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”

 

Cape Town, South Africa, made history last year when it was the first major city to be threatened by a devestating drought.   Severe water restrictions and some late rains have slightly relieved the situation, but nonetheless strict restrictions on the use of water remain in place.   This is the reason why I find myself taking a swim at our local Gym, rather than having a shower at home.

Today after completing my couple of lengths in the Olympic size pool, I noticed two young men racing each other in the adjacent lane.   They were using a type of snorkel which I had never seen before, so my interest was piqued.  I asked them how this snorkel worked.   In a very engaging manner they explained to me that by grasping the mouth piece of the instrument, it allowed them to draw air without moving their head from side to side as they swam freestyle.   Cutting down on the head movement and maintaining their mouth slightly under the water, they were able to streamline their movements and consequently increase their speed.

Nicolas, a computer programmer and Jonathan, a sports scientist were about to set off on a two length dash to determine who would complete this distance in the shortest time.   I offered to be their ‘starter.’   “On your marks, get set, go,”   I exclaimed.   Off they went with Jonathan reaching the far side ahead, and Nick overtaking him on the return trip to reach the home base first.

One of the themes of my current research, which has already popped up from time to time in my former blogs, is to understand the competitive nature of mankind.   I spied an opportunity to derive some new data for this project, and so posed this question to my two subjects,   “Have you ever considered why the two of you enjoy competing with each other, or asked yourselves why you derive satisfaction from comparing your swimming abilities?”

I thought there might be some resistance to this intrusion into their privacy, but Nicolas was amazingly quick off the mark.   He postulated that this competitive instinct may well be an evolutionary attribute.  “Out there on the savannahs in days of yore it was the person with the quickest reflexes and greatest speed who would derive the main spoils of the hunt,” he explained.

This was a indeed a worthwhile angle to explore.   My immediate response was to see the merit of this explanation, but there was another way of looking at the conundrum.  “In today’s world, we are no longer dependent on hunting for our daily food.   Our social conditioning would have taught us more subtle ways of meeting our needs,” I countered.     Nicolas was once again quick torespond.   “If you want to attract your mate,” he suggested, “then you need to demonstrate your skills in a wide range of activities.   The more you draw positive attention to yourself, the more likely you are to be noted by members of the opposite sex and find yourself a mate, and spread your seed to the next generation.”

There was certainly a great deal of merit in his rationale, and his argument certainly worked for those who are looking for a mate.   However, it still does not help this 80 year old woman to understand herself.   She has spent the last week taking a one hour car trip to Somerset West, playing croquet in the sun for the next six hours, and travelling home in the evening for yet another hour.   I am not looking for a mate.   And I am very well fed.   So, why do I need to put in so much effort to compete in the Western Province Croquet Championships?