Notes for an INTRODUCTION

TUESDAY, 2 NOVEMBER 2004

Writers send the material they produce in privacy into the world for a variety of reasons. They also express the thoughts that eventually manifest as the literature that end up in bookstores and on bedside tables in various genres with which readers are more or less familiar. Poetry, novels, short stories, articles, essays, and opinion pieces in newspapers are examples of these literary types.

As both a reader of literary material other people produce and interpreter of my own thoughts on paper I am aware of the above genres. The poem, I can certainly admit, is a literary type for which I cherish some sentiment. The (usually) shorter length of the poem, the way each word and each line matter, the challenge to say what you want to say while keeping up with rhythm and rhyme make the poem an exceptional challenge. Other authors prefer the novel – the longer narrative with its characters, its back story, its dramatic incidents, beginning, middle and end, and so on. The short story is a medium I find more appealing, length being one reason – you start, you write a few more pages, you finish up, and you start the next one (to simply it somewhat). Opinion pieces for newspapers I have never written. Articles I have tried to write, but I am still stuck at the second assignment of a writing course I registered for three years ago because I haven’t managed to come up with five topics on which I want to write articles. The essay is a genre with which I have become comfortable in the last few years. Essays can be short – as few as 500 words – or they may go on for page after page without necessarily reaching a satisfactory conclusion (not that great for the reader, but what can you do?).

The literary form of expression I find most agreeable is the written note. The note is immediate. Titles are luxuries to be reflected on much later. The emphasis is on freshly squeezed ideas. Sometimes a few hours pass before a thought makes it on paper. Sometimes the delay between thought formation and words in pencil or ink can be counted in seconds. Of course, the sometimes rough wording of thoughts and emotions does get polished up a bit at a later stage. Paragraphs, headings and other formalities of literature eventually send the note into the world like a gutter dog ready to bark for the cameras after a good wash and a decent haircut.

One is often reminded that other people are usually not that interested in your personal struggles and accompanying diary notes. As book entrepreneur I also have to consider the difference in sales between genres most readers know and expect and the more obscure types. The note might be a convenient format when you want to immediately express ideas that present themselves to you, but the genres apparently preferred by most readers are novels and short stories. If you think you’ve got something to say that you cannot shape into a story like an H.G. Wells or a George Orwell, then the essay would be the preferred choice.

This brings me to a technical crossroads: Am I going to reshape the scrawling in my last few notebooks in the form of essays, which will give the book it will form part of a better chance of reaching that dream sales number of an entire dozen copies, or will I simply polish the notes into a more digestible style and then send them into the outside world in almost the same format they originally entered my inner world – which will probably limit sales to a more modest two or three copies?

I say, let the words stand as they are, for now.

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Short essay on the chasm of unorthodox views

TUESDAY, 2 NOVEMBER 2004

It is totally to be expected that the unattached single person will seek someone with whom he can suspend his solitary existence for a brief period – if a better arrangement than that cannot be reached. A rich variety of problems, however, sometimes prevents the best among us from crossing the divide between I-on-my-own and I-together.

Unorthodox views on life, human existence, what and who we are, religion, politics, and what people do with at least eight hours each weekday are one of the factors that inhibit the leap across the chasm.

The author of this note, as one or two readers may by now have realised, is one of those miserable souls who is convinced his own beliefs are so unusual that people who haven’t known him all his life and who have made their peace with the words that so often flow from his lips would be so terrified of him that they will run screaming to the nearest bus or train station to establish as much distance as possible between themselves and this strange creature.

Like most other miserable armchair philosophers worth their butt-contoured cushions I of course blame other people’s short-sightedness – if people could just broaden the passages of their own minds by tiny degrees, maybe push open some windows, and occasionally enter through a different door to the one they normally use, I won’t be able to keep up with all the social appointments.

It is also true that I find myself in an environment where potential female companions can be divided into two major groups: women who were born and raised in Taiwan, and women who were born and raised in Western countries. In reality the latter group, for my own purposes, amounts to women of my own country, who mostly share my language and cultural background.

There is an important difference between Taiwanese and Afrikaans candidates, as far as my person is concerned: my unorthodox views, and my lifestyle in which these views are a daily palpable reality, are a much more pertinent topic of discussion with the latter group. It is, in many cases, for example, easier to get away with my particular religious beliefs with a Taiwanese woman who either has no clear religious beliefs, or who follows her own mixture of more than one religion, than with an Afrikaans woman whose identity and worldview were probably formed in a Calvinist household.

The environment that is Taiwan is also conducive to me being a full-time “writer” whilst still earning a good income as a part-time “English teacher”. South Africa, which is always a very real possibility as environment to which I will return with a female companion with whom I share a language and culture, is somewhat more unforgiving; or the challenge to set up a life in South Africa that is similar to the life I lead in Taiwan is much more complicated.

My so-called unorthodox views almost always come into play with Afrikaans women, in a language where I cannot hide behind limited vocabulary and poor pronunciation, and in terms and implications I know we both know and understand very well. Meeting a woman of my own linguistic and cultural group with whom I can share my views and beliefs without inhibition is therefore an exceptionally difficult challenge.

It can be said that I need one of two types of women in my life:

* a woman who is unaware of exactly what I believe in; or

* an extraordinary woman who understands my beliefs and personal politics and who thinks broadly enough to be able to say: “I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but I like you.”

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Anyone has forgotten – I am rich

SATURDAY, 23 OCTOBER 2004

In case anyone has forgotten

We need to function, and for that we need information – who we are, what we are, what we need, what we want, and how we should and may go about getting what we need and/or want.

We also need to create or assist in the creation of an environment that is conducive to us becoming what we want to be.

