they need a really evil master to work for. I understand that the minions by nature of the existing plot of the ready made movie they have already sold, work for the villain who is the title character of the movie “Despicable Me.” (This is the sequel that all the children have already watched hundreds of times in their lounges, while their parents are working on something else.) But there is something really twisted about the whole thing. It’s quite dark. Just like everything these days. The fashion, the culture, the music.
Do the children understand the underlying irony and sarcasm in this story? I suppose it depends on their age and level of innocence. Even though I understand the nature of the industry, and that its all a cynical silly story, something inside me felt saddened. Why did the adults responsible for this production have no qualms about making a movie about little cute characters on a search for a really evil villain to work for? Do they themselves (the minions who made the movie) work for some evil master themselves?
I believe every production, or story, must have somewhere tucked into the plot a few messages, sacred ones, and lessons, or what is the point of telling it? I suppose there are some little messages in there, but they themselves are a reflection of the lost generation behind this hugely popular animation.The depressed society finds a leader called Kevin who is prepared to go out into the world to search for a new master. It was interesting how much violence was involved and how loud and large it all was.(Kids cartoons have always been violent, Micky Mouse and Tom and Jerry are always getting whacked and the level of sound and stimulation in a Cinema theatre is always turned to the max, but this was a few notches up.) The Minnions eventually find the new villain master who is to be the main character of Despicable Me. Is the story about self-acceptance? Is it about trying to prove oneself on a quest for love? They smile in the mirrors of their screens and take selfies of their beautiful selves. The only thing that is real. Are they seeking identity, self- acceptance? Or is it a culture of unabashed self-centredness? Or is the selfie trend fed by a need for self-love in the face of complete neglect due to parents who themselves are lost and unable to find the love they are looking for in all the wrong places and who themselves are completely self-centred? Is being self-centred good? From what I see, self serving and self-centred means grab, grab, grab. Not share and be fair.
In our global depressed society. Our children watch a lot of television. Their fragile and impressionable minds keenly searching for meaning and learning all the time from everything they see.
I believe that in a short time, the generation we are raising have lost track of their roots, their compass and their sense of purpose. Having been blinded by the distractions on their screens, large and small. The false promises, the temptations. The false sense of identities they try to create based on false role models, who themselves are lost. It is a case of the blind leading the blind.
I am so grateful that there are still youth among us who think like Puno Selesho, the powerful Pedi woman in Pretoria who in her Ted talk made such a clear statement on this subject.
I overheard a conversation between an adult with an American accent and a South African child with an American accent recently in Cape Town. They had just met and they were discussing reference points, places in America: Disney World is in Florida and Disney Land is in… The child explained very maturely that he had actually grown up in South Africa but his accent was due to the fact that he had watched so much American Television!
Watching Minions made me feel sad because of its lack of morality. Morality may seem old fashioned- an outdated concept, but morality is compassion. It is a sense of conscience: knowing right and wrong. What does morality mean to children who grow up watching a minion child in the backseat of a family station wagon being congratulated by the father on a family holiday to “Villain Com” for shooting down a water tank in the desert with a rocket launcher after a bank robbery? Fun and games, all to the rocking rebel sound track of The Doors. It’s so cool it smacks of “Natural Born Killers,” another successful movie about hero murderers. What are we creating with these stories?
On the first day of school, my children were proud to be able to tell their friends that they had watched the new Minions movie in a cinema as everyone else had, and were able to recite the punch lines. We bought cereal with “free dancing minions” inside on our way home from school, just to please them.
I just found a letter from my Grandfather, (Roland Kingwill, a Karoo farmer and philosopher) written to me on my 21st birthday. “Obey God and do what is right.” He wrote. That was always his message. It was not the stuck in the mud christian doctrine thinking at all. He was lead by Spirit. (Universal Spirit, if you are afraid of the G word.) He stepped out into the unknown bravely following his calling and his instinct even if it meant taking risks and making sacrifices. He stuck to his principles -working for the greater good, not his own gain. He was the old fashioned kind of hero, like Mandela and he died at the same age: 95, still strong in his own spirit and having created a proud legacy. I am grateful to have had those kind of “superheroes” in my life.
Our country is being is currently being lead by a character who is not unlike the super villains we saw in that movie – a leader who gets away with theft and corruption and has all the tools to keep doing so. We definitely need hope right now. We do not want to be lead by a villain- it gives the villains around us an excuse to be worse villains, just as stories about “cool villains” makes thuggery socially acceptable. We are already over run with crime. We need to be our own hero’s and we need one who is true: a true hero is free to follow his or her own true calling. The true calling of what is right. Not a slave to desires for material satisfaction and power, but someone who is prepared to take a stand for the greater good of all. Not for their own selfish gain. Interesting that in these times a villain super hero story is being told to the children. Are these stories just a good jokes about badness? Or are they just making movies that they think people will pay to see? The stories we tell ourselves and our children are what we make our reality. When we change the stories we tell, we change our reality. We are free to tell stories about a beautiful world, where kindness happens and there is caring and sharing and healing. Why don’t we do more of that?