WEDNESDAY, 5 MAY 2004
Part two: Do I want to settle in the middle, or do I want to settle in a better place?
Will I stop dreaming of going home just because the sun cast a certain light over Benevolent Light last Sunday afternoon? Will I suddenly be happy in Taiwan because I filled half my notebook with reasons why I would prefer to settle here? I think I understand but a fraction of life, and of what goes on in my own head. This writing project has been a fallible yet ambitious attempt to keep up, to try to understand what makes me who I am.
I wanted to be a symbol (for whom I do not know) of the possibility that one could have a better life than the one for which people “just” settle down. At the end I just want to be an ordinary man. And do ordinary people not also sometimes lose? Do they not later regret things they did or did not do? Do ordinary people not suffer? Do ordinary people not always long for something or someone?
What are the right questions? I am just an ordinary person, how the hell should I know …
The process should start from scratch. This is the end and the beginning.
What am I? What are my belongings? What is my family? What are my fears, and what is my purpose in life? What is the role I have to play? Or is it just a struggle and you win as long as you remain standing?
Can I be happy with a wife and children, and a three-bedroom house and a garden and a backyard and a dog and … all the other things that go with a backyard? Could this be the end result of a final trip to my homeland? Should I be prepared to lose everything for a chance to win everything? And for how long does one win before you lose again?
Will I win Eternal Life if I give up everything here and like my own caricature hero start over in South Africa? Will I go to Hell if I stay here and find happiness in this place?
Or is South Africa my Hell, and Benevolent Light, New Village in the south of Taiwan my salvation? Do I make everything worse than it is supposed to be, or do I not even have the foggiest clue?
Will I suddenly have all the answers if I become a millionaire overnight?
Why does that feel more like the truth than any other possibility? Is Poverty Hell and Paradise Money? Are we taught that it is not so because someone has to sweep the streets and cart away the garbage? Are there rich fools just to throw us off the trail? Do rich people know something that poor people do not know? Is Money the Truth? Is Wealth the Path to True Life?
If I had to compile a list right now of my top ten issues and dilemmas, and I imagine that I have a million (or a few) in any major currency, why is it that I am able to tick off one after the other item on my list? House for my parents, and rest for their souls in their old age; financial assistance in case either of my two sisters ever need it; a good home and a good quality of life anywhere I choose; dozens of people whose problems I can solve, and so I can continue until I get bored of it.
I think I understand now. You must either have ten times more than have enough for all your needs and dilemmas, or you should have nothing. In the first case, you can find happiness in this little corner of the universe – unless you are a rich fool, and in the second case you stand a chance to become a holy man or woman, poor enough to pass through the eye of the needle. Anything in between fills up notebooks way too fast, and inspire way too much rhymeless poetry.
* * *
This has led me to the insight that there are three possibilities: 1) Ten Times More Money Than You Need To Meet Your Basic Needs, 2) Absolutely No Money And No Relationships that will result in nothing binding you to this world – the contemporary ascetic, and 3) The Middle, which amounts to a little happiness if you play your cards right, and much frustration and many unfulfilled ambitions and desires.
Part three: Say I achieve the desired financial situation, which would I choose, Taiwan or South Africa?
FRIDAY, 7 MAY 2004
Part four: Denouement
Who am I if I return lock, stock and bookcases to South Africa within the next few months (and probably not with bags full of money)? I am the Red Hero, The Man Who Takes Risks, The Man Who is Willing to Leave Behind Comfort for the Sake of His Family, The Man Who Is Prepared to Lose Everything for the Chance of Winning Everything.
Who am I if I do what I have been considering the last few days? I am a man who tries his best to live a good life, despite the fact that his efforts do not always seem so interesting on paper than is the case with his more radical plans. Can anyone identify with this person? Does it matter?
(Last night, just over two hours after going to bed, I woke up after dreaming I was “home”. My sisters and my parents were with me. In the dream I had to suddenly pack to go to the airport to fly to South Africa to spend a few weeks there.)
At what point does one make a decision? Or do you actually know what your decision will be and then you simply announce it when you are ready?
I should just accept it: I do not want to permanently return to South Africa, but I will always want to go “home”.
[END OF THE HATCHET NOTES]