Biggest disease of 21st century: Selfishness

This disease of “me, me, me, me” has bothered me for a VERY long time, not excluding myself as a sufferer, and it seems to be getting worse!

Take for example my living circumstances. I am a boarding mistress at a school 20km away from a shop. There are two people ‘managing’ the boarding establishment facilities. In lieu of monetary payment I was told I would get accommodation, food and use of facilities. I arrive. No, food is only when the learners are present. I have no kitchen in my boarding room.

No, we do not accommodate gluten-free individuals, you have lived with this in your life and you need to make a plan. With my picky food choices and temperamental constitution, I said fine, I will make a plan. I am making plans with left overs or what I can get when I can drive out to the shops and what I can cook in a microwave, what I can cook that won’t set off the temperamental fire alarm.

Accommodation, I learn, that the water is‘on’ in boarding when the learners are there – term time. Then it gets switched off. So I have had to make plans whilst staying there with regards to showers, because I LIVE there outside of learner terms. I am hoping that now that I have bothered the maintenance man a few times to turn on the water, I may now get to have the water. I am waiting to see.

I was chaperoning overseas and received a WatsApp message that I would not be able to use the laundry on my return with 3 weeks of washing. After a load of requesting, (no pun intended) those of us returning from tours eventually got permission to use the laundry. Upon arrival the room had been guarded and the locks changed and the room literally now hosts only: a washing machine and tumble dryer. The tumble dryer is necessary because of the mould and mildew problem in the boarding house.

I go there this “FREEDOM DAY”, the irony! And they have put an inserta lock in the door so I may not wash my laundry where I live. I am not ‘free’ to do my washing. That’s sheets, towels and 4 loads (between darks and colours) of 10 days of living-activity-wear-dirty clothes!

Beyond angry that on top of a teaching load that was distributed between three full time drama teachers last year, which I now have to do on my own at this school, I now have to add, to my day and night boarding duties, extra support classes and afternoon lessons, more washing because ‘they’ won’t keep the laundry room open over a long weekend?!?!

I asked the bank teller what she thought and she said that it is COMMON SENSE that people need to do their washing! I asked a friend’s mom and she said that is just thoughtless and that the management haven’t locked themselves out of their own washing machine. I told a teacher at another school and she said “That’s ridiculous!” I told another teacher friend at a different school and what did she say: “That is so selfish!”

Indeed – SELFISH! No consideration for other human beings and what they need; and this is when it is there job to consider other people because they are in charge of “BOARDING!”

Selfish in that if there is a reason for this, then why hasn’t anyone been told? Selfish in that I have recently had a meeting where boarding management hauled me over the coals for asking too many questions and wanting too much information! Apparently, if the learners need to ask me questions, because I am the “boarding mistress” I must tell them that I don’t know, and I must look like I am incompetent because my superiors want to hold INFORMATION to THEMSELVES!

This school is the Twilight Zone for me! For those old enough to remember the TV show of bizarre happenings. Complete Twilight Zone.

It is bizarre that the world is PUMPING: “Communication, communication is the key to everything” and it has made communication WORSE. Like a literal example of THE BLIND DO NOT SEE and the DEAF DO NOT HEAR.

So many other examples of selfishness all around: Smokers, where their secondary smoke is more hazardous for those around them, than what they are inhaling. Where their desire to die early through cancer, means they are actively deciding that someone else should take care of them when they are hooked up to machines and riddled with cancer. They are actively depriving their families – if they have them – of extra income for everyone to share, due to the cigarettes themselves and the higher medical aid rates, or the transport costs to hospitals, or whatever one can whittle it down too. “I earn the money I can do what I like with it” – I, I, I, mine, mine, mine! Self, self, self. How did the world get to this place that is destroying relationships?

Phones and “Selfies”. More and more and more Instagram sites are purely pictures of the Self. There are literally no other photos, no awareness of any beautiful sites around, just photos of the one person who owns the phone. Why? Narcissism? Am I just not a fan of looking at myself and now I can’t understand why others are obsessed with themselves?

Depression? The desire to focus only on myself and wallow in self-pity about me… how is that healthy? Even David in the Bible suffered from depression when his son died, but he made sure he got up each morning and washed and ate and got on with his day as king. A son born later became the one who furthered the genetic line to eventually lead to the birth of Jesus Christ. If David had have stayed focused on himself, committed suicide, locked himself away, been selfish, both the Old and New Testament would have fallen apart and a story aging thousands of years would not have been.

Divorce? I married him/her because s/he made ME happy. I’m divorcing him/her because s/he doesn’t make ME happy anymore. Is the problem monogamy or selfishness? We raise girls to be ‘independent’ now, has that been over-enforced to now create a group of women who don’t know how to love? Who don’t know how to care for others / about others? Who don’t know how to handle sharing dependency? Women who think about themselves first? Is all this hype about ‘know yourself’, be with ‘yourself’, hear ‘yourself’ really what propaganda cracks it up to be? I am still super single, spinster of note, and this ‘be with yourself’ stuff has caused me more headaches and doubt than anyone else I know. It’s selfish. When do epiphanies arrive? When I am helping others, engaging with others, conversing with others, that’s when.

Suicide? I can’t do this. I don’t want to be here. I don’t care that a large group of people are going to be distraught, broken and irreconcilable for the rest of their lives because of my actions.

Addictions? A lack of desire to control self. A lack of ability to speak out to others and ask for help. An inability to see outside of self and see the damage being created – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually. And others who don’t want to help, or don’t bothering helping properly and continuously, because “I don’t feel like it”, “I don’t want to”, “Why should I?”. I, I, I.

War, power, control? I must be ‘right’. I have to ‘protect’ myself. Who defined that ‘right’? “Protected” from who? From what? Why? I must keep my “stuff”? Why? It’s going to be out of reach when you are dead anyway. I must have ‘money’? Why do you need trees broken down and turned into paper with a particular picture on? Why do we need to be surrounded by stuff to be comfortable? Not excluding me, I am a terrible hoarder.

