End of the World: 1 January 2015

August 31, 2009

The calendar on my cheap Samsung cellphone only goes up to 31 December 2014. Do they have so little faith in their own product that they do not think it will make it that long? Or has the news been leaked, and the people at Samsung have slipped up and shared the privileged information, who knows why was given to them first,  that 1 January 2015 is indeed the day of earth’s destruction?

Either way you look at it, they just don’t make things like they used to.


Unite against child abuse: Michael Jackson Day

August 31, 2009

Last week in my grade 6 Life Orientation my lesson was on different forms of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. This week I gave the learners a challenge to come up with ideas for potential fundraisers we can do at school to raise money for Childline, an organization that offers a free hotline, counselling and other support services for children who have been victims of abuse.

The learners brainstormed in groups, wrote down ideas and then they each took turns presenting their ideas to the rest of the class. There were loads of wonderful ideas! I wrote them all on the board and we narrowed them down to the top three.

And the most popular idea of those three was Michael Jackson Day, which more than one group had actually come up with.

Michael Jackson Day, to raise money for an organization which works with victims of child abuse.

The kids did not think anything of it. I did, and chuckled inside. What do you think?

Heeeeeee heeeeee! SHAMONE!

Lessons from a Rabid, Hyperactive, Mystical Horse

August 29, 2009

Yesterday when we showed up to the Equine Session we were greeted by a mammoth, dark brown horse, stomping, snorting, jolting, and galloping up and down the fence line, head erect and tail sticking straight up in the air. As we stepped into the arena this horse, who I will call Free Will, made his presence known. He clomped, and snorted, raced loudly past the group, jumped into the air, dug in the sand with his giant hoof, shook his head dramatically making a growling-type noise, and at one point, he even laid on the ground and rolled around in the sand like a dog trying to scratch its back.

This mystifying creature that towered over us reminded me of a cross between a hyperactive kid, a rabid dog, a wild stallion, and a playful dragon. Needless to say the guys were a bit intimidated by Free Will. The other horse in the arena, fairly unnoticed was a short, stubby looking light brown Palomino, unassuming, not calling attention to itself, calm, and just chilling in one place. The guys were asked about why they felt Free Will was acting the way he was. Some thought he was angry, others thought he was happy. Some thought he was showing off, others thought he was just curious about a new surrounding. Some felt he didn’t want to be there, others felt he felt free there. They all mutually felt that working with, and most definitely conquering, Free Will would be a challenge bordering impossible. And they were intimidated and terrified of him.

The facilitator gave them their challenge of the day. There was an obstacle, two poles (approximately ten meters in length) crossing each other and propped up (standing about two feet high) by buckets, right smack dab in the middle of the field. The guys were asked to, decide as a group, and name that obstacle as an obstacle that they regularly come across in day-to-day life. Then, as a group, they must try and get one of the horses to jump over the obstacle, conquering it. The guys named the obstacle “temptation”; resembling different things for different guys. They were told they could start with either horse.

They chose snorting, stomping, racing, Free Will and fearfully yet confidently went straight for him.

Free Will

At first they did not really work as a group very well. Free Will teased them, running all the way to one side of the field and waiting until they got there, then running to the other side, whinnying what I am sure was a horse laugh. The sensitive animal also picked up on their nervousness of him, which made him even more high strung than he already seemed. Eventually, the guys adjusted their strategy, became calmer, worked as a group and managed to contain Free Will in a specific area of the arena, not far from Temptation. This was the interesting point.

Free Will completely calmed down and began to eat grass. He was no longer stomping and snorting and running, but he also was not budging. They had Free Will restricted to a certain area but not controlled, and they could not get him to move. Free Will was happy exactly where he was. He lacked motivation and was content with his grass. They guys were patient, and for the next hour they kept Free Will contained, but could not get him to move towards the obstacle. Early on, three of the youngest guys became frustrated with the task, and maybe also bored. At first they goofed off, pushed each other in the direction of the big scary horse, laughed, made jokes, tickled Free Will on his belly with grass, and were generally disruptive towards the goal of getting Free Will to jump over the obstacle of Temptation. The other group members became frustrated with them. The youngsters didn’t care. After a while they gave up and went over to sit on the fence.

Then I watched as the remaining group members, totally absorbed in their task, tried to get Free Will to move. They were determined to get Free Will to overcome Temptation and it seemed that they forgot another world existed around them; some of these guys I know have overcame enormous temptation in their own lives, and some I know are still struggling with huge temptations on a daily basis. Those guys saw the depth in the challenge, and it meant more to them than getting a big horse to go over some stupid poles. It was more than an exercise, this was their life. 

