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Understanding life

26 February 2014, 12:22


I live on a smallholding, and I have an endless struggle with baboons and monkeys. They are decimating the figs. I shoot them with an airgun, which hurts them, but does not kill them.

So has the problem now been solved? Have the baboons and monkeys decided to leave the figs well alone in order to avoid being hurt?

Definitely not. They now watch me and the house all the time. When I go out to the other side of the house, they get into the fig tree. When I am away, they get into the fig trees. And when I catch them in the act, they run much faster than before, which makes it difficult to shoot them.

Our smallholding is situated between a farm with a number of workers and a little village with a shop. The direct route through our smallholding from the workers’ accommodation to the shop is about 3 km. By road it is about 10 km. The workers have been severely reprimanded by the neighbour for using our smallholding as a shortcut and forbidden to do so in future.

Have they stopped using the shortcut?

You guessed. No.

I recall how, when I was teaching, teachers would wage an all-out war against smoking. They patrolled the toilets during breaks and punished the kids who were caught smoking.

Did the smoking stop?

You guessed.

Maria Montessori once said, “The education of our day is rich in methods, aims and social ends, but one must still say that it takes no account of life itself.” It applies to much more than education.

For ages now, from the early days of religion, sexuality has been regarded as evil, and was fought, suppressed and denied. To have sex in those monogamous relationships sanctioned by the church (marriage) was OK, but woe to those who had sex anywhere else! (How do you suddenly enjoy sex when you get married after having heard for decades that it is evil?)

I won’t ask the question again. We know what happened with the catholic priests. That was merely the tip of the iceberg.

Many years ago, the infamous ‘Norwood rapist’ was jailed. He is still in a jail in Brakpan. As a young boy from very religious parents he was forbidden to have sexual thoughts and to masturbate. The bathroom door had to be open so that his mother could make sure that he did not indulge in ‘evil’ behaviour. And then one day she caught him masturbating. He was severely punished.

Life is a powerful driving force. A tree needs to grow up. If it is thwarted, for example by rocks or an impenetrable mass of branches, it finds another way. It may become crooked, but it will grow.  No scientist has ever been able to explain this powerful will to live, but that does not mean that it doesn’t exist. We all know it does.

One of the most powerful life forces on earth is sexuality. We are all inherently sexual beings, and that sexuality needs expression. If it is suppressed, denied or thwarted, it finds another way to expression. As Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá pointed out so brilliantly in their book Sex at Dawn, in so-called ‘primitive’ promiscuous societies sexual molestation rape and paedophilia are (were) unknown. In our case, instead of centuries of denial diminishing our sexuality, we have become obsessed with sexuality, and sexuality has to a large extent become violent. Does the fact that apparently 91 000 South Africans regularly surf just one porn site and 216 new porn sites are added to the web daily not make a profound statement? And then we punish the offenders with more violence.

Why is it such important news that Oscar was looking at porn the day before he shot Reeva? Is it not because it is such an ideal outlet to project our denial and judgement of our own sexuality on? Judgement, as both Jesus and psychology tell us, is merely the outward projection of that which we deny, fear or condemn within ourselves.

The government is up in arms about the apparent use Nazi salutes at a university initiation. Will they quell the feelings that gave rise to this by punishing or condemning it? If they were indeed Nazi salutes, do they not merely reflect exactly the same feelings of frustration that pre-Second World War Germans felt after the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles? I think I can safely say that most white people in South Africa experience frustration with the way things are at the moment.

It’s not only white people, of course. Especially after all the often unrealistic promises made to them, many black people are highly frustrated. The EFF is, as far as I can see, exactly the same phenomenon as the Nazi salutes.

No political ‘solution’ wil solve this. Only an understanding of Life can. As we start understanding life, we realise that “what you resist, persists”. Whether it’s baboons ‘stealing’ figs, people taking a shortcut, black or white or any other people venting their frustrations, or the denial of sexuality, fighting and resisting will never work.

One of the most condemned human tendencies today is probably paedophilia. Even prisoners condemn their fellow prisoners for it. Yet paedophilia, like rape in general, violence, etc. has its origin in a sick society – a society that is sick because it denies life itself. Those of us who smugly deny that we are prone to any ‘evil’ tendencies would do well to heed Krishnamurti’s word, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

But how do we get closer to an understanding of life?

By understanding ourselves. The same ‘life force’ that causes a tree to grow, a baboon to find clever ways of ‘stealing’ fruit, a school pupil finding clever ways to smoke or have sex or whatever, a ‘faithful’ husband or wife to ‘commit adultery’ undetected and a rapist to vent the frustration of a denied life in rape is in all of us.

When we understand that, we can work with nature – within us as well as outside of us. In the case of human beings one of the most powerful ways to do so is to listen. When we ignore the outward symptoms of inner frustration such as ‘kill the boer’ songs, Nazi salutes, violent protests and the like, and truly try to understand the frustration that gave rise to them, we generally find that the outer symptoms diminish by themselves. By focusing on denying, fighting and punishing the symptoms, however, the opposite will inevitably happen. Such is life.

I don’t think I’m going to shoot the baboons and monkeys anymore. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? And I’ve actually come to quite like them . . .

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