Entitlement? I deserve x, y, z, because I think I do. Can you even get more selfish? One who has done nothing but take from others and thinks that it is ‘right’ to do so? “I must get what I want purely because I want it”? Selfishness – staying in the mentality of a two-year-old, mine, mine, mine, without doing any work, without earning, without deserving, just ‘give it to me’. Someone else must sacrifice, someone else must work, someone else must organise and then just give it to me, because I haven’t graduated from my diapers and I don’t want to … We are moving to a state where there are going to be no more ‘someone else’s’ left because they would have died off.

Selfishness – a disease indeed, and one the majority of the world supports, contributes to and encourages. A disease that is breaking down everything that is so beautiful into the nothingness of Self. Self will die. These bodies will rot. The ‘stuff’ around us will decay. So why has it been made so important?

Hold both hands open and give, leaving self to last, receiving so much more in love of others.

Aeroplanes and Mobile Devices – Boom, Bang, Crash?

As a teacher and aunt of 4 children aged 3 and under, it has come to my attention that many adults have not left their two year old self behind. Take the more-than-plump (she couldn’t put the middle arm rest down for the size of her hips and thighs), fake-flower in her hair, no-eye-contact little woman sitting with me in row 23 on my flight yesterday; or the Ray-Banned-two-phone-holding-tall-my-rules-my-way-only post-teen who sat in front of me on a flight last Tuesday…

The latter, even after being spoken to thrice by the air-hostess and once by myself, did not desire to turn his cell phone off for take-off. Eventually he, and his equally participative – also only post-pubescent according to a birth-date – friend, conceded and turned them off.

On the other hand, the former, plump-fifty-ish, self-absorbed individual, faced a different, non-fighting airhost and she did not turn her phone off for take-off. Not only did her little head-flowered outfit and plump physique remind me distinctly of my two-year old niece, but her mannerisms did too. She turned her head and shoulder away from me as if trying to ‘hide’ from me in her seat near mine – which is humanly impossible. She had her phone in her one hand holding it so tightly that the sweat was beading off it as she tried to open her bag and deviously hide the phone in it – with one non-phone-holding hand, with her eyes not looking at the bag because she was turning her head from me. Seriously? Fifty-odd and acting like a guilty two-year-old?

Why? Because she was selfish and guilty, and she knew it, yet carried on her behaviour. She was putting an entire plane in jeopardy because she didn’t ‘feel like’, or was incapable of, turning her phone off. “Rules are made to be broken”, “Why should I?”, “I don’t want to”, all the lines of someone who is immature, selfish and guilty.

I can’t put my head in the sand and say these people who exist as adult-by-birth-date, child-by-maturity aren’t around. Nor can I ignore that they are potentially causing great harm to others. Have these recent plane crashes actually been because people have left their phones on? Have the signals interfered with the plane electronics? Aeroplane flaps interfered with? Bang, boom, crash?

Unless, seeing as the flight attendant didn’t seem fazed on the second flight, maybe the “turn off your cell phones” is actually redundant and has no meaning. If it had meaning, then surely the flight attendant would have made sure the phone was off?

So, possible solutions:

1) Include the reasons for turning off cell phones in the “Safety Procedures” demonstration presented by the airhosts.

2) Use a device on flights that can detect phones that are on (I have seen this used on international flights) and use it, shaming those who disregard other human life and have zero respect for anyone’s safety. . . if these phones even are a safety issue, as I now have huge doubts.

3) Publish articles in ALL the in flight magazines as to WHY we have to turn off our phones. Maybe add articles about the potential result of cancer from all those waves bouncing around the little tin shape we are flying in?

When we landed, I was even more infuriated as the woman kept watching me then her bag, then me, then her bag. Eventually, after everyone else had had their phones on since touch-down, the same woman who the airhostess had to again ask to turn off her tablet before landing, quickly grabbed her phone out of her bag when she thought I wasn’t watching and in a touch of the back of the phone, she was on WatApp in about two seconds. What phone on earth turns on and starts and has your App ready in two seconds? Surely that phone company should be marketing the brilliance of zero waiting time to turn their mobile device on to be spontaneously active?

Children: no qualms in lying through their teeth either, especially when adults let them get away with it. Lying: a sign of complete immaturity and selfishness if ever there was one, I reckon anyway.

Electronic Devices – The 21st Century Abusers / Manipulators

Abuse – to put to a wrong or improper use. To attack in words; to revile. To harm or injure by wrong or cruel treatment. (Penguin Dictionary)

Manipulation – to handle or operate skillfully. To control, exploit, or influence by artful, unfair, or insidious means, esp to one’s own advantage. (Penguin Dictionary)

When I write of ‘electronic devices’, I am writing about mobile-phones and their content, Tablets and their use, Ipads, laptops, computers, fitbits, Xboxes and the like as each can take on its own form of being the abuser / manipulator – the item dictating behaviour.

I am a big fan of Andy Stanley and his ways of explaining human behaviour. He is real and genuinely authentic in what he points out. In one of his presentations he speaks about “What makes you happy”. This being something that people around the world would love to know in many cases. Andy goes on to itemise the rational way in which “happiness” is gained, slowly, over time. I found his insights amazing, thought-provoking and completely true in all the angles I could work through. The opening point was this: “Happy people have:

  • Peace with Themselves
  • Peace with Others
  • Peace with their Higher Power.”

Consequently, after having watched segments of the DVD, I ended up having a conversation with some of my Grade 8s. They were speaking about how they each have to have a psychologist because they can talk to psychologists. It followed on that they trust psychologists because they can’t talk to anyone else about their problems. This is truly a sad reflection of how broken human relationships are, that these children (12 -13 years old) have to pay someone R500.00 odd (or however much in your currency) an hour to “have someone to talk to”.

I told them that I remembered attending a conference a few years ago at a “Writer’s Festival” in Durban, South Africa, and in the plenary session of chatting with a couple of published authors, the question arose as to how the guy started his writing career. It turned out that his career was triggered when his friend from University committed suicide. The writer then said that in his circumstance he had a few options; one, would be to be negative for himself too. Two: would be to pay a ‘professional’ to talk to them about it, which he clarified that he would never do, because how can another human being truly know him, “all you are doing is paying to tell them something you could tell someone else for free”. Three: was to write about it. He said he simply took the healthiest option (my account is purely based on how my memory recalled the session). So I asked the grade 8s why they had to pay so much money to talk to someone, when they could talk to anyone and that was when the trust issue came up. Along with this another point arose: how they don’t want to appear weak around others and they don’t want to be ashamed for ‘having something wrong’ with themselves.

