The present residents of planet earth have experienced just over a year of the largest disruption of daily life ever to have challenged the world’s population.    Yes, there have been pandemics in the past.   There have been more deaths in the past.    However, I venture to state; never before have such a large percentage of the world’s population had their daily lifestyle disrupted on such a massive scale.

Around the world, we have been inundated with news stories initiated by a microorganism that has dominated our ability to live, work, travel, communicate and play.   Perhaps less has been written from a personal perspective.   So, I decided to do my own little bit of research.

Together with my friend Mary in Arizona USA, we convened a meeting:  9 of the participants were from South Africa, and 10 from America.   We asked them to speak for 2 minutes to the question, “How have the restrictions of the past year affected you on a personal level?”

Surely not a representative sample, as those taking part in this mini-survey were all in the second half of their life, and fall into the middle class.   Maybe this is the cohort that was least affected by the restrictions imposed by governments all over the world restricting the liberty of the populations under their control.

Introversion and Extroversion

Many of the participants mentioned their self-assessment of their personality on the introversion/extroversion continuum.    As would be expected, participants who see themselves less needy of social interaction adapted very well to the zoom room.   Many went as far as to say that their needs were met by the type of meeting in which we were all participating.

A Strange Surprise

Farzana is a medical representative who shocked the group when she told us that a few of the doctors she visited were in denial about Covid-19.   When I questioned her about this finding it turns out that two of those doctors hailed from Central Europe and the third one was Afrikaans speaking.   Maybe these personal details helps to explain their conservatism!

A More Universal Experience

Sybil lives in Sea Point, an upmarket coastal suburb of Cape Town.   She is used to looking out of the window of her flat and viewing scores of people enjoying the promenade and the swings, while they exercise on the beachfront.  She experienced a macabre feeling of loss when observing the quietness of this territory during the lockdown.   A great contrast to the usual hub of activity.

My Personal Story

Something that has been a positive for me.   As the owner of two Whippets who play a dominant role in helping me to maintain my emotional equilibrium, I was freed of one of my internalised feelings of guilt.   No longer did I have to worry about how long I would leave Blanco and Freddy on their own while I pursued my daily perambulations.    My activities have become far more home centred, as I now spend more time with my appreciative canine companions!

Do we Plan our Lives?

For me, it was interesting to note the variation people expressed regarding the degree to which they either plan their lives or spontaneously capitalise on opportunities as they arise.   Corel expressed the incentive she experienced to look at what she and her husband would be doing with the years that remain to them.   Whereas Duncan described himself as an opportunist who was happy to await events and then make the most of his possibilities as they arose.

New Initiative

Had it not been for Covid-19 this lively international group of seniors would not have met.  Mary and I who are the co-initiators of this group which we have named “The Curious and Inquisitive Wisdom Seekers,” would not have even imagined such a gathering just a year ago.   We met in a Zoom Room run by The Golden Civilisation, and have become friends.   Maybe the modern equivalent of the pen pals of old!  We have a warm and supportive relationship which has allowed us to form this novel group of awake and aware citizens from around the world.

Our First Meeting

It is said, “You should never allow a good crisis to go to waste.”  What are you doing to enhance your life during this unique and challenging time?”  This was the question we asked the participants to consider when we first met.    It was surprising the amount of positivity that emerged from this discussion.    Many contributors have forged new relationships with people and events.   Gratitude for what we have has been enhanced.   Appreciation of both our material benefits and natural resources were named as items for which we could be very thankful.

Some Comments from the Chat at this Meeting
  • I found this the most heart-warming, inspiring and energising experience.
  • Wonderful experience. Amazing people.
  • Great to connect with a wider group, interesting the similarities on different continents. After all; we are all humans!
Subsequent Meetings

A lively discussion of Roman Krznaric’s TED Talk on “The Good Ancestor” was the stimulus for the next meeting.   This philosopher’s research and insight into the habits of consumption and values of future generations formed the bedrock for us all to consider our long term priorities.

On another occasion, one of our American participants, Dave, led us on a deeply insightful discussion on our belief structures.   He made us aware that during these changing times we may need to re-examine our value system and introspect on whether our daily habits are dominated by conscious or unconscious beliefs and behaviours.

Here are some of the topics we discussed:
  • What myth/story/map organizes your thinking, values, and behaviour?
  • What are some of your maps and how were they formed?
  • How does our age invite a paradigm shift?
  • How can we help others to identify the map/myth/story that organizes their beliefs?
Concluding Comments

I consider myself very lucky to be part of one of the least challenged cohorts during this pandemic.   I believe that single mothers who have to find time to work whilst home-schooling their children simultaneously have had a very stressful time.   There is no doubt that people from poor communities have suffered the most.    All thinking people have been challenged to re-evaluate their lifestyle.

Last year my zoom-online book club studied Valerie Kaur’s memoir entitled, “Revolutionary Love.”   This profound description of the author’s life challenges outlines the methodology she has evolved to deal with the social and legal obstacles presented by her Sikh identity.

And you may ask, “To what type of challenges do you refer?”   Whilst cloaked in the terminology of love, Valerie subtly offers her readers the tools to cope with the varying types of value systems within which each of us are challenged in our daily lives.   The social norms within our chosen economic perspectives, political orientation and religious outlook all carry certain subtle social expectations, many of which are beyond our conscious awareness!

How timeous was my introduction?

