Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Biggest Lie

The spirit of the world is all about getting things, owning things, possessing things, and we have carried this attitude of consumerism into our relationships, into the very heart of our personal lives. We have come to think that people can belong to us, that we can own someone. And, just as with things, we get angry when the people we 'love' fail to minister to our needs or get broken or stolen from us.
You see, the biggest lie--a very common one these days--is when someone says 'I love you'. No doubt millions say these words every day. What they invariably mean is, 'I want you to be mine. I like the look of you and have decided that i want you to be around to make me happy forever.' That is what most people mean when they say 'I love you'. And this is the biggest lie.

We have come to think that people can belong to us, that we can own someone.

We collect girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands the way we collect cellphones or washing machines or houses or cars. And when they fail to live up to our expectations we get frustrated and angry. And the desire for possession when angry results in husbands beating their wives, girlfriends killing their boyfriends, and anything that has legs and can move being raped. Rapes, yes, for it's all about possession. Everyone's on the lookout for collecting someone new. 

One of the commonest greetings here in Swaziland (and echoed around the world) is 'Sisi, I'm proposing love'. That it isn't love becomes immediately apparent when the child, woman, gogo or donkey doesn't immediately consent to the man's request. 

And when we get tired of our girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands we trade them in for newer models--makhwapheni style. 

Yet the worst of it is that our 'I love you' collecting habit doesn't make us happy but rather enlarges our fear. You see, the moment we get something new we worry that someone might steal it from us. A friend of mine recently tried an old number he had on his phone, the number of a lady he'd once dated. He dialled the number and a male voice answered. He asked for the lady and received a gruff, 'She's not here'. Then a few moments later that same man with the gruff voice phoned him back, aggressive and loud, with a host of questions as if he was the police officer in charge of a criminal investigation: 'How did you get this number? Who gave you this number? What do want with this woman? Who are you?' and so on. Once a man has said, 'I love you', and you have said, 'I love you too', he is terrified that once you are out of his sight you might be saying 'I love you too' to somebody else.

This isn't love. and it never was. A couple say 'I love you' to each other and then believe that they own each other and deny each other any freedom in a desperate bid to secure the happiness that they themselves so desperately crave. The world's values are sick and the world's love is already as stiff as a carcass. No-one can ever own another person--we call this slavery, not love--and no-one should even try.

The secret to relationships is not possession but freedom. Real love is always wanting the best, the highest good, for someone. That doesn't mean ownership, but the opposite--it means being able to let someone go. If you really love her, then you'll set her free to follow her own path. If she chooses you, that's great; but if she chooses someone else, then that's her choice. The truth is that the highest best for the other person might not include you. If she wants to spend time with you today, then thank God for that, for it's a blessing; but if she doesn't want to be with you tomorrow, then thank God for that too, for she's following her own path.

Are you looking for Mr Right? You will never find him. Mr Right is always Mr Wrong if you're looking for someone to become part of your collection. But if you're able to let someone go, then--even if it hurts for a while--you'll learn to be content and when you say 'I love you', you'll mean it and won't be caught telling the biggest lie.

[Originally published in the Times of Swaziland SUNDAY, September 24th, 2006.]

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Poor Reader, Poor Thinker

It's like this: people who don't read can't think well. Consequently they're clumsy in expressing their thoughts, but they can feel. Most often they feel anger  and frustration. These are powerful emotions which constantly  percolate and burst to the surface in outbursts that are mostly violent eruptions of invective or physical violence.

Is it surprising that this is so? Not at all. We're first and foremost emotional beings who feel before we think. You know the expression, gut feeling? That happens to be true. We have some neurons in our stomachs (not just in our brains), so when we feel fear, for example, our stomachs register that discomfort before our brains awake to the danger.

But there's more. When we read a book, our brains don't differentiate between fact and fiction. If the book's hero falls in love, then so do we. If Mr Nasty is really nasty, then we hate him with all our being. Words can help us analyse what we feel--after the event--but words in the first instance trigger emotions.

You see, we begin learning language whilst still in our mother's womb. Language and thought begin together and need each other. They are locked together in an intricate dance, a woven fabric of being. This is no doubt why meditation on words and sounds is one of the most basic techniques in ancient tantric texts. [Tantra means woven fabric.]

Apart from being a writer, I'm also a mentor, teacher, and editor. Over the years I've discovered that mostly people are unable to express themselves clearly because they can't think clearly. That's why, when I teach writing, I tell would-be writers that they must write the last sentence of their essay, article, story or book before they begin writing the beginning. My audience often baulks at this, throwing up metaphorical (sometimes actual) hands in despair. But there's logic in language. There's such an intimate connection between beginnings and endings that if you develop the skill you can often predict what will happen in the future. That's not prophecy, just an ability to connect the dots.

Of course, each different language has its own different logic. English is linear and full of bipolar constructs, but not all languages are. In English we like to begin with a statement of intent, a topic sentence. Thus Americans are often thought to be rude, insensitive, overly direct and blunt. In siSwati (the language of Swaziland) the important statement often comes last. Arabic thought tends to move in a circular, roundabout way, and so on. When you use a language you effectively put on a pair of glasses through which you view the world. The language helps you to see, but it also channels what you see. The Chinese have many words for rice; the Eskimos many words for snow; Swazis have many words for meat; and in older Afrikaans dictionaries the word for 'gentleman' was witman, i.e., white man.

Martin Luther King in a sermon based on Mathew 10:16 said that we each need a tough mind and a tender heart:
Let us consider, first, the need for a tough mind, characterized by incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgment.  The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. 
Quite so. Reading is one the few ways to develop a tough mind. The rage, the anger, the frustration of life can be tempered. Grow also a tender heart. Read, people, read!

Sakhile Live in Swaziland

https://www.mixcloud.com/ken-rowley/african-jazz-7-sakhile-live-in-swaziland-december-1987/ For me the best South African band of al...