Ne me quitte pas, mais mon Dieu tu farais mieux de rester!

Posted August 2, 2010 by ChristianGLee
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So, the question at hand has been the same for a while. Something I have pondered to the ends of the earth, and without fail, failed to answer! I think – rather I know – that it is the same issue as everyone else has, and it will probably never change (especially not if you’re in your teens, or like me, acting like you are in your early teens). Fact is, love is a bitch (Thank you my dearest friend for that reminder) and will forever be on the bitchy side of what is to be life until the end of time. So yes, the question is obvious – does true love actually exist??

The cause of many sleepless-drug-induced-alcoholically-unstable-chain-smoking nights, which I have had the good fortune of having had many of, it has taught me to be sceptical beyond belief (something I pride myself on) and ironic to my good-hearted nature, it has hardened me to the extent where it is difficult to let any form of it in. But there is always that one time… and yes, that one time is usually as a result of my incapacity to say stay sober.

That brings me to an interesting section of what I am about to explore – have we become so robotically plastic and unreal that we need the novelty of being drunk in order to show even a hint of real emotion? Either drunk, or sad to the point of suicide, in my experience. And this time, the teenager in me refuses to believe that I have limited experience on the topic seeing as (like most post-20 teenagers) I have been extensively hurt beyond belief by love and all it brings along and I refuse to see it any other way. Stubborn. Yes I am. Very bloody stubborn.

Back to the topic at hand though, does true love really exist? I’ve been trying to look at this from various different perspectives, moving away from what a dear friend labelled the children of my time as ‘The Sentimental-and-Selfhelp Oprah generation, but I seem to come back to my soppy ways when pondering love. The fact that I’ve been thriving on the sexually-charged feminist writings of Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Barret Browning, whilst feasting on a glass of red wine and indulging in the painfully passionate (and equally sexual) sounds of Nina Simone, has done absolutely nothing to change this Oprah-ish way of thinking I am apparently ever-so-guilty of. My latest idea on love? Yes, it does exist, but only in a moment that is shared between two complete strangers whom by some weird fateful joke of the gods spot each other and lose their talented tongues within the confines of what is supposed to be their means of protest against the risqué events that are to follow…

So by now you’ve guessed the story, and thus I shall not bore you the cliché that is the detail of a string of events so many of us have experienced so many times before. The point is, my eternal question that I thought when I started would be the topic up for discussion, has actually suddenly changed, for I now realize that (due to my recent experience of butterflies, breathlessness and other crap) that love actually does exist!

The question for me actually is, will love ever prevail over all the doubt in one’s heart, and if so, is it really ever enough to last for longer than the anticipation and build-up that serves as its omnipotent predecessor? In a world where we are so obviously surrounded by love stories gone wrong (no example necessary), I am compelled to wonder if it is worth it to actually fall in love. For I have, and damn I am scared. Jaques Brel, the French poet and inspiration behind many of my alcoholically-incorrect solo social sessions, boldly stated (as translated by his many English admirers) ‘If you go away, on this summers day, then you might as well take the sun away. All the birds that flew in the summer sky, when our love was new and our hearts were high. When the day was young and the night was long, and the moon stood still for the nights bird’s song. If you go away, if you go away, (and just to give Brel’s original effect to you) Ne me Quitte Pas.’

According to Brel, myself and all those in between, it will basically be the end of the value he sees in light, in life and all that is good there-in, should the one he loves desert him. The only thought I’m able to muster after reading the entirety of his beautifully sad text, is whether it is actually then worth it to actually explore this initial zest of infatuation (which I persistently choose to describe as love) any further. It is clear that the loss of such an extreme emotion, will be worse the longer one actually nurtures it, for like the child it makes you within 0.2 seconds refuses to do, it actually only but grows in time. The obvious safe option is to nip it in the bud, deal with the small cut it leaves somewhere in the deepest of you deep, avoiding the possible rupture it could cause alongside multiple heart-attacks in future. Because logically speaking, a cut can be treated with a cheap band-aid, whilst the possible future devastation, tends to lead to painstakingly slow death. Not good death either. Death of the soul. A death you actually (ironically) survive, and have to live with.

But, like Brel so stupidly did as well when he continues in his beautiful text to turn to the positivity within his reach, focussing on the optimistically-sickening possibility of how wonderful life would be should his lover decide to stay and create this mystical serge of happiness we all strive to achieve, I have decided to think past my logically correct thinking telling me to run and run fast. Like a teenager (because I have apparently not evolved much further) I am going to run face first into this wall of infatuation staring me in the face, instead of actually just hitting a heel in the opposite direction. Anyway, this way it’s more interesting. I mean, what would my melodramatic soul be without some juicy love and lust giving it reasons to cry out for a complete breakdown with the end of the world staring it right in the face? So yes, indulge I shall. It is but a mere infatuation, is it not? My head says the possibility of harm is big, but my ego says I’ll survive. So with the ego I shall go. Just like Brel did. And Nina did. And Maya did over and over. But like Barret-Browning, I’m going to take charge of this one, declare my stance, and assure the opposition (for love is a always a war between the lovers involved) that I am in charge of what may happen to me.

So if I get hurt, apparently its all my own fault. Oh God. Please don’t let it be my fault!


Ecstasy in Motion

Posted July 9, 2010 by ChristianGLee
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When I started this blog, I thought it was about achieving clarity on what bothers me, the questions that arise every day, the topics that keep me up even after the relentless struggle with Somnil to get me into a deep sleep. I believed that this would be a way to write about what is on my mind, and in this way discover that I actually know the answers. And then, I came to discover the truth.