This book was written before the latest outpourings of “Black Lives Matter”, and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It articulates the tools and process we can all utilise in order to navigate our way through the unconscious biases which are part of our emotional response to hearing things that are not consistent with our personal perspective. The responses we need when confronted by interactions with members of different social groups who are out of tune with our personal narrative.   How to cope with varying experiences relating to politics, caste, religion, culture or any other number of sociological categorisations.

Contemporary Extremism

It has become a truism that politics during the past decade has become more extreme.    The right-wing has become even more conservative, whilst the left could be described as more radical.   The theory around Revolutionary Love has the potential to help us all to understand a wide repertoire of different responses and tolerate seemingly paradoxical perspectives.    It provides a useful set of skills for negotiating our way through the widening of ideological viewpoints.

Theory of Revolutionary Love:  A compass

You will notice that the compass describing Revolutionary Love at the head of this article.  It is divided into three sections:

  • The study starts with the section labelled “Others” and suggests we develop an attitude in which we “See no Strangers”. To develop this capacity to see others as having much in common with ourselves we are enjoined to Wonder, then Grieve and ultimately to Fight
  • In learning to get to know ourselves we need to “Imagine our Birth,” which requires we Breathe, and Push and ultimately we Transition.
  • To come to terms with those who are different to us at this moment, our Opponents, we are required to “Tend to our Wounds.” This process goes through the stages of Reimagine, Listen and Rage.

10 Day Presentation

For each of the 10 days following the inauguration of President Biden, Valerie presented a daily program entitled the People’s Inauguration in which she explained the logic of the ‘Compass’ and its ability to offer insights into Revolutionary Love.   The recording of this rich presentation has been made available to the public as a permanent record of a unique endeavour to understand the contemporary dynamics of the human experience.   It creates a golden opportunity to give those who wish to play their part in creating a more compassionate and equal society, the chance to follow a finely crafted methodology.

The facilitation of ongoing educational opportunities for my age cohort has been an integral pastime of mine for the past 15 years.  During this time I have facilitated senior adult groups on Maintaining Your Brain, Emotional Resilience, I’m OK You’re Ok, Mindfulness and Conscious Ageing.

Maybe you would like to become engaged!

On hearing about this 10-day presentation, and the ability to purchase the recording of the program, I became inspired by an idea.   Maybe I could use this material as the basis of a program to offer participants from different cultures and various age groups an experience in emotional growth.  How about assembling an eclectic group of curious adults who would like to engage in discussion around examining their own unconscious biases?    Maybe I could recruit participants who enjoy a conversation around developing new perspectives on cultural norms.   Perhaps people would like to have a regular monthly conversation in which they could share their concerns regarding perceived prejudices in their local organisations.

I pitched this idea with a couple of my new “zoom-friends”.  People I have met in international zoom rooms, reminiscent of the outdated concept of penpals!  People with whom I have interacted since the migration to post-Covid methods of communication.   My ideas were met with positivity and enthusiasm.

Wonderful Co-0peration

And then, a problem emerged in my mind.   Potential participants would need to spend some time between the 10 monthly zoom meetings reading the material, and pondering some questions.   Would they be prepared to pay the $97 requested to purchase the program?

I contacted the publishers of this material.   They were satisfied with my bonafide, and have made a generous offer.   Participants who wish to enhance their growth and understanding of “Revolutionary Love” may apply for a scholarship.    All they need to do is to notify Sounds True they wish to participate in the 10-month program I am offering, make their application for a scholarship, and they will be granted free access to the material

My Free Offer

Write to me at grace@amindofgrace.co.za let me know if you wish to participate in a program to study “Revolutionary Love”    10 monthly meetings are planned to commence in April 2021.   And let me know where you live so that I can be aware of your time zone!   Once you have notified me of your intention to participate in the course, I will forward the appropriate link so that you can gain access to this exciting material on “Revolutionary Love!”

 

 

What does it mean to be Wise?

It was some years ago when I realised I had reached the last few decades of my life.   I found myself thinking,  “Am I not supposed to be a wise woman by the time I get to this stage of my life?” This was followed by a certain degree of dissatisfaction, verging on despair. I was unable to perceive within my psyche any feelings which I assumed a wise woman should actually feel.   So my next thought was, “I had better involve myself in some serious activities to develop my aspirations towards understanding the qualities of this hypothetical ‘wise woman’.

Some Dictionary Quotes

The first place I went was to the Dictionary where I found some quotes:

  • Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate, but can only be acquired through experience.
  • Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom.
  • By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.
  • The Buddha says that real knowledge which is nothing but wisdom can be attained by knowing the impermanent nature of all objects we hanker after and annihilating cravings for them.
  • In the introduction to Age-ing and Sage-ing by Rabbi  Zalman Schachter-Shalomi we learn that the contemplative approach to aging is one in which we transcend doing in favour of being.   We learn to plumb our psyche for the spiritual gems of wisdom that come from mining our depths.
Are these definitions still relevant?

These definitions speak about the wisdom of emotionally and cognitively reprogramming our past experiences.   However, in view of our present existential crises relating to the Covid Pandemic, the inequality of the Caste structure and the dangers of Climate Disasters;  as well as the recent insurrection of the Washington Capitol by Trump supporters, the wise woman part of me is telling me to project my analysis into the future.

