Dear BraveHeartsFrontiers PeopleOne of my favourite writers, the Nigerian poet Ben Okri, has said the following, from which I take my inspiration for the inaugural BraveHeart newsletter of the new decade.........
“The antagonists of poets and other transformers are those who refuse to see the fluid nature of reality, who cannot perceive that each individual reality is different…….. There are as many worlds as there are lives. The problem is with those who are frightened of the rather limitless validity of the imagination, of people who continue to extend the boundaries of the possible. People who ceaselessly re-dream the world and reinvent existence: frontiers people of the unknown and the unchartered.”
I’m in unchartered territory as I write, and I have been having a pretty frontiers-y time of it over my holiday season break from work. Since early December, I have been knee-deep in cardboard boxes, clutter clearing, throwing out, giving away, packing up and readying myself to leave the place that has been home for the last 20 years. This beautiful sanctuary in which I have raised my two sons, and lived my life in South Africa ever since I reached her shores in June 1999.
As a family, we are all standing at thresholds – each one personal to ourselves. My first born is leaving academic life and facing the world of work (fingers crossed). My youngest is leaving home and heading north to College, moving in with his beloved, and taking three of our four cats with him. For my husband and I, though we move together, this next move undoubtedly means different things. For him, I suspect it is more of a next step into a bigger, and long-held dream. For me, it is a teetering totter along a continuum with anticipation at one end and apprehension at the other. Together, however, we will not be staring down the empty nest. Instead, we are renting it out to people for whom it will be a heaven-sent patch of paradise, and we are experimenting with simple living by moving into our local caravan park.
In her upcoming visit to South Africa, I am anticipating that Nancy Kline may be sharing more with those of us who get to spend time with her (either by attending Collegiate gatherings in Johannesburg or Cape Town) or at one of her Master Class events in both cities, of her freshest thinking on the topic of the Component of Difference (formerly named Diversity) as it relates to the complex issue of identity. When I attended the October Collegiate event in London, Nancy invited us to explore the possibility of letting go of the labels with which we identify, labels which are nouns, and which tend to produce the opposite of what I believe Ben Okri refers to when he speaks of the “limitless validity of the imagination”. Identity is something which often binds us, in ways that prevent us from truly thinking for ourselves, from truly engaging in the reinventing of our existence that Okri invites us to consider. So instead of thinking of myself as “mother” or “woman” or “white”, I could instead imagine myself to be a human being engaged in a life best thought of in verbs. A human being who is moving, who is simplifying, who is exploring, who is shifting her relationship to parenting and who is dreaming up new possibilities, who is stepping over the lintel, transversing, letting go, letting come.
I thought a bit about resolutions, the way one does when one calendar year is ending and a new one is beginning. A resolution is a noun. And they have a way of fast becoming stagnant. I like this idea of being verbs instead of nouns. The verb I chose for my new decade is soul-making.
James Hillman, one of my favourite philosophers has this to say about soul-making:
“By soul I mean perspective……[that is]……reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed there is a reflective moment – and soul making means differentiating this middle ground.”
Between leaving one shore and finding another lies the liminal space where what is dying, what is being lost, or let go of, still shapes us, and where what we are dreaming up has no shape yet, cannot even been seen, can only be glimpsed fleetingly, and then only peripherally, with a quick side-ways glance. With every box I pack, and every heirloom I let go I am stepping more and more into that liminal land, soul making as each thing leaves my hands to end up somewhere else.
I am, as another favourite poet suggests “living the questions” (Rainer Maria Rilke), for, as he said in his letter to a young aspiring poet, in this way perhaps I will then “…..gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
In the meantime, I am hugely buoyed by this beautiful poem that came to me via The Network for Grateful Living (a source of great joy in my life), and I offer it to you as a way to end off January’s newsletter. May your year be filled with life’s rich, abundant, mysterious roller-coaster ride of shore leaving, adventure making and a fair dollop of safe harbours along the way, and may you find yourself filled with the imagination of a frontiers person as you re-dream and reinvent with courage and with joy.
The Call BY RICHARD WEHRMAN
It’s not the day on the calendar that makes the New Year new, it’s when the old year dies that the new year gets born. It’s when the ache in your heart breaks open, when new love makes every cell in your body align. It’s when your baby is born, it’s when your father and mother die. It’s when the new Earth is discovered and it’s the ground you’re standing on. The old year is all that is broken, the ash left from all those other fires you made; the new year kindles from your own spark, catches flame and consumes all within that is old, withered and dry. The New Year breaks out when the eye sees anew, when the heart breathes open locked rooms, when your dead branches burst into blossom, when the Call comes with no doubt that it’s calling to you.