Howard Feldman

Celebrating Adam

2018-09-05 18:00
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Sunday night is Adam’s birthday and I hope to partake in the celebration of his birth. I have never met him or engaged with him, but I certainly know of him.

I am well aware of what he did. I am aware that his actions have caused pain and that his mistakes have had enormous repercussions not just for him and his family, but way beyond that. I am aware of the controversy that surrounds him and that it is difficult to speak his name without questioning his choices. And without shaking our heads in bafflement.

He had it all. He was in paradise. And he blew it.

But I also know that each of us carries a small part of Adam with us wherever we go, and that there is an Adam in us all. Even if it makes us uncomfortable to think it or to accept it.

Sunday night begins the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The belief is that the date is not the actual day of “creation” but rather the day of the birth of Adam. Of the first man. According the theologists, it is, or would be, Adam’s 5779th birthday.

And it is his birth that I intend commemorating.  

He was not without controversy. That he “sinned” as he did, that he risked it all, that he was prepared to change the course of life for so many has bothered writers, religious leaders and lay people for centuries.

The Fall of Man is one of the most debated and agonised moments for those who believe in biblical history as much as those who do not. Because no matter how literally one accepts that the Bible is or is not, there is no one who doesn’t relate on a primal level to the person who had it all and threw it all away.

The name Adam comes from the Hebrew word. It means “man”. He is a symbol for us all.

South Africans cannot hear the name Adam without thinking of our very own “sinner”. Adam Catzavelos, who, from his Greek paradise degraded not only black South Africans but all people in a country that wishes so desperately to right the wrongs of the past. He took us back to a period of darkness and revulsion and in doing so, he freed and created more hate and more racism that he ever could have intended.

As South Africans we owe it to ourselves to reclaim the name Adam. When we hear the name, it is important that the first one that comes to mind is not the man on a beach in Greece bragging that there are no black people there. We need to remove that power from him and every other person who prefers to spread hate rather than unity.

We need to be cognisant of the fact that Adam could just as easily have been any one of us. He could have been Julius Malema, or our brother or son or parent, or it could even be me. Adam exists in all of us. He was the first man. Literal or figurative. And we all descend from him.

He has captured our imagination for centuries because we know that there is truth to the behaviour, even if we don’t believe that there is truth in the story. We all know that we have the capacity to do immense good but that sometimes we make choices that not only destroy us, but also those around us.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Mother Theresa. She famously said, “If we have no peace, it’s because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  We are all connected.

Sunday night is Adam’s birthday. It is also the Jewish New Year. Jewish or not, let us use the time to remind ourselves that we are all linked. It’s a great time to remind ourselves how much we impact on each other for good and for bad.

It is time that we reclaimed Adam. It is time for us to celebrate not only the mistakes he made but also the good that lies within him and within us. The kindness that we all have inside us.

Happy birthday, Adam.

-  Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the daily breakfast show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

 

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