Parkbench Perspectives – V

This series of prose imagines the world as seen through different people’s eyes – each sitting on the same park bench at different times and with different life stories.

Park Bench Perspective #5

I always imagined that this would be the bench where we would sit and contemplate the world when we were old and grey. There would be no need to say anything. It would be enough that we were together, relaxed in each other’s presence, basking in the sun of happy memories, still in love after so many years. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I am such a fool. My naïve belief in fairytale endings blinded me. There is no “happily ever after”. In real life, this is how it ends: one person is always left alone on the bench, their heart ripped out, their life in shreds.

I wish the initial numbness had lasted. Now all I feel this seething, writhing, bubbling anger. I want to scream, to smash this bench, to set fire to our bed, to hunt him down, to make her sorry for what she did. How could she!? How could sixteen years together mean so little? How could she do it, knowing how much it would hurt me? I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. So what does that make me? I thought I knew her. I thought we were in love. I thought we would always be together. What planet of self-delusion have I been living on?

I have always said that people fall in love, and they can just as easily fall out of love. And I still believe that. But I never believed it would happen to me, to us. How could I not have seen it coming? How could I have felt that our love was growing deeper, when she was really drifting further and further away? What about my poems? What about all my declarations of love? Did they mean nothing to her? What about the “love forever” that she wrote in all the cards?

I should have listened to my instincts – all those times I felt jealous. It’s my own fault, for trusting her. And yet what is a marriage without trust? Ever since she cheated the first time, I have never felt secure. My biggest fear has always been that I would lose her. But I convinced myself that I was just being paranoid. I allowed her reassurances – her lies – to placate me. So many lies! How could she deceive me? Repeatedly! She was living a lie, with me right there. Did I deserve that? It can only mean that she had no respect for me whatsoever. And yet, how is that possible?

And how can I respect her now? She will always be tainted in my eyes. Not only was she prepared to deceive me, to inflict pain knowingly, to plan our demise consciously, but she shows no remorse, no inclination to stop. I feel so sorry for his wife, for his kids, living under the shadow of a lie. When they find out – when, not if, because they will find out, sooner or later – the pain will be so much greater. How can she continue this affair? I just don’t understand it. How does she sleep at night? Has she no shred of moral fibre in her body? Is this the same person I married?

I know I must let go and move on. But it has all happened so quickly. Two weeks is all it’s taken to go from blissfully in love to painfully estranged, from together to apart, from married to separated. How could she throw it all away so easily? What about everything we’ve shared? Everything we’ve gone through? Both the good times and the bad. Do those memories mean nothing to her? She has degraded our past by what she’s done, and it sickens me. She’s made us less. How am I ever going to be able to forgive her?

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Parkbench Perspectives – IV

This series of prose imagines the world as seen through different people’s eyes – each sitting on the same park bench at different times and with different life stories.

Park Bench Perspective #4

Why is it, when I sit on this bench, that I feel free? It makes no sense. So much of my life is a cage. So what is it about this bench, this place? Is it the open space, uncluttered by the props of my life’s drama? Or the early morning sun and the sparkling dew on the grass, whispering that even the longest nights end and the coldest freeze thaws? Maybe it is just that everything I care most about is right here where I see it clearly, from this bench.

The twins are happily preoccupied on the blanket with their toys, and the boys are close by in the playground area. They epitomise what it means to be carefree. They still know the joy of simple pleasures. When last was my life simple? It’s hard to believe it ever was. How much time do they have left, before their innocence evaporates? Before their world gets complicated? Before they realise the harsh pain of reality?

It won’t be long now and I can’t bear it. To know that I can’t protect them from being hurt. To know that I can’t shield them from being caught in the crossfire. It’s not their fault! Why should they suffer because their parents don’t love one another; because power and politics twist relationships; because they are part of a deal to avoid public embarrassment? Will my love be enough? Or will they resent me, for making them complicit in the lie I’ve been living?

Just look at Adrian, in his superman t-shirt, waving at me from the top of the slide, looking for all the world like the superhero he is. God. I remember that feeling! I even had the t-shirt: Wonder Woman of course. What happened to her? Did she die in one too many battles with cynicism? Was she educated to death? Or did the church crucify her? And who is going to tell Alex that he’s not invincible? I don’t have the heart to tell him that saving the universe is a little ambitious when people can’t even save a marriage.

