It’s not the end of the world that I’m gone – well, it’s the end of mine. I’m not going to pretend; my life wasn’t quite what I thought was destined for me, I had expected a lot more, but it was still fun in an ironic Bart Simpson sort of way. For a good few years it was a fairy tale wasn’t it; it had all the elements too: plenty of adventure, romance, castles, wild faraway places and animals, and all the family privileges of princes and princesses. The dragon though was mysteriously absent, or so we thought.
I had high standards once upon a time, and I saw these slip starting in ’89 and ’98, despite a lot of best efforts to keep the show on the road. Instead of giving up I realized there was a level of functionality I was prepared to tolerate, even if I didn’t always accept it. Perhaps I got into the habit of making concessions.
To my family – I knew you all a great deal better than you know, and loved you all a lot more than any of you realize. It is the secrets we keep that are the roots of dysfunction. Perhaps we feel if others knew some details about us they would no longer love us. That is a risk we ought to take, because perhaps we can be loved in spite of our imperfections. Isn’t that what love is all about?
I’ve learned that we all deserve to be loved. We don’t deserve it more if we work harder, because we’re richer or thinner, or simply as payback. We simply deserve to be loved for being who we are. If we as individuals can accept that, without trying to earn it, we save ourselves and those around us a lot of grief. It is the perfect way to start.
Meanwhile, I am at the end. As I say, I can’t boast that I have had the best life possible. Far from it. It’s been exceedingly lonely, but others have been lonely too, and sometimes we are better off for it. I am not saying I was. Perhaps I got to write a few stories, perhaps I was able to steer clear of collective delusions. Did it do the world – or me – any good, my knowing this, this hard gained ‘insights’? It is odd how company – even good company – allows us to forget, or care less, about reality. For our wishes to come true there is always a price, and a price even in the pursuit of their not coming true.
Being dead, do I now believe in God? No. It was always vanity to believe we human beings had a special relationship with God, that he would look like us and we like him, we would talk to each other and make promises, and have rules, and that both God and ourselves could be dismissive of all the other creatures in the world. That is not who God is, and not whom we ought to be.
Each person truly, deeply, knows the truth. But we are not good listeners. We can’t even listen to ourselves – the truth from the inner child speaking softly into our own hearts. If we cannot pause to listen, then nothing else will reach us. We want to believe what we want to believe.
I want to believe there is life after death. There is in the sense of one’s children, and the results of one’s actions, the memories and words and traces of energy left behind. Do you really think that we die to live again as ghosts in grand invisible cities? Grow up. As a species, we need to indulge ourselves less.
If God is the unconscious intelligence, the Is, the way we are all connected, the energy, the Force in all things, then I believe it. God does not know my name, but he speaks to me and you not in words but in the wind, the waters, the sands that have flowed against my skin and my blood, like ribbons over paper, sauce on pasta. The one makes the other; giving it flavour, giving it purpose, feeding it, changing it, cooking it, coloring it into something else.
That is my view anyway. It may be absolute reality, or may not be. Whatever you believe is right for you. I always wanted to believe in something that could be right for everyone.
Like McCandless, I know happiness is only real when shared, and it is our relationships, our connectedness, that imbues our lives with meaning, and love. This is what pains me. I have shared a lot less than I hoped I would. And in this sense I have both been incredibly blessed and incredibly poor, but mostly, I feel: poor. I have become very disconnected at times – to people sometimes, and to nature. At others I have been intensely connected – to people, and to nature. The highlights must include swimming with wild dolphins, standing on Kilimanjaro’s icy, scalding summit of incinerated crust, the night on Mount Saint Michel, the moon over the Sea of the Philippines at midnight, catching and eating a fish at Kob Inn, a girl on a horse on Hout Bay beach, the first kiss (and other firsts ;-) the car accident that gashed open my knee, a birthday in a hospital bed, the triathlon win in Korea, those first rides on my Zipps, and so much more magic and personal chaos wrapped into holidays and all of our various ambitions.
I could have and should have achieved great things, perhaps in any one of the things I pursued. I loved them all. The soccer, the swimming, the triathlon, the writing, the photography, all those books, all those movies, all those ideas. When I look back now I see I am also greatly to blame for not putting so many of those ideas into action. Time passed since the first ideas, and now other companies exist, famous people, who simply followed their dreams. I followed many dreams. I traveled to many places in the world and I have seen some things you wouldn’t believe. Does anything specific stand out? Did I do anything of significance? I fear no.
