Time is running out

A philosophical leader of the Roman Empire once said: “Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence” (Marcus Aurelius).  Although, the message has become somewhat of a cliché lately, I don’t think many people truly embrace these rather life altering words. People think it is a great message and quote it freely, without really believing in the value of the actual message.

The Canadian rock group, Nickelback, have a great song which encompasses these words and this very message. It is a great feel good number, and makes you think about the meaning of your existence on this planet. How do other people view your role in their lives? What value do you bring to your employers lives and what value do they bring to your life?  We are brought up to believe in certain values and the importance of certain actions and attitudes towards various tasks and responsibilities. Even if our parents or families don’t provide these models for us to mimic, society does. You might argue that this is an intrinsic human trait stemming from our tribal days that we need to ensure that the tribe’s wellbeing is put before the individual’s. In a few isolated cases I believe this to be true. Corporates and shareholders utilise this behaviour in a very lucrative way, and so do a few more nefarious organisations and people.

Have you ever been off work sick, and laid in bed worrying about the reception you would receive from your colleagues and management upon your return? I can probably place a wager on the fact that in most cases you would go back to work to your own detriment and against the advice of your healthcare practitioner just to appease the powers that be.

How many people can say that they have indulged their interests and really spent their time pursuing their passions? The fear of what other people might think is so great that it has paralysed countless people into a lifetime of mediocrity.  Many people spend the productive years of their life doing something that they hate, putting their blood, sweat and tears into their careers only to retire and sadly realize that their health is not what it used to be and that they are severely limited. I am sure that one can and does accumulate wealth, prestige and material things during this time period. There are also those friendships that you create, with people in the same situation as you, with similar aspirations, and the same programming.

What is that one thing that all of your late nights in the office, weekends away from your loved ones, and gastric ulcers cannot afford you? TIME!  Time is running out. All of what you have done is for nothing if you don’t have time.  Cherish it. Protect it. Don’t squander it on the unnecessary. 

Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught – Honore de Balzac

I have had some interesting encounters and conversations this week, related to the blatant disregard for certain by-laws. A lot of people have become law experts overnight and have begun a passion infused pseudo movement against the “offenders”. I have heard all sorts of theories from these vigilantes, about what they feel compels the “perpetrators” to purposefully choose to ignore the legal guidelines set forth by the powers that be. There have even been some scathing indictments directed at people who have no bearing on the matters at hand, no jurisdiction, and no influence whatsoever on the guilty parties.

It has been quite an interesting observation. You will notice that I didn’t use the term “discussion”, and this is because, discussion would entail some sort of exchange and subsequent reasoning.  People have a right to be angry. No one should take it upon themselves to do what they want at the detriment of society.

As the number of people increases and their proximity to each other decreases, certain animal behaviour must ensue. As with most of us, there are situations, where you find yourself in the heat of the moment, and sometimes take a slightly more nefarious route, possibly due to your circumstances and time constraints. This is not excusable by any means. However the acts that interest me are more deliberate, and the decisions around them have had ample time to float around in the future law-breakers conscious. You know what I am talking about. Talking on your cell phone whilst driving, sending that all important text while you are stationary at the robot,  THROWING YOUR RUBBISH OUT YOUR WINDOW!

The route of these offences is numerous, and a fascinating subject in its’ own right. However what has got me thinking lately has been how hypocritical we are when we discuss and take action against the offenders.

As my good friend Mark pointed out to me yesterday, the most vocal and militant parties are most of the time, breaking a few laws themselves. What do you think their response is when you bring this to their attention? Well, according to them, not all laws are equal, and thus their non-compliance cannot be compared to that of the criminals who break the other laws. This mindset is common and quite alarming.

I guess that they do not subscribe to Ghandi’s principle of “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

Can we expect any reduction in these contraventions without all the offenders being cognisant of their actions? In my limited and free opinion, no. Do you think that the legal system is a just and fair system, or do you feel that it only serves people with certain resources and social standings?

Lets all endeavour to stop breaking the law, regardless of how frivolous we might think the law is. Once we have become upstanding and law abiding citizens, we can criticise, condemn and complain all we want. Until that day, lets leave the condemnation to those few people who feel it there duty to operate heavy machinery without using their mobile devices, to throw their litter in rubbish bins, to respect copy right laws and in general have respect for their fellow neighbours.

