Perusing the daily newspaper yesterday morning, I was intrigued by the background story about a 5K walk due to take place in Cape Town the following morning.  It was being held by an International Charity which counsels people with suicidal tendencies.   This annual event is part of a worldwide movement allowing people to identify with those suffering from such serve trauma that ending their life appears to them to be the only solution.

My Personal Motivation

Some personal motivations for participating in this walk, starting in the dark at 6.30 in the morning entered my mind.   In my lineage, there is a strong genetic predisposition to mood disorder.   A number of my antecedents, including my mother, decided to prematurely end their own life, a factor which was dominated my awareness when confronting my own ongoing personal challenges.

Then there was a rather strange negative reason driving me to make an effort to support this worthy cause.   I had been unfairly denied the opportunity to participate in a sporting competition over the weekend.  Some form of justification could be made in being forced to remain on the sidelines, as I now had the opportunity to support a wonderful cause which had counselled over 20 000 people with suicidal tendencies.

The starting time for this event was 30 minutes before sunrise.   The symbolism of walking from the darkness into the light caught my imagination.   This transformation was a metaphor not only for saving a life but also the positive emotional changes which happen when a potential suicide victim accepts psychological counselling and is assisted in seeing their life journey more positively.

Getting Registered for the Event

Having decided to take part in the walk, I was presented with the challenge of entering the event online.   While the newspaper article explicitly encouraged members of the public to involve themselves in this public-spirited activity, the report did not contain any information about the online registration procedure.   I phoned the newspaper which featured the article, to learn that the staff do not work on a Friday.  The write-up appeared in the Friday morning edition of a publication which does not publish on Saturday, so the team have Fridays off work!  As the walk was the following day, this presented a problem.

The young lady of Independent News recognising my earnest desire for this vital contact information offered to do some research and then to phone me back.   True to her word, she contacted me twenty minutes later with details of the website www.darknessintolight.ie   I made my donation online and was all set to go.

Getting up in the Dark

It was a strange feeling getting up at 5.30 on a Saturday morning.   Past experiences of making such an early start would have been to catch a flight or to leave before the traffic intensifies.   In this instance, it is to perform a task of compassion before the light of day emerges!

Reaching my destination, a crowd of several hundred people had already gathered in anticipation of the 5K walk.   On the dot of 6.30, the organisers offered an inspiring talk about the work of this initiative, its worldwide influence,  and the benefits of many families who had reacted positively to the psychological support they had received from psychological counselling.    The suggestion was that the first kilometre is walked in silence, allowing each participant to tune into their own feelings and their personal motivation for undertaking this exercise.   This was profoundly meaningful for me as I reviewed my relationship with my mother and had the feeling that she would be proud of me for undertaking this challenge.

Positive Interactions

The bonus of this outing was getting into a conversation with Gerette, a delightful teacher of High School English.  She introduced me to her husband, who was completing the walk in a wheelchair. This had been his means of transport since having been involved in a motorcycle accident while in high school.   Lukas, their son, had accompanied his father for the first 4 K’s of the walk, but decided to join his mother and me for the last stretch, as his father was going too fast in his wheelchair!   I chatted to Dad about his speediness after the walk, and he explained that he has less hard work to do when moving more quickly as the momentum kept him going with less manual effort.

I felt a deep sense of gratitude on the completion of this effort and wore my new bright yellow t-shirt for the rest of the day.   This allowed me further opportunity to spread the word about the significance of “From Darkness into light”

 

There was a time, not so long ago, when words like Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and ‘the spectrum’ were not part of the everyday vocabulary.    Today you hear such cynical comments as, “If you are a grandparent and have not at least one child on the Autistic Spectrum, then you do not really qualify for the job!

Similarly, concepts such as Transgender, or LGBTI were little known and certainly not spoken about when I was growing up.  So I was mildly shocked and amused last month when two of my friends, with whom I have had a relationship for 60 years, visited Cape Town from overseas. One friend travelled South from the USA, and her sister flying West from Australia.   Each of these mature ladies spoke quite openly and acceptingly, about having a grandchild who has recently come out as transgender.