And what about Brian? He has none of Adrain’s confidence. He is such a sensitive soul. Cries for almost no reason. How is he going to cope in a world that rewards bullies and scorns softness? At least I had the confidence. At least I was with the “in” crowd. I know now that that was a mixed blessing. Some people still me as little more than a cheerleader at the ballgame which is my husband’s career. But at least I was a bit older before I learned about rejection.

And who knows with the twins. They are still so young. If things go wrong, if things get messy, how will they be affected? Will they be strong for each other? Later, when they find out the truth, will the join together against me? Or will they forgive me? Will they believe me when I tell them that everything I did was because I thought it was the best for them? Or will they just see a coward who lived her life to please everyone except herself?

If I had one wish, it would be that these beautiful children of mine grow up to be free. Is that possible? Can I live in a cage without placing bars around them also? Will I teach them to expect limitations and to accept compromises? Will my bitter experience of love convince them that love is never sweet? Will they renounce their faith in dreams, because my nightmares have haunted their lives? So many impossible questions, it drives me crazy.

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Parkbench Perspectives – III

This series of prose imagines the world as seen through different people’s eyes – each sitting on the same park bench at different times and with different life stories.

Park Bench Perspective #3

It’s so unfair! Why do I have sit here on this stupid bench, watching while all the other children get to have fun in the park. It’s all Billy’s fault! He pushed me. That’s why I fell and broke my arm and cried and had to go to hospital and have this ugly plaster cast put on. It’s because of him that I can’t bath properly and it hurts when I go to bed and I have to sit out when everyone in my class gets to play games.

Mommy says I must be grateful, because there are other children, like in Africa, who don’t have arms because they got blown up and don’t even have food or anything. I suppose she is right, although it seems a bit dumb to be grateful for a broken arm. Anyway, at least mommy’s given me lots of cuddles and kisses, that’s something good for sure. And everyone at school feels sorry for me and the teacher gives me less homework.

The boys are nasty though. They call me cry-baby and say silly things like, “did you fall down the toilet.” It makes me so mad, I just want to hit them, or tell daddy how horrible they are being, so that he can give them a good sorting out. But I don’t, ‘cos then I would be a tell-tale, and I’m not a tell-tale. I did tell that once, when I saw Jackie with cigarettes in the girls change room, cos mommy says smoking can kill you and I don’t to die. I thought I was going to die when I fell and hurt my arm, it was so sore …

Look at Jane, sitting at the top of the slide. I bet she’s scared to go down. I’m an expert on the slide. I can go down forwards and backward and upside-down and the right way up and with my eyes closed and with my eyes closed and anyway you like. Mommy says I should join the circus, but I want to be a dancer. I dance every week when my arm’s not broken. And my teacher says if I practice and practice and practice and practice and practice, I might be on TV one day, like famous people. Then I could buy lots of dolls and dresses and have a mobile phone and a car and everything.

Maybe I will get my favourite doll for my birthday. I told mommy when I saw it in the shop. And my birthday is coming up soon. Mommy says I only have to watch the Munchkins on TV another twelve times and then it will be my birthday and will be seven. I love it when the Miss Chiff (that’s the naughty girl Munchkin), hides her brother’s shoes in dog kennel. That’s so funny! And he looks everywhere but he cannot find them. And he sees Rugsy, the Munchkin dog, having his shoes for breakfast…

Hey, look, there’s a dog like Rugsy chasing a ball in the park. I wonder if he had shoes for breakfast. Hee hee. There’s a dog in my picture book that daddy’s reading to me before I go to bed at night. But he’s not like Rugsy. He’s a human dog, not a Munchkin dog, and he eats dog food, not shoes. But he also has spots. Daddy says reading will help to make my arm get better sooner. And while the other children are playing outside, I will be getting cleverer. I hope so, because I think you have to be clever to get on TV.

My friend, Jane, also wants to be on TV, but she wants to be a singer. She also has to practice and practice. Sometimes, we practice together. She sings a song and I dance. We even do a concert for Jane’s granny and grandpa sometimes. And they clap when we are finished. They say we are stars.

