Succeeding is far more satisfying than winning is. Long term. Winning is a delight, there can be no doubt about that feeling – to be the best at something is a personal achievement indeed. Whatever that best, be. But the joy that winning brings you is short-lived. You are only ever as good as your latest victory. If you are in the business of winning then you will know that is the truth. The thing about winning is that there will always be someone who can beat you. In the end. That is the way of Nature. Challenges are posed, accepted. Territories are won, lost. Survival of the fittest is nothing to be sniffed at.
Take pride in your successes. Do not rub them in other people’s faces. Be modest, enjoy the freedom that succeeding brings you. Surround yourself with people who will celebrate your successes with you, people who wish to see you succeed at those things you do that mean something to you. It is pointless surrounding yourself with people who wish to see you fall, or fail. That is counter-productive.
Success is empowering. When you set yourself a goal, or give yourself a deadline, you are posing a challenge. Throwing down a gauntlet. When you accept the challenge and then ensure that you do achieve the goal or meet the deadline, you are giving your self esteem a needed boost. The kind of pleasure success brings you feeds your soul. There is a reason for having self esteem, you should pay attention to yours. It is safer to rely on yourself to boost your esteem, when you give another that task you are playing a risky game. Set yourself goals. Give yourself deadlines. Let yourself achieve them. Feed on your successes. They buffer you against failure.
Ignorance is a choice. As is refusing to believe a fact when it is irrefutable. Fortunately facts abound in our world. They provide stability, a framework. Lay-people should not be so afraid of them, they are tried and tested – each one. Facts can be relied upon. They are there for you to use, so use them wisely. It is pointless ignoring them. That is choosing to be stupid. No one should choose to be stupid. Ignorant is not the same as stupid. There is a marked difference. Ignorance is curable. Stupidity is often terminal.
Should you currently find yourself in challenging circumstances do not plead ignorance as to the whys or whens of these tricky situations. You have brought them to yourself. They have arrived because you needed to learn something new. It is simpler to accept lessons when they come, trust that there is a reason. Lessons occasionally bend you out of shape. They push your boundaries. This is not a problem. Stretching through learning is worth every squeak and groan of the expanding infrastructure in your mind. When you begin to eradicate your ignorance through deliberate effort you will find that your life opens up immeasurably. You will find that you start to care more about the world in which you live because you understand it better.
Educate your children. Then teach them to have patience with ignorance. There are a lot of ignorant people on this planet and the children are the ones who are going to have to remedy this situation. It is the next generation that is going to carry that load. As a people we should think more about what we are consigning to our kids. The society they are set to inherit is not looking good. It is going to take a monumental effort on the part of those currently in power to make this different. One would hope that those currently in power understand their responsibility.
How is it possible in 2014 that the ANC can be in such a mess? How can they be sitting with a leader who has evaded the law on charges of corruption, of rape, and now – of theft? You cannot have a president as a role model who refuses to take accountability. For himself, for anything. Jacob Zuma authorised the spending of a quarter of a billion rand on his private residence. The fact that it is a quarter of a billion rand is problem enough, nevermind the other fact that a great many of Jacob Zuma’s ‘people’ are living in tin shacks whilst he prances around in a palace. I think he thought no one was watching what business he gets up to, what plans he makes. Everyone is watching. He is in the spotlight, under scrutiny, and he cannot run and hide. He needs to learn that taking accountability for yourself is the first of many steps that a man must make if he is going to be respected, and remembered. I am sure Jacob Zuma is a man who wants to be remembered. He must be sure he is remembered for the right things.
It is not a teacher’s job to teach a child accountability. It is a parent’s job. A teacher’s job is to reinforce what the parents teach their child, a teacher works from the base foundations laid by the parents. Do not expect teachers to bring up your children when you cannot be bothered. A child must understand accountability the same way it must understand consequence. If you make a decision and you act on that decision, you are accountable for what you bring into your days. You must take accountability for your thoughts, too, I have said this before. Your thoughts are energy, they are not just there for your entertainment.
Taking accountability is standing for yourself. If you are not inclined to do this you must accept that you are letting an empowerment opportunity pass you by. If you will not even stand for your own ideas who do you think will listen to them? No one can stand for you better than you can stand for yourself – in the face of anything at all. But first, you must learn yourself well. You cannot stand for something you do not know. If you are afraid to take accountability for a mistake you have made then how can you learn from it? Do you just carry on as usual, pretending there was no mistake, and hope the problem goes away by itself? I think that is what Jacob Zuma thinks.
If you should hate small talk as much as I happen to hate it, these questions may make a difference to your experience on a crowded aeroplane, a busy bus. At a stilted family meal. The questions make for excellent small talk with people who have no clue how to speak from the heart – or they produce an interesting silence. I wonder which is more interesting some days. If you must talk to strangers and you are not inclined one bit towards feeding them with the kind of small talk they require, ignore them or ask a few of these provocative questions. They are funny. The people. When you ask them.
Questionnaire from Max Frisch
(From his Sketchbook, 1961-1971)
1. Are you really interested in the preservation of the human race once you and all the people you know are no longer alive?
2. State briefly why.
3. How many of your children do not owe their existence to deliberate intention?
4. Whom would you rather never have met?
5. Are you conscious of being in the wrong in relation to some other person (who need not necessarily be aware of it)? If so, does this make you hate yourself — or the other person?
6. Would you like to have perfect memory?
7. Give the name of a politician whose death through illness, accident, etc. would fill you with hope. Or do you consider none of them indispensible?