To support this approach here is a definition from The Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  It defines wisdom as “knowledge, and the capacity to make due use of it.”   It then continues, “One of the greatest pearls of spiritual wisdom that life can ever give you is that, for as long as you live, you will never have all of the wisdom you need. What you learned yesterday was enough for yesterday. Keep yourself aware that every minute you will be open to the new things that life wants to teach you about your environment, yourself and others. As you evolve, so do the messages that you must add to keep the spiritual evolution going.”

The Good Ancestor

And, then I discovered Roman Krznaric.  His TED Talk “How to be a Good Ancestor” and his book “The Good Ancestor” are replete with words which I consider to be wise.  Absorbing the thoughts and the philosophy of this wise middle aged man from Oxford University, is proving an exciting and affirming journey.   The case he makes for the present residents of this planet making themselves aware of how they are influencing the lives of their descendants, brings a whole new dimension to the work of becoming the hypothetical ‘wise woman’.

Do unto Future Generations as you would have Past Generations do unto you

Let us do a thought experiment.   How much do we appreciate our ancestors for the music, poetry and art which we are able to enjoy today?    And, how grateful are we for the comfortable and healthy lives we live because of the advances of science and medicine?

For what do you think future generations will thank us?   The sad reality is that our children and grandchildren are inheriting a planet which is in a much poorer state of health than the one into which we were born?

We have been warned since the 1970’s about the implication of Carbon Dioxide Emissions and the Warming Planet.    America which is the largest polluter in the world has for the past four years had a President who chooses to deny scientific evidence in favour of his short-term goals of stimulating the economy.

Learning to think Long-term in a Short-term World

Interestingly, it is in cultures which Western Society consider to be primitive that the long term habits of Ancestor Worship, as well as the concept or retaining the quality of our environment for the following seven successive generations, are practiced.   There is an urgent need for contemporary wisdom seekers to emulate these practices.

González Schuett suggests, “Maybe it’s for the environment, for the sustainability of future generations, for your personal finances, or for the sake of your peace of mind that you need to consider the implications of your habits of consumption for future generations.”

The Marshmallow Brain and the Acorn Brain

It is the Marshmallow Brain that makes us aware of our immediate emotional needs and the fulfillment of our most pressing desires.   However, it is the Acorn Brain which we associate with cognition that allow us to think long term.    Unfortunately the neoliberal philosophy which currently rules our politics and economics, allows the short term marshmallow brain to take priority over the long term acorn brain.

“Yet if we truly wish to become good ancestors, we need to expand our conception of legacy and think of it not just as a route to personal glory or as a bequest for our offspring, but as a practice of everyday life which benefits future people.   We can think of this as a transcendent ‘legacy mind-set’ where we aim to be remembered by the generations who we will never know, the universal strangers of the future,” says Roman Krznaric.

 

I try not to let a good opportunity pass me by. I tend to enjoy being involved in controversial issues of the day. So, when Olu Temehin Adegbeye who is the ‘ Othering Correspondent’ of ‘The Correspondent’ a contemporary Dutch news magazine, requested her readers share with her examples of when they had been denied their own identity, I rose to the occasion! Whilst this journalist tends to specialise in sexual identity, I decided to volunteer my story of religious identity. And here is the story I shared.

It Started from my Date of Birth

Indeed my identity was denied to me from my date of birth and I have spent the eight decades of my life working hard on trying to reclaim my birthright!

I was born in 1938 in London, England. It was just before the outbreak of World War 2. Anti-Semitism was rife in Britain, and my father wishing to protect me, did not tell me I was Jewish. I was told by the live-in housekeeper at the age of about 6 that I was lucky I was not living in Europe. She told me stories about how Jewish people were being murdered in Europe and burnt to death. I was forbidden by her to tell my parents that she had shared these stories with me.

Feeling Alone

I endured a state of great confusion as I had no one in whom I could confide. When I was seven years old I remember secretly saying this prayer to myself every evening before going to sleep, “Dear God, please do not let the Germans come into this country and take me away to a concentration camp.” I did not have a concept of God, and a limited idea of the conditions in a concentration camp. My only source of information was the lady employed by my parents to help with the housework and looking after my elder brother and sister, as well as myself.

War Memories

My memories of the war are of food shortages, rationing, standing in queues, and my mother having to get some extra coupons to buy me a pair of shoes. Then there were the planes crossing the English Channel, flying over our home in Brighton en-route to bomb the city of London. We had to rush into the air-raid shelter as they frequently dropped bombs as they passed over our home.

Arrival in South Africa

My confusions were heightened when the family came to South Africa in 1947, two years after the war had ended. I was sent to a posh Anglican School and given the false identity of belonging to the Unitarian Church. My father explained to me that if he told the school authorities I was Jewish, they would not give me a place in this desirable educational institution. Of course, this was due to post-war anti-Semitism.

Confusion Reigned

I nominally knew I was Jewish but had only a very hazy concept of what that meant. I somehow sensed I needed to hide this information from the children in my school. However, I had no conception of the deep meaning of being a Jew. If I asked my father any questions regarding my identity, I was told, “Do not worry your pretty little head. I am protecting you by making it public knowledge you are a member of the Unitarian community.”

I was totally confused.

I had no extended family in this country with whom I was able to share my feelings. My nuclear family was one in which there was little verbal interaction, and the family dynamics were centred on not upsetting my father.