Again there is this ‘Saving Private Ryan’ sense that I feel I had to earn the right to live. I think it’s more a case that I wanted to give, to live, the gift of life. And I am sad and dismayed because I know I did not, I didn’t do it fully enough. Of course, million s have had their lives cut short by war, disease, bad luck. Many more have squandered more than I have, but my life was mine for a while, and I would have enjoyed enjoying it for all it was worth. Isn’t that a life worth dying for?
I would have loved to have made movies, and published books – that would have meant something. You know I postponed this sort of voyeurism for a long time as I feared it would remove me from a firsthand experience of life. It would have made me a compulsive obsessive perfectionist, always analyzing, always observing, always reflecting and rendering. What about living! Getting involved! I think I am that person anyway, and, I am someone who participates. For human beings I now realise, stories can be even more important than reality. We still have a lot to learn.
It has been very difficult – for me – to live in the world. It is so vulgar at times. So insensitive and shallow – I mean – as an average. I am a great deal more sensitive than the average, and I have hoped to harness this in service to the world. This is difficult when people are driven to distraction, unable to listen, and lacking in the ability to recognize value or meaning. Many simply do not care, and think my ‘caring’ is arrogance or hubris. Perhaps it was.
I have experienced a lot of pain in my naïve appreciation of beauty and truth. It is a curse sometimes to be so acutely aware of the lovely subtleties in the world, to see meaning and metaphors in so much. People are confused by this interest. Love of beauty is not necessarily personal. It is artistic, and intimate, but not necessarily personal. Some are freaked out by this, which I can understand.
I have also been corrupted – my life is not one of innocence and good deeds. I have had an Anakin Skywalker spirit where magic and chaos promised so much, but doubt and chances conspired heavily against me. I did better than him to resist the Dark Side. God knows there was enough Darkness and Emptiness and Loneliness. More than a Fair Share? What is fair these days? What is the going rate?. What haunts me still is this knowledge: When so much could have been gained but was instead lost. This is true for me and the whole world. Knowing this about oneself is frustrating; it is difficult to not have a great deal of anger. Knowing it about this country and the world is even more vexing. How…why did we…do we allow it?
McCandless too owes some of his strangeness – I believe, I understand – to his prolonged celibacy. To be true to ourselves we have to acknowledge and accept that some things aren’t perfect, and neither are we. There is desire and despair. It may be difficult to accept the limits of perfection in a world where perfection is a recipe for success, but perfectionism in relationships is a recipe for disaster. Whose perfectionism should be preferred then? Whose do we choose? How much is gained? How much is gained?
I am grateful for a special life. I have been blessed with so much. Chaos and Magic. That’s me. If I have a regret it’s that I didn’t spend more time with Candice. And that I turned down a chance to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. There might be more but they don’t come to mind. Since I don’t have children there will be no life after death for me. That’s also something I am prepared to live with…well, die with. If you think about it, everything is what it is, we are all supposed to be exactly where we are supposed to be. We can learn from this psychology. So much of our lives we spend resisting. So much is inevitable. So much is simply what it is (despite our imaginings). Acceptance is also happiness. There is joy in simply living, in breathing, in being. I’ve found that; I’ve experienced that.
As the end credits roll, you will see a lot of names, in no particular order. You all meant a great deal, and shaped me in an important way. Thank you. Goodbye.
Corneli Vorster, Francois Muller, Fransa Nel, Tammy Nzar, Mandy Thompson, Jenny Lake, Justus and Ane Visagie, Paul Hunt and family, Sharon Heath and family, Leslie Wright and family, Samantha Flint, Tammy Flint, Greg Flint, Welma Flint, Shannon Harris, Paddy Harris, Nicky Poulos, Daniel Schoeman, Albert Albertyn, Tico Hersch, Tanya and Madeleine Smit, Juliette Meyer, Allan, Katherine and Janet Muir, Mark Collie, Simon Gray, Penny Predeaux, Werner Allers, Anya Louw, Joanne Schrock, Hugo van Zyl, Garth McCarthy, Marie Goddard, Buddy Goddard, David Maartens, writers Ayn Rand, Enid Blyton, Jim Kunstler, Alex Garland, Douglas Coupland, and finally Alex Otto and family, CJ, Candice, Mom and Dad.