Next: Science is now so complex that we can no longer ask What? We can now only wonder Why?

This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A little Repartee......

A Little Repar Tree....
Things people say inspire my way....
Earlier this week, I had the occasion to head 100 miles north, to my niece 'n nephew's fruit and sugar farm. While gazing through the layers of trees, defined by garden...lawn....fence....sugar cane....fruit tress....rural mountains....wild bush....I decided that I wanted to share this place and moment with Ida and my heartfelt friend, Patrice.

Patrice is somewhere in New Mexico, no doubt gazing at iconic ruddy landscapes so I wondered how (on earth) to share this moment.
So, I called Ida (my girlfriend) and came up with an ingenious idea! I found two trees (clearly lovers as they were happily potted next to each other) and slipped a weeny sliver off one of them. This was duly transported back to Durban where it is now recovering its energy in a glass jug of water in my mum's kitchen.
If and when our little Repar Tree starts sprouting I will replant it somewhere beautiful so that when Patrice comes to Durban she will be able to see it and share in a moment, gone in time, but bright in new life.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lord of The Flies

Yessis!!!! I have been finally reading my large and thick book I bought over a year ago about the SA boytjie who gave up his job in CA and headed off to ride his bicycle around the coast of Africa.

(Around Africa on My Bicycle - Riaan Manser)

When I started reading I found it difficult as his writing is quite linear....this happened and then that happened....but as I got deeper into the book (and the journey) I became more and more transfixed as writer, reader and bicycle tumbled into an increasing 'hut of duckness'. This is no gruelled old traveller, gnarled novelist on a local bus tour or politically sussed 'socialist/sociologist', but just a conservative Afrikaans boy who grew up on a farm somewhere and had some of the best times of his life in the army in the 80s. His observations and interactions are about as real as can be, no CPL (Commie/Pinko/Liberal) fluff attached. So he likes the good guys and moralizes about the bad guys but is inexorably drawn to places where the latter proliferate. Despite dire warnings of certain death, he pedals off into Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
At the end of the book there are a list of journey stats. One is of particular interest to me.

viz: Number of bribes paid: zero

To get a grip on my fascination for this story, apart from the bicycle link, put this one in your plate - The writer/rider, Riaan Manser, describes Senegal in the following dulcet terms....'I was impressed by Senegal and particularly Dakar. For various reasons Africa as a whole is not a particlularly efficient continent, but Senegal seemed to be a gear-notch or two above the rest...'

My experience of Dakar, is 'the one place I will never go back to'. It pales in comparison to some of Riaan's experiences...


'Within seconds they were all around me, glaring at me with glazed eyes while they screamed more racist insults...they grabbed the bike and threw it to one side, then tossed me in the opposite direction...they threw me into a damp, musty, gloomy cell. One of the taller, older boys took to jabbing his knife into the wall within centimetres of my head...heavily doped like the rest of them, he was swaying on his feet....One boy expressed loud discontent with the way things were going and made a suggestion that , I need hardly say, filled me with foreboding; 'Let's gut him, we're wasting our time, let's kill him.'
This was the ultimate reality check. He and his mates were clearly not interested in what I was doing in Liberia...Control of my life had completely passed from my hands...'

and not quite as deadly, but with equally real effects...


'The 'feroe' flies swarmed over every piece of exposed skin they had gnawed on earlier, while the sqaudrons of mosquitoes in the room joined hands with the bed bugs to well and truly finish off the back of my legs...I pulled out my leatherman survival knife, flicked open the 7 cm long saw blade with its razor sharp saw teeth and went at the bites with it. I started with restrained, carefully calculated sweeping motions, but this didn't last long and eventually I was literally scraping away the itching, the blood dripping off my toes to the floor.'

Just when I am feeling locked into a Conradian nightmare, Riaan crosses a border and lands in paradise....Benin, Cameroun, friendly border officials, gentle though the world across the river never existed. So much for Africa being one big dark morass....
Sadly, these very same contradictions of dark and light exist here in my and your world of the suburbs of South Africa. I have to consider what it means when my nephew, a pale art student at a local teknikon, has been mugged 3 times on his way to 'school'. The last time, he, a gentle boy, stabbed his attacker, a youth, no more than 14 years old, with his art knife. As he said, "If it had just been my cell phone I would have given it and run, but nobody must try to take my portfolio from me."
Yesterday he arrived home, blood on his torn hands and knees from a failed pursuit of another mugger in another suburban street on another day.

