KwaZulu, Natal. My dad sat me on his lap, my brother on his side, and began an intriguing story “Let me tell you about a man called Nelson Mandela.”
See, that day my mind met Mandela, not a man, but an idea whose premise was freedom and humanity. So what does a 5 year old girl do with stories of heroes, struggles and looming triumphs that damn sound like fairytales, they imagine… I imagined that day.
Mandela’s freedom would become an image of a man who walked proud on the dusty street with his briefcase and shinning Crockett Jones that put a spring in his step as he greeted everyone at the taxi stop or charmed women selling fruit at the market who in turn laughed out loud clapping once in that African way having being infected by freedom’s ideals of a free South Africa, all on their way to work at the enemy’s garden, Eden infact, and you best believe the serpent was there, only this one spoke not in seductive tongues like that which eve fell for. Oh no, this one spat a different kind of tongue that must have been handed up from hell.
And humanity… Oh! She was a beautiful lady, a nurse, like my mom actually. She was extending her hand to a wounded man giving a smile and saying everything would be OK. But how could it? His house was burnt down, his daddy lynched and his sisters raped, now carrying the enemy’s child that would denounce its lineage immediately at birth for there was no way it could be linked to the white man in the main house, if anything, coloured was a better word. See, it takes the proximity of black to white in its blood as a burden to bear, not merely as a different colour group, but as a responsibility unspokenly bestowed upon him by his mother to right his father’s wrongs. The denials of the semi-white man!
I’m telling you a story about 1990, when I met freedom. She was my parents holding their fists high saying, “Africa is Free,” on the Sunday Mandela was released from prison. I, in my yellow dress, dust in my hair, was mesmerised by how quickly our street filled with people who came out with flags and photos of a man who had been but a concept in my mind that bore no resemblance to morgan freeman. Mandela was actually a chocolate-coloured man with a smile like sunrise and eyes like a bonfire and I liked him for he reminded me of one grandpa who sold beer at the corner house and I wondered if he was his brother.
Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present, the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present. Isn’t that what the present is. A little unsatisfying. Because we all fear death and question our place in the universe, life is unsatisfying. The writer’s job is not to succumb to this despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence with sufficient passion, to push death out of men’s minds… until it returns, as it does, to all men… and then you must read really good writing again. Maybe that’s the problem with writers. We’re so full of words. But no subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure. Be courageous enough to question why people find your story terrible, If your an athlete, be nothing but first, if you’re a writer, declare yourself the best writer – but your not, as long as I’m around, unless you want to put the gloves on and settle it.
“Me? I’m great,” isn’t that what you want to hear, nobody’s honest and we don’t find it queer.
Money makes the world go round, without it would the sun frost? If money makes your world go round, how much does your soul cost? Has money bought you happiness, don’t you wish your weren’t grown, our childhood holds the best memories and we made them on our own. Busy paper chasing, petty hating, is a whole generation really drawn by the allure, will money worship ever have a cure? We want to drive big cars, pollute our world, who even cares about the poor, in a few years go bald, and soon after your dead for sure, your money lives on, your just a pawn, even the person who’s face is on it – long gone.
How many things with society are wrong? I laugh by choice, smile automatically but I’m forced by life to frown.
Sheila doesn’t think she pretty enough, Patrick won’t date a thick girl, so she lives in gyms, watches the Kardashians, and is somewhere looking for a cream to make her tits perk, everybody’s doing make up like clowns and every place I visit now is a circus town.
Insecurities rule our lives now, and status is all we craze, we’ve replaced work and deeds, like feigns and thieves, for quick riches, some Instagram pics and few Twitter favs. Everybody has so many faces now, social media is giving cowards an outlet, we promote gossip and hate, profanities all for a better subscribe rate. Would you parade yourself like so in real life? Just because your parents aren’t on your friendlist, it’s not a licence to be obscene
Facetious. What I feel for the easy life tests I haven’t passed. Tired. Thank God tomorrow today will be my past. Taking it serious doesn’t count if I’m not part of the solution. Medication is for confidence, we heal by our own volition. I’m trying make a difference, change what we all witness, as immorality dilutes our virtues and our way of life is still improper, if you were Jesus wouldn’t you have stayed a little while longer?
Who is this guy? What does he know? My identity is of no value, I only pray the roots of my words grow.
In Weigel’s essay, ‘Two Ideas of Freedom’, he first mentions freedom of excellence while referring to Servais Pinckaers’ opinion that St. Thomas Aquinas’ thinking about freedom is best captured in the phrase freedom for excellence. He goes on to identify freedom as St. Thomas saw it, a means to human excellence, happiness and fulfillment of destiny. Weigel further expounds freedom as the capacity to choose wisely and act well as a matter of habit, the organizing principle of a moral life – and since this possibility of a moral life (the capacity to think and chose) is what distinguishes the human person from the rest of the natural world, freedom is therefore the organizing principle of a life lived in a truly human way; The capacity that unifies all other capacities into an orderly whole, and directs our actions toward the pursuit of happiness and goodness.
In identifying freedom of excellence he refers to Aquinas’ awareness of our ability to do evil and yet in face of manifest evil he still insisted that we have within us, a freedom through which we can do things well, rightly, excellently, a philosophical anthropology with moral convictions about the inalienable dignity and value of every human life. We are made for excellence; and freedom developed through prudence, justice, courage and temperance is the method by which we achieve ‘human excellence’.