In many ways I now realize that the only thing that keeps me alive is writing, I look forward to my daily coffee at the corner cafe, doing research in the heart of Melville for what would later be another post on my homeground. I feel safe here, like I’ve arrived to some spiritual point of letting go. My favourite television series – True Blood – had a distinctly evil character in the second season, by the name of Maryann, whom describes my relationship with my blog like only a crazy god-loving (fearing) creature could, when she explains to some severely hung-over and uninformed worshippers of Bacchus how the ancient mystics – from good ol’ Greece to Aztecs and even modern day Shaman – all went into an abnormal and fanatic frenzy in order to get as close as they possibly could to ‘their God’. They offered their souls, their bodies, their hearts (which would also explain why she offers various human hearts through-out the series to Bacchus in a marriage proposal) in order to get to that divine point of meeting with what they believe to be the ultimate being. It’s their ultimate deliverance, their last stop, if you will. This is what writing on my blog felt like, the purpose above all purposes, ‘The One’ to triumph above all else. Until now.

Today I’m struggling, because I have so much to say that I’m practically foaming at the mouth, and yet the words just won’t make their way through my fingertips onto this bloody screen. And right there comes the question, when is enough actually enough? Rather, is there ever a reason to use the word ‘enough’ or do we only limit ourselves by bringing some kind of finality to a situation once it becomes too difficult to pursue any further?

In a coffee shop, as I am at this moment, it seems very easy to realize when enough is enough – enough coffee (my bladder can’t handle it), enough cigarettes (I’m not supposed to smoke) and enough food (my debit card is already maxed). But take it to a different situation and the concept of having ‘enough’ becomes quite a different situation…

A friend of mine recently started looking into studying further. Having already conquered a BA with honours and proving that she can actually study her ass off by then acquiring a Masters, she was left with the question should she take on a trip to another far away land to do her PhD? Though to the singletons among us this might seem quite simple, because packing up and leaving is easy if it just you (or so you may think), especially if you’ve proved to yourself that you can actually sit yourself down for a few years and study, for her it is quite the dilemma. Her situation is rather difficult, seeing as she has quite comfortably settled down – which is the part of the whole theory of having ‘enough’ that I can’t seem to grasp. She’s in a steady relationship with a man that she not only loves, but one that also loves her and willingly accepts her quirks, going as far as not only accept them, but also indulging in her (very foreign to South African conservatives) ideas and actions. He is settled here, older and ‘wiser’ (though it is my belief that she is the wise one) and has been through the travelling phases. He has a prominent job, is a public figure, and is ultimately not willing to exchange this for a nomadic existence, and definitely not for student life – understandably so considering he is nearing 40. Lastly, he has the ultimate tie-down, the deal breaker in most relationships where the younger partner craves change – children. She’s grown fond of them, even to the extent where I might call her affections for them ‘loving’. Not only does she not want to leave him, but she doesn’t want to leave them, because they have filled a space in her heart, albeit a few months ago she would still have claimed to be detached enough to leave them in a moment in search of new pleasure on foreign land.

Now, however, the bug has bitten her and she craves to explore a new life, thus carrying forth with the nomadic existence she had planned. Has she finally reached a stage where she has experienced ‘enough’ of life and should take the opportunity facing her of settling down and playing politicians wife until the end of (her) time? In an attempt to answer this question I have turned to an essay by Irish writer Anne B. Ryan, and what I came upon (albeit in stark contradiction to Ryan’s conclusions) is astonishing in its simplicity.

Ryan is a Professor in Adult and Community Education at the National University of Ireland, a political lefty (like most of the intelligent Irish based on their lack of proper political history) and a famous author on the, what she claims to be, age old concept of ‘enough’. She’s studied the human need for more versus the value of ‘sticking to what you have’ most of her life and thus is seen in academic circles as one of the leading authorities on the topic. In her essay, ‘Working With A Philosophy of Enough’, Ryan claims that the human race is ultimately in search of a way to achieve well being and control of our lives in order to be happy (this word has a way of creeping in everywhere). She goes further to say that we have a longing for balance in our lives, so that we can exclude the possibility of chaos and thus eliminate disaster. She says, “Enough is a way to freedom. The sooner we arrive at our personal definitions of enough, the freer and happier we can be.”

She then states that it has in recent years become common for us to want more out of life than what we have, to crave more success, more money, more experience, and that this is a modernist concept that contradicts the age old concepts of rather being content with what we have and where we are. What Ryan fails to bring into her supposed equation to freedom and happiness is the fact that through-out history there are not many traces of being her theory of ‘enough’ and that the human race has in many ways evolved due to the relentless quests for more by the pioneers of our civilisation (that is of course if you can call a race that still acts as barbarians when faced with difficulty civilized). Imagine if Hipparchus had been content with the ideas on the earth being the centre of the universe. We would still be unaware of the motion of the earth circling the sun with the other planets in our universe. Another example of this would undoubtedly be Steven Hawking. If Hawking had been content with being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, he would have settled with the idea of dying within a few years and would not be here today to further the study on, amongst other things, the possibility of ulterior universes and the interaction between these universes as well as his many valuable theories on time and ‘black holes’. Furthermore, if Hawking had been content with the idea of becoming a vegetable, he would not have designed remarkable systems in order to help him continue his writing, thereby creating ways for other sufferers of the disease to exist more comfortably. One man refusing to settle changed the way we think and eased the pain of many people all in one go. Thus, enough is not enough, for settling is only an easy way to say ‘I accept the death sentence’.