8. Which person or persons, now dead, would you like to see again?
9. Which not?
10. Would you rather have belonged to a different nation (or civilization)? If so, which?
11. To what age do you wish to live?
12. If you had the power to put into effect things you consider right, would you do so against the wishes of the majority? (Yes or no)
13. Why not, if you think they are right?
14. Which do you find it easier to hate, a group or an individual? And do you prefer to hate individually or as part of a group?
15. When did you stop believing you could become wiser–or do you still believe it? Give your age.
16. Are you convinced by your own self-criticism?
17. What in your opinion do others dislike about you, and what do you dislike about yourself? If not the same thing, which do you find it easier to excuse?
18. Do you find the thought that you might never have been born (if it ever occurs to you) disturbing?
19. When you think of someone dead, would you like him to speak to you, or would you rather say something more to him?
20. Do you love anybody?
21. How do you know?
22. Let us assume that you have never killed another human being. How do you account for it?
23. What do you need in order to be happy?
24. What are you grateful for?
25. Which would you rather do: die or live on as a healthy animal? Which animal?
Do we all have the same psychology when it comes to seeking protection? Is the drive of an asylum-seeker the same as the tendency a child has to hide behind its parents’ legs? Are women entering into marriages sold in catalogues because the prospect of a new life – a better life with a man that’s buying – outweighs the thought of having to sell yourself to get there? Perhaps the illusion of safety is what causes many women to marry men they really should not be marrying. Men, after all, are the protectors. They have always been the protectors. Some men are cut out for this kind of work. Others are not. Choose wisely what you need in a partner – both men and women should choose carefully – and remember that you do not need to marry the first person you become involved with or become familiar with. You cannot even begin to appreciate a person until you have learned who it is that they are. That learning does not take three minutes.
You cannot find a mould that men ‘ought’ to fit in this day and age, their role is varied. There are providers and protectors, there are hands-on dads and house-husbands. There are workaholics and sugar-daddies. There are a lot of men dealing with women who have daddy issues. Perhaps the women with daddy issues were deprived of that ‘protected’ feeling as children. Perhaps theirs’ were absent fathers. Shy fathers. Scared fathers. Aggressive fathers. The balance in society is out. There are too many females seeking protection in a world whose hard currency is women. If ever there was a catch 22, that is it. That means women need to become stronger still, work smarter. This world is in flux and those who do not change with it stand to lose their futures.
Women are entitled to protect themselves from every kind of abuse. How they do that is their enterprise. Men are as entitled as women are, to protect themselves. It is vital to know that you cannot make vulnerable a person who stands for themselves. Standing for yourself is like suiting up in armour. It is an act of courage. A wise idea. When you get to a place where you expect ultimate protection from none other than yourself and the tools made available to you, you are stronger than any abuser, any violator’s tactics. Do not allow yourself to be belittled, no matter who you are. Protect yourself from others’ bitterness and protect yourself from becoming a mere number here on Earth. There is more to life than being a number.
Tonight the flaming hoops story is new. The tigers have rewritten the script.
The vampires can feel something is up. They swarm to the ticket office.
The tent has a maximum capacity.
This is one show no one is keen to miss.
No one will miss it. It will be pirated and sold on.
That is always the way. They will make the copy worthwhile.
This night, yesss, this one, there will be blood.
A great deal of blood.
The ringmaster just doesn’t know it yet.
The lions have yet to weigh in.
They have thus far remained silent, detached.
That is the luxury of a lion’s say-so in today’s world.
Watch out for what the lions discuss when no one is watching.
They have evolved from circus freaks into machines bred for the bullet.
How advanced is Natural technology? They are under no illusions.
They will always be King of the Jungle.
Go and ask Mowgli. He will tell you what is what.
The vampires bring their progeny to a show such as this.
It is worth the corruption of their young souls.
To see the wild win for a change will lift morale.
The children will bay like wolves. It is their instinct.
The dogs will not perform well if their slot is after that of the cats.
The baying of wolves will unsettle their senses.
For the first time, they will feel divided. It makes sense to divide a pack.
It confuses the master.
The Master. The vampires snigger into their sleeves.
Now that was funny.
What would excite the patrons was the blood-trade spectacle.
It would bring the animals’ eyes alive. It would be best if the hoops were afire.
That would add atmosphere.
If the ringmaster left the gate ajar, that would add atmosphere.
Once he was dead, beheaded, what stood between the angry cats and man?
Vampires in human form die human deaths. That was the dare.
It was their choice to visit the circus on a wild Friday night.
At moonrise it will become clear who sleeps, who wakes.
The tigers have made sure of that.
The fact that the ringmaster came back disappoints many of the circus performers.
Their sentence seemed shorter the other way, when the circus ran itself.
Not to worry. After the cats come the clowns.
They would make everyone smile. It was their job.
They were paid to clown around, so they must clown.
They had better bring the house down.
If they failed, they would be fired. A simple understanding between puppets and master.
Master. The clowns grumble his status into cupped palms that they fling wide, sideways.
They throw out the name with determination. A curse to be rid of.
Send it out. Out. OUT. There is no space in the tent for curses.
The animals can hear their dense man-whispers. The hiss of spit hitting dry hands.
Circus people were superstitious with good reason. Be careful what you summon.
The curses must stay outside.
They are on the naughty step until they learn the first aspect of values.
The gypsy sits outside in her painted caravan. It rests on the backs of two pitch horses.
The red looks good against their black.
She reads for people. Whoever, whatever. She follows the circus and she speaks out.
‘Cross my palm with gold,’ is what she wants to say, with a wink.
She says deadpan, ‘Five bucks, fifty.’
It is not just the wild animals whose eyes have died.