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Parkbench Perspectives – II

This series of prose imagines the world as seen through different people’s eyes – each sitting on the same park bench at different times and with different life stories.

Park Bench Perspective #2

Relief, at last. Thank god for this old bench – my nightly refuge, this bed of weather-bleached, splintering wooden slats, decorated with graffiti, both obscene and obscure; the one broken beam exposing its jagged edge, like a wounded limb; its upright arms enfolding in a cold, concrete embrace; partly sheltered from the wind by the school behind the park; partly protected from the rain by the creaky ol tree. Not much, but at least it’s a place I can call mine, in a world that seems to have so little space for people like me.

Here, at least for the night, I can rest in peace. No insults. No harassment. No self-righteous advice. Just R.I.P., like a dead person. Here, on this bench I like to call my own, I am not disturbing anyone. No one can accuse me of being a nuisance. I am temporarily obliterated from the face of the earth, hidden in this suburban park. Safely tucked out of harm’s way.

It’s not much of a home, I’ll be the first to admit. Nothing like the warm, cozy house I remember from when I was still a child. I guess that was part of deal though: I kept quiet about those things daddy used to do to me, and in return I got a roof over my head. Well, that was part of growing up for me, wasn’t it – realising that having a roof over your head isn’t everything in life. And also that you don’t have to just sit back and take it. You can fight back. Today, I may not be a pretty sight, but at least I’m free.

I smile when I think of it, what a feisty bitch I grew up to become. Angry at the world for the raw deal I’d been dealt. Rebelling against everything and giving the finger to everyone. I used to think of it rather melodramatically as cursing the gods and courting the demons. Some would say I’ve got what I deserve, but I don’t buy that guilt-trip crap. Shit happens, and it’s happened to me in truck-loads. But I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m just getting on with trying to survive. Like everyone else, I’m doing the best I can. And anyone who’s got something to say about it can just piss off and tell some one who cares!

That’s my attitude, anyway. It’s not like I asked to end up on the street. And it’s not like I haven’t tried, over and over again, to get a job. I’m not afraid of working hard. Try staying alive without two cents to rub together, and tell me that’s not hard work! But you know, a person can only hear ‘no’ so many times before you start to crack. When rejection becomes a way of life, there’s not much self-esteem left to go around.

I remember the first time I got desperate enough to beg. I felt totally humiliated, ashamed that I’d sunk so low; embarrassed that I had to rely on other people’s generosity to survive. God forbid that I’d see anyone I knew! But hunger drives you to do crazy things, as I have found out more than once since then. Swallowing my pride was just another step towards my next meal.

But after a while I learned to look at it just like any other job. And to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The tricks of the trade, so to speak. Not too clean and cheerful, or else no one feels sorry enough to give you anything. But also not too dirty and desperate, or people are too disgusted to come anywhere near you. I soon got used to feeling like a ghost – people looking straight past me, or through me, in an attempt to hide their own discomfort.

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Parkbench Perspectives – I

This series of prose imagines the world as seen through different people’s eyes – each sitting on the same park bench at different times and with different life stories.

Park Bench Perspective #1

It’s only when I actually stop – like now, taking time out, sitting on this bench – that I notice how fast the world is spinning. Or have I got it the wrong way round? Is it me spinning and the world standing still? More likely. Like a hamster running on its wheel – no wonder everything’s a blur. I suppose it’s not called the rat race for nothing. But you have to wonder, are things really speeding up, or does it just feel that way? And even if the pace is quickening, does that just mean we’re getting nowhere faster?

Well, not today, or at least not for these five minutes. There’s no pressure to be somewhere else. No deadlines to chase, or things to follow up. Not even a guilty conscience about being away from Lynda, spending quality time. She’s happily dug in on the couch, watching that cooking program that, for reasons beyond me, she seems never to grow tired of.

And I’m off doing my husbandly duty, taking the dogs for a walk. So, for this unique wormhole in time, everything seems to be in balance, like the planets perfectly aligned. Even the dogs fit the picture of idyllic harmony, happily in their element, charging from one invisibly scented hotspot to the next, excitedly catching up with the latest doggie gossip from around the neighbourhood, and, of course, squeezing out their drop’s worth of news to add to the mix.