And so I conclude, my dear Anne B. Ryan, that through-out the ages remarkable people have chosen to persist in their strong determination to achieve constant change, and have made it possible for you to exist the way you do today. I then disagree with you completely – it is not a modernist theory based on consumerism, but rather a basic human need. Problem solved, go abroad again and further your studies, learn more and above all keep in constant motion so you don’t become a vegetable. Nothing is ever enough, for beyond the border of content there always lies unexplored territory that will, if nothing else, contribute to the wisdom you will pass on to others.

If along the way you get bashed up, it is just a bit of experience gained, and you will undoubtedly use it on your next journey. As the ever-so-deliciously-evil Maryann says, “Look at you. A few bumps and bruises? A small price to pay for bliss…we need to be out of control. We crave it.” The earth is riddled with chaos, and it is in this chaos we find progression through utilizing it without the acceptance of circumstances. It is, rather, the concept of order and contentment that is modernist, and in my opinion against our nature.

And so, yet again, I have solved my own problem with settling down. Just like that, I’m back in action, and it was definitely not by accepting my circumstances of frustration through not achieving the same ecstasy as usual in my writing, but rather through breaking the barrier and forcing the words out and learning from my own writing. Welcome back to bliss! I have officially made the connection again. And I definitely have not had enough.

The Sweet Nectar of Real Laughter

Posted July 2, 2010 by ChristianGLee
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This week I’ve decided to look at things from a more practical point of view, meaning you sometimes say more by just keeping it simple, short and sweet. Knowing myself, aiming at keeping it short and sweet (and actually simple as well) could be quite a problem – even though I promise to try! The topic of the day… Happiness! Yes! The cliché of note. But is seems to stick in the back of my mind. And for some very intriguing reason, everywhere I seem to turn these days is some unhappy person with a very fake smile walking around looking as though the sun could creep out of his backside at any moment. Take for instance the elite of the trade, fashionista’s of note, that I spent loads of time with over the last few months. In more than one case, happiness seemed to be but a mere shot of botox away, whilst the young crowd preferred to dazzle in as much glitter as possible, making sure that their biggest assets (the impossibly thin female figures and extremely rugged male monsters) were kept in tact with loads of alcohol and an extreme lack of healthy food.

Have to admit, as cynical as I may sound at this point, it was rather fun in many ways, and soon enough I found myself prancing around like a show pony with the ever-so-present plastic grin (as a good friend of mine coined it) pinned on my face. Yip. I was sold. For a few minutes… but no, the aim of this is not to shoot down the supposedly fabulous elite in order to seem as ‘real’ as possible in my strive to be a miserable normalite, because this morning I turned my gaze to the streets of Melville, where people pretend to be real and would even go so far as to call themselves ‘artists expressing the hardship of life through the creative lense’. Please go back to that sentence, make sure you read between the lines. If you’re still not with me on what is actually said, replace that sentence with ‘miserable wannebe’s hanging around other miserable outcasts sharing a common love for cheap alcohol and an addiction to sounding depressed even when they’re actually so overjoyed they could lock themselves in self-induced orgasm without even a hint of arousal’. I’m harsh, I know.

The moral of the story, everywhere I go everyone seems to be in dire need of happiness, but too bloody scared to just grab onto it. Thus their excuses either being ‘I’m too famous to smile’ or ‘I’m too tortured to laugh’. But why are we so scared to accept happiness? For the answer to this, I decided to turn to my arch enemy: faith. Don’t run away yet, it’s nothing conventional and I didn’t sell my soul to a cult. What I did find, however, are the teachings of a meditation and yoga legend, Sri Chinmoy.

Let’s start by explaining whom he is, rather than jump right into what he says. Sri Chinmoy (born Chinmoy Kumar Ghose) started this phase of his spiritual existence in a rural part of what is today known as Bangladesh, by the name of Chittagong. After turning a mere twelve years old, himself and his 6 siblings were left orphaned by the tragic death of their parents, triggering a move to the South of India to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. Saddened by the death of his parents, and now one of 7 working children providing for the household in Ashram, he found solace in the art of meditation, which taught him the focus and (as he claimed) ‘inner-peace’ to become a respected sportsman and yoga teacher. Twenty years of training in meditation and yoga lead to Chinmoy stating that it’s his calling to spread the joy of Indian spirituality with the west, becoming a world ambassador for universal harmony and peace. His following became quite big in the late 1960’s and still today his teachings are part of the daily routines of many across the world. To make him a little bit more inspiring (I don’t like all this ‘goodness’ and happiness a single bit, but let’s indulge), he also initiated the annual World Harmony Run which is still running today.

Now, let’s focus away from him, and take a look at what he teaches on the topic of eluding happiness. According to Chinmoy, running from happiness is but a fear of accepting the self and accepting the freedom that awaits you. Furthermore, this is due to punishing yourself unnecessarily and should be replaced by a simple ten step system. Yes, you read correct. Apparently eternal happiness lies within reach, as long as you follow ten simple steps… I tested this theory extensively, by applying these steps to experiences in my own life and that of others, with astoundingly remarkable results! Here they go:

Step 1: Offer Goodwill to Others
So, as step one this seemed simple. And I have to admit, I thought long and hard in order to actually be able to disprove this one – until I realized I live in a country where I pay the parking guard R2 for watching my car a fraction of a second, unleashing a whirlwind of sneers and curses upon myself for not emptying my entire wallet, example 1. Example two: asking the cashier at my local Spar how her day has been, got me into so much trouble that she almost forgot to ring up my (much deserved) chocolate. Example 3 comes in the form of some truthful misfortune. You tip the guard before going into the bar, you come back to an empty car. And a broken window. I could carry on, believe me, ends up it wasn’t too hard to disprove step 1, but I made a promise to keep this as short as possible. Sweet, well, we’ll see…