Granted, they are only grade 8, but still, that’s barely puberty and they already don’t trust the people nearest and dearest to them AND they feel judged and insecure around those who are nearest and dearest to them. This leads on to the direction that they cannot be “Happy”. Why?

  • They have no peace with themselves, they can’t trust others and they are walking around with guilt, shame and a feeling that being weak is ‘abnormal’, ‘wrong’ and ‘a problem’; when any honest person should tell them ‘weak’ in this challenging world is to be expected. Every person I have engaged with across the world has shown that they are not always ‘strong’ or ‘in control’.
  • They have no peace with others. You can’t be at peace with other human beings if your locus of control is them. If they are letting others dictate, judge and control their emotions like this, then they won’t ever have peace.
  • They don’t have peace with a higher power. The truest, most faithful and beautiful higher powers are those faiths where the premise is based on grace and unconditional love. These grade 8s showed me that they don’t believe in Grace (forgiveness no matter what they have done or who they are) or unconditional love, because when you know unconditional love, you don’t feel shame or guilt, you feel peace and that peace creates an inner joy, ‘happiness’, that goes beyond human understanding.

In trying to relate to them and discuss it, the conversation went on to the ‘why’ they feel this distrust and low self-esteem and the like. They were horrified when I told them it was partly because of their lifestyles and their mobile phones.

“Miss! How can you say that?”

“Simple girls. Your self-worth is stuck in those machines. I have seen you lifting that phone and taking picture after picture of yourselves, and then deleting because you don’t like it. Every time the process gets longer and you reject each of those images of yourselves more and more. Then you finally post a Selfie of yourself, but then a few days later you don’t like it anymore, you don’t like that you anymore and you are changing it again (most likely because some other person didn’t ‘like’ the picture, or made a comment that changed your appreciation of yourself). Each photo you reject, each set of hours you take focusing on yourself is internally depressing you because you are not happy with yourself, and you are only focusing on yourself. Therefore you are focusing on ‘unhappy’.  Often the biggest cause of depression and the biggest reason people go into psychologists’ offices in the first place is often, not always, because they are suffering from intense selfishness (Tim LaHaye, 1992). When you wake up thinking of yourself, you are going to be miserable, because you don’t like the photos of yourself that’s why you take dozens and dozens, you don’t think you are ‘perfect’ enough…  and that’s another story that bothers me, girls; what are you comparing yourselves to? You are different to every single human being on the planet, thus there is only ONE you, and in order to be ‘perfect’ that means you have to be compared to something exactly the same as you and ‘be better’ than it, but another you doesn’t exist!?!? So you are a perfect you, yet you tell yourselves hundreds of times that you are not, for example: by all the Selfies you take and delete. You girls know very well that when you wake up thinking about other people, wanting to help other people and acting out in a loving way to others, that you have a much happier day. So I can say that I think your phones are part of the problem, because I watch you and I see that your misery, depression and insufficiency in yourself comes from the rubbish you watch on TV, the nonsense you Tweet and Facebook, and the way you let it all change who you are, how you feel and what you do with your day. It’s ridiculous to let some electronic devices manipulate you, and control your day and you.”

They looked at me, taking in all of my rant. As I slowed down, I started realising that I had probably over-stepped the mark, yet they said, “You are so right, Miss”.

Abuse – to put to a wrong or improper use.  Mobiles are taking over family time, one-on-one human interaction and learning inter-personal skills. If all courting is done via text or Watsapp, how can there be a personal marriage with real conversation? Electronic devices are used instead of having a family dinner. Never mind the now open door to sleep deprivation, pornography, gambling and relying on ‘likes’, ‘follows’ and replies to feel any self-worth or purpose.

To attack in words; to revile. School level cyber-bullying is scaring me as to the extent people; parents and learners use it to harm others, to be vindictive and nasty. The worst part of it is that it is a coward’s way to deal with nastiness, “I’m going to be nasty to you whilst I am far away from you, because I know it’s wrong and I know I don’t want people to see me as the problem”.

To harm or injure by wrong or cruel treatment. Humans being on their phones, laptops and devices into the very early / late hours. Addiction to electronic devices creating rehab centres in Asia. Cyber-bullying. Pornography. Problems with spine deformations with the bad posture created when using some devices. Obesity rates in numerous countries are becoming worse and worse.

Manipulation – to handle or operate skillfully. Every school-going child knows fully well what their electronic devices can do.

To control, exploit, or influence by artful, unfair, or insidious means, esp to one’s own advantage. Emails that are received from marketers who have used electronic information from cards and purchase history to sell things electronically. Often selling items at times when the receivers of the marketing have no money; do not actually need the product and/or are manipulated into buying it. Advertising that attacks screens on all devices. Background music on specific electronic devices that insight particular emotions. Camera angles that create the exact mental and emotional manipulation that the director, editor and/or sponsor requires, especially if there is a number there to call…

Sitting from the outside, watching what is going on with these grade 8s (and humanity), seeing the desperation of a generation becoming more and more reliant on the external loci of Twitter, Instagam, Snapchat and all the rest to find their self-worth; as they ignorantly consume those means that will always leave them unfulfilled, unsatisfied and unhappy, makes my heart weep. The irony: I was told by a counsellor that the career of psychology has the highest number of anti-depressant consumers in the world. Seems to me that their jobs are going to get harder and society is supporting it in every way possible.

Hate Speech Bill – South Africa Commentary / Objection needed

Dear Mr T. Ross

RE: HATE CRIMES BILL – public comment

hatecrimes@justice.gov.za

Herewith my request with regards to the “Hate Crimes Bill” currently being processed in Parliament:

  • That the Bill be given far more time for scrutiny, evaluation and response by the public.
  • That the definition of “Hate Crimes” is too broad and is not going to link with the Constitution for Freedom of Speech and Democracy and freedom for all. This needs to be reworked.
  • The Christian Bible does not contain hate speech by way that any speech coming from a person’s mouth contains their personal choice of presentation and interpretation (as per Reader Response Theory academic studies), and any person receiving speech receives it in the tone and interpretation of their own choice. Neither the speaking, nor the interpreting, comes from an ‘inherent’ meaning in any written texts. The people speaking and hearing create their meaning, not the paper and ink.