I wonder if they still prescribe, 'Lord of the Flies', in junior high schools?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jerry and The Hatricks


2009 and another year rocks and rolls in. My new year's resolution is uniquely unmaterialistic, which is fine except that I have totally run out of money before the end of January! The challenge (not 'problem' note) is that this causes me no pain and... No Pain equals No Gain!
SO, I sit in the comfortable heaven called, 'Durban with a view', and wonder how to turn myself (and new year's rez) upside down so as to have enough dosh to see a movie and buy a chocky. That always was my yardstick. It may seem paltry to you but it describes a symptom of the sustained state of financial freedom that works for me.

A few universal truths >>
1) I am clearly not a bizzynizmun.
2) Yoga and bicycle riding is cheap (dirt cheap) but the things it leads to are a little more expansive, like buying a cup of tea at the beachfront after the ride.
In today's wereld, and let me not fool myself, bandwidth is the currency of happiness, like the cell phone of yesterday, the car of the 80s, the hairstyle of the 60s and footwork in the 50s.
3) So, there are things we like and can do easily. There are things we don't like doing and put off interminably. That's why we go to school. Up at 6, dressed for 7, assembly at 8 and home at 5 to 3.
Every day..except joy days on the weekend.
Which is why most schools have to have uniforms. Imagine if we ALL left school and simply had no desire to go and get a job - up at 6, dressed for 7, meeting at 8 and home by 5.
Corporate tie, no tie, west coast casual, east coast long as we all look the same in the same place at the same time. Cool.
So, the world looks after itself and generation after generation considers themselves free to choose.

It works and it is what got Obama into the BIG JOB. Cool.
Sadly, I suspect that I am one of the failures that slipped thru the net. So, jobs don't come easily. My uniforms have stains and my Rolex is fake.
How then to be part of that working world?
FAKE IT, bro', fake it.
But Fake doesn't last, not with me at any rate, so in keeping with the New America, I shall repackage the concept and call it ....


Just a little - keep the balance, don't pull a Walter Mitty on the crowd.

OK! What do I need to be? For a while? A salesman? A concerned filmmaker? Wheeler-dealer?
This is not as inauthentic as it sounds. All of us do it. When we go out to eat we consider what flavour of meal and atmosphere we feel like. Is it Italian? Morrocan? Indian? I am not fond of hot foods, but like the Indian ambiance.....carbs are bad, but Italy has flair....
For the odd hour or 2 we imagine we are global rich kids dining in Montmatre or languid backpackers slowly slumming in a New Jersey diner.
Yet, ask most people why they don't travel more and the answer is, "I can't afford it, but would love to one day."
So, reverse the fiction. Dream the Big Dream, the Piazza in Florence. Live a little bit of it tonight, with a borrowed Vespa, your lady at your side at Papa Gino's Florida Rd Pizza Place.....Easy as pie.
And, if you like it....dream on....aim higher till your fiction becomes your REAL.... because, if you don't, it won't!
I got the following in the mail today.....I haven't read it yet, but the image of the old guy on the bike blew me away and surely has something to do with where my head is now. SO I have added it to this blog and will, like you, read it for the first time, published!
and that is all, folks!

(That is my contribution to the Global Internet Movement to Blog Obama's Inauguration.)


RECEIVED from Brian Parker who got it from:
Sent: 30 December 2008 10:58 AM To: '' Subject: FW: VIP
make a mental note, a mental impression, of this photo, and it’s not "ATGATT" either.

It’s not the bike, it’s the ride, but the bike is also important.