Something about their carefree spirit echoes the joy of this moment for me, with the morning sun, warm against my upturned face, a gentle breeze rustling through the branches of the red-gum tree. It’s about being in the moment, isn’t it? They say that about animals – that they live totally in the present. Which is why they apparently don’t worry, or fear death, the way we humans do. They have no sense of the future, no imagination to conjure up disaster scenarios or start stressing about how things may or may not work out. There’s something to be said for that.

Although, I suppose it’s no great epiphany. That’s what Buddhism has been teaching for thousands of years. Meditation, yoga, what are they about if not taming our monkey minds to focus on the here and now, the ever elusive eternal present. All very well in theory, but quite another thing to put into practice. I should know. There was a time when the so-called path to enlightenment was almost an obsession for me. Thinking back, it almost seems surreal, those young days of my all-consuming quest to find a spiritual master, to search for answers to all the big questions.

I remember promising myself that I’d never lose that sense of clarity about what is really important in life. Now look at me! What happened? It was only, what, less than fifteen years ago? I guess that’s life. Or, at least, that’s what happens when “the default option” takes over – the default being the course society expects us to take: get through school, go to university, then get serious, start your career, after which, the treadmill of earning to pay bills pretty much takes over, with a bit of pressure thrown in, the imperative to achieve something (results, promotion, whatever).

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Art

Art

Prose by Wayne Visser

~ Art is the mirror in which we see our truest self reflected ~

What space does art occupy in your life? Is there a medium that you are drawn to – maybe drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, tapestry, carving, quilting, or something else entirely? Which artistic styles do you best relate to? Do you have a favourite artist or piece of art?
 
The answers to all these questions say a lot about you.
Not only about your likes and dislikes, your tastes and interests, but also about your moods and musings, your hopes and fears.
Do you prefer realism or abstract art?
Impressionism or fantasy creations?
Romanticism or ethnic influences?
Each reflects a fundamentally different view of the world, a different set of beliefs about what it means to be human, a different perspective on aesthetics and beauty.
 
Some artists try to faithfully reproduce what they see, to give a factual account, while others attempt to capture the emotions of their subjects.
Some use art as a mouthpiece, to get a message across, while others use it to reflect their own inner state.
All art, however, has the power to transform those it touches.
We say we are moved by a piece of art, which means something has shifted, we are changed forever.
 
Art is a catalyst.
It sparks new insights, evokes dormant feelings.
It gives flight to angels and stirs slumbering demons within.
It does this not by providing us with answers, but by asking questions.
 
Every work of art is a slice of life, a freeze-frame in time, a snapshot of reality.
At first, we are fascinated by what the artist has captured – the scene, the characters, the play of light and shadow, the contrast of colour and tone.
We are implored to ask the obvious questions – why this place, these objects, those people?
But we know we have only scratched the surface.
 
Our curiosity piqued, we dig down a layer – what can we tell about the mood, the emotion, the atmosphere?
As each new shard is uncovered, we piece together artefacts of meaning.
What about the relationships – between the setting and the actors, the background and the objects, the artist and the work of art?
The more we chip away, the more we realise that what is revealed is only a fraction of what still lies hidden below the surface.
 
We cannot help but ask: What came before the painting?
After the sculpture?
What meta-narrative informed the quilt?
What threads in time wove together to form this knot?
 
It is as if art is the view we get looking through a keyhole.
We are voyeurs of another time and place, eavesdropping on other people’s lives.
But what we see is only a miniscule part of the whole picture. W
hat we hear is only a fragment of the entire conversation.
 
Art gives us a mystery to solve.
The clues are all there for the enthusiastic detective to discover – in the art piece itself, the genre it reflects, the life of the artist, and the historical period in which they are located.
As we investigate, we find that the plot thickens, and though we may develop hunches and hypotheses, the mystery remains forever unsolvable.
And so it should be.
 
We are free to create our own enigmas as well.
We are all latent artists.
Have you discovered your talent yet?
What kind of art do you wish you could do, or do better?
 