Please address these points urgently,

Signed an EXTREMELY concerned South African citizen who wants to live in LOVE not the FEAR this “Bill” creates. We need to stop using the word “hate” and start using the word “love”. People’s hearts need to change, not more ‘crimes by law definition’ be created.

Shannan.

 

Yesterday, I received a WatsApp video from a dear Christian Friend. The clip was created by the Family Policy Institute www.familypolicyinstitutue.com. info@familyinstitutepolicy.com  In the video the gentleman asks people to send emails to the address above. He lists three things that we should email in regards to, but no instruction is given as to how we should word the email, or what we should say, or how the policy is being dealt with and what exactly the public need to contribute. I think that the policy would need to be downloaded and commented on from that perspective.

In this world of three minute media where all one does is watch and pass on via whatever social ‘feed’ is utilised, I can only pray that people will not be apathetic and think ‘someone else will do something’. Someone told me “Have faith in God, He will do something”… and all that is in my head is that that is like me saying to my class: “Right learners here is your task, please respond.”

And the class says to me: “No, Miss, we aren’t going to respond because you already know the answer and we will just wait for you to give it to us…” I don’t think that My Teacher would be very happy if I said: “Sorry God, I’ll just wait for You to do something for me.”

So, I am asking you to copy and paste the beginning of my blog and send it off to Mr T Ross. If you can work those copy and paste buttons 😉 OR, even better, download the Bill and give it a full dissertation 😉

Further to my opening, the following points have circumvented my mind a few times…

1) Have the other faiths been included? As the references to homosexuality are in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is shared by the Jews, Muslims and Christians, are all the faiths defending their Scriptures?

2) Reader Response Theory. Has this been consulted and dealt with? This is the academic way of thinking that has gone into the reasoning that no text within itself has any definitive meaning. The meaning is created by the people who use the text, through their own personal choices and applications of the text. In other words, a human’s personal experience will create the feelings, tones, individual means of expression and intonation patterns, based purely on themselves as individuals and not on a set of words in a book.

3) I’d like to extend my thanks to those with legal minds and legal training who are stepping up in defense of a Book that holds stories more than 2000 years old. In a world that is becoming more and more apathetic, it is indeed good news to know that they are out there making the difference that those of us in the other spheres of service can’t. Thank-you for your training, your proactive behaviour and for stepping out as missionaries in the field of law. God is Good.

I have been pondering the scenario and I would like to lift up this blog as a prayer to those fighting for the integrity and historical context of The Word of God. In no way should a 21st century law be able to condemn or twist or take out of its authentic context, a Book of Stories that is part of something from 2000 years ago, a provision of the only constant stability in a world that is becoming more unstable and inconstant by the day. Literally.

For those wanting to condemn 2000 year old words as hate speech, I would have to ask why? The Old Testament was around during the Ancient Greek and Roman times when there was even pottery created with pictures of gay men doing their thing on it. Promiscuity and homosexuality are things that have been around for as long as the Bible has been, yet never in 2000 years has any human law placed Christianity in the context of ‘hate speech’… so why would a ‘more secure’, ‘more modern’, ‘more open and accepting’ society take more offense and have less ability to accept what the generations before it created? It is not the words in the Bible that are the problem, but the people who choose how they use the words and/or interpret the words . . . One who is STABLE and SECURE in WHO THEY ARE and WHAT THEY BELIEVE will never be shaken by anything outside of themselves, because they are STABLE and SECURE. It’s an inner peace. I love my inner peace. God is Good.

In the modern 21st century people are seen to be more civilised and more educated. No-one is a gladiator anymore, the Dark Ages of Medieval Religious battles have been (sadly are not altogether gone) and the days of burning people at the stake didn’t last either, all for excellent reason; BUT the BIBLE has lasted, it has stayed, it has outlived violence, treachery, scandal, plagues and even Roman Empires where the words of the emperors, and their statues and buildings have not survived as impeccably as the Word of God, known as The Bible, has.

Still, as we are told, there will be persecutors, those who do not see and do not understand. I pray that those holding up The Word of God will be blessed with His Provision, His Words, His perfect timing and Perfect Inspiration in whatever way or form is needed to ensure that The Word survives just another bump in its eternal Road. I pray for all those involved, that The Light might be turned on inside them so that they can realise the necessity of The Word of God to bring people to Soul Peace and one-on-one interaction and engagement with a truly personal Father in Heaven. I pray that the Lord will insure that the integrity and awesomeness of His Text will not be discredited in any way that would stop potential followers from believing. I pray that all who are unhappy, insecure and broken in themselves find an AWESOME way within themselves to reach their balance, security and stability, and that they realise that this cannot and will not be affected, effected, created or broken by mere paper and ink.

I pray God’s Will Be Done and His Glory be once again Outstanding in the most incredible ways as His Story continues to unfold, and He continues to be victorious in every way.

I pray this in absolute faith that our Good God hears, knows and acts in Amazing Ways!

Amen!

In the Meantime, while you wait, join the Fellowship of Suffering

Herewith, my ponderings on the concept of the “Fellowship of Suffering” after watching Andy Stanley’s DVD on what to do “In the Meantime” whilst you are waiting for something, or are ‘stuck’ in a situation you can’t change. As God works in His AMAZING ways, I was reading “A Voice in the Wind” by Francine Rivers (a loan from a friend) at the same time as I was watching the Stanley series. The book is a fictional historical recapture of the Biblical times of Paul and the disciples, which Andy Stanley speaks about in the DVD series… unbelievable!

So I sit, living through what I am: a ghost visiting me and the knowing that a lawyer sued a priest for continually raping her in the ‘spiritual’ realm every night from when she was a child – “Fellowship of Suffering”; making my life easier, knowing that I am not the only one with such imaginings; knowing that I am not the only one going through an illogical and indescribably inexplicable experience. Thank-You LORD, that mine are born from what feels like an intense, kindly love now, and not a desire to have and control from pure frustration and human-created hell and demand with unGodly intent.

