Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

Why I bought a Honda Jazz. Again.

Posted: August 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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So after a good eight years with my car, a faithful Honda Jazz, it’s finally time to replace it. As you who know me can imagine, no small thought has gone into its replacement. With options galore facing me (three years of saving has been very worthwhile), I’ve come to the conclusion that the best car I can get for me right now is…another Honda Jazz. Right down to the same model. Why?

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I thought a lot about what to get, I really did. It was a bit of a thrill to think that I had a lot of options to choose from, especially if I looked at second hand models. Would I go for a sporty model? A luxury car? The thing is, the more I thought about it, the more the practical implications of my choices came home to me. And, eventually, I realised that I didn’t want to get on the treadmill of relentlessly upgrading my car: it’s not how I want to spend my money.

To be sure, cars can be beautiful things, but, if I’m honest, it’s just more stuff. And money can buy you happiness, but not through acquiring more stuff. Once you reach a certain level of comfort, your money makes you happy if you spend it on (a) other people and (b) experiences. The more I commit financially to a car, whether in the monthly instalment or in the cost of upkeep, the more I limit my options to increase happiness; as a result, I’ve tried to impose limits on this purchase rather than stretch them.

I know this sounds kind of sanctimonious, but it’s really not meant to be. I also have to admit that the Jazz I’ve bought represents a pretty good “level of comfort”, so I’m hardly suffering as a result of the decision. It might not have the most powerful engine but I live in PE, slow driving capital of the world, so anything faster would just frustrate me, and it does have all the modern conveniences like air conditioning and electric this and that. Plus it’s a low fuel consumption, low carbon emissions engine, which satisfies my growing green conscience. The point is, though, that I’m increasingly keen to draw the line here.

Does this mean that I think the Jazz should be where everyone draws the line? I don’t know, but I’d be happy if everyone gave serious thought about where that line should be and actually draw it instead of defaulting to the upgrade treadmill. Where do you think you’d draw the line?

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Do I or don’t I?

Posted: January 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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*Creaks open the door on its rusty hinges and looks around the abandoned room. Dusts off a monitor and, remembering patchily the routines that are needed, taps hesitantly on the keys again*

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New year’s resolutions – the old conundrum every year. Do we make them or don’t we? If I’m perfectly honest, the only one I’ve been completely successful in keeping is the one that says I’m not going to make any resolutions for the new year, but that’s only proof that success in keeping a resolution doesn’t mean much if it isn’t a good one to start with. In the end, it only meant that I got to the end of the year without a sense of failure but also without much of a sense of accomplishment either. Not very satisfying, and it feels like a basic kind of life lesson as well: better to try and fail than never etc etc. Sometimes those hoary old chestnuts hang around because there’s a kernel of truth in them.

So, yes, new year’s resolutions are on the table again. They are daunting at this stage only because there are so many to choose from – obviously a lot of room for improvement in me! Hopefully I’ve learned enough to remember the basics of making them quantifiable, measurable and achievable; accountable would be a good principle as well but that’s more private so on that front I’ll just say one of the resolutions is to get this blog going regularly again. Keep reminding me…

What about you? Are you just too disillusioned with making resolutions every year to do it again or do you have some success stories to share that help lift us? Either way, what are you going to do this year?

“Spud” got it wrong

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Uncategorized
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In the third book of the “Spud” series [SPOILER ALERT], John van der Ruit’s popular chronicles of a young boy at a private school in Kwazulu-Natal, the protagonist depicts one of the characters sitting in forlorn despair after the prefects for the next year have been chosen. He had desperately wanted to become one but was not chosen. This, Spud concludes, was because he had fallen foul of the universal Law of Desire: the more you really, really want something, the less likely you are to obtain it. Spud himself, on the other hand, feigned indifference and was chosen as a prefect.

Funny thing is, when I reflect on my own life I can’t say that it’s really been true. Generally, what I have desired I have pursued and what I have pursued I have obtained. Rather, my issue has been this: that I have, in so many cases, been left wondering whether I actually wanted it at all.

Why is this so? Is it a case of not really knowing myself? Am I allowing what I want to be determined by the agendas of others, so that I pursue what I think I should want rather than what I actually do? Perhaps it’s a combination of these things. It’s a long thing, this journey of self discovery.

Both my experience and my belief teach me that you can obtain the things that you want most. But now it’s what one wants in the first place and not whether or not one can obtain it that I’m thinking about the most.

