The following thoughts were inspired by the recent exhibition of bones of a new branch on the tree of mankind – Homo naledi:
In the beginning we were all one.
Then the world split into its parts.
Fragmentation caused complexity and the formation of self.
Then the self began to separate itself from itself and consciousness began.
When did this happen?
What are the basic elements of consciousness?
Paul Gaugins “Where do we come from – What are we – Where are we going” expresses the idea of pondering the self within the context of a return to its paradisiacal origins.
In Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I paradise is forever lost and the way ahead is contemplated.
Of the many disciplines we have invented to research our consciousness in space and time, paleoanthropology appears to have had another field day with the discovery of homo naledi:
Does it bring us closer to knowing where we come from and to understand what we are or where we are going?
Are these not questions for tender on a higher, spiritual plane?
Once we were one with all.
Then came the separation.
Where are we now?
Have we as a species come to understand what we are?
Where are we going?
Day of All Saints,
Stellenbosch, November 1, 2015
With love as always from
Colleen & Walter
The garden at Babylonstoren is one of our favourite places to be. It is a place of perfect serenity where you can almost see and touch the balance of energies love and respect for the land and the people who work it have created. Dutifully and carefully the garden is tended throughout the year. Smallest details are taken care of. Nature and man appear to be in easy harmony here.
The owners of Babylonstoren, in collaboration with gardeners, workers, chefs are continuously experimenting with introducing new varieties, such as tamarillos (tree tomatoes), tree melons or aubergine and artichoke varieties among others. All plant material is carefully selected and tested first for its suitability for long term cultivation.
The hedgehog could be seen as a metaphor for the approachability of nature: prickly on the outside with a soft pink underbelly. Treat it with care and respect and it will reward you with its own particular usefulness. All the wonderful lovely fruit the garden will yield in the coming months has the prickly side of many hours of intensive and continuous labour of love.
We and Marietjie had been invited by Annette and Hermann on this walk through the garden, especially to see the display of Clivias which are now at the height of their flowering season and also for a special treat at “Babel”, Babylonstoren‘s fine restaurant.
Visiting the garden of Babylonstoren is part of an everlasting love affair with nature in its yielding to our cultivating mind and hands. The hands of many, of those with resources at their disposal willing to share wealth and vision with the many who on their part are lending their strength and passion in the pursuit of a common happiness.
Happiness in seeing nature bloom and blossom, widening the horizon of day to day politics. And be touched by it.
As a start.
With love as always from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 27 September 2015
The world around us is, and we in it are, in restless motion. And so is the universe of which we are part. And the greater and even deeper space around that and so on ad infinitum. It all is in motion. At no point ever can you hold “it” fast and pin it down. Even in death there is no finality. It is all in flux.
This notion of Πάντα ρει(panta rhei) – “Everything flows”, meaning that you can never step into the same river twice, as a philosophical concept, is attributed to the pre-Socratic thinking of Heraclitus of Ephesus who lived from ca. 535 to 475 BC.
It is of course a quotidian experience which we, however, apportion to the passage of time. We can never catch up with it. If only we could stop time for a moment longer, and so on. We use “time” as the general expression of this movement.
Time is a cultural convention. There is no such thing as time as such. There is perpetual movement and our experience of it in terms of time as a conventional measure of orientation in this world of unceasing motion and constant change. Were you to sit under a tree, meditating about the world, and it felt to you that all was still and motionless, time too would lose its voice.
Salvador Dali (1904-1989), The Persistence of Memory. 1931. Museum of Modern Art, New York. (Courtesy of WikiArt).
Science and philosophy have generated a number of questions, such as:
What and/or who has set it all into motion?
Are there any laws governing motion?
Does motion have a direction and an ultimate goal?
While we normally cannot engage in meaningful discussions about the findings of science from Thales of Miletus (624-546 BCE), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Ibn Khaldun (1334-1406) to Newton (1643-1727) andvon Helmholtz (1821-1849), proposing and discussing ideas or concepts of development and goals, are commonplace in the polity, where it is easy for all to see into which direction things ought to move.
The pessimistic outlook on Africa, as portrayed by the press, represents the blatant sufferings of the populace at large only. Trying to reach the shores of Europe in stricken vessels, children bonded as soldiers, the abduction and subsequent enslavement of school girls, genocide, rulers in contempt of the rule of law – Africa from that perspective, is a mess. Africa, it seems, would again have to rid herself from colonisers, this time of her own making. A people in fear of their rulers who treat their people with contempt, is a people in distress. It took Europe more than two centuries to establish herself constitutionally, how long will it take the people of Africa to set themselves free.
Africa Day, meant to remind us of our common humanity, also prompts a number of uneasy questions, that we, having chosen to live in Africa and be counted as Africans, have to ponder:
Are we sufficiently evolved as a species to narrow the ever widening divide between poor and rich?
How can we dispose of unjust rulers without causing further social unrest?
Can nations develop and compete side by side in harmony with each other?
How can we exploit natural and human resources in an equitable way?