I thought about the three youngsters sitting over on the fence, whose group involvement had actually been counter effective. All three are around the age of 16, and have maybe not been burned by the temptations of life the way the other older group members have. I actually know for a fact they haven’t. Even with the temptations they do face daily, the youngsters are still in that flirty phase, where they are not so sure they don’t want it in their lives. They did not seem to care much about getting Free Will to overcome Temptation, and actually ended up being a distraction for the others that did. The others, they remained focused and unwavering. They tirelessly tried, but in the end time ran out and they never got Free Will to jump over Temptation.

They were disappointed in the end. In feedback they mourned that they had not accomplished the task, getting Free Will to overcome Temptation. The facilitator disagreed. She first of all noted that they had taken a huge challenge in the first place, choosing Free Will and not the docile palomino. Then she explained that Free Will was a race horse, and a champion at that, and he is not easy to work with. She said that merely getting him contained like they did was a huge victory, because a group of addicts she had worked with in a previous group had not even been able to get the snorting, stomping, running Free Will contained. For the addicts, Free Will ran from them, pushed them, intimidated them, and controlled them. So the group being able to simply contain Free Will, and calm him down, was an enormous success. I saw the guys’ chests begin to swell back up a bit from their deflated stature.

My thoughts and reflections from watching the group of young men trying to get Free Will to jump over that Temptation are endless; some of their actions impressing, some insulting. But I can’t help but see the great semblance between this exercise with a horse, and the challenges I see the guys face in life, as I watch them trying to get their snorting, stomping, racing free wills contained, but then not stopping there and getting their free wills to overcome the obstacles and temptations of their lives. It’s a painful privilege to be a part of.

District 9 gets my two alien thumbs up!

August 28, 2009

Man, I still have that excited, giddy feeling a little kid gets on Christmas morning! District 9 opened in cinemas here in South Africa tonight and I watched it, with a packed out cinema of proud South Africans. It was an original South African story (even if it was fictional) with a fully South African cast (thankfully with no yanks trying to pull off accents they cannot)! And the cast “brought it” with a truly international performance! The special effects were awesome. The story line was gripping. I laughed, I gasped, and I probably would have cried at times if I would not have been so excited about how much I was loving the film.

And I wasn’t the only one! When the credits started rolling in the end, the entire people-packed theatre erupted in applause. It was a great moment! I can’t remember the last time I was in a movie that received an applause. It made me proud to see how proud, and “ready”, the South African public is for original, well told South African stories, outside the genres of South African films they are normally fed. It gives me hope for certain films that I would like to see get made; films that I would like to make my self. And it answers some questions I had when I wrote the other blog on the SA film industry just a few days ago. So…if you haven’t seen it yet, go out and watch it! District 9!

I know who I am, thanks to Facebook!

August 26, 2009

I stayed home sick today. I wrote a blog, watched disk two of the second season of Dexter, and stared at my computer screen for waaaaaaaay too long! I also took a bunch of quizzes on Facebook. Man, now I don’t have to struggle with this identity crisis anymore! I know exactly who I am!

Here are the quizzes I took, and results:

Which famous or imfamous woman in history are you? Joan of Arc

Which Gilligan’s Island character are you? Professor

What Muppet are you? Fozzie Bear

What dead rock star are you? John Lennon

How long would you survive in a horror film? You survive!

What body part are you? Helping hand

Which Disney Princess are you? You are Mulan from “Mulan” (1998)

What Office character are you? Jim Halpert

What’s your ghetto nickname? June Bug

True age Test: 38 years old

Scary Horse

August 25, 2009

I realised something pretty powerful and maybe very obvious today, through some young men and a couple of horses. Yep. You heard me. Young men and horses.

I am privileged enough to get to attend Equine Assisted Therapy and Life Skills with some young dudes I am friends with. I know that is a mouthful, and the word “equine” makes me feel funny for some reason. I dont’ like to say it. And the word therapy can also be scary for us guys.  But man! Don’t let those words put you off because this is one powerful thing to take part in!

For those of you that don’t know, Equine Therapy is basically therapy using horses. So the people taking part interact with the horses and the horses, being the incredible creatures they are, do all the work, allowing the human facilitators to merely observe and feedback what is happening in the arena.

The horses are incredibly sensitive and intelligent animals. They pick up on every little feeling, attitude and motive the participants have. And they simply reflect that back through their behaviour. For example, last week when we showed up to the first session, all the guys (15 in total) were a bit nervous, and the horse stood straight up, body completely erect, in front of the group, wide eyed, ears sticking straight up, looking something like a horse crack addict.

The other amazing thing that happens during the group sessions is to see how the participants work with and behave with one another, and the horse, as they try and carry out the tasks they are given. Tasks like, “get that enormous, stubborn horse that stomps and bites, to walk through those two poles…without touching the horse! Yeah! Pretty difficult. But it can be done! How the participants approach the task, and deal with the fellow participants, is also a mirror image of how they interact with the world, and others they regularly come into contact with. And all of this is debriefed and talked about throughout the session, and in the end. Very enlightening! 