Step 2: Learn to Detach from Thoughts
Now, this one reminded me of some serious psychedelics from back in the day, seeing as the subtitle reads “We can imagine that we are throwing our thoughts out of our mind into a cosmic dustbin.” Dude, could serve as a pretty screwed up trip. So I tried it. The idea – not the trip . Only problem was, clearing my mind was increasingly difficult, seeing as I had just read about Uganda’s blatant homophobia, a young mother losing both her children due to a chauvinist with a gun (aka ‘father’), and I actually did open my eyes driving through the CBD earlier today. Thus, it was a little bit difficult to not think. And the dustbin – yea, there ain’t no dustbin big enough. So I phoned a friend. Her result: quite similar to mine, except she was more worried about her not-so-desirable work situation and paying rent this month. Game. Set. Match. Chinmoy -0. Cynical Susy – 2. That sounded better in my head. Moving on!

Step 3: Keep Yourself Busy
And for a second I thought now there is something I could actually do! So I filled up my plate with as much as possible (within my limited reach as unemployed artist) and kept myself busy. This proved unsuccessful – I fainted. So, I tried a different approach – just enough to keep me busy without actually doing everything. I missed my sleep. I was tired. I was definitely not happy. Step 3 was over for me – back to sleeping ‘till 1pm.

Step 4: Avoid Feelings of Guilt.
This was easy, until I read it. Then I was suddenly reminded of all the reasons I have to feel guilty. Thank you Sri Chinmoy – much appreciated! And no amount of throwing anything into a dustbin will help, even should you feed me enough ‘shrooms to kill a cow. Enough said.

Step 5: Live a Balanced Life.
My mother, bless her soul, has actually quoted this line to me so many times I swear it causes a ringing in my ears. So, I thought about it actually this time (after avoiding you mommy – sincere apology from your bothered son), and realized that by aspiring to be happy, isn’t this actually the same thing? According to a teaching in Zen Buddhism, balance is the key to happiness. So, isn’t a balanced life then equal to achieving happiness? See my problem, if I knew how to do this, I’d be happy and not seeking your advice! I’m starting to lose faith, not that I had much to begin with.

Step 6: Don’t Base your Happiness Solely on Other People
Oh boy this reminded me of Sunday school back in the day, thankfully this time it is not followed by the phrase “only God can be trusted with your happiness”. It actually, in a purely spiritual sense (without any evangelical angle to it) made sense. But from here another issue is born: if you don’t believe in a god (as atheists tend to not do), what do you base your happiness on then? So, happiness is only achievable to those whom have faith in a mysteriously good creature reigning over a superbly evil world? Bring on the black clothes and heavy metal, I’d rather pierce my tongue than base my ‘happiness’ on something that can’t be proved. Good luck. This one, is personal opinion.

Step 7: Share Problems
Easy answer: if you have ten problems, and I have ten problems, and I share mine with you and you share yours with me – we both deal with a combined twenty problems. Ten each! So back to the drawing board, would be my suggestion.

Step 8: Cultivate Happiness within Yourself
If I could create it, would I not be living the happiness I’m creating, because, I’m, like happy? Answer that, and we can discuss this one.

Step 9: Have Low Expectations
Now this one speaks for itself. If there is one thing that would depress me to death, it is to seriously expect not getting what I want from a situation! Imagine, going for a job interview and telling yourself “I probably didn’t get, no I didn’t. Okay, I didn’t get it” Dear Sri Chinmoy, if you’re selling suicide here, it’s not fair to label it differently!

And then Step 10: Don’t Dwell on the Negative
Seeing as negative and happiness rarely end up in the same sentence (apart from the odd STD-test), I accepted that this one could not only be true, but possibly also be the only real way to achieve happiness! Ecstatic that I found something worth writing about within these ten steps, I ran outside into the garden, focusing on all that is positive. And like a bang my head was empty as hell – I managed to remove my thoughts, only due to a lack of positive-thinking. And then quickly realized that this, in itself, defeats the entire purpose.

So, devoid of happiness and totally and completely lost as to why anyone would read through these ten steps, I decided to read through it all again. What followed was extreme laughter. Real laughter. Laughter that boiled over out of my gut. The neighbours thought I was crazy (none more than usual) bending over in the garden for no apparent reason screaming and crying all for one reason: in that instant I was happy.

And so, I have concluded that happiness has absolutely nothing to do with any ‘special system’, but rather with just packing up laughing. Are you unhappy? Read a book. Watch a good comic – I’d recommend Juliette Lewis – rent a friggin’ stupid movie. Just laugh. Like never before! It works. Also, please do find the fact that I am incapable of doing anything short and sweet immeasurably funny. And maybe, just maybe, consider the fact that in that moment of sever laughter (be it at my flaws as a writer or your own incapacity to breed happiness), you are at peace with the world, and one with yourself. And if you’re still not laughing, bare in mind that Escom just cut my electricity as I’m typing – without explenation. Enjoy!

The Evasive Art of Running

Posted June 24, 2010 by ChristianGLee
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“… watching you run into the high noon sun, watching you run farther than guns will go, you are a runner with a stolen voice, you are a runner and I am my father’s son…”

To run away is an art. One I’m quite sure I have perfected through extensive practice. It might seem very simple – pick up and go – but believe an experienced escapee (whom is very familiar with the value of a con) when he tells you that it is far more complex. You need to plan it, months in advance. The irritating thing is is that the con he creates during this period of planning involves people, people he would sometimes like to take along. The ultimate result of this experience is that he learns very quickly to detach himself from human feeling, losing his sense of humanity. And it is at this point where the runner’s legacy of death and destruction comes into play, because (having perfected the lie) the people left behind are the ones picking up the pieces years after he has set off into the sunset.