Anyway, if I write these posts properly, they should make you think about yourself and not me. What’s your experience of Spud’s thoughts about the universal law of desire? Do you find that it’s the things that you want the most that slip through your fingers the most easily? Or do you get them and then wonder if you wanted them at all? Or are you just perfect, always getting what you want and wanting it always? If so, pass on the advice, we could all use the help! 🙂

 

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Not what you think

Posted: December 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been thinking about paradoxes this season. Those things that don’t make sense when first stated but that contain a truth I cannot deny as I try to live them out.

How happiness is achieved only when a singleminded pursuit for it is abandoned.

How I become truly myself only when I stop making myself the measure of all things.

How I lose my life if I try to cling to it, but I find it when I give it up.

And most of all at this time of year, how salvation is achieved not by man becoming god but by God becoming man. Our union with Him is a gift, not a reward.

May your Christmas this year be…significant.

We’ve been in PE for about four months now and are slowly making the transition from inland big city mentality to coastal town lifestyle. Many are the differences between the two places! One of the most obvious is in the traffic: a favorite topic of conversation in Jhb, it hardly warrants a mention here, so I guess I’ll have to make mention of it in this blog if I want to discuss it with anyone at all…


First of all, kudos to the drivers in PE: all things considered, they are possibly the best drivers in the country. For one thing, they understand and apply the rules of the road – what a pleasure to be driving in a place where they know what to do at a traffic circle (hint for Jo’burgers: it’s not a four way stop). For another, they are unfailingly courteous and consistently let one in to the traffic stream when you indicate rather than taking it as a sign that they should accelerate to cut you off! The only frustration I have is that they are often slooow and apparently don’t believe in the concept of a fast lane.

I’m sure a good part of the behavior is related to the fact that traffic jams are, well, non-existent. Unlike Jhb’s efforts to be world class in every sense, PE operates on the basis that you should never spend more than 15-20 minutes in the traffic. Ever. Imagine my amusement when the local traffic report, instead of going on for a good five minutes about problems, described the biggest hazard of the afternoon as “a hot chick jogging along Main Drive”! For those of us all too well acquainted with the frustration of crawling commutes, it’s hard to imagine the difference it makes. People just don’t get nearly as upset in the traffic because, hey, you’ll get where you’re going in five more minutes anyway. And I’m sure this plays a big role in contributing to a generally more relaxed attitude to life. It’s easier to be friendly when you don’t start your day getting all wound up by your trip in.

Lastly, a word on taxis. I continue to ask a simple question: where are they? You barely see any on the road (yet to see more than two at a time) and those that are around stick to speed limits and indicate before pulling over at places convenient for other motorists. A complete disgrace to the profession, I’m sure.

Driving, then, has been an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, which is a not uncommon motif for experiences down here.

— Posted From My iPod

So the euphoria of the opening of the World Cup and the thrill of the first match has passed, though the excitement around the tournament is as palpable as ever. Friends are posting photographs of the mass gatherings that were held to view the game against Mexico and images of crowds across the country united in their support of our team are still vividly fresh. All of our divisions forgotten, we’ve been completely united in our efforts to make this thing happen and to cheer on 11 representatives of our country to achieve what seemed impossible.

It’s not the first time that we’ve experienced these things as a country – as so many have pointed out, the unity and euphoria that swept the country when we won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 or the African Cup of Nations in 1996 was very similar. As fantastic as it is to be part of it, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these events that pulls us together as a nation, that makes us individually fiercely proud to be together and identify with something that we ordinarily may not give a lot of attention. I can’t claim to be any kind of soccer expert, but over the last few days I’ve been as passionate as any ardent Man U supporter usually is!

Best I can figure it, I think it’s the inadvertent commitment to something bigger than ourselves that pulls us together. The fact that it’s often sport in this outdoor, contest-driven country is really just reflects a convenient vehicle for the commitment: I’ve often thought over the last few days that much of what we’re experiencing now also feels similar to what happened with the first democratic elections in 1994. I see it as a fundamental principle of life that we can be and achieve our best only when we act in accordance with the basic truth that it’s not about us, and that’s what’s happening now. When you give your wholehearted support to a team on the field that you’re not physically part of, you just can’t make it about yourself: when everyone does that, we put aside a focus on ourselves and replace it with a common effort of something better that we want to achieve. We look to things that unite us, not things that divide us – and see what the outcome is!

I don’t know how long this togetherness will last – though I remember it lingering longer in the past than I thought it would – but I treasure it right now. If only we could retain a common vision that we can all commit to, through whatever tough times lie ahead of us. Maybe we need to host a major sporting event ever year to remind us of what we can achieve and what we can be…

But I guess I could be off the mark in my assessment – maybe it’s only when our attention is diverted onto something shallow (forgive me, soccer supporters!) that we put real differences aside. What do you think, and what’s your SWC experience been like?