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Everything has been figured out, except how to live. – Jean-Paul Sartre

How does one define “living” in today’s hectic, fast paced existence? The answer to this question will invariably differ depending on who you ask. Factors such as upbringing, socio-economic environments and possibly career aspirations make people re-align their lives and how they live, or askew their understanding of what it means to really live.

The proverbial “vicious circle” entraps most people in the daily monotony of making a living in order to live. Based on the consumer driven behaviour, the more living that one wants to do, the more making a living one must do, which inversely decreases the amount of living one does.

As people strive to climb the corporate ladder they envision bigger salaries and more freedom and choice, when in actual fact all they end up with is longer work hours, more stress, strained personal relationships, and deteriorating health. This might sound very broad, however this is just my personal and unqualified observation.

People work hard to get that ever elusive promotion. Take on extra responsibility, spend extra time at work, go out of their way to really ensure that their duties are well executed and noticed in the hope that they will climb the corporate ladder, or grow a business. How does this fit into the bigger picture in realistic and practical terms?

Can we put a price on our health and the personal relationships that we have with our loved ones? These aspects are vital and at the same time priceless. We do however endeavour to pursue the collection of materialist items, and continue building our careers and business interests at the direct detriment of all that is really dear and essential to us, whilst the time for living is wasted.

I have recently met some people who have weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of competing in the rat race and have made the very difficult and potentially life changing decision to truly live life. Some people might find this crazy and foolish, however I find it quite admirable and hope to follow their examples.

How many people follow the same cycle day in and day out: wake up, go to work, go home, sleep, wake up, go to work, go home……..? When they do eventually break the cycle the vast majority of their lives have been expended. They have almost reached their “best before dates” and have lost out on experiences, relationships and encounters. Do they require financial means to accomplish some of the afore-mentioned things and actually live? Most definitely, however the question arises at to, how much and at what cost?

Maybe we shouldn’t wait until we are struck down with terminal illness before we embrace the idea of the “Bucket List”. What is really stopping us? Why are other people, in the prime of their lives able to do the things we are putting off for retirement? What makes them different? Well maybe a burning desire to embrace what life has to offer. Maybe the fear of losing the security that a mundane lemming existence affords the blue collared corporate cog. Maybe we don’t really know what we want and have never really thought about it enough to want to make a change.

What if you aspire to contribute to mankind in a tangible way? You want to make a positive difference in society. Are you finding that the bulk of your time and efforts are contributing to this goal? Is what you are spending your time on, in fact hampering your goal?

As a parent, I have missed out on quite a few memorable moments in my children’s lives due to work commitments. I won’t be able to witness my daughters’ first primary school sports day again or her participation in a school concert due to work commitments. Those were priceless moments lost in time. Would I have been able to find another job? Yes. Was my boss’s impression of me on those specific days important, or was the impression that my daughter had of me important?

I am sure a few of you will be able to relate in some way or another. If there is one thing I hoped to have achieved from this post, it is to get you to question your intentions, motivation and current circumstances.

An unwelcome little guest who helped himself to my peanuts

Sunday night was just another peaceful evening in the bush. Aside from the gentle rain which fell on the parched earth outside there was nothing that disturbed my slumber. The bush has been very dry and in urgent need of some form of precipitation, so the rain was a most welcome addition to a sweltering weekend. I must have been sleeping for about two hours when I was woken by something. The mere fact that I was woken by something other than a tympanic membrane shattering foghorn, or a cherry bomb placed strategically on my pillow was cause for concern.

I am not a light sleeper by any stretch of the imagination thanks to living in a high school hostel where consideration for your fellow dorm mate’s beauty sleep was not high on the priority list. Suddenly crockery in the kitchen cupboard started falling. I experienced an instant fight or flight response. I could feel my heart beating like jack hammer at full whack. My breathing became pronounced and increased in intensity. Could it be an intruder?

Then I was overcome by some much needed reasoning. If there was in fact an intruder, what would he want with my crockery. I don’t think that your run of the mill cat burglar has a taste for Royal Dalton and even if he did, I didn’t possess any.