For the uninformed non-folk supporting readers, the quote at the beginning is from a musical masterpiece entitled ‘You are a runner and I am my father’s son’ by the ever-inspiring band Wolf Parade. It is written from the perspective of ‘the one that’s left behind’ and starts by explaining what is going through the mind of he who stays, constantly watching someone he loves running away. You feel for the ‘one who’s left behind’ while he takes the blame for the runner’s actions by stating that he actually is no hero. This is a common trait amongst those left, blaming themselves for the runner’s actions due to a lack of knowledge of why they are left alone. Mr Left Behind has no identity left, for the runner (being a perfect con) took his identity along and all that he has now is the fact that he is ‘his father’s son’. The easy way out of the obvious question arising here, is that the blame is not to be placed on Mr Left Behind, but rather on the evil runner that works his way into someone’s life, heart and soul and then chooses to set off without any (obvious) reason. He is evil. Evil because he is not human anymore. Evil because he takes and breaks and doesn’t stay behind to face the consequences. Or so it may seem… But is the runner actually to blame, or could the accumulation of circumstances only visible to him possibly be to blame for his actions?

A good example of this is a student with a problem. He is 19 and has just passed his first semester, but excitement is far from what is on his mind. You see, he’s been through a great relationship (with disastrous results), a very successful exam-period, and made some relatively good friends. So why does he choose to throw it all down the drain by withdrawing from the program, skipping classes and ultimately putting his foot down on the accelerator, spinning off as though his life depends on it? Below the exterior of confidence and power, which serves as the lie he presents to the outside, there is a truth only he is aware of: he can’t keep it up. See, even though all is well on the exterior, he actually has no idea what he is doing and realizes that keeping up the act could (would) not only disappoint everyone counting on his success, but also destroy him, seeing as he actually does not have the skills to deal with failure. Somewhere in his system, he is missing the knowledge  to deal with the most normal of circumstances, and through his life (not understanding what exactly he’s missing) has taught himself various tactics to deal with these supposedly mundane situations. The problem with his solution is that it does not take into account that these everyday situations can vary, and the moment that they vary, he has no way to deal with it. Thus, to everyone around him, it seems like life as usual, whilst to him the situations he deals with daily (classes, friends, projects) suddenly seem a world away from what he knows.

The question then arises, what is he supposed to do? Should he stay behind at the same university in his current life (and confused state), he knows that he is heading for a crash, a crash that will not only be misunderstood by the people around him – but will also display him as being a lesser man (woman). Because nobody else see the changes he experiences, it is also quite plausible to a logical mind that he will be criticized profoundly, and ultimately tossed aside as a ‘broken toy’. So, from our runner’s perspective, he is faced either with being declared ‘broken’, or running and lodging an attempt at success somewhere far away where life seems to be different. I know which I chose, many times.

So back to the original question, is he then to blame for his actions? It seems too easy to now refer to some Highly Sophisticated theory of him possibly not being in control due to some evil scientist (thank you Putnam), so I’d like to look at it from a human perspective. One of the many theories on suicide victims, is that there is a point in the human psychology where you have no choice, because you only see one option and thus you are controlled by your limited views and can, therefore, not be held accountable for the act of suicide. This is highly debatable, and thanks to the fact that suicide (realistically speaking) leads to death, we don’t have much evidence to support it. Thus it might be a semi-fictional theory, but still possible. Isn’t it then the same with ‘the runner’? However, the fact still remains that it is only natural for us (or so it would seem) to want to place blame, due to the fact that we are constantly looking for a reason for pain, to ease it.

There seems to be no answer to this question the more I think about it, because even if (from a runner’s perspective) you can not place blame, how do you live with yourself when being left behind? As complex as it all may seem, I’ve found solace somewhere in the lyrics of Wolf Parade, which makes it clear that although one might seem heroesque and good on the surface – when the lights go down you’re just another person with the possibility of being rotten to the core:
“…I was a hero
Early in the morning
I ain’t no hero
at night…”

A Painfully Burning Bush

Posted June 19, 2010 by ChristianGLee
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If there is one thing that has been bothering me since the day I first picked up a pen and started releasing on paper, it is the fact that the best inspiration always comes from the worst of situations. And when happiness strikes, it is lost forever more in the utterly disgusting world of joy. Truthfully, a healthy existence might keep you smiling and comfy, but isn’t that the problem at hand? With so much negativity and (supposed) evil, are we actually supposed to be happy? Or are we supposed to be lost in a sense of depression, forcing us to be in a constant state of learning in order to change the ‘bad’ habits of humankind?

Before I sound like a (complete) prophet of doom, sounding the trumpet and calling back the troops from their joyous holiday to continue everlasting war, let me first state that I’m fully aware that severe depression ultimately leads to wrinkles, suicide and a whole lot of other nasty titbits that invade our existence without announcing their presence. Take for instance an acquaintance of mine that recently kissed the daylight goodbye, greeting the existence that is awaiting him beyond the borders of time with his hands up and his head bowed down. He was in his early thirties. Educated and well-mannered. Grew up on a farm in the Free State, and had (apart from the revelation that his sexual interests bent into the opposite direction) very good family relations. It had been a few months since I had met him, and by all accounts available to me by the knowledge of others, I could I could trust in the belief that he was happy (or as happy as a gay man with an Afrikaans father and a neurotic mother could be, especially seeing as he was compelled to visit his Free State home quite regularly).