Our artistic nature cries out to be nurtured, but more often than not, we neglect it.
Like an unwatered plant, it shrivels inside us, until we stop believing we have any artistic inclinations at all.
Perhaps we are intimidated by what it means to be good enough?
But art is an experience, not an outcome; a process, not a product.
 
The value of engaging in an artistic activity is in the act of creation itself, the journey it takes you on and what you learn about yourself.
For far too long, art has been rendered inaccessible by snobbery and given marginal importance by modernity.
It is time we take back the power.
Art is our natural heritage, our birthright.
Until we embrace it, our lives will remain poorer, shallower in spirit, less human.
 
So why not make some space for art in your busy schedule today?
Sneak a peek through the keyhole and you may be amazed to spy fantastic worlds that you hardly dreamed existed, not least those inside yourself. 
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

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Home

Home

Prose by Wayne Visser

~ Home is wherever we feel we most belong ~

Where is home for you?
What place do you feel most drawn to?
Is there somewhere that longs for your return?
 
Perhaps home speaks to you of roots, of the place where you were born or grew up?
If you close your eyes, you can probably still conjure up the familiar sights and sounds and smells of your youth.
Or perhaps it is somewhere you have visited that felt strangely like home?
 
The attraction to our home – to that place where we feel we most belong – is like the irresistible pull of gravity.
Home is our centre of gravity, where we are in balance, content, not feeling like we should be somewhere else.
It is where we feel centred, grounded, like the bush trail sign for home – a circle with a dot in the middle.
Home is that place we return to and know for the first time, where we come full circle.
 
For some, this point of return, this place of belonging, is inseparable from the land – it is literally their homeland.
The land is the map of their heritage, the Rosetta stone for deciphering their history, the storybook of where they come from and where they are going.
It is their origin and their destination – the home of their ancestors is their home and the home of their descendants.
 
The urge to find our home and return there is as powerful as the vortex of a hurricane.
But it is not an ominous force.
We are drawn to our home because it is a place of rest, of refuge, a calm eye in the midst of the storm.
 
Home is where we feel most comfortable, where we can be ourselves, stripped of all our masks, without the pretensions we wear for the world outside.
We long for home because it is homely. It is the source of our energy, our identity, our self-esteem.
 
In one way or another, home is the tribe to which we belong.
Our tribe may be local, national, or increasingly, unlimited by geographical boundaries.
In today’s interconnected reality, we are free to seek out and find the group of people who most closely reflect our interests, passions, dreams and aspirations – our soul tribe.
 
Have you located your soul tribe yet?
Because on this web-linked planet, home can be wherever you lay your hat.
But, like the sorting hat in the Harry Potter stories, where you are placed is never random.
Your home must be where you experience the best fit, among a community of people who care about you because of who you really are.
 
What distinguishes a home from a house is people.
Relationships are the essential ingredient in the recipe for a good home.
Indeed, it is because home is where the heart is, that homelessness is so cruel and heartless.
The homeless are cut off from others, they have lost their connection to a supportive tribe, been left to wander in a desert of isolation.
Many more people are homeless than we see on the streets – people who are searching for their place of belonging in a bewildering world.
 
So how do we find our home?
It is not as difficult as we might first think.
We must simply follow the light.
 
What place makes us glow inside?
What tribe helps us to shine brighter?
Which relationships are full of the warmth of home fires burning?
Our answers will lead us to that special place that we can call home.
 
So as you venture out in the world today, be sure to carry your flame of belonging with you – your precious home from home.
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

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Generosity

Generosity

Prose by Wayne Visser

~ Generosity is sharing that which you can least afford to give ~

Who do you know that is particularly generous?
How would you describe them?
Do they give without expecting anything in return?
 
We all know people like that (perhaps you are even one of them) – people who are always there to help, who share what they have, no matter how little or much that may be.
They rightly deserve our admiration, for we live in selfish times, all caught up in the age of the individual – my needs, my rights, my wants, my desires – it’s all about “me”.
 
Seemingly, it is no longer fashionable for individual aspirations to play second fiddle to community responsibilities.
In fact, if the rhetoric of commercial advertising is to be believed, our pursuit of personal happiness through self-pampering is not only desirable, but it’s our God-given right.
 