Freedom of excellence relates to our human dignity in having an objective value, as explained above, and can therefore be described as the inherently human ability to constantly achieve - to achieve human excellence, to achieve human happiness, to achieve fulfillment of destiny, to achieve growth in virtue (and thus growth in freedom), achieve free societies – and to create inexhaustible possibilities for the development of human development, through freedom, by living virtuously.
It’s the first working day of the week, and my favourite, Monday. A day of hope resolve, limitless possibilities ahead and an invigorating sense of purpose brought about by all that much needed and tiring two day rest preceded by a night, or two, of life threatening partying that somehow didn’t end in alcohol poisoning. What are you making that face for? I’m a hardworking twenty-something year old in a country whose most prolific brand is a beer. My life seems to be in a state somewhere between hopelessness and despair. In other words if I could represent my preferred way of life as a clearly well laid out path in the middle of a wilderness then I’m in the business of wandering into the bush every few paces.
I’ve been ravaged by wolves, trampled by elephants, stung by bees, pricked by cacti, bit by snakes and poisoned by seemingly harmless plants, but still, with the memory of a goldfish and myopia worse than a bat’s, I somehow talk myself into taking a walk back into the wilderness to rediscover it’s non-existent endless beauties. Sadomasochism and fiction-grade stupidity may be a bit harsh but accurate ways to describe this history.
I’m not out here alone, trust me. I see hordes of people all around me, friends, family and previous lovers all trying to make sense of the shopping frenzy in this market of instant gratification. We’re all in the same boat, some holding gold compasses against ever-changing maps and others tagging along on someone else’s ride. I can’t see their faces clearly though, my vision is blurred by the log I put in my eye to prove I could handle much more than a spec. There’s another more putrid group of people here, the fools. They don’t even know they’re lost. They’re comparable to a seeing man born into a dark world to blind parents, the possibility of a life well lived is completely ludicrous to him. He doesn’t even rise to the dignity of existence; he has no struggles and lives completely carefree. They’re achievements in diluting the development of mankind are endless. The worst thing about the fool is not in his foolishness but rather in his ability to comfort the lost. They look at him and instantly feel better, going about their self destruction in relation to his. Sort of reminds me of the story of the rich drunk who believed alcoholism was dictated by how much your drink cost.
I’m currently going through the painful phase of dropping habits and making new ones, I have come to understand that the hallmark of my limitations is my freedom. I am fated and doomed to be free and responsible, I am thrown into this world and forced to struggle and swim. My possibilities are limitless, I can be one of them and in being one, I have for that occasion categorically excluded all the rest. There is ruthless destruction of possibilities on my every decision. Choice has always been the ultimate ground of my anguish, for this I can blame nobody because you too are only trying to swim. No more wasting this freedom on silly choices.
If you pity the fool why then are you living like you envy him?
This article is only partly from my own experiences but its eternal origin lies in that I have confronted a form that wants to become a work of art through me. It is not a figment of my soul but something that appeared to my soul and demanded my soul’s creative power.
Everything we interact with as human beings has an ‘ordinate’ and intrinsic value. A worth beyond all predicates. This fact, that objects do not merely receive, but also merit our approval or disapproval, our reverence or contempt, clearly indicates a doctrine the Chinese refer to as Tao; ‘the greatest thing, reality, nature and the way the universe goes on and things everlastingly emerge’, the doctrine of objective value. This appreciation of objective value as a reality, and not just an idea, has been echoed throughout history by different schools of thought, cultures and even religions. Shelly described it by comparing the sensibility of man to a lyre with the power of ‘internal adjustment’ that ‘accommodates its chords to the motions of whatever strikes them’ as he described how we interact with objects. Trahene further emphasized that every object has its ‘due esteem’ and Aristotle went on to tell us that education’s main aim is to teach us what, already, ought to be liked and disliked, a sentiment shared by Plato, long before him, in nearly the same exact words. By this reality, certain attitudes are true or false according to how the universe works, and our approvals and disapprovals are recognitions of a quality which demands a certain response from us, recognitions of objective value. In line with this, our emotional states are therefore alogical and cannot be judgements in themselves; they are all viewed as either reasonable or unreasonable in their conformity to reason and objective value. In Lewis’ lecture on ‘Men without chests’ he gives the example that we call children delightful and old men venerable as recognition of their objective value and not simply a record of our emotional perception. He further tells us how he does not enjoy the company of children. However, regardless of his own preferences he acknowledges, just as a man may recognize that he is colour blind or mute, that this is not caused by a defect in children but rather himself. An individual’s refusal to acknowledge objective value is absolutely non-rational as it therefore forces that individual to hold the stance that nothing has any value. When one tourist, in the story of Coleridge at the waterfall, called the cataract ‘sublime’, he was not only talking of how his emotion of humility was ordinate to the reality, just as to say that ‘a shoe fits’ is to speak also of the feet. The emotion considered by itself is thus neither reasonable or unreasonable but rather does not even rise to the dignity of error. In this view, also the world of facts, without a trace of value is non-rational. Therefore when an individual cannot provide grounds for identification of objective value he lacks the rationality of thought necessary to acknowledge the dignity of the person, and by extension his own. Just as no amount of justification of virtue will make a man virtuous, virtues of human dignity cannot be coherently justified without any appeal to objective value.