It is only with hindsight that I realise he was a narcissist who ruled the roost as a dictator whose comfort zone was protected by my mother. My father’s whim dominated the interactions of the family. My sister, my brother and myself were trained to respect him, obey him, listen to him, and forget about our personal wishes or needs.

Attending the Great University in Cape Town

On completion of my school career, I attended Cape Town University and studied for a BA degree.

I had always played table tennis whilst growing up, so decided to take part in this sport at UCT. I became a member of the table tennis team and for the first time in my life met some young Jewish people. They were part of the same team and we went to different venues together to play matches. At the end of my first year of study, I was encouraged by the members of this team to participate in a group holiday excursion to Europe.

Tour of England and Europe in 1956

There were about 70 participants on the tour – students from all the Universities in South Africa. We went on a six week trip to England and Europe travelling both ways for 10 days on a ship. This proved to be a further opportunity to be in contact with Jewish people of my age. Whilst they had many joint experiences of which I had not been a part, surprisingly I was absorbed by osmosis into their lifestyle.

It was on this excursion that I made my first friends who belonged to the Jewish faith, and they taught me about the customs and lifestyle of this 2000 year old people.

Later this group of friends introduced me to my future husband and father of my four children. He was a Jewish doctor and started educating me into the richness of my heritage.

Becoming a Mother

One of my earliest resolves as a mother was that I would not allow my children to suffer from a lack of knowledge of their identity. I would have to learn about Jewish customs and history to allow my children the advantage of reclaiming the identity I had been denied. I felt that if my children wished to opt-out of their Judaism as an adult, I would be fine with that. At least they would have the choice of knowing their family’s true history.

My Re-Education

I pursued many courses in Jewish History and the Hebrew language when I was in my 40’s to compensate for the education I had been denied during my early years.

Gradually I absorbed my birth right and became more and more comfortable within the Jewish community in Cape Town where I live. I still feel a bit like a convert as I only became familiar with my Jewish heritage as an adult, unlike my friends who grew up learning Hebrew and attending synagogue from an early age.

Overcoming being an Outsider

I remain a bit of an outsider. I am not a fully integrated part of the local Jewish community as I only arrived in this country at the age of 9. I emerged from a British heritage and most of the South African Jews are of a Lithuanian lineage.

So, that is my story in brief. It helps me to understand ‘the other’ better than if I had grown up with a secure identity.

I know what it is like to be an outsider.

Thanks for your wonderful reflective journalism, Olu. You are a brave young woman. I wish you strength in your ability to describe the outsider experience.

Merely a short half year ago, the Zoom Room was foreign territory to me.   Now, it is an integral and important area of my daily attention, offering me many hours of challenge and entertainment.   It has been an amazing personal transformation.   New insights, new people, new conversations and new concepts have become part of my daily routine.   Never before have I felt so connected.

I now have two social circles; two sets of friends.   The group with whom I interact physically has become augmented with a new group of ‘virtual friends.’   You will be learning about a few of them later in this blog!

Friendship and Human Connection

In evolutionary terms, the earliest socialisations took place on the plains of Africa.   Other than one’s close kin, further contacts would be made by travelling to meet people on foot.    Subsequently the possibilities for human communications became wider with the introduction of varying transport modalities such as bicycle, car, ship and plane.  Social interactions would have initially taken place in caves, or primitive buildings and later in modern homes and offices.   Within the conditions of the lock-down necessitated by Covid-19, electronic digital communication has become an integral part of the day.   Whilst I sit in my private exclusive space my social life is enhanced, my educational possibilities are extended, and my entertainment opportunities have widened.

I am going to share with you some of the resources which have enriched my life during the past 6 months.

One World in Dialogue

This organisation was created in 2015 by Elizabeth Debold with her partner Thomas Steininger to develop a living global network of change-makers and activists committed to deep dialogue.   The aim is to create new approaches and collaborations to support positive social change.

During April they offered a free online course for people working in the field of counselling on how to conduct their work in the Zoom room.   During this 4 day, 16 hour course we examined the nuances of leading conversations in this new format.   How to optimally personalise our interactions in this exciting new space.   How to master the nuances of interacting with the screen image of our fellow learners and future clients

A Golden Civilisation

George Kinder introduced me to this unique methodology for leading powerful collaborative conversations.    His powerful imaginary workshop starts with an imaginary exercise.   Participants are challenged to imagine the conditions of a Golden Civilisation which exists 1000 generations in the future.  A society in which each individual can maximise his personal potential under optimal conditions.   How does it look and feel?   Imagine the ideal way of governing for such a group.    How would the economy be managed?   What type of social interactions would be encouraged?   And, what obstacles would stand in the way?   These Golden Civilisation conversations are taking place all over the world, enabling participants to take the first steps in moving towards a more inclusive society.

Ubuntu Labs

Weekly meetings with this organisation, over the course of two months allowed me to meet leaders throughout Africa and share ideas about the philosophical concept of Ubuntu.   We discussed in small groups how this profound concept can be used for developing our continent during the time ahead.

Ubuntu is essentially about togetherness, and how all of our actions have an impact on others, and on society. It is the common thread of the UN’s Global Goals, and the motivation in the mission to end extreme poverty — so that everyone, everywhere, can live equally.”

This beautiful concept is so important in a Post Covid Era.  Since the time of the Enlightenment, there has been an emphasis in Western Society on promoting individualism.  I believe that the time has come for this selfish concept to be exchanged for an approach which values the needs of each individual in society.