It is easy to become cynical in such a world, especially when we secretly admit our own complicity in perpetuating the myth of self-centred fulfilment.
But then a disaster happens, a catastrophe strikes, and the outpouring of public generosity revives our faith in humanity again.
 
Why does it so often take a crisis to bring out the best in us?
People pull together to fight a common cause. There is a sense of camaraderie that is infectious.
Suddenly, we find ourselves tapping into one of the most powerful human drives – the desire to make a positive difference.
 
Somehow, dramatic events manage to penetrate our psychological armour of indifference, reaching through and touching our emotions.
Crises invoke empathy.
We find ourselves thinking: what if that had been me?
And often, it so easily could have been – there, but for fortune, go you or I.
 
But what happens when the calamity slips back out of the headlines?
Does our generosity go back into hibernation?
And what about the much larger, creeping disasters – the slow, insidious killers like Aids and cancer, poverty and climate change?
What will trigger our generosity when the needs seem so overwhelming, so persistent, so far away, so unlike to affect me?
 
It is clear that we cannot rely on melodrama and CNN to draw out the spirit of generosity that lies like a sleeping giant inside us all.
Perhaps reciprocity is a more reliable catalyst for giving – you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around.
 
This is the ancient law of karma and the modern law of physics – every action has a reaction.
It may seem rather selfish as a basis for generosity, to only give in the hope of receiving back in return.
But then again, bargaining for favours is more endemic than we are willing to admit.
Even religious injunctions to generosity are laced with promises of heaven’s reward – pay now, collect later.
 
Or maybe we are overcomplicating things.
Think of the last time you acted with generosity.
How did it make you feel?
Good, right?
So generosity is nothing but enlightened self-interest.
 
Even so, what does it really mean to be generous?
To be charitable, of course, but in what way?
 
Generosity is being willing to give what we have least of – be it money, or time, or patience.
You can be generous with your donations, your attention or your love.
Generosity is also giving fully what we have most of – especially our talents and skills. We should not underestimate the importance of sharing our highest potential.
 
Being the best we can be – finding our calling and following it – may be one of the most generous things any of us can do.
Because, ultimately, generosity is all about giving of yourself. 
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

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Friendship

Friendship

Prose by Wayne Visser

~ Friendship is the bond between hearts and the bridge between souls ~

Who are you friends?
What makes them so special?
How do we make friends, and what makes friendships last?
 
Our world is crowded with people and our lives are cluttered with meetings.
But so much of our interaction with others is superficial.
We don our personas as work, wear our masks at social occasions, and play our expected roles in public.
 
We communicate, but only as a means to an end, an efficient way to persuade others, an effective way to further our own goals; or else just to fill the space of time, to connect the dots of silence in our days.
We connect with people in a functional way, more interested in what they can do for us than who they really are as complex human beings; more willing to listen to their next line of dialogue than the incredible story of their lives.
 
Friendship is the exception to the rule of shallow relationships.
We make friends when we throw a line across the void of surface acquaintances, and discover someone on the other side; someone who is intrigued enough to throw the line back.
 
Friendship begins as a delicate thread between two people, which, with time, is first woven into a thin chord, and then plaited into a strong rope.
The bond remains tenuous in the early days of friendship – a careless tug or thoughtless breach of confidence can break the tie, and either side can simply drop the rope and walk away.
But as trust builds, so it becomes possible to string a rope-bridge across the divide, and to test its weight under strain.
 
If the friendship holds up under stress, the two intrepid adventurers can make their clutching way out to the middle of the swaying bridge and greet each other, face-to-face for the first time.
As friends meet and get to know each other, the bridge is made sturdier by adding planks of understanding, until eventually the rope-bridge is replaced by a wooden foot-bridge.
 
The friendship remains vulnerable to inclement weather or weakening if it is not maintained, but easier access strengthens the foundations of commitment.
With time, the foot-bridge may become a sturdy stone-bridge, and although no friendship is indestructible (for flash-floods and earthquakes can strike without warning), the longer it lasts and the more it is reinforced, the better its chances are for survival.