Family in Transition

Consequently, it was with some degree of pleasurable anticipation that I attended a documentary film last night entitle Family in Transition.   Both the Director, Ofir Trainin, and one of the protagonists Amit Tzuk attended the Cape Town premier and interacted with the audience after the screening of this award-winning Israeli film.

The film opens with a celebratory scene at the wedding of Amit and Gilat displaying the joy and anticipation of their new marriage.  They had been friends since the age of 15, and this was the culmination of their close relationship and commitment to each other. As the story unfolds, the audience is made aware of the loving relationship between the parents and the four delightful children they have brought into the world and reared with love, devotion and positivity.   The off-spring consist of one son and three daughters all of whom are depicted as warm well-adjusted youngsters who enjoy strong family ties.

Coming Out

Some time into the presentation, the audience is made aware of Amit’s feeling of alienation in his own body and his need to transition as a woman.   With amazement, the audience learns of the tremendous degree of acceptance Amit achieves, not only from Galit but also her children who refer to her in the third person as “she” without any trace of embarrassment or unhappiness – in fact with total acceptance.   At a coming out party we also witness the acceptance of the couple’s social circle – it seems as if only the older generation struggle with the situation.

There is a delightful scene in which one of the daughters of about 12 years, lying on her bed, is introspecting about her parents’ having a disagreement.    She displays uncommon maturity when she concludes, “I don’t know why they bother to quarrel, because they always end up agreeing with each other in the end.”

Challenges of Change

We learn of the struggle Amit endures whilst having hormone treatment during the transitioning process.   Despite the frequent spells of tears, Galit is at all times caring and supportive.   About a year later it is time for the surgical transformation.   This operation requires a visit to Thailand, and we witness the anguish of the children when their parents leave to take this trip.   When they see Amit again, she will be fully transformed to her gender of choice.   The children will have two mothers.

The trauma of the operation is manifest when Amit refuses to take the medication she has been prescribed by the Doctor.   Galit remains a caring companion, frequently offering foot massages and tender words of consolation and caring.

Back Home Again

On returning to the family in Nahariya, in the North of Israel, Galit and Amit have a second wedding ceremony.   A glamorous affair where they take the role as stars of the event in identical white dresses adorned with gold embroidery.   It is a joyous and happy celebration of the new status of the devoted couple.

Beginnings of a Reorientation

When we witness Amit’s anguish over Galit’s daily walks with a lady friend, we realise there is trouble brewing.  Ultimately Galit feels she cannot maintain her place within the family – she needs to be her own person, have her own space.  After a difficult divorce Galit enters a lesbian relationship, and Amit subsequently also partners with a lady who accompanied her to South Africa for this screening.

Behind the Scenes

Ofir, who was not only the director but also the producer and cinematographer of this film,  was together with Amit after the screening and answered questions whilst filling in the missing links about this thought-provoking story and its production as a documentary film.

We were reassured that Galit and Amit had developed a healthy working relationship with each other.   The children indeed considered themselves lucky to have four mothers!

Afterword

The audience displayed their appreciation for Amit’s openness to share her story.   Whilst at times she admitted the intrusiveness of the camera was discomforting during the making of the film, she felt that the production performed a necessary function in educating the public about the profound changes which sometimes needed to be taken in order to achieve an authentic lifestyle.

Galit helps Children

Galit has now written some well-received short stories, in Hebrew, for the benefit of children.   She draws on her life experience to educate other families about the rationale for transformation, and her work assists those in the helping professions who counsel people of all ages who deal with the issues of sex change.

It was rewarding and a great privilege to have heard this intimate first-hand story about a caring couple seeking meaning in their lives.   Their bravery in discussing this personal experience is appreciated as a service to the public in making us aware of the new possibilities for contemporary alternate lifestyles.   Some lifestyles were socially denigrated in former years,  but now many previously unaccepted social unions are considered the new norm.