Another fellow in my ‘Fellowship of Suffering’:  Hadassah, a fictional character, who chooses God over love of the earthly kind… her reasons are as mine: Trusting God; an inability to deal with the guilt and consequences around not choosing God; a knowing in our souls that He is The Way and The Life, without Him there is no Hope, or Genuine Love, or Freedom from self-oppression. To choose an unGodly man would be insane, when there is a SOUL-BELIEF that The Best way forward is to be yoked with a Godly man, a man who lives, breathes and acts Biblical Principles for real (meaning that the Principles of Goodness aren’t only shown only as lip service but in reality; meaning that if he doesn’t act in a Biblical way then he feels the hypocrisy and the guilt and his conscious gnaws at his soul and he falls apart without God). A man who knows that putting God first, and not himself, is the only way to live without being in perpetual Darkness, turmoil and purposelessness.

My third current fellowship member: Marcus – of the book “Echo in the Darkness”, by Francine Rivers – and how everything on earth has lost its value to him: taste is no longer a sensual activity, life’s adventurous exhilarations no longer have an effect like they did before; and all because his eyes have been opened to truth, to LOVE in its true awesomeness. Even so, Marcus still holds onto the Darkness so he can ‘have his way’, ultimately denying, by choice, his own freedom, his own choice to know LOVE in the form of an INCREDIBLE GOD. The choice to know: ULTIMAT EPEACE. The choice to know God through the example of Jesus Christ and the suggested way of Living the Bible teaches. Once again I join Marcus in the ‘Fellowship of Suffering’ because he too hears a voice in the wind, a voice that literally matches the timbre of the voice of the person he fell completely and entirely in love with – body, mind and soul. I too hit that realisation nearly 6 years ago, when I met the man whose voice timbre matched the voice of ‘God in my head’… My experience was the reverse of Marcus’s; I heard ‘God’s voice’ first, then I heard the man’s voice that matched it. Marcus met the woman first and then heard her voice in his head afterwards. Either way: Fellowship of Suffering. Both of us will get through it somehow. I have yet to finishing reading the book, I bought it yesterday 🙂

I know that there is no logical explanation for anything that I am going through. I know that God’s instruction to me over the last 6 years has been “wait”: Wait through melancholic depression. Wait through anxiety and post-traumatic-stress. Wait through physical ailments that have taken me away from my release, my third love: Dancing. Wait through the unhappy, embarrassing and socially-awkward biological state of gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance and crazy-horrible reactions to sugar and alcohol. Wait through the work stress that has not stopped mounting for years with unforeseeable circumstances and colleagues who ‘couldn’t cope’. Wait through financial struggles; wait through family conflicts, explosions and heart-breaking realisations that I would never, ever, have expected. Wait through recovery from accidents. Wait through a searing lonely, empty, separate-from-human-love incompleteness that defies all human rationale and understanding. Wait through the stress of transport hell and fear. Wait through the blood tests and medical trials. Wait through the chronic fatigue. Wait through the confusion and brokenness of being human in a broken world. Wait… that’s was I have been called to do, that’s what my being, my soul, my bones tell me… wait… and now, I have recently been reminded that the waiting, the “in the Meantime suffering”, is purposeful. That all I have been through and am going through in these hardships, purely by the strength and power of my most Awesome Father in Heaven, is my qualification and ability to be uniquely and precisely trained to help others and open the way for them to know that whatever they are going through, however many years it lasts, it will be ok. God is GOOD and you WILL survive, you WILL reap wonderful moments and be used in INCREDIBLE ways to comfort others as God has and IS comforting you. Your life has incredible purpose, if you choose to let it be so. I am choosing to let it be so. I am choosing to have purpose, to use the hell I have been living through to serve others, to be a ‘Hadassah’ and trust in kindness, goodness, truth, honesty, responsibility, accountability, love, purity and hope. I want to live a life I can be proud of, a life where I can stand in front of God, man, whoever, and genuinely say: “I gave my all, I did my best, I gave and I loved as best I could in my brokenness. I chose to have purpose.”

So; do I know for sure if the man with the voice really is “The One” God would like me to be with in person? No. Do I know if what I am waiting for will ever happen as I have imagined? No. Do I know if I am “psychologically” OK? No. Will I keep trusting and waiting? Yes. ABSOLUTELY; for my path is not my own, I am in a joint venture with God and He is a GOOD GOD. I know my conscience and I know what will ruin my story. What will ruin my story is taking the reins from God and trying to do things ‘my way’. What will ruin my desire to end my life with a good story is if I stop listening to the voice, from wherever it comes, and I force myself to go against my Soul-knowing; THAT would be a far, far worse way to live than anything else I can imagine; and I have one very explicit and capable imagination going on 😉

May you choose your story wisely, and live it well. May you join in the “Fellowship of Suffering” to give yourself purpose and overflowing joy. May God’s peace and Love be with you in your journey, every step of the way. God Bless.

Resignation Letter to Learners from Dramatic Arts Teacher

Dear Learners,

RE: My resignation

Firstly, I would like to apologise for stepping into your classroom with my own agenda – to see if I would like / could teach within the private school system. I left the state syllabus as I had taught it for so long, I desired something new. I wanted to teach in a new environment and make sure I was accurate in my decision of where to settle for my last set of pension earning decades. I made the decision and accepted the post because I believed that God had firmly positioned everything, literally everything, for me to move over and be of service in a new school, with a new group of learners.

Now I sit in major doubt as to how I can serve.

I am well aware of your ability to adapt and adjust and get on with living and doing your tasks. I am sure that you would understand my situation and can carry on fairly unscathed by my actions. After all, I have taught you – in my brief few months here – not to let people who do so little for you, control so many of your emotions (courtesy of Mr Will Smith). And that is where I now find myself – as someone who can do very little for you in your context.