I hope I am not boring you, but I assure you words can do it no justice! You have to see it and experience it for yourself. But until then, back to my point: the powerful, yet maybe obvious thing I learned today.

The young men were given the very task I mentioned before, to get the horse to walk in between two poles, without touching it. They were given no advice, no help, and just told to work as a group. At first it was an unorganized chaos. They were all just doing their own thing, making noise, throwing grass, going in their own directions, and they made no grounds with the horse.

But then they regrouped, and made a plan. They assigned a leader. They spoke about how calmer body language would help and also agreed not to make loud noise. They said they must trust each other and they must not be scared of the horse, or at least try not to show it, and in the case that they feel scared, take a step back and allow the braver ones to be in front. They had a plan.

They went back out to conquer the horse with this new strategy. They made a little ground but were still struggling, but this time, they communicated properly, and changed their strategies as they went. They spontaneously decided to all hold hands and surround the horse and walk it into the poles. And after a few minutes, that is exactly what they did.

During the feedback session one of the guys was talking about how he felt vulnerable and scared because some of the group members would teasingly hold his hand and pull him closer to the horses backside, a known dangerous area of a horse. The young man perceptively pointed out that the guys who acted like that, goofing off yet putting others in danger, were actually just scared, and that is why they acted like that. They were scared of the horse, scared of the task, and so they just messed around. Man!

How many young people have I seen do the same in life?! They have all the potential in the world, but do things that look like self sabotage, through negative behaviour patterns. But what a realization to think that negative behavior actually stems out of a fear. A fear they won’t succeed. A fear they will never reach their goal. A fear that the goal is way to high, or far, or big to achieve. A fear that they do not even have a goal.

I know I have done the same thing at certain points in my life. And I know manypeople that have, and still do it as well. But how wonderful is it, when we are in a place of fear, to know that the person beside us is there to hold our hand in support, and not to pull us closer to danger. We have no control over the guy whose hand we are holding, but we have control over our self. Maybe we can’t change the behavior of the person holding our hand, but we can be the supporting hand that he or she may need. Because he or she is probably just scared.

My Visit to Some Parallel Universes

August 25, 2009

Why did thoughts about parallel universes keep me up the other night? I am not usually one for entertaining contemplations of the Sci-Fi nature. Not that I have anything against it. I guess my brain just doesn’t really engage much content about aliens and cyborgs and worlds controlled by robots and so on. Looking at the world we live, mostly controlled by computers, maybe I should? I don’t know. But the other night all I could think about was parallel universes.

I don’t even know if I really know what a parallel universe is. I even had to Google it. And even after that, in my Sci-Fi ignorance, I still don’t know if I have the right idea of what a parallel universe is. But in the context of my thoughts the other night, in my own definition, a parallel universe consisted of another world, just like ours, but 100 years in the past.

When I say, “just like ours”, I mean our literal world exactly; our ancestors, our history, our literal world one hundred years ago. But we, in this world we live, have the ability to just watch and observe the other world. Ok, so it’s really not a parallel universe at all! It’s merely “history”. But let’s just say we had the capacity to observe history, as it was happening, which I guess would make it more of a parallel universe than just history. Anyways, I don’t want to keep getting hung up on mere terminology.

 The other night I started thinking about what our reactions would be to that world. How would we react to certain “norms” of society that have changed so drastically in the past hundred years? What would we think is great? What would we think is preposterous? What would we think is “right”? What would we think is “wrong”? What would we see, observe, and think?

 The lack of technology making things more difficult, or more simple. The way women and children are treated. The way kids are punished. The way criminals are punished. The way people of different races are treated, or mistreated. The way science, psychology and health are looked upon. The positive and negative effects of information not being as available and accessible to all.

 I am sure we would look at this “backwards” world and scoff at many things. But I also wonder how many people would look at it, longing for those things to return. And I am not purely talking about the positive things, like a simpler way of life. I am also talking about the negative things, like how whole groups of people were allowed to treat entire other groups of people so terribly, and get away with it, and actually benefit from it!

 Then I started thinking about another parallel universe; a world that is 100 years ahead of ours. I began to wonder, when they observed our world, what did they look at, judge, long for, scoff at, think was totally ridiculous, when they watched us. What aspects of life, aspects that are totally “normal” to us, do the members of the parallel universe of the future look at and think are totally ludicrous and bizarre?

 I have ideas of certain things that might stand out but I would not be so presumptuous to put thoughts and words into the mouths of these citizens of the future. But I do think it could be an important exercise; to look back 100 years and see how things were, and look now to see how things are and to think about how these “norms” of today might be seen 100 years down the line. What can we learn from these parallel universes of the past and future? Maybe we should spend some time and effort to really engage this thought. Or maybe I just need to stick to not thinking about aliens and cyborgs and parallel universes!