A purity of intent

2014-12-07 20:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

In a world where we are always thinking ahead or reflecting on the past, and being in numerous virtual and real-world spaces Milisuthando Bongela considers what it means to be fully conscious and present.

An act as simple as holding someone’s hand can be a silent statement of love, protection and affection; or it can conjure feelings of fear. I recently thought about this during a conversation with a man I had known for a few hours.

He offered to walk me to my car after a night of partying and in exchange, I gave him a lift to get a hamburger.

While waiting for the hamburger, we struck up a discussion about the passive and active meanings one can interpret from intentional and unintentional body language.

He was wearing a knitted jersey whose buttons were too far apart in their intervals, so they exposed his bare skin.

Because he had been dancing, all but two of the buttons had come undone to expose his entire torso in a way that made me question his intent with this fashion choice.

While there is nothing wrong with his exposed belly – women do it all the time – this unintended action made me feel uncomfortable because it reached at my prejudices about gender roles and the performances that come with being a man or a woman.

His response led to a conversation that thwarted the foolishness of snap judgements.

At the beginning of the first date with a woman he liked, he took her hand and held it during their walk to the restaurant, an act that would surely unsettle my independent woman tendencies.

Upon sitting down, she asked why he had done that, a question I would have been asking myself had this happened to me.

He told her he liked her and wanted to show her that, he wanted to show other men on the street that he cared about her and also wanted to protect her because he cared about her safety.

While he was telling me this, I pictured myself in the woman’s shoes and felt the inescapable and continuous experience of mistrusting South African men.

She asked because, like myself and many other women in our country, she was suspicious of his intentions.

Why is he imposing control over my body? Why is he so forward? He has not given me a choice in this matter. What if I don’t like him back? I don’t need his protection; I need his respect.

These were the things I was thinking as I imagined myself in her shoes. He relayed her side of the story and it was not dissimilar to my reflex reaction.

In those moments of a well-trained and necessary doubt, she didn’t see the purity of his intentions. Her mind wasn’t present to experience the essence of that gesture because it is used to fending for itself and defending itself from the nefarious intentions of men who look and sound like they are deserving of her trust.

When my mind settled from the panic of empathising with this woman, an hour later, burgers and fries long digested, I realised that there lies the respite for our minds in being actively present.

While I feel like love is the biggest risk one’s mind can take, instead of running away from it in fear, it is important to be able to recognise it when it is being presented in its simplest and purest form – intent.

Equally, a fear of the unknown also needs be something one is able to identify when it presents itself as a routine emotion.

The ability to disengage from the things that occupy our minds takes an effort, which usually depends around a specific time like a weekend or lunch hour; or advertised as an annual holiday from the banal and tedious.

For the most part, my mind is in a different time zone than the present, running in a mode that is always paces ahead of its current occupation, often running towards people and objects that have the ability to overstate their importance and necessity in my mind.

It does fewer things with conscious intent than its reflexive ability to react to things that are outside of it.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.