Climate Reality

My interest in Climate Activism peaked last weekend when I participated in 24 hours of activism promoted by Climate Reality In my presentation on Zoom, I explored my new passion.  The need to play my part in educating myself, together with my peers, on the new habits we need to adopt if we are to save the planet from total climate catastrophe.  This reduction in our consumption is urgent.  We need to change from an economy of maximum growth to one of sustainable longevity.  A society in which the Gross National Product (GNP) is not the criterion for success, but one in which wealth is far more equally distributed among the population.

Pass It On Network

This grassroots network allows older people all over the world to find ways to expand their interests whilst thriving with the challenges of longer lives.  I have interacted with this group over a number of years and made many fruitful contacts.

However this month, I participated in a mind expanding on-line course on Digital Technology.  I learned how to keep my passwords safe, deal with the false news of social networks and feel comfortable using the tools which allow me to share files and multiple other resources when working on line.

Ted Circles

I recruited participants for this initiative through the University of the Third Age.   We now meet on zoom for regular fortnightly discussions.   Together we analyse a Ted video recommended by the facilitators of Ted Circles.   This new set of virtual friends from Cape Town, the city in which I live, have allowed me to participate in rich conversations which have deepened my understanding of the TED videos.

In Conclusion

A new collaborative lifestyle is emerging.   It is exciting, vigorous and full of further potential.   Who would like to join me on the journey?    Let me know if you would like to participate in a group I plan to facilitate.   We will work together discussing ideas on how to build a carbon free and just society.   I look forward to hearing from you.

New Feelings

I have shared with you in previous blogs the strong feeling that pervaded my consciousness early this year.   These meandering thoughts were around the need for me to become an active participant in promoting healthy habits of consumption to conserve our planet from immanent destruction.

But, in the Past

I had been actively sharing my ideas, my habits and my theories on successful aging for the past decade.   I had assumed that would be where I could make a contribution to the wellbeing of the human race during my lifetime.   So what was this about consumption and its implications for the health of the planet which was dominating my thoughts?

New Events

It was in the third month of this year that Covid-19 reached the shores of South Africa and the ‘Stage 5’ lockdown commenced on 26th March.   For the first time in the history of humankind, the occupants on this planet were forced by their government to give up their livelihoods.   If you were in the tourism business, the restaurant industry, in the world of entertainment, your means of livelihood were directly forbidden by government decree.

Imagine it is the beginning of December 2019.    You own a successful small restaurant which you have built from scratch during the past 5 years.   You have just paid off you debt.  The business is starting to offer you a livelihood.   How would you have felt if someone had come along to you and said? “You know Grace, I have some bad news for you.   Something unimaginable is going to happen in three months’ time which will mean you have to stop trading and close your business.   Maybe, you should think of preparing yourself for this eventuality.”   Would you have believed it?

I doubt if anyone would have taken such a pessimistic prognostication seriously.   Yet, thousands of businesses throughout the world have been directed by government decree to close down.  The knowledge that a deadly virus was threatening human life on the planet was sufficient to ensure that populations were compliant with government rulings.  Millions of people have lost their livelihood.  Such changes have devastated the lives of the vulnerable.   However, there is a tacit realisation that these changes are necessary for reasons of life and death.

The Psychology of Changing Habits

It is my belief, based on the scientific evidence which I have studied, that the implications of unwise habits of consumption, harvesting and energy production pose a threat to civilisation and the lifestyle we have known during the past few centuries.   Yet, business, industrialists and private people continue to follow habits they know are potentially destructive to our health and that of the planet.   The only difference between the scenario of Covid-19 and Climate Change is that the threat of the former is immediate, and the threat of the latter is long term.   It is easy to ignore the slow and gradual symptoms of Climate Change, but it is not easy to ignore an immanent death threat.

Since World War 2 the amount of noxious gas being spewed into the atmosphere has grown to such an extent that the carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere was caused massive disruption in climate throughout the world.   The number of droughts, floods, fires and hurricanes have increased in number of volume year by year during the past two decades.   We are assured by the experts of the relationship between the production of noxious gases by the use of both chemical fertilizers and the creation of power is a direct cause of these extreme weather patterns.

New Lifestyle

Our new lifestyle since the lock down has provided us with both challenges and opportunities.   I have always been an early adopter, and my migration into the zoom room was inevitable.   Yes, it did come with some teething problems.   The anxiety of running a meeting in zoom and not being able to cope with the requirements of the technology were quite over powering in my early endevours.   The blips in the ability of the participants to enter the zoom room caused me much anxiety.   Acquiring the skills of facilitating a dialogue with this new method of communication was a challenging learning experience.

However, I also experienced some great excitement with this new method of communication.    So many opportunities for learning new skills and information were enticing me to participate and explore areas of expertise which had previousaly been unavailable.   I learned that Al Gore’s Climate Reality was offering a free nine day course on line.   It was at no cost.   Here was my opportunity.   And, now I am entering this new field of activity as a Climate Reality Ambassador with this 24 hour challenge

“For 24 straight hours, Vice President Gore and Climate Reality Leader activists across the planet will lead digital presentations and discussions exploring the historic conjunction of climate change, COVID-19, and structural racism that not only threatens our lives and deepest values, but opens the door to truly transformative change”   It is hoped that 3000 presentations will be made either face-to-face, or on zoom.