You see, your educative environment is purely ‘mark’ directed. All of you place your worth and your level of esteem and ability in the hands of your teachers and strangers who apply a letter to your efforts. I hate that. I hate that your efforts are compared and categorised when you are SUCH unique individuals with so many strengths and abilities that cannot and will never be ‘markable’; yet you don’t see it that way. You haven’t been trained to see it that way. You have been trained to take that chronological number that has been assigned to someone’s categories of worth, and you make that assumptive value your personal value. I hate that. You are not the value of some other human’s assessment and judgment of you. Your value is that of gold and silver, refined in THE Refiner’s Fire. Sculpted by THE Potter’s Hands and sealed in The Kiln of The Most Awesome Creator. Your abilities are limitless. Your talents span the width of your imagination, but therein lies the rub: educators, often people who don’t even believe in themselves, people who have suffered under the same marking system that you are suffering, are in control. I hate that. I hate that people who are not called to teaching, are teaching. They are inflicting their insecurities on you, and contorting you to bend to their whims and their rules and comfort zones by squashing you into the boxes created by random numbers, otherwise known as: Percentages. And you, in your innocence and ignorance as children, accept it. You accept the forces of control and irrationality, and the confines and restrictions the syllabus and system impose on you and brand into you. I hate it.

I sit in this moral conundrum. Who am I to judge? Isn’t it only God who should judge? Who am I to say this is worth an “A” when the learner has been lazy and then just uses God’s Given Talent at the last minute on stage? Who am I to say that the learner who has worked so hard, given everything and stretched themselves into empathy, passion and courage at the highest level, is only worth a “C” because she doesn’t have the acting technique that I prefer? A for Ass, C for Courageous… A for Arrogant, C for Committed… A for Algebra, C for Calculus? The marks assigned by strangers in Drama, for an Exam are meaningless to me, for such reasons. Yet, for you, for my learners, they mean everything. I find it absurd, absolutely absurd.

I find myself now in turmoil over what you expect, what your requirements are for a teacher – someone who will get you an “A”, when some of you are just not in possession of the “X-Factor”, you are not categorically, by the piece of paper and the blocks I have to tick, an “A”… but your parents, your family, your friends, your teachers who have you as their ‘pet’, are telling you that you are an “A”. Why do they say that? Because they love you and that is what they see, that is what they know. Because they don’t have assigned tick boxes. Because they have no idea what vocal characterisation is, or what it entails. They don’t have a clue about projection and body dynamic and the technical “have to have’s” for an “A” in a Drama Exam. They are right, God has created you as a potential “A” candidate, but that “A” is not in Dramatic Arts in the private school system. In the state system – yes, there you can get an “A” because your interpretation, your ability to stand cold on a stage and use only yourself to engage with an audience is considered “A” material. It is not so in the private system… and this is where the private system clashes with ME.

It clashes with my belief in all of you and your incredibly hard work being worth that “A”. It clashes with my belief in the examiner being open to everything s/he sees on stage. It clashes with my belief that an actor with nothing on stage is more powerful than an actor who needs the prop of a prop… I can see your soul, your integrity, your truth in the character when it is only you up there, when I am not distracted by a tea-towel in your hand or an item that you throw across the stage. I am not cut off from you when you have a table in front of you. I am not subjected to being an observer of your conversation with a statue on stage. I engage with you, you move my soul, I see your soul has moved, when you interact with me, the soul in the audience who is listening to your message, hearing your words and forming a soulful bond with the character you have taken on in order to take me on a journey. I cannot watch you giving soul on stage and place it in boxes. I cannot tell you that your everything is worth so little, when it is not. I cannot train you in my way, I cannot ask you to act to my style of laying your soul open on stage, when your external examiners want props, want set, want pure type-cast, stereotypical, by-the-book, copy-and-paste, done the same over and over, performances. I am not made that way. I can’t expect every 17/18 year old to contort their body into the assumption that a 50 year old has no strength and must change their body to be ‘old’! I can’t force you to assume that you know exactly what a playwright ‘made’ a character to be, and that anyone on the planet could recreate a stereotype of something someone else thinks. You are not parrots or monkeys. You are not made to ‘fakely’ copy another director’s perceptions or preferences. You are you, with your own ideas, your own interpretations, your own directorial perceptions, I cannot and will not force you to lose integrity with yourself to copy and paste your work to be that of someone else.

I am not made to follow man and fit into the whims of mans’ insecurities. I walk in the knowing, the absolute conviction, that God has placed me where He has in order to touch souls. In order to awaken the inner light that is so dull inside you, so that you can believe in yourselves, so that you can know the truth of what eternal is. So that you can walk away having experienced something ‘out of this world’, something that has allowed you a moment of ‘touching God’; and then gone a step further by giving you a stage, a platform, an audience, to help them touch a moment with God, with themselves and their truths and insecurities, to open their hearts and know that ‘it is ok’, ‘you are not alone’…

The problem comes in – I cannot get you the marks set by this system, this syllabus, purely because I don’t believe in the system or the syllabus. I don’t know how to dance to the tune of materialism and worldly judgment. I only want to dance to the tune of truth, of praise and worship, of love, honesty, sincerity, authenticity and all that is so hard to achieve in our current society.

I sit, disturbed at a very deep level. I sit and type this letter to you in confusion with regards to the rigidity and conformism that I have found is dictated into ART, into an EXPRESSIVE and PERSONAL TO THE CREATOR subject. I am not made in a capacity that can serve you in this ‘private school’ context. Its non-transparency, for very real reasons I am sure, as I have had to personally deal with you annihilating me for ticking boxes that you disagreed with. I have had your parents annihilate me for not giving you the “A” they “know” you deserve. I have seen teachers with unhealthy “preferences” and completely subjective “reasoning” sway examiners with nonsense to get marks “improved”. I know firsthand why non-transparency would be chosen… even so, non-transparency with only ONE examiner is not right or healthy. It is secretive and beyond subjective. The State system, with its full transparency, will have a minimum of two external examiners and then open discussions with teachers, thus often having four examiners deciding on a mark. This is healthy, this is objective, this eliminates personal preference and personal subjectivity. One examiner, on a bad day, could skew an entire set of marks. One examiner who does not like a particular style, or has his/her own agenda can completely whitewash a year to poor marks because s/he ‘didn’t like it’, or has ‘seen it done better’, ‘or preferred the movie’ or ‘was raped herself and that is not what it looks or feels like’, or ‘I haven’t studied dance, or danced myself (I’m not that talented) but I wouldn’t say that was good’… Sub-conscious jealousies, personal agendas, self-righteousness, lack of understanding of a piece; all of those can factor into a single ‘examiner’ and how s/he allocates his/her personal choice of marks… I don’t believe it is right or fair to have one solo adjudicator who bears the burden of allocating marks without confirmation from another, and who gets sole control over setting a judgment over another human being’s creative work.