Can we harness self-interest, greed, addictions without curbing our zest for life?
Can we as nations wed tribal and national interests with mankind’s common interest?
What counts is: respect for each other, for life. And, let’s not forget – life without fun is no fun.
With love as always
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch, 31st of May 2015
The renewed outbreak of violence against immigrants from other African countries – mainly from Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Somalia – in South Africa is branded as “xenophobia”, but I am not convinced this is the adequate term to use here.
The Greek word “xenos” means “foreigner” as well as “guest” and everything in between. A “xenos” can be a foreigner you are welcoming into your home and someone hostile to you.
The “phobia” in connection with a “xenos” means you are afraid to take a foreigner into your home, you are suspicious of the foreigner’s intentions and deny him or her your hospitality.
This is what happened to Piet Retief and his team of trekkers in 1838 after they had successfully, or so they thought, negotiated a land settlement deal with the Zulu king Dingane who however, after having signed the treaty, ordered his impis to slaughter the negotiating party one by one and an estimated 500 men, women and children in nearby camps thereafter. This in turn, some months later, led to the Battle of Blood River where 470 Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius withstood in their encampment along the Ncome river the onslaught waves of up to 20.000 Zulu warriors and made history.
Theirs was not xenophobia but eradication of a potential competitor for grazing.
Similar sentiments are at stake today. Foreigners are seen as competitors in a demanding job market. Our local labour force finds it difficult to compete with well educated workers from neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. While it is claimed that Nigerian nationals are holding the lion’s share in the drug and scam trade, it is no secret that Zimbabweans are very much in demand in the hospitality industry where our local labour force finds it difficult to compete. Similarly, traders from Somalia are offering competitive services to consumers while making profits through efficient networking. All of this has created a volatile situation where the local labour force, disadvantaged by inferior or non-existent education, hamstrung by labour union policies and dispirited by almost fifty years of de-humanising legislation, is becoming more and more frustrated. It’s a powder keg scenario where one word can be the spark to ignite it.
Xenophobia is not a South African thing at all. On the contrary. South Africa has a long tradition of inviting foreigners into her home and integrating them into her industry and culture and that has made this country strong and great. The situation seems to be changing now in that the majority of the people see themselves as disenfranchised despite promises to the contrary. And while the tide of foreigners drawn to this country is rising dramatically, there is no real hope for a dramatic change in the ordinary man and woman’s lot.
We cannot address xenophobia without addressing the underlying causes. For South Africa this means to dramatically increase the efficiency of our educational machinery. Educated people need not fear the foreign. They are equipped to integrate them into the general societal fabric and network. It is the uneducated masses that feel left behind and cheated out of their hopes and promises. And they are getting angry. Xenophobia in South Africa is an expression of this anger. It is misdirected, of course, and abused by all too ready background looters. Not the foreigner is at fault but government policies that have failed in providing the majority of people with a level of education that would enable them to compete with foreigners seeking work opportunities in their neighbourhood.
Stellenbosch, Monday 27 April 2015,
“Freedom Day”, in commemoration of the first all-inclusive democratic elections in 1994.
With love from
Walter & Colleen
The town of Lüderitz, named after the German merchant Adolf Lüderitz (1834-1886) who bought stretches of desert along the Atlantic between Angola and South Africa from various Nama captains, is a unique town. It still bears some trademarks of Germany’s ill-fated colonial ambitions. Without any hinterland to support it, it would eventually have been covered by the shifting sands of the Namib desert and be forgotten. However, the town is coming to life again. The old railway line has been restored and a new motorway constructed. There is still no hinterland as yet, but a boom is in sight. The prospecting for oil has begun. And with it the desert will come alive with all the elements of trade and industry. Lüderitz is a unique and attractive town in the desert and on the ocean. The desert experience is what we will see as some of the major tourist attractions.
We found the remnants of the town’s colonial past worth exploring and visited the beautifully restored Goerke house, commissioned in 1910 by Hans Goerke, then manager of the Emiliental Diamond Corporation, today used as guest house by the Namibia Diamond Corporation that also funded its restoration.
This is part 2 of our Namibia impressions.
Stellenbosch, 21st April 2015
With love from
Walter & Colleen
*ǃNamiǂNûs – the name of the Lüderitz constituency in Nama, the original inhabitants of the region. ǃ and ǂ are indicators of click sounds which make the Nama language so melodious.
We took friends to a conference at the University of Namibia in Windhoek and used the opportunity for a short ten days journey into Namibia. You might think – ten days is not that short, but, be assured, for Namibia it is. Your are rushing through it, madly, almost.
At first, the impression is of a great wide open nothingness until, by and by magic happens. The landscape is beginning to transform you to see it for what it means: wide and open. You within yourself are becoming wide and open. From an observer you are changed into someone who is enabled to experience its awe, until, eventually, your are completely absorbed by it.
From the canyon connecting with the road to Lüderitz.
This is the first part of our account of a short visit to Namibia.
With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 20 April 2015