Here is the link to my presentation which will take place at 16h00 South African Time

New Meetings

It would be such fun if this could provide me with the opportunity to meet many of my readers on zoom!   A great chance for us to get to know each other.   I encourage you to diarise this event, as well as signing up your attention to attend on the webpage.

The time is now. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to become aware of the role we can play to promote conditions which result in the health of the environment.  We need to co-create the conditions which will push back on the continuous climate devastation of recent years.   Please join me in this challenge.

 

I am not religious. Nor do I consider myself to be particularly spiritual. However, in January I found myself experiencing a profound premonition that this year the subject of Climate Change would be important in my life.

January 2020

In January 2020, there were vague rumblings about a virus in China. It was far away. Probably like MERS and SARS it was something that would affect countries in Asia, but there was no inking in my mind that this virus would initiate a pandemic declared by the World Health Organisation a few weeks later.

September 2020

Now in September, we have just memorialised the terrorism tragedy of 9/11 2001. Noted that it is 6 months since we went into stage 5 of a lockdown in South Africa. We are in a deep economic recession. An awareness of the malignancy of class and race has emerged as a prime consideration.

The World Economic Forum is telling us that capitalism, as it has been practised in the west since WW2, is unsustainable. And, there is a growing acceptance that Climate Emergency is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Introduction to Climate Reality

My nine-day introduction to becoming an Ambassador with Climate Reality opened up a new vista to me.

This worldwide organisation, initiated by Al Gore a decade ago, has now trained thousands of people around the world with an understanding of the part each individual can play in reducing their consumption and encouraging their peer group to educate themselves on the dangers of unwise and excessive purchases.

I felt the Pressure

I felt somewhat overwhelmed two days ago when I received information that as a Climate Reality Ambassador I was expected to participate in 24 hours of activism on Sunday 11th October. I was feeling daunted by these instructions. I needed to prepare a one hour talk to be presented either face to face or online on October 11th.

It was hoped that 3000 presentations would be given on this day by ambassadors from all over the world. I needed to play my part. This was indeed pressure. Having participated in the free online course about one month ago, I was feeling more and more anxious that my journey to climate activism had not yet started in earnest.

Reaching Out

Now, I had this commitment. So I reached out.

When I had participated in the online course about two months ago, I was part of a cohort of representatives from Africa. We had a WhatsApp group to share the joint meetings, activities and interests of the participants. This means of communication had been vital during the training, but had become somewhat quiescent in the interim!

I put my pride in my pocket, and reached out to the group: “An appeal:Is there anyone (preferably in Cape Town) who would like to work with me to discuss how we are going to work towards our presentation in October. I would love to share my ideas and motivation with someone!”

Little did I know that within 15 minutes I would find two delightful, talented, knowledgeable young women from our group responding with their cellphone numbers and email addresses?

Welcome Farzana

Farzana Prior has written two books “The Blood Bath has Begun – are we too late to save Humanity?” and “Covid-19 – which is the worst pandemic?” During our Zoom calls, when we were on the course, I had been excited to learn about Farzana’s chutzpah. She is a regular participant on Twitter where she advises Cyril Rhamaposa on the way he needs to manage Eskom. She is outspoken, knowledgeable and experienced in the world of Climate Activism.

Now, she is encouraging me and tells me she is there to support me.

This was sufficient for me to make my commitment to 24 Hours of Activism, and here is the invitation to my presentation.

Welcome Jackie

I was equally excited that Jackie May reached out to me. I had wanted to chat with Jackie who is in the design industry and is actively promoting climate-friendly procedures within the world of fashion. She has masterminded a prize for the South African fashion manufacturers. Awards are offered for those businesses whose policies most profoundly demonstrate climate-friendly industrial procedures.

Visible Mending

Jackie and I got to talking about Visible Mending. For many years beading and patchwork have been two of my hobbies. When making my own clothes, or upgrading bought garments, I have been fond of adding my personal touch to these items. Adding beading, or embroidery, or tassels to my clothes has been a pastime for many years.

As Jackie and I discussed, invisible mending is out of date, it is now Visible Mending which demonstrates the wearer’s noble commitment to lowering their consumption of fabric. I was so excited when Jackie and I, discussed the possibilities to co-develop our ideas on enlarging this new creative pastime.

We would be able to creatively and constructively work on the art of extending the life of clothing.

Thanks, Jackie and Farzana – there is nothing to stop me now!

Read more about these endeavours on the Front Page of my blog!

 

 

 


Being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with restrictions having been imposed on the traditional lifestyle; it seemed like a good time to start a new initiative. TED has recently curated a new opportunity within their offerings. This they have named Ted Circles. To become a facilitator required filling in an application, and having achieved that status my next move was to recruit a group of participants.

Creating the Circle

Networking from a local database, luck was on my side and I have found about a dozen people who have become part of a vibrant group of elders, exploring the recommended TED talks. Each month a theme is promoted, and four Ted talks featuring that topic are recommended on the TED Circles website.

The First TED Circle

By mutual consent, we chose to view Emily Esfahani Smith’ talk entitled,There is more to Life than Being Happy at our first meeting.

The presenter’s family were American immigrants from Iran.  While she was growing up her parents were active Sufi’s who regularly entertained in their home the local followers of this movement and she observed them meditating and performing their communal religious practices. This early exposure to people living a humble life of compassion and sharing has led Emily to explore the possibilities around living the best life possible.