Can’t believe it, but I put another post up at HCWHY at this time of year! I think I’m compulsive….

Anyway, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do one of those “it’s the end of the year, think about the bigger picture” comments. If you’re curious as to what it’s about (or even if you’re not, I need the hits!) hop over to this link and have a read…

Christmas: what’s in a name?

Posted: December 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
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So it’s that time of the year again when we’re inundated with Christmas decorations, songs and messages. What messages are those? It’s not uncommon to hear people bemoaning the fact that they think the “true meaning” of Christmas has been lost, but what’s taken its place and do the messages really differ?


Certainly people the world over have embraced the Christmas holiday, often regardless of background, culture or even religion. You could argue that it’s been fuelled by corporate opportunism, but even the greediest of consumers seems to feel that there should be a more altruistic meaning to the season.

So the meaning of Christmas has “expanded”, it seems, to become disassociated from the name. Now it’s meant to be a time of peace and goodwill to all; on a grander scale, a message to say “let’s all be nice to each other”. At its heart is the understanding that we can change the world if we just try hard enough, we can fix it and ourselves and attain something better.

Thing is, the real message of Christmas is that we cannot: it is the ultimate admission that His intervention was needed to set things right. It’s not not about us, not about what we can do but about what He had to. In the end, we can hold hands and rage againt the darkness all we like, but it will avail us not. We can only fold them together and come again to the stable that holds the Light that really overcomes.

So as some may decry the chance of the name of Christmas being changed, I think I’ve come to a kind of peace. The message doesn’t reflect the name anymore and I doubt we’ll gain much by pretending it is so. I think I finally understand the real “true meaning” and, as for me, that’s what I’ll always celebrate.

If you won the lottery…

Posted: September 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
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So the lottery played again last night – didja win anything? News24 ran a story the other day about a guy who drove around with a winning lottery ticket for 5 months before he bothered even to check it. When he finally got round to doing so, he was R20,000,000 richer.

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I guess that kind of life changing event us something that crosses the fancy of all if us from time to time. Most enticing of all is the thought of the freedom that a windfall like that would bring. It would give you the freedom to do – well, to do just about anything, actually. The question that popped into my mind, though, is whether or not you’d carry on doing what you’re doing right now. I suspect that there would be some who would say yes and some who would simply accelerate but stay on the same path, but that most would end up doing something completely different – or nothing at all. Why? Are you, at the end of the day, doing what you do mainly because of the money?

It seems to me that we too often choose a lifestyle and then settle on whatever vocation we think will support that, rather than choosing a purpose and settling on whatever lifestyle might result. A friend of mine went to a meting at his son’s school where they were asked (in the context of seeing if parents make good job advisors) how many parents were unhappy in their jobs; 85% of them put up their hands. I know, I know, you need to “provide” – housing, food, clothing, education – and these things cost. But at the end of the day it so often ends up being about what level of those things we think is necessary – and that just ties back to lifestyle.

Another reason even less appealing is that we follow this path because of our fears. Our jobs, whatever they might be, represent security and we don’t follow what’s really in our hearts because we fear that we will fail, we will have no way to survive. But we don’t know that (how can we, unless we claim to know the future absolutely), we only fear it, and the truth is that “survival” is a lot harder to fail than most of us think. Julia Cameron made a similar point in “The Artist’s Way”, which is worth a read in this kind of context. Security, at the end of the day, is no more than a comforting illusion.

And if you did nothing but goof off? Then I think it would be good to chat about the meaning of life in the first place, about mere sensory gratification versus the possibility of an intended part in a greater Song…

I’m talking self therapy here too, of course. The noted psychologist Viktor Frankl said you can deal with any “What” or “How” if you know the “Why”: the thought of the freedom that a lottery windfall would bring suddenly highlights the actual “Why” you’re living at the moment, that’s all. Where do you think you are on the path?

Here’s a great quote

Posted: September 8, 2009 in Uncategorized
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“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. … The gross national product does not [measure] the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Spoken by Robert Kennedy in the US in 1968, shortly before his untimely death.

Thanks to the guys at TGIF for sourcing the quote. They run some fascinating talks early on Friday mornings at a couple of coffee shops in Gauteng. Contact them at contact@tgif.org.za to get a list of the topics – well worth the effort.

— Posted From My iPod