There are no options to the instant here and now. It is what it is. We are, at the present, only one thing...a singularity. We see ourselves and others as complex because of the lower cone. There are multiple paths that could have all led to the current state. We find people interesting because of the future cones, what they might do very soon, or much later. But to change, to alter future outcomes, requires time.
I am amazed that as a society how little we discuss the nature of time. We are taught to read a clock, when to show up, when to leave, and that's pretty much it.But time is such an important element. Time is both empowering and a deceiver. The cosmic trickster that Ceiling Cat invented when he was more than just a little drunk. We are always a point, a singularity in the instant. But what can we be in an hour? A week? A Year? If there is any aspect of life that I have f*d up, and I think I share that distinction with almost everyone who has ever been born, it is in my understanding of time.
However you want to look at it, time moving by us, or us moving through time. There is motion and change
This little animation is my favorite, and kind of the core of the apple. The dark spots are possible events that we actually experience. The smaller dots are events that may or may not happen. We make choices and that alters the flow of our life, But those choices also alter the future of our possible lives. Those little dots move in an out of the range of possibilities depending on the path we choose. So it is not always about waiting. If you want to kiss that pretty girl...I suggest you get to it. She may never be be this close again, as she has her own life path. And more than that, perhaps all the future little dots that represented a life together have moved from possible to impossible while you were "still thinking".
"If you are not handsome at 20, or strong at 30, or wealthy at 40, or wise at will never be handsome, or strong, or wealthy, or wise" - Old English Folk SayingI think the big cuts are interesting. Such things as drug abuse, racism, a life of selected ignorance, all remove huge segments of what is possible. But so do good habits (they just remove a lot, but certainly not all, bad possible outcomes).So the choices we make, and those that are made for us, change the shape of our cones. In fact, what I think the cones of our lives wind up looking like an expansion chamber where the shape is the possibility, and the outcome is that path within those boundaries.
It starts it small, because in the short term future, children do not have many options. Those come later, and the pipe gets much bigger. The shape of the cone expands if we are smart and fortunate, and contracts if we are not. As we face the latter part of our lives we may be forced into an ever contracting cone of possibilities due to the choices we have made, and the fact that minds and bodies age and change. The possibilities still exist, but some of the good ones are now outside the cone. But maybe some different good ones are now within.But we do always have choices, and one of the greatest gifts is that while we can not stop time, we can change the shape and size of our life cones. And the number of good possibilities. Even as life may shrink them, if our choices are such that there are good possibilities within the cone...all is well. Or is if we make the right choices. Just having a lot of good possibilities means f*k-all if we do not make the choice and effort to make our life path go through them. Missing possible outcomes is no less sad than missing the impossible one. Probably sadder.And here is where time steals the plot. When we make bad choices, or find ourselves in a situation where bad choices have left us with a very narrow cone, or a shape that catches more bad dots than good ones, we have to accept that to broaden the cone, to make it big enough to start capturing good possible futures, we have to allow time to work its magic. It may take years, and we are not hard-wired as a modern species to deal with time periods much over Two New York Minutes. While not acting at all may be futility itself, expecting those actions to have an immediate impact on the possibilities of a better future may be folly. Sammy chose wisely...both for the possibilities and then choosing the right ones.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

..of dogs and men..

How many times must we learn the lesson before we write the exam?
How many times must we bump our head before it bleeds?
Can we run before we walk?
This evening, outside a South African Mountain cottage I stared at the heavens, the Milky Way clear, uncluttered by the debris of city light. It was exactly the same sky I paused to look at as a 6, 8 , 10, 11, 17 year old. Not a dot of light has changed in 40 years, a gentle reminder of how I have come and will go.
These days we talk a lot of health and illness, medication and memory.
Clive Staegemann's mum lived with Alzeimer's Disease, but finally succumbed to a stroke. Clive expresses his fear of his fear of a similar future.
It is at Clive's Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) thatched cottage that I saw myself in the stars tonight and thought about Jerry, his wife, and their 4 border collies.
Since being around Christo Jooste (see past blog) in his early stroke time, I too have been thinking about chance, probability and illness, and I have upped my personal defense strategy a notch or 2.
My resolution for 2009 is essentially non-materialistic. I intend to master the elusiv Ganda Bherundasana (ferocious bird) this year. This is yoga pose which basically comprises sticking one head through your legs backwards and clapping while trying not to laugh. Once, when the stars were not to different to today, I could twist my body into this fearsome shape, the prince of my yoga class. Now, I hold it out like a candle blowing in the breeze at the end of the tunnel.
Maybe I am simply too old to fold, but at least the attempt requires daily yogic commitment...and with that comes a host of other benefits.
But words are easy. Time is flexible and runs away like mountain rivers after the rain.
This morning I was awoken by 4 successive Border Collie sheepdogs licking me hello. I replied to each in turn and then told them to 'go outside', which they obediently did. Fascinated and reminded of my once companion hound, McGyver, also a border, I headed off for my morning exercise with the black and whites in tow.
One low growled 'Liiieeee dooowwwn!' ... and all 4 (and a terrier, not so obedient) lay and mesmerized me with eyes for sheep, taut in expectation of a thrown frisbee.
It didn't take the rocket scientist in me to know that these hound dogs had got right something I am struggling to master - how do I make exercise an irresistable daily activity? How do I habituate my yoga?
By doing it the dog way - being trained, over and over again, until I no longer think it is a choice.
And, how do I share my luck and habits with others......again, by making the decision over and over again to help others, till there is no more decision moment, just good habits.
If there is anything that I can not stand to see it is a neglected bicycle.
So I gave part of my day to rescuing Clive and Jerry's bikes from a premature retirement.
The message from all this?
Make Health a Daily Habit!