This process of “becoming” should however not be confined to people serving only their own agendas, their own needs or wants. The participation of individuals in a larger process which aims at a result that would benefit more than just a single person, or a handful of individuals, should always be sincerely and actively encouraged.

Why? For one reason, as you participate in the improvement of someone else’s environment, so someone else participates in the betterment of yours. We also share environments, both in the larger sense, and in a more domestic sense. If we all partake in the improvement of our common environments, we all benefit individually.

MONDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2004

I am rich – until I need to replenish my cereal stock

Everyone knows how important it is to measure wealth … or then, everyone who is serious about money (are there actually still people silly enough to not be serious about money?).

Various criteria are used to determine wealth: the type of vehicle in which people cruise around; the number of vehicles the person possesses; the number of toilets someone has in his or her place of residence to choose from when essential business calls; the number of times per year one goes abroad, and in what class seat one plunks down his or her butt on the airplane; the quantity and quality of clothing that people have to drape around their nudity; shiny little pieces that people hang from their limbs, and so you can go on.

As you can certainly guess, I am also very serious about money. (Why else would I produce this piece of text?) But since when are you not taken seriously if you measure your wealth by the number of boxes of cereal you have in your kitchen cupboard? I mean, does anyone with three cars and seven toilets and a tailored suit and a gold watch know how much American muesli cost these days? And I have at least four full boxes in my kitchen!

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Good government – identification – idealism

TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2004

“Good government” and adequate identification data

It should be one of the objectives of good government to facilitate the process through which people acquire adequate identification data (not necessarily to provide this data); to create an environment that is conducive to the individual identifying him or herself with something greater than him or herself.

This “something greater” should, however, NOT be the government itself, nor the state – rather the “nation”, or historical figures, language, culture, etcetera.

As an active agent in the constructive process through which people identify themselves to themselves, to others in their community, and to people both within and without their national borders, good government can and should play an important role in producing results beneficial to both the individual and the community within whose midst the individual lives and works.

WEDNESDAY, 20 OCTOBER 2004

The contradiction in my idealism

I believe every man, woman and child has a right to dignity, and I believe it to be a birthright of every man and woman to satisfy their natural desire for free, creative work under their own control.

Here is my problem: I cannot ignore the hypocrisy of my position. To be free in my own pursuit of creative fulfilment, I need an army of people to ensure the smooth running and administration of the world outside my front door, knowing full well that the ways in which they run and administer this world are sometimes in direct contradiction to values I hold dear.

______________________

An existential tale

TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2004

One day, a long, long time ago, there was a man who lived just a stone’s throw from a very small village. Some people thought he was a giant. Others argued he was certainly a large man, but no giant. But that he was much bigger than the people in the village was obvious to all who encountered him.

This man … was a lonely man, because he lived alone and also because he … was different from the villagers. At times, his loneliness became unbearable – so unbearable that he could not stop himself from leaving his house to walk the few hundred yards through the dense forest to seek some companionship in the village.

When he did find himself in the village, he tried his best to make friends. But it was always a slow process. Although he was friendly, he could never hide the uneasiness about how different he seemed. He tried hard to convince people that he is like them. He wore clothing that was similar to theirs – or so he reckoned anyway, and he tried to talk about things about which they could add their own opinions or experiences. He also attempted to speak in ways that were similar to their ways of speaking, all in an effort not to alienate them.

All the inhabitants of this village lived in small houses, with small pieces of furniture, small doors, small windows, small chairs and tables, and very low ceilings. Every time the man visited the people in the hamlet, he had to bend down low to enter their homes. His butt hurt from sitting on their little stools, and sometimes he was somewhat clumsy at their small tables. He also hit his head against their ceilings, and his eyes burned from looking out their small windows. His back ached every time he walked home – from all the bending down, of course.

The structure this man called home – which he had built with his own hands – was much, much larger than even the largest house in the village. Compared to his house, the houses in the village looked like doll houses; compared to the houses in the village, his house looked like a castle. Of course, the man didn’t like talking about his residence. He knew, or suspected that the villagers would feel embarrassed about their own cramped dwellings. And the man never invited the villagers to visit his home because he feared alienating them so much that they would never want to speak to him again.

So the time went by, with the lonely, shy, gentle “giant” trying his best to be part of the community in whose midst he lived – even if it was a short distance away.

Occasionally, he allowed himself to dream that a young woman from the village might just one day look at him with different eyes, and just maybe come live with him in his magnificent home. But the months and, eventually, the years dragged on without any young woman of the village looking at him and seeing anything other than a somewhat ugly, bald giant.

This man started growing tired of bending down all the time. He got tired of all the low door frames and the low ceilings in the village residences. He got tired of trying to focus on the view outside the small windows. He even got tired of getting butt cramps from sitting on the little chairs.

The “giant” wanted so much to stand up straight just once, in the middle of the village where everyone could see him, and then bellow out to all an invitation to visit him – at his home, his castle. He wanted to show them who he truly is. He wanted to explain to them where he had come from, why he is different from them, but also that he is just a man.

He knew he would have taken a considerable risk in doing so. The villagers were so used to their own houses, their own little doors, their tiny windows, their own small pieces of furniture and their low ceilings that they would have become anxious in the big castle. The big, heavy door would have scared them. The high ceiling would have caused them to grasp one another in fear, and they would have felt terribly small in his grand old chairs, sitting by his gigantic table. Finally, they would have gotten dizzy in the head from the enormously wide view from his huge windows.

People would have run away from him and his castle. They would probably never have wanted to see him again, and they would certainly have felt awkward if he had sought their company again in their tiny little hamlet. Never would he then have been able to convince a young woman from the village to come and live with him!

Still, the man was tired of bending down all the time. For once, he wanted to stand upright. Just one time he wanted the villagers to see him for who and what he truly was; to see the man he saw when he looked in the mirror.

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