Joy-junkies and adventures of the soul

Hatchling Turtle HorizonBy Dianne Bayley
I know in my soul that written in the heart of every human being are the words, “Come Home”. How we choose to get to that Home will determine the extent of adventure we live.

While many think hatchling turtles head towards the ocean, their ancient programming – their instinct – actually tells them to head towards the brightest horizon. The moon shining on the ocean makes the sea their brightest point, the starting place from where they become what turtles are.

We’d do well to learn from these newborns . . . to choose the brightest horizon on our paths back Home. For some, physical adventure drenched in adrenalin is the brightest point. They throw themselves towards it, moth to flame, and strike a mix of fear and awe in onlookers – those of us programmed for different adventures.

Some pathways Home are highlighted; filmed and lauded, praised and applauded. Testing bodies against the height of mountains or the rolling ferocity of waves; pitting the human spirit against ice or snow or tumbling rocks. Then there’s the path that great movies will never be made of . . . the kind of adventure lived deep inside a willing, learning heart; where the risks are not of broken limbs, but shattered dreams and recovery and starting over, a hatchling seeking that brightest point again and again.

There is something spectacular about the path that leads you to many places, across continents and oceans, to meet one person who says or does one thing that will stay with you forever: The man in KwaZulu-Natal who points to the old red and white lighthouse and tells you the beam must flash to prevent migrating birds from becoming fixated on the light and smashing their bodies against the structure; reminding you that each of us has our lighthouse and must find what it is and alter our course . . .

The child in Paris who speaks no English but conveys her delight, in stick drawings, that you come from a different part of the world and are so old because she is just six and one day she will travel . . .

The Greek who believes she may have been Frida Khalo and introduces you to the Gotan Project and tries to teach you the tango in a small hotel in Napflio; tossing her long, dark hair back with laughter at your stilted moves and encouraging you to feel the music in your heart or you will never let the tango move you as it should . . .

The short Italian waiter who used to be a sailor and knows your country by its ports; who won’t seat you in his restaurant because he thinks you’re waiting for a husband and children and why, anyway, would anyone want to eat alone in a restaurant . . .

The beautiful Canadian who will freefall from airplanes but not into love because she’s the opposite of you and physical adventure is far less scary than allowing anyone to touch her heart . . .

The glorious woman in La Sainte-Chapelle wearing leather pants and loving her violin into praising Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D on a freezing, stained-glass night in December as you turn 50 and know that if you are allowed to have just one memory in your head as you leave this life for Home, you want it to sound like this . . .

The tiny man in Dublin, a Leprechaun perhaps, who tells you that his eighty years of life is due to the joys on an Irish whiskey on a daily basis, then looks at you with sparkling blue eyes and says, “May your walk of life in the New Year be your best walk yet” . . .

The friend travelling Asia whose heart broke for a small rat captured by a shopkeeper selling handbags when the little animal began to clean himself – probably in resignation of his fate – and so she bought him, along with her handbags, and set him free.

These are not the adventures of the adrenaline-seeker. They are the adventures of those on the long, long journey of overcoming the fear of loving and leaving and putting enough courage together to love again, even if leaving may be the result one more time. They are the adventures of the emotional-risk-taking joy-junkie; the one who knows that standing at Love Lock Bridge on the Seine and seeing how many people still believe that love is as important as being the first to traverse an uncharted desert or sail a storm-battered sea.

These adventures . . . they will not happen while you are seated in one safe place, riveted to your computer and your mortgage and your office and your dreams of retirement. They don’t happen when you place obstacles in the path between you and the brightest point on the horizon. They never occur while your heart is filled with the fear of breaking, and you choose the safety of the travel channel on TV over shaking the hand of a street person in California or listening to a taxi driver in Mexico tell you how he adores his wife and children.

They happen when you muster every bit of courage it takes to break through that shell and fix your eyes on the brightest point on the horizon . . . and then follow it, with all that you have and all that you are, to become all that you were meant to be . . . on your way Home.

Oscar, Africa, social media and schadenfreude

The tragic Oscar Pistorius issue aside, I’m tired of the inference that the “wealthy” in South Africa are all hiding behind walls, when the truth is, we are ALL hiding behind walls. The more we earn, the higher the walls. I have been robbed several times – twice in my “wealthy, gated community” in one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs (it’s an apartment block with walls, like many, many others in South Africa) . Once by Annanias Mathe, then the most wanted criminal in South Africa, a murderer and rapist. Once, years before, I fired a shot (yes, from a gun I owned back then when women were being hijacked and take to places where they were gang raped etc) at two men who had robbed my house and were coming out of my house and towards me as I arrived home. My OWN home. Where I should be entitled to feel safe. Fortunately for me, I didn’t kill anyone. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t raped or murdered either.

To understand how each and every one of us is living “inside”, we have to understand that the “fight or flight” response (already fixed when people still refer to us a “foetuses”) is tested every minute of every day in South Africa. Stop at a light and you don’t know if the person who appears at your car window has an avocado pear for sale or an AK47. Our society, as a whole, is NOT normal. You discover this when you go to civilised places like Toronto and walk the dog at 11pm without getting murdered.

Whether I think Oscar is guilty or not, it would benefit all of us to look at how WE are . . . how quickly someone is an “asshole” on the road; how much sheer hatred (with little action taken) is generated by our opinions on the Middle East or the horse meat issue or any number of other things we hear and see on Facebook and in other “news”. Where does that anger/hatred go, once generated?

The Oscar tragedy has brought out some interesting and disturbing reactions – blood baying, disregarding his right to a fair trial before finding him guilty, massive jealousy about wealthy young people . . . and yet I haven’t seen as much outrage about the crowds around the taxi driver being dragged to his death. HIS death, yes – but the people standing around CHEERING the police on?? THAT is what our nation has become . . . But we’ll find something to blame that heinous, cheering behaviour on – laws, history, poverty etc etc – when what should really terrify us is our collective propensity toward violent and vicious thoughts ourselves.

Rant almost over – here is one of the best pieces I have read on the Oscar killing, by the reasonable and thoughtful Justice Malala  – note this piece:

“The truth, however, is that South Africa is a country of violence. We have often been labelled the “crime capital of the world”, and many like Pistorius own firearms, supposedly to protect themselves from burglars and robbers. Last week, the country was in mourning after a 17-year-old girl died after being gang-raped. It is who we are. Perhaps that is why we struggled to accept that “one of us” might have pulled the trigger – with tragic consequences.”

It’s time each of us turns our energy towards looking at ourselves, rather than at others every time a heinous crime is committed in South Africa. In fact, it’s time we all stop and look at how quickly we “take sides” before knowing all the facts; how we continually pass on “the bad news” in social media; how few times a day any of us reads any good news at all (or makes a decision based all three sides of a story), let alone passes it on.

Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others – creates sick societies. And “slacktivism” – the idea that you may do some good from behind your keyboard by “making people aware” on social media rather than actually taking some action – is schadenfreude’s first cousin.

Can someone put the fun back in travelling?

By Dianne Bayley

I’m going to give away my age when I tell you that I remember a time when your Dad took you out to the airport on a Sunday afternoon so you could watch the planes taking off and landing. No, really. You’d get an ice cream and stand at the window that overlooked the runway, watching planes for hours. And when your Grandma left to fly home, you could see her waving her white handkerchief from the plane window.

Now you go to the airport only if you have to catch a plane or meet someone coming in. While OR Tambo International is a fabulous airport – and now has the Gautrain service to make getting there and back an absolute pleasure – it’s not the fun it used to be. Continue reading