A few days away from Benevolent Light


Day 4 of my holiday in South Africa

From the very beginning, this holiday has been different from all the previous ones. In the first place, I did not come here alone, and I am not leaving here alone. Secondly, my older sister and her family are now living in Johannesburg. Thirdly, my old friend and coffee shop conversation partner from Taiwan is now living in Cape Town.

Two questions have travelled with me from the beginning, and have ambled with me across the lawn looking for a place to smoke a cigarette: “Who am I?” and “How have I changed?”

The answer to the first question is, after careful consideration, similar to the answer I gave in February 2005, August 2004 and July 2003: writer, poet, freethinker, man with a self-defined agenda, son, brother, friend, and entrepreneur-in-the-making.

To say that I am calmer – or maybe just tired – has to suffice as an answer to the second question. It feels like I have said enough for now, as if I have formulated opinions on everything on which I had wanted to formulate an opinion. Of course, there are many issues on which I have yet to formulate an opinion, but here a new thing kicks in: I have become more reluctant to express an opinion if I do not have sufficient data. I am not so eager anymore to jump on my soapbox with the first mention of a question and to try and talk everyone into submission with a hastily formulated opinion. Absolute statements, even preliminary statements, must now be preceded by very well-formulated questions.


Day 5 in Cape Town – so far a happier and more enjoyable time than any other time I have spent in the Cape since February 1996

Friday we were driving on the N1. As we were passing Monte Vista where my parents and my younger sister had lived for several months in 1992 in a cramped little house next to the railway line, with their financial situation extremely precarious, I casually gestured in that direction and said to Natasja, “My parents lived in that second house from the bridge at one point.” As if it never mattered. As if I couldn’t even really remember that time.

Yesterday in Stellenbosch my brain was also innocently pulling documents from dusty old folders every time I saw a familiar street, street corner, building, square, library or eating establishment. Strange, and almost comforting in a way, how shallow certain feelings and insecurities lie.

* * *

Each person has an environment where he or she functions at optimal level – where you are at your best or where you produce your best work. The environment where I am currently on vacation requires of me a certain appearance – to be polite, to be good company, to be a good guest, and so on. While I reckon I do okay with it, I am acutely aware of the fact that this is not the environment in which I operate optimally. I don’t do any work here; I produce nothing; I create nothing. And these are things that I value in order to define myself and to distinguish myself from other people around me.


A week in Cape Town, almost two weeks away from Benevolent Light, sees the following thought as a result:

Religion – ritual – environment with central point – environment changes – ritual cannot be administered because of distance from central point – religion is undermined

Identity –actions that confirm identity – environment with central point – environment changes – actions that confirm identity cannot be performed because of distance from central point – identity is undermined

Result: confidence is undermined, stress increases, potential for interpersonal conflict increases

Short-term solution: faith