It was when his visits became less frequent and more occasional that the folks started to worry, not being able to get hold of him, but blaming it on the very fact that, as a lawyer, he had to be terribly busy. Not long after the visits became a rarity of note, the phone conversations began to fade and soon someone had to intervene, so (armed with a Bible and a prayer kit no doubt) the Afrikaner and the neurotic headed on down to Sodom and Gomorra (read: Big Bad City of Sandton) to find out what exactly was going on, and what greeted them was surely worth the use of the Bible and the prayer kit, with the possibility of even involving some holy water. There he was, spread out on the floor, not a sign of life and definitely no ‘limp wrists’, as stated on numerous occasions…

The question was, albeit the answer rather blatantly visible, what had caused his death. Now, as any parent would mechanically tell, this is the worst scenario in the world – finding your own flesh spread out on the floor, when you were under the impression that all was bliss (apart from the little bend in the bone). It was only after further inspection that a letter was found, addressed to his professional colleagues stating that he had a disease far worse than what they could imagine – one that the bone could not be blamed for. In truth, somewhere in between his perfect existence, reality stepped in and handed him an (im)perfect dose of cancer. Something not even the biggest smile on earth could solve.

Quite sure that he had most possibly taken his own life, the memory of him was bowed down along side every attendee’s head at a rather uncomfortable funeral, although further inspection would tell a different tale. In stark contrast to what was perceived to be his last bow before giving the Big C his soul, he had mistakenly overdosed, just slightly, on medication prescribed in order to deal with the Big C and possibly save himself – a joyous idea yet again spoilt by the intervention of reality. And boy, reality is one sad bastard. This got me thinking about a few things, but none more than the value of reality, and the utility of pain. Isn’t it then rather better to accept the sadness that drifts around us like a hungry Anaconda, than to try and ignore it by being ‘happy’? Is the utility of sadness, negativity and pain, not more than but a mere source of inspiration leading to untimely death, but also a way to bring about positive change in the fatefully distant future? Confused? Yet again, so am I. So here comes the example.

Think of a character named Bob. Bob is your average bloke working in IT without any idea of the slaughtered 1000’s falling weekly in the Middle East. But, more than that, Bob is terribly happy, because he has a good job, a great girlfriend, and a quite amicable savings account which he uses regularly to invest in some brilliant commercial-punk albums for his collection – to prove that he is actually a bit of a rebel. Bob gets married, before long has kids, succeeds at work and soon after retires at 65. You see, when you’re happy time flies and you take no note of the war that is still ongoing. Next, he dies of natural causes in a private hospital somewhere in Switzerland where chose to retire due to the unsafe environment in South Africa interfering with his happiness. He was a good person. Or was he?

Suppose Bob sat down for one second, reading the article staring at him from his kitchen table relentlessly reporting that over 50 people were recently silenced in the Gaza strip, and taking note of the dying bum with Tuberculoses begging hopelessly every morning on his way to work, deciding to take a leap forward and drive this man to hospital. He would certainly have been less happy, and much less comfortable, because, you see, the spread of the sad atmosphere is bound to make its way through the walls of joy built up, but in the process he would’ve saved someone. Suppose, Bob joined a group of activists, travelling to the Gaza strip to act as human shields, he would’ve been filled with fear and could possibly die a horrible and untimely death. But, in time, that small act of protest will form part of a bigger plan to stop the war, and 30 years down the line, the war might finally end with Bob being a part of it. A martyr. Not a famous martyr with his own book in the Bible or the Torah, but a martyr still. A sad martyr, that dies years ahead of his time, but saved countless lives in the process.

Suppose Bob does all of this, and his girlfriend ends up being alone – a sad widow without ever having the chance of being a Stepford Wife. She grieves. She hates. She curses. She questions the reality of her god. She is any one of the millions of lone criers on the planet. But she now needs to fill the gap and, feeling inspired by her feelings of pain and the raw emotions bleeding inside, decides (at the brink of suicide) to start reading about pain and how it influences the human psyche. Casual reading later evolves into part time study, and before you know it she has a BA and later a PhD in psychology. In her free time she questions the value of joy in the human society, and, just short of her 80th birthday, makes a breakthrough in modern philosophy by designing a new theory of pain and its relativity to reality that will later on form part of modern philosophy and psycho-analytic techniques used to save suicide victims from their (self-induced) fate. A martyr. Two martyrs born from the intervention of reality in ‘happiness’.

It is easy then to conclude that we have created a positive out of the negative. We have found a way to utilize the negative in order to ultimately create the positive. We have thus, solved most of the errors of the human condition. The only question left standing, I would like to base on a naturalist theory I came across years ago, one I’ve stood by my entire life which has proven itself over and over again: how is it possible to create a negative from a positive, and a positive from a negative when water breeds water and fire is only causes more fire? Would we not, if we can create a positive result from a negative equation, also be able to create water by adding more fire to a burning bush?

And so my theory is, as realistic as it may seem, in actual fact a fantasy. For now. Maybe I could actually be content with being a healthy happy person. Maybe the person I’m passing on the street – laughing at her friend’s nasty comment – is actually happy. All I know, is that the doom and gloom seems to near for me to ignore, so be it that it is either my choice to be a grumpy bugger, or the facts of life making me a realist. Fact is that ‘happiness’ is certainly not an eternal blossom in my existence. Even if I’m no-one’s martyr. Yet.