I plucked up the courage and reached for my Maglite, which would serve primarily as a form of illumination and then if need be a weapon. After untangling myself from the mosquito net which had enveloped me into a cocoon of epic proportions, I stumbled out my bedroom with great stealth only knocking down one lamp in the process.

To my sheer relief I did not meet any nefarious characters in my kitchen. All the cupboards where closed except for one which stood ever so slightly ajar.  A quick inspection of the house put my fears of an unwanted larcenist to rest.

I began picking up all the items from the floor, that just happened to be in my way when I made my stealthy exit out of the bedroom. Just then, I heard a glass fall over inside one of my kitchen cupboards. Okay, so it wasn’t a person, then it must be a snake. Maybe a spitting cobra, just waiting to surprise my corneas with some projectile venom as I peer into the cupboard. So wearing my spectacles and wielding a long stick, I very gently opened the cupboard doors one by one eagerly anticipating a serpent coiled up, and ready to dispose of some of its’ lethal toxins.

After a thorough search, no reptiles were to be found. I did however find that a packet of peanuts had been damaged, which caused the contents to spill out. And there to my surprise and annoyance I found the cause of my ordeal, sitting and eating a peanut.  A little dormouse had managed to get into the house, then the cupboard and had knocked over some of the crockery, which in turn caused the noise.

Now that I knew that my cornea’s and crockery were safe, I had to try and evict my unwanted guest from the house.  Thanks to my copy of the “SAS Survival Handbook” I knew just the trap that would entice and incarcerate my foe, without harming him. Using a box, bamboo skewer and some box tap I managed to construct a deadfall that would trap the dormouse, upon him taking one of the peanuts that I had stuck to the tape, which in turn was stuck to the bamboo skewer, which in turn was holding the box up.

Needless to say, after two hours I heard the trap in action. To my sheer astonishment the trap actually worked. The dormouse was trapped underneath the cardboard box and trying his best to get out. My first attempt at trapping was an overwhelming success. Ray Mears would have been proud. Now being the kind and gentle person that I am, I planned on taking my little furry friend further into the bush and letting him go, hoping he would not undertake the long and arduous trek back up the road to my house. However it was still raining outside and dark. So I decided to leave him in the box until the morning, when I would find a more suitable spot for him to live.

The next morning when I went to see to the logistics of moving Pappilon to a more suitable abode, it turns out that he had chewed a hole in the box which served as his prison and escaped while I was asleep.

He is still around. I can hear him squeaking from a hole in the wall taunting me with his presence. In hindsight, maybe a more seasoned trapper/hunter would have used a more robust medium as opposed to cardboard. Well his days are numbered. I plan on catching him and relocating him to another part of the park, just as soon as I can catch him again.

Exotic fruit prized by humans and pachyderms alike

If anyone was to ask me, what single smell conjures up memories of the African bush, it has to be the scent of Marula fruit on a hot summer’s day. The sweet aroma of these little fruits is unmistakable and very appealing.

People who are not from South Africa might not be familiar with the fruit in its’ natural form, however there is a creamy liqueur that is exported around the world and is quite popular, that uses the fruit as one of its’ chief ingredients and is called Amarula.

You will be hard pressed to find a tree more aesthetically pleasing and versatile than the Marula tree (Sclerocarya Birrea). This tree can grow up to 18 metres tall and has a grey flaky bark with a spreading crown.  According to the book “Making the most of indigenous trees” the tree bears its’ golden fruit from January to March when countless varieties of animals indulge in what this deciduous tree has to offer.

Aside from the flesh of the fruit, which can be used for making jam and juice the seeds contain nuts which can be eaten raw or roasted. An essence made from the leaves is said to have anti-inflammatory qualities according to the website: www.marula.org.za.

Something that the aspiring horticulturalist will find interesting is that these trees are relatively easy to propagate and are fast growing and drought resistant. According to “Making the most of indigenous trees”  which is a fantastic wealth of information on trees, by planting the seed in a nursery bag full of river sand you are able to sprout seedlings. If you are able to accrue a truncheon which is about 2 metres in length you can plant it in early spring.

So for all of the visitors to the Kruger National Park and Marloth Park, look out for the iconic Marula tree. There are female and male trees, with only the female producing the fruit. As a reminder of your trip to South Africa, you will be able to pick up a bottle of Amarula liqueur at the duty free section of the airport.