I find myself despondent, at my wits end trying to work through this, trying to fathom how I can work in such an unfair and distorted system. This is why I am resigning my dear children. I don’t want to be aligning you with my dreams and goals and lighting your souls, when your goals are the marks given by one person, in one moment, making one judgment call on you. I am not in the business of teaching for marks, of teaching to make some single other person able to put you in a box, ‘the best box’; because I don’t believe in ‘boxing’ anyone’s creative efforts…

I have also now encountered a horror of truth in the examination assessment that I have had to live through. In the feedback I asked for help, because I had been told that I had to tell you what to do. . . a.k.a. “Direct you.” Me? That if you aren’t working, if you aren’t getting the interpretation that the examiner wants from you (bearing in mind that I am not even told what that interpretation or expectation is with regards to what marks they assign – so I am expected to orientate myself around some invisible ‘standard’ / ‘expectation’); then it is my ‘fault’ – so … this means that your exam mark, your ticked box has nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with MY directing! Who is the most important part of any play? “The Director”. Who is the cog in any show? “The Director”. Who gets nailed with the criticism and torn to pieces if a play is ‘bad’ (as dictated by some person ticking their own random preference boxes)? “The Director”.  It’s so completely twisted that I would be required to tell you how to act on stage and then MARK MYSELF! I am not into teaching practical Dramatic Arts to have myself come in and tell other people what to do. I did not go to University to become a Director; I studied my second qualification to TEACH. The goal of this teacher is to create INDEPENDENT, self-aware, capable to handle the real world learners, not DEPENDENT on me human beings… Yes, there are wiser people than ourselves out there, yes, we go to others for advice, yes, input from others is always advisable, but telling others what to do and how to do it? Surely not… What happens when my poor direction then reduces a learner to have lower marks because I didn’t notice something? Then, what about when you refuse to listen to my direction? When you do what you feel like and then I get slammed for it? Not fair, not ‘right’.

On top of all this, apparently, if learners don’t type up their programmes, then I must do it for them? What the? What on earth is that teaching any child? If you don’t do your work, it’s ok, someone else will do it for you and because that other person does it so well, you can get a great mark and call it “my mark”? How is that healthy? Helpful? Truthful? I am not employed to be a slave, or someone who is going to take on all responsibility for people who are apathetic and couldn’t care… I am not made to hide mistakes and flaws, I want them revealed, I want consequences for actions and behaviour to happen. I want learners to learn to be responsible for their own work, their own future, their own lives.

This in totality means, I do not fit the private school system. It means my values; my ethic and my purpose do not align with the methodology and learning system that you (and your parents) have chosen for your education. It means I am not fit to provide the service you are expecting or the mark alignment and mark affirmations that you crave and build your lives around. It means I am not fit to be your Dramatic Arts teacher.

You are amazing learners and the potential within you to become awesome adults is great. I truly wish and pray that you know it, see it, believe it and become proud of yourselves; and that you achieve in fabulous ways in all the years ahead… how you gauge and assess your level of achievement… well, I hope it is not by some tick box or the ratings of some “Body” that some humans have declared “important”. I hope that your assessment of yourselves lies purely in the depth of your Souls and how you engage with YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. In the darkest part of the night may you be able to say: “It is well”, “It is good”, “I am content, I am at peace, I have served a mighty purpose, and an amazing God in a loving, kind, true and eternally pleasing way today”. Amen.

Stay blessed and know you are Loved,

Sir.

Copy and Paste – Teacher’s Practical Exam Experience

My friend had his first experience of external grade 12 practical examinations in the private school system… the start of his email read: “Horrible”. He recently left a state school to teach at a private school… The state methodology of transparency is something that he told me he now rates as WAY better and WAY healthier than the set up that he had to live through. He emailed me frankly and mentioned these, amongst other points, to express why he was so bleak about the experience – some of his email:

  • You get ‘feedback’ that is general and offers no specific help or guidance in the way of the necessities. It is generic with ifs and buts and cannot be applied to every learner. On top of that, hints are made with regards to the performances that were shown and were not ‘of standard’.
  • That need to control… it kept resonating in me. That need to put across what they want done and how they want it done. This examiner was rigid, in that he believes there should be minimal learner interpretation and that they need to play the character only to the truth of the playwright. . . so therein comes a big problem – the playwright is dead. An 18 year old IS NOT 60 or 70 or 45 years old. An 18 year old does not have the life experience or background to tap into what someone decades older than themselves would be feeling or how their body would be shaped. This means that the examiner wanted the same OTT, type cast, non-interpreted soulless ‘acting’ that is merely ‘copy and paste’ from the original. I AM SICK TO DEATH of COPY AND PASTE! It’s plagiarism on a larger scale. They can’t plagiarise in their projects or exams, so why are they then having to on stage? UGH!
  • It’s not the learners being marked, it’s me! The teacher! The examiner said that there have even been times when he typed up the programmes FOR HIS LEARNERS! Saying ‘you have to do what you have to do’… so adults are making themselves sick with stress and working many unpaid hours of overtime. Losing time with their families and time with God, to do the work FOR lazy-ass learners who don’t feel like doing it for themselves?!?! Are you serious?? Yes, he was very serious. He will do the work FOR them! That is SUPER insane! Then the learner gets a mark for the work and it’s ACTUALLY the teacher’s work. That’s technically fraud! Putting someone else’s name on your work for an exam mark. How is that ethical or legal? When teachers send learners home to do their homework and the parent does the project instead, and the teachers get angry … Hypocrisy! How can you get angry at a parent doing a project for their children, when you type up entire programmes for your learners yourself?
  • No transparency – it blows my mind that one person and all their subjectivity and personal baggage, beliefs and preferences makes a decision on his own without knowledge of anything but a once off performance. It’s crazy. The exam system is crazy. One moment, one mark, here, take your box that is represented by a letter of the alphabet that someone, somewhere in history decided to apply to a number they decided to call a percent. There – that letter with a number, that’s what we are going to value you at for this moment, for the rest of your life… all gauged on a once off performance – – – why is humanity still doing this? Maybe learners have learnt the pointlessness of it. The meaninglessness of the mark for that moment. No wonder learners are apathetic these days. How can you motivate a group of soul-hungry, spirit-starved, technology-zombi’d learners with “here, come boy, come, get a mark”? Society and her boxes! It infuriates me so. Learners in the 21st century are more street smart, observant and exposed to hectic realities than any generation that has come before. Sex, drugs, rape, trauma, war, pollution, depression, divorce, immature parents, broken parents, broken homes, animals becoming extinct, technology, abusively orientated television, films and play stations… and examiners want them to roll out “cut and paste”… It’s like this idea of ‘growing’, of ‘engaging with your mind’, applying truth, is just a farce. Examiners still want the same repeated and regurgitated stuff they have always had. It’s like the same regurgitated stuff is the examiners’ comfort zone, what they understand, what they want to see, what they feel comfortable with.