The One That Stuck

Posted June 17, 2010 by ChristianGLee
Categories: Uncategorized

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I have often pondered the value of long lost love, like any twenty-something with a string of relationships trailing happily along as he makes his way through the bends and burns of modern life. The distinct difference is that although I might be a twenty-something in the 20th century, I have in actual fact only had but two meaningful relationships, both lasting a mere 6 weeks before I chose to run and defend my freedom. Is it a fear of commitment? I think not, although any psychologist worth his salt would probably say it is. Am I then in denial? Well, god only knows, because the only fact amongst these two very complicated tales is that I ran. For the hills. As far as my feet would allow me to. Into the mountains. And then, I avoided… Which is in retrospect never a good idea.

The long lost love I am referring to has absolutely sweet blue bugger-all to do with relationship number two (which is more infamous for its mismatched principles than its warrior-like endurance), and has everything to do with relationship number one: The One That Stuck.

Let me start at the beginning. Now, I’m not some hopeless romantic hanging on a string waiting to be miraculously saved by a random that appears out of nowhere and then ends up being the saviour of note (almost like a Comical Christ). I’m sceptic when it comes to love. Especially love that is in any way linked to the mythical dating scene where you meet someone in a grocery store whilst accidentally dropping a packet of soup and then end up getting married, or see a crying woman on the college lawns and offer her a light and end up having a pregnancy scare. I don’t think it exists in actual fact. I still don’t. But, unfortunately, I have to admit that that is how it happened. Yes mom, you read correct, no need for glasses.

So as I was saying, she was crying on the college lawns and I was seated about 10meters away. I watched for a few minutes as a rather infamous lecturer was giving her a hard time, and soon she threw her hands up in the air, running and doing what any respectable actress would do – dug in her pocket for a fag. A real fag people, a Marlboro. Realizing she didn’t have a light, she headed straight for the first year staring at the scene taking place in front of him and in her demanding (yet softspoken) way insisted on a light by half-heartedly asking, and yet making it clear that she was not giving up. So I gave her one. And she spoke, for a whole of ten minutes filling me in on the impossible fantasy of a complete perfectionist that she then had to turn into reality. I gave her a hug. It’s the human thing to do, I thought. The bare minimum, and she ran off, onto the back of her scooter and into the distance. That would be that. Or so I thought.

Being a first year drama student, there is one thing you need to be filled in about – you’re forced to do a lot of technical work for productions you are not even remotely interested in due to the lack of interest from anyone else to make their own productions a success, and much in tune with this little theory of mine, I ended up (forcibly) signed on to do the sound for a student production of Chekov’s ‘Three Sisters’, knowing very well that the sound and lighting units are right next to each other and I would probably end up doing both anyway (though some of my co-slaves would disagree). First day of rehearsals came up and I found myself terribly alone on the gallery behind a soundbox I couldn’t really understand without any sign of the lighting-girl or my anonymous crier. It was 10minutes into the painfully boring rehearsal that a girl stumbled through the front door, running towards the stage apologizing profusely for being late – the crier had returned. Her punishment for missing 10minutes of nothing – she had to teach the sound guy how to work the box. And so we met, awkward as it were, her fully knowing I’d seen her at her most vulnerable and myself fully aware of her vulnerability.

Forward a few weeks ahead and we had just hit the five week mark and I was becoming restless. She was to meet my parents the day before opening a big show, and I was scared – for no particular reason – but for the simple fear of a combined existence vs the well known comfort zone of singledom. I phoned my folks, telling them that I’m not sure how long it will last, but the plans went ahead as stipulated, and she met them. They loved her, and the fear of duality set in a like a raging fire. The following night, an unplanned occurrence took place when, at her opening, I was introduced to her family – and god did the fear set in. That night, I set forth, heading for the hills and breaking my first heart. A break that would stick for quite some time.

Whilst travelling a while later I became aware of a missing limb, an organ that wasn’t fully functioning, and like clockwork I contacted her. Like the bastard I am, I came back home and fled. The missing limb stayed. And now it is two years later, officially with the date but a few days behind me, and I’m still wondering what would have been. Two years, one (failed) attempt at a relationship and three universities (told you I’m a runner) later, and the missing limb is tugging at my heart. So, the question then is not whether love is lost or not, but rather, whether I miss the possibility or if I actually miss her? For the time being, I’ve decided to indulge in the idea of the Brain in a Vat theory by Hillary Putnam. Putnam suggested, after vast study of the various works by Descartes, that there is always the possibility of a person’s brain being in a vat of fluids, connected to a machine controlled by an evil scientist. The machine creates everything we perceive to be real – emotions; feelings; missing limbs… Thus, nothing is real and we are stuck at the mercy of an evil scientist meaning that ultimately we know nothing.

If this could be true, it means that there is the remote possibility that I might not actually be experiencing the painful longing for lost love, and I could actually be happy in some parallel universe! And just like that the problem is solved. Philosophy is really the answer to everything. The only remaining question then is: if there is the possibility of everything being a simulation and thus the possibility of life being an illusion, isn’t there then also the possibility of this theory being an illusion? Meaning my solution could also be just that, a mind trick?

Either way, rather a madman than a love sick puppy…

Is it Light or just a Reflection?

Posted June 16, 2010 by ChristianGLee
Categories: Uncategorized

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So, when do we really qualify ourselves ready enough to move on to the next level? Confused? So am I. Believe me. But confusion, I’ve found, seems to be the one state in which I am most comfortable! Even though it might seem sometimes that I’m trying to solve the riddle at hand in order to move across to the next level, I find myself being reluctant in actual fact to do so. So why is it that we prefer to dabble in the unknown, rather than accept that we might have conquered it and therefore move forward to a stage beyond our initial confusion? To answer that, we have to look at an age old concept, which strangely enough I’ve found that most of my peers are blissfully unaware of – its called Plato’s cave.