Emily’s 4 Pillars of Meaning
  1. She commences by describing the need for belonging to a group. Essentially this starts with the family, and as one proceeds through adolescence, new group identities form an essential part of positive growth
  2. Purpose is her second criterion. She considers purpose or meaning to be more essential than the pursuit of happiness.
  3. Then she identifies ‘storytelling’. This is the ability to review one’s life by being more aware of the positive features. Simultaneously attempting to minimise the challenges and look for the potential good in what may be a difficult stage of our life.
  4. Her final pillar is that of Transcendence. This is indeed a challenging concept, so the decision was that at our following meeting we would have a discussion to try and gain some insight into this esoteric topic!
Johnathan Haidt’s approach to Transcendence

Going back to the TED offerings, Jonathan Haidt’s “Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Transcendence”, was chosen as a means to explore this concept.

What Haidt explains is that humans are what the sociologist Durkheim described as Homo Duplex. Whilst we need to achieve and satisfy our earthly needs, we are at the same time looking for a ‘secret staircase’, and maybe it is a spiral one, to lead us to a higher experience which could be described as religious or spiritual.

However, the ultimate achievement of transcendence is when we realise that as John Donne said, “No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Ultimately transcendence can be achieved when one internalises the role we can play for the betterment of humankind.

The Humanistic Perspective of Transcendence

A humanistic take on Transcendence is offered by Scott Barry Kaufman in his contemporary work “Transcend, The New Science of Self-Actualisation.” Kaufman uses Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a springboard for his theory. Maslow’s theory was taught in Psychology 1, which I studied in the 1950s, so it is interesting to learn how this tool is used by Kaufman as the underpinning for a 20th century understanding of the subjective concept of transcendence.

Basically, Maslow postulated all those years ago that our basic needs for food and sex must be fulfilled before our emotional needs can be wholly recognised. Only when these emotional needs are met, then the higher need for self-actualisation can be sought. Ultimately the ability to fulfil one’s personal needs can be further merged with the needs of the other inhabitants of the planet, offering us the experience of Transcendence.

In Conclusion

I do believe that each person needs to find his or her own subjective experience of transcendence. In the same way as you can debate the meaning of religion, or spirituality without reaching consensus, there may be many unique and personal ways of experiencing transcendence.

This reminds me of an insight I experienced whilst studying Buddhist philosophy which I encountered when delving into the practice of Mindfulness. The great masters, if asked the ultimate goal of engagement in many hours of practice of their daily meditation, tend to hedge the question!  The experienced meditator in the eastern tradition is not keen to put his or her experience into words.   It is as if trying to verbalise the grandeur of the ultimate experience of Transcendence would be diminished in the communication.

Each person needs to find his own way of both describing transcendence and articulating their personal experience. We all climb the staircase in our unique way. “Viva la difference”

Addendum

Pearl Selibowitz who attended the meetings on Transcendence was motivated to pen this piece:

A Moment in Time

Judge not lest ye be judged, the master said

Offend not, for he who takes offence will be burdened and you will always bear the scar

Think on the man with no shoes whose feet bleed as he walks on the road

Think of the child with no bread, who has no dream to see him through

Open your window and see your dawn

Open your heart and bless the giver who has given you shoes and bread

So you may follow your dream

South Africa has been in lockdown since 27th March 2020 – that amounts to 13 ½ weeks at the time of writing.    What have I learned about myself, society and the human condition during that time?  How am I making sense of all these constraints on my personal freedom?  How am I coping with the anxiety of an ever more threatening future?

Being Subjected to Outside Disciplinary Measures

I live in a village for Senior Residents.   I was told by the Village Manager yesterday that I was not allowed to visit my daughter who lives about 15K from my home and has just returned from hospital after a surgical procedure.   I was somewhat stunned to internalise this restriction on my liberty, but realised that a protest would evoke unpleasant repercussions from my community

So my plans were thwarted.   Despite spending yesterday morning making vegetable soup and kneidlach, spring rolls, and stewed apples;  topped by homemade rolls and a fresh carrot and cabbage salad, my aspirations were stymied.    My intention was to share these symbols of my love with my two daughters over a celebratory supper.

However, when my younger daughter arrived at the security station to fetch me and the fondly made repast, she was not allowed inside the Village grounds.   Not even to collect the food.   Furthermore, I was told by the village Manager that if I left the village to visit my recuperating offspring, I would not be allowed back into my home again!   And, I did not even protest!

School Goers also have Disciplinary Features in the Daily Routine

Our local scholars have just returned to school after three months of home learning.   They are not allowed to play in the grounds during the break, but must sit in their desks to eat their snacks.   Teachers are not able to walk between the children’s desks, let alone hug them or shake their hands.   Standing in line to have temperatures taken and hands sanitised is the opening ritual on arriving at school.   So, I am certainly not the only person in the world whose activities are being thwarted.

Some Sanity from a Wise Psychiatrist and Environmentalist

I had the privilege of listening to Ian McCullum putting into perspective the anxiety-provoking circumstances of our present lifestyle.   He drew my attention to some profound new understandings initiated by the confluence of the Covid pandemic, together with the virulent reaction to the death of George Floyd.   There have been many demonstrations over the years when police violence in America has been out of proportion, however this particular event was witnessed all over the world with the 8 minute 46 second video, circulated by a bystander.  The unexpected consequences have been monumental.