My friend, I’m battling, I’m battling BIG time. I believe in Soul Journey, I believe in the Individual experience, I believe in Individual development into their Own Personal Story, not a generic ‘copy and paste’ reproduction of what someone else did. Not some warped twist to make things plagiarised ‘legally’. I believe in preparing learners for the difficulties that lie ahead in an unknown life that is moving faster than humanity has ever moved before. I believe in learners reaching into themselves to find their own strength, their own character, their own creativity through the tools blessed to them by amazing playwrights. I believe that learners are using the playwrights’ creations to explore the emotions and depths and context of the characters in their own exploratory ways, safely guiding themselves through empathy and depth, truth, authenticity and finding inner peace.

  • The examiner pointed out the strongest performer that he felt was the best in the one group, and I was shocked. The learner had little emotion, little truth, little ability to hold an audience, pronounce the words, or even use diction… the second piece was a whirlwind without technique or story or soul; it was ‘copy and paste’ sans emotion, sans truth, sans believability… The examiner liked the fake / acted / ‘copy and paste’. The bolshie, over-the-top reproduction of the mainstream original. Once again, HUGE conflict for me, huge inner turmoil. I believe performing should mean you have the audience in the palm of your hand; you take the audience on a beautiful journey. Once again, that is MY directing style, my choice, my way of making theatre a living experience that will move Souls and enlighten the Spirit of the Audience members… The examiner wants fake replications. Meaningless copy and pasted musical pieces. Seriously? How can I now continue to teach these learners, knowing that my agenda is not for them to go out and copy and paste, but to go out on a journey with themselves, a journey that goes deeper into themselves and moves their humanity to touch a place of integrity, empathy and wisdom?

I’m stuck in a system that I don’t believe in, but that the people around me have vested their everything into, their limited personal journeys of truth marking my learners’ in depth journeys with their truths… how does that work?

  • A talented actor can stand on the stage with nothing and make the audience feel everything. A talented actor doesn’t need props or costume to bring the stage to life and engage with the audience. A talented actor uses nothing but who they are and who they can become and the rawness of bare-naked truth, exposing themselves completely. . . But, you have to have an engaged, switched-on, open to interpretation, Spiritually activated and responsively intuitive examiner to ‘get’ the talent and efforts of the child, as I see them. You also need an examiner whose love language is words… An examiner who cares about the words and deeper meaning, not just the spectacle and entertainment that can be created by someone who can contort their face into various facial expressions to ‘keep an audience member’s visual attention’. If you look at the majority of the world’s population, they do not use over-the-top facial expressions. Most are so guarded in everything that they do that they don’t reveal anything in their facial expression… So if there is a learner whose facial expression doesn’t exude ‘ott’, then that learner is penalized for what they are physically unable to do… isn’t that discrimination?
  • 17 / 18 year old Drama students are NOT professional performers, so why are they being marked on a level that is expected from professionals? And aged professionals at that.
  • 17 / 18 year old Drama students are not taking Drama to go into the profession of performing arts, about 90% of the learners do not have the ‘X-Factor’, but they are giving a whole lot of heart and soul… Surely an academic subject should have different criteria to a professional performance?
  • I have to teach and direct to a performance standard that I have never seen and do not know. I’m required to play to the feedback of the one examiner who I hopefully will not have again next year; but the next examiner may have a completely different preference of style… how do I orientate myself and my learners around a continuously changing and unspecified set of criteria? This process really is pure lunacy. Humans trying to exam creativity, it is pure lunacy…

And puts me in the space of: What am I doing here? How can I help these learners achieve the marks they are so unhealthily desperate for, when I don’t believe in marks, I don’t believe in ‘awards’, I don’t believe in this human world setting the standard for life and creativity? How? If I believe in the beauty of every learner and every performance, how can I be in a system that doesn’t? If my style is facilitation towards learner independence and I am working in a system that believes in teacher control and learner dependence, how am I helping? This is a broken, hurting world, why are we teaching a ‘copy and paste’ work ethic when we need to teach a coping and healing life tools? Why are we teaching ‘reward’ instead of ‘altruism’? Why are we sticking to rigid controls and ‘black and white’ answers in a world where truth is based on perspective and experience and no-one’s interpretation will ever be identical to another’s?

I sit here, stuck. Caught between a knowing of what is truthful and real and what is constructed by people wanting things to be as they want… well aware that as I type, I am wanting things to be seen from ‘my perspective’ and I have no less right to be ‘right’ than anyone else. The boxing system, being applied to people who should be ‘out of the box’, ‘no box required’, is absurd. Drama was never made to be categorised and marked, it was made to explore humanity, reveal humanity to itself, expose truths that should not be kept secret, and open up life to be engaged with on all levels… I feel like the examination session was the antithesis of all I believe, with its secretive, non-transparent marking system, its grids and criteria, its list of boxes that need to be ticked… Dramatic Arts Examining is the Antithesis of the heart and soul of Dramatic Arts… What do I do when the system is opposed to my heart and soul, opposed to my knowing and everything I believe in…

Do I keep going and expose young minds and young lives to my truth, or bow out and let the system of boxes dictate their self-esteem and move their truth into the realm of ‘copy and paste’ for some marks?