Philosophy students (albeit by profession or as a hobby), you’re allowed to skip forward a few paragraphs, and will possibly find this terribly boring anyway… So heads up, ‘cause you know what is to come.

Plato was a philosopher whom (also known as Aristocles) was probably born in Athens in 427BC, although do take note that this is only an estimation seeing as there is no fact to base especially his place of birth on. More than just a mere philosopher, he was also a student of Socrates, a man which is well known in all circles of life. Bored with the aristocratic stance of his family, irritated with the corrupt Athenian politics of the time and angry at the execution of his teacher (Socrates), Plato wrote many essays based on the human need of knowledge, consisting of various theories on the principles of human knowledge and the existence there-of. One of these theories (as written in his book ‘The Republic’) became known as ‘Plato’s Cave’ and looks at the general perception of knowledge and how acquiring actual knowledge alienates one from your supposed ‘normal’ peers and elevates you to a higher state of intelligence where truth is known. The theory is written in the form of a dialogue between his teacher Socrates and his brother Glaucon. It goes as follows:

Socrates tells Glaucon the tale of a group of people whom are imprisoned in a cave from birth. They’re hands and feet are tied together to assure immobility and their eyes are blindfolded whilst their heads are fixed in a certain position to assure their gaze is set ahead of them. Behind them is a big fire, with a walkway used by people carrying objects between them and the fire, and in front of them is a blank wall. The fire causes the shadows of the people carrying objects on the walkway to be cast on the blank wall, and thus the prisoners experience these shadows as real objects in front of them. Sitting there for all their lives, they begin to believe that the shadows are in actual fact real, and thus the only knowledge they have is that of the shadows.

Socrates then goes further by asking what would happen should one of these prisoners be set free, to which the answer of course is that he would be frightened and blinded by the light of the fire. Furthermore, the freed prisoner would be in an immediate state of confusion seeing as he now realizes that what he has believed to be real all his life are merely shadows of reality and he would thus be in a state of disbelief. Frightened by his new acquired knowledge, and angry at the fact the basis of his life is a lie, he is adamant on not venturing outside the cave and in is thus (much like me) stuck in this state of confusion.

This, as Stephen R. Covey (amongst others) has coined it, is then known as his comfort zone. Socrates next suggests that the only way to make him venture outside of this comfort zone, is if someone should force him. When our character is outside, he is blinded by the light of the sun for quite some time, before becoming accustomed to it. Now being able to see the world for what it really is, he is forced to deal experience reality and true knowledge. He is finally in the supposed ‘next level’. This higher level to which he is elevated, brings him extreme new-found and truthful knowledge, which places him above his peers whom are still blindfolded and bound inside the cave with the belief of the reality of the shadows they face every day. Excited by his new found glory, he ventures back into the cave to teach his peers real knowledge, but once he’s back in the darkened space, not used to the lack of light, he stumbles and falls and loses his credibility rather than gaining their attention.

This entire display would then, quite naturally, prohibit other freed prisoners from venturing outside of the cave due to a fear of being laughed at by their peers and being perceived as being an idiot, rather than knowledgeable scholars superior to them.

See how it links to my story? In everyday life we seem to run around, learning about the small stuff, claiming that we would like solutions to the questions that arise from our limited perception of reality, when in actual fact we’re too scared to find the answers. And what happens when we are at the brink, and these answers have displayed themselves blatantly to us, do we leap forward and grab onto them, accepting our new and scary lives that lay ahead as a consequence; or do we stand back, moving back into the darkness of the cave, assuring ourselves a comfortable life of superficial sensibility based on the perception of knowledge which is in actual fact only a few shadows?

Seems complicated, but let’s apply it to an everyday situation. Suppose for a moment, Jane is a middleclass woman, married to a man she idolizes called Richard, whom provides for her a comfortable and very amicable lifestyle. He comes home the same time every night, has dinner with her at the table, and is promptly in bed at 9pm. When he wakes up at 5am the following morning, he showers, has a quick breakfast and heads off to work, so that the same routine can take place that very evening. Jane is comfortable in this position – not knowing what he does when he is away – basing her comfort on the fact that he is supposed to be at work, and thus she concludes that she knows he’s at work. When one day Jane receives a phone call from an anonymous woman asking for Richard, she concludes that is has to be a professional query, and bases this conclusion on knowing that her husband is in actual fact at work. But, she is puzzled at whom this anonymous caller is and in the back of her mind she’s doubting her knowledge. Jane’s just been released and is now roaming the cave. When Richard arrives home that night, she smells perfume on him, but concludes that it must be her imagination, and that the red on his collar must be from a hug a colleague gave. She bases all of the assumptions she makes on the knowledge she supposedly has.

When, however, she discovers a love letter from Richard’s mistress, she is being pushed outside the cave and has to decide after scanning through it whether she is going to venture outside by accepting his infidelity as well as the fact that her base of knowledge is a lie and then making the hard decisions that follow due to her new found knowledge, or hiding the letter back in his pocket and ignoring the facts, thereby staying in her comfort zone and living the lie.

Simple, isn’t it? Simple to describe, indescribably hard to live. The best thing for Jane to do would be to confront the situation and live the new life that’s waiting for her, it seems very obvious. To Jane it doesn’t. Jane picks to live the lie little longer… and just like that I’ve decided to just float a while, between the light outside my cave and the idiots still too blind to know where I am. Just until I have a clearer view of the light.

I mean, if the shadows weren’t real, who is to guarantee the light isn’t also but a mere reflection?