Lessons from the Dragon: Courage and Reality

On a recent hike to the Injisuthi region of the magnificent Drakensberg, I learnt and experienced many things.

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Above all I was inspired by the courage shown by Samuel, courage and attitude. When we arrived at the first swimming hole, ice cold, very deep water; I pushed him in since he was the only guy to still enter! He coud not swim at all! When Xavi approached to help, Samuel nearly drowned him too! Luckily Tom was around to push everyone to safety. To my amazement Samuel was not angry, he saw his experience as a victory. The next day, at Marble baths, the team building require everyone to go down a slide and end up in a turbulent pool. Again Samuel was the last man standing, so Doc and I helped him in with some encouragement and some gentle force. He did it. And coming up from the water he hugged Tom for about a minute and had literal tears of joy, relief and pride. It was awesome.

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Besides the courage shown by Samuel, the whole hike was awesome. Not fake awesome, but real awesome. The kind of good and real that is hard to produce in a workshop or classroom. I had a bit of conflict with Tshepo because despite being smart and good, he fell into the habit of always making excuses when called on a mistake or error. I pointed it out and it seemed a bit hard for him to take. But he kept at it and although the habit of making excuses or jokes instead of owning up will take time to kick, Tshepo is in it and doing great. My chommie. He posted this pic and funny description on Facebook after a few days:

The last morning of the hike was a bit of a downer. Three of the guys started making noise at 4am, robbing us of two hours sleep and then we discovered that one kid did his number two in the footpath! The reflections about these things were more depressing than the actual problems, and we headed back to the camp with a muted vibe. On the trip back to Joburg I became very ill. Headaches and vomiting buckets full! Never again salami on a hike!

I loved the whole experience, the ups and downs, the jokes, the deep stuff, the tiredness, the beauty. Real stuff. The hike was not perfect, but it was real. We all take years to change, but I would like to believe this hike stimulated something important in all of us. My highlight has to be from Tshepo, again. For most of the youths the hiking food is a mega culture shock, and when I discovered today that Tshepo took what he learnt and applied it to daily life I was more than chuffed. Provita instead of pap or bread! Priceless.

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Friends and the Art of Living

We mostly meet people through other people. I can’t claim any of my good friends as an independent product of my cleverness. It does not matter who introduce me to a person, what is important is the ability to see, really see a new person when we meet them. The art of living and the creation of a quality life is inextricably linked to our ability to choose friends. Some acquaintances are nice and good to keep in our lives, but at arms length. Other folk are better stayed away from or even deliberately cut out of our lives. Yet the crucial one is to figure out the five or six people you will allow close to you. It is a crucial decision, firstly because you just have so much time and every hour you give to one person is an hour denied to numerous others. Secondly, we become like our friends in that their thinking and values rub off on us. If you want to know yourself, look at your closest friends. A bit of crazy diversity here and there might be in place, but be sure to spend the bulk of your time with friends that are smart, authentic, inspiring and good.

If i evaluate my own life, I have hundreds of people I could consider friends and I don’t mean Facebook friends. So who do I give my time to? Its tricky. Sometimes life makes us grow apart and awesome people just drift away due to various reasons. I can think of school, university and church friends that fall in this category and there is no real reason for being disconnected, other than drifting apart through diverse lifestyles. I also have about five people in my life that I don’t see because of conflict, people I don’t want to talk to because I view them as either stupid or harmful (or they might be ex’s). I often think of them, feel bad, but I don’t have any desire to patch things up. Some friends are fun to hang out with, they make me feel good on a superficial level. But my best friends are those that motivate and inspire me to be a better person, not by talking but by who they are and how they live. Some people do not even see a great friend or person if they stand right in front of them! If you search for cool, you won’t find good.

I am very lucky in that I meet hundreds of nice and good people. Yet, my true fortune lies in the grace that I had, that I, as a naughty, funny kid, managed to meet (and became friends with) incredible human beings. I wont mention them, yet I think of at least 20 awesome people I am allowed to call friends and about five of them form part of my inner-circle.

We all need something from each other. We all stick to a friend because of some selfish reason. There are also unselfish reasons and moments, but don’t let that blind you to your unspoken needs! We get something valuable from a person or we move on. The more incomplete you are as a person, the more you will choose silly friends that plug the wrong holes. I need friends that help me to see beauty, that help me to live selflessly, that makes me smarter, that teach me how to care, that recognise that I am special, that show me what it means to be a human. There is nothing as precious as a human who reveals humanity.

Some people seek party animals as friends, I seek fully aware humans. To each his/her own I guess.

At primary school on a prefect camp, Johan Niemand said something I never forgot: “we can do anything we want, as long as we are happy to live with the consequences” – pretty smart for a 12-year old.