Our Defence Mechanisms

Dr McCullum offered some profound insight.   He described the response to the present unique circumstances in terms of four “viruses.”  More traditional psychological theory might have labelled the qualities ‘defence mechanisms.’

  • Ignorance is manifested by those who do not have the ability to recognise that all humans and animals are interconnected. Many do not have the curiosity to internalise this concept of inter-dependency.
  • Entitlement is a quality possessed by many people who are in denial of their privileges. The present challenges have demonstrated clearly that it is the poorer and less privileged who are the worst victims of this scourge.    It is not true to say, the virus does not discriminate.   Statistics show that a lower socioeconomic status puts the individual at greater risk.
  • Indifference is displayed by arrogant people who think it is their right to come first, and are incapable of internalizing the significance of their privileges.
  • Defeatism is used as a tool for those who declare it is too late to do anything about climate change. They declare that to be optimistic is to be foolhardy.   However, active hope is an essential tool for humankind if we are going to find a “new normal”
Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change.

The confluence of the challenges of Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change has brought to my attention the necessity for each and every one of us to examine their personal values and beliefs.  We have just undergone a massive worldwide change in our behaviour.   All over the globe citizens of many countries have had their freedom curtailed by government regulations.

The threat of the virus is immediate, whereas the threat from climate change is long term.   There is no immediate repercussion for the individual if he or she continues to use plastic indiscriminately.   Racism has existed all our lifetime and the destruction of the spirit of those with darker skin hues gets condoned because their hurt feelings are not visible.

We can change our behaviour, turn our lifestyle upside down virtually over-night when potential death is on our doorstep.   What an amazing demonstration of the fact, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

My Hope

The unprecedented times through which we are passing allow us to slow down, feel our feelings, examine our thoughts, meditate on our actions and re-evaluate our belief systems.   My hope is that the wisdom bearers amongst us will be able to use the present circumstances to mobilise human resources to create a more fair and equitable world.   And, I predict that it will be the generation of my grandchildren who will come up with the necessary revolutionary perspectives and creative ideas to enable the transformation of human behaviour and its relationship to the environment.

 

Life Changes Enforced by the Lockdown

It is the beginning of week four of the South African lockdown, the government’s response to the Covid-19 virus infection.

“How am I feeling?” I ask myself. And, then I respond to my own question: “If I truly consider the present moment, I am excited about the new challenges that have come my way.”

Courses run by international educators are now being offered freely online. This means I have the opportunity to pursue my interest in developing my wisdom with an electronically delivered course – something which has not been available in the past.

In addition, I have caught up with people I have not managed to fit into my regular schedule. So, my social and learning connectivity has surely been enhanced.

The Zoom Room

Everyone is talking about Zoom these days. In truth, this app has been my biggest challenge and the source of multiple experiences, both negative and positive.

New technology, new adaptations to online facilitation, and learning how to accept disappointments and failures due to my lack of experience have been a constant lately.

For the past 14 years, I have been holding monthly meetings around my dining room table where a small group of seniors gathers to investigate what I call Conscious Ageing.

With physical distancing being the new norm, those monthly meetings have been transformed into weekly meetings held in my Zoom Room. What a challenge it is to make the transfer!

Things Going Wrong

Because of my new busy schedule, brought about by our new enforced lifestyle, I have been juggling with planning multiple meetings. This has involved connecting with someone in Johannesburg, as well as holding meetings with friends from all over the world.

Since all of this involves calculating time zones and some knowledge about the app’s options, I managed to get myself totally confused. The result was sending a number of unresponsive links to one of my friends, Coral.

A Shot of Dopamine

When Coral’s husband taught me how to bring someone into my ongoing zoom meeting, I experienced the reward of a shot of dopamine surging through my system. “Just look at the top left-hand corner,” he said to me, knowing I was in my Zoom Room.

“Click on the little white spot, and you will find the dropdown menu. There is the link to your current meeting. Just cut and paste the link into an email, send that to my wife, and she will join you right away.” And within a couple of minutes, Coral and I were having our planned meeting! Voila!

Facilitating an Online Meeting

The psychologists are all telling us that we cannot multi-task. I have noticed that when an organisation runs a meeting, one person is conducting the meeting and a colleague will be dealing with the technology.

But, I am a one-woman show.

I need to facilitate the meeting whilst muting and unmuting the various contributors, letting people from the waiting room into the meeting, keeping my eye on the chat, answering my cell phone when I am getting incoming calls to help with a technology problem, and maybe allocating participants into breakout rooms.

If this does not call for multi-tasking skills, then I must have missed something!

An Important Quality

In all the sources, to which I refer for guidance into the psychology of ageing, I have never encountered anything about the ability to tolerate the state of “not knowing.”

In today’s changing world, there is a constant need to be upgrading our skills and our values. I believe that senior people who are unable to embrace technology are those who find the feeling of “not knowing” too uncomfortable.

However, we now live in a rapidly changing world. Do we know what our life will be like once this severe lockdown ends? No.

We can project and have our ideas, but there is only one thing of which we can be certain: “We will all need to adapt to a changed lifestyle with new challenges on the road back to a fully functioning economy.”

If we are to adapt to the inevitable future changing lifestyles, we will need to learn to tolerate the quality of “not knowing.”   With practice and perseverance, learning will take place, goals will be reached.