 

 

There is no doubt that we live in a world today, Saturday 27th April 2019 at 12h15, in which we suffer from information overload.   Whatever your perspective on an issue, there will always be multiple examples of expert evidence to confirm your beliefs.

I am not sure if it is my chronological age or the era in which I live, that has caused me to suffer, for the first time in my life, from a degree of existential angst.   A strong feeling of what can I personally do to fight the decisions of politicians who continue to feather their own nest at the expense of the future health of the planet. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live on an Earth where the quality of life has been compromised or even jeopardised if they do not realistically deal with the ecological threats of today

Pinker and Enlightenment Now

It was with some relief that I was internalising some of the reassurances offered by Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now,” subtitled The case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.   I was starting to be persuaded in his latest book that the average person was worrying too much about the potential disasters of climate change.

He has followed up his optimistic view of the benefits of a contemporary lifestyle which he elaborated on in a heartening exposition in his previous book, “The Better Angels of our Nature.”   In this previous work, Pinker explores the everyday safety in which we live today, as opposed to in the past eras.   I was happily reassured by his rationale and the evidence he brought to the table.    Pinker persuaded me that life today is safer than it has ever been, and the percentage of the world’s population actively engaged in a war situation is proportionately lower than in any past era.

My fair in “Enlightenment Now” was shattered however then my monthly blog arrived from Jules Evans ( whose website you can find at www.philosophyforlife.org,) and his pessimistic, or potentially realistic, assessment entitled “Is Extinction Rebellion Self-Indulgent Therapy?”

David Attenborough

Evans described how shocked he was to listen this week to David Attenborough eloquently describe on the BBC, just how significant the current temperature changes have been in devastating the tranquillity of earth’s balance of nature.   The measurement of the atmosphere as 1 degree warmer, has resulted in wildfires in Australia and California, storms and floods in India, Mozambique, Mid-West USA, and Ottawa.   What Attenborough did not mention is that Cape Town, South Africa where I live, has suffered a drought the past few years which has resulted in water rationing becoming a ubiquitous feature of our everyday life.  Water restrictions for our gardens are now a permanent part of our horticultural management system, whilst the use of water in the household is strictly rationed and very expensive.   Washing dishes is a once a day operation, and daily showers are obsolete!

James Lovelock

Evans carries on to remind us what was said in 2008 by James Lovelock.   “Enjoy life whilst you can,” said Lovelock, “in 20 years global warming will hit the fan.”   Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in the South of England since the 1960s with consistent accuracy.    Whilst he may be a bit of a maverick, he is one of Britain’s most respected independent scientists.

Extinction Rebellion

For 10 days last week, thousands of activists unleashed strategic disorder in London to draw attention to the accelerating climate crisis. This coordinated effort was organised by Extinction Rebellion, a movement which was founded last year and is targeting the British Government to achieve net-zero greenhouse emission by the year 2030. More than 1,000 protesters submitted to arrest after barricading roads, bridges and other city landmarks.

Student Activist

The eloquent 16 year old Swedish Activist Greta Thurnberg addressed the crowds and in simple and persuasive language described what she sees as the role of her generation.   She said, “We have gathered here today because we have chosen the path we want to take.   Together we will make a difference.   The ecological crisis remains despite all the beautiful words.  The crisis has been ignored for decades.   The politicians and people of power have got away with not doing anything at all, but we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer.   Humanity now stands at a crossroads………………………”

Find out more

Steven Pinker, on the other hand, urges us, “to step back from the lurid headlines and prophecies of doom, which bring out the worst in our psychological biases.”   He believes that with the scientific knowledge at our disposal today, we will be able to control the malevolent forces of carbon dioxide which threatens to irrevocably pollute our environment.

Should you choose to read over 400 pages of Pinker’s positive rationale, together with the accompanying 75 graphs illustrating a thesis of continuous human improvements in living standards, you may be comforted by his perspective that mankind has overcome all the challenges of the past, so why should the environmental challenges of today be any different.   I would like to accept Pinker’s perspective, but am more inclined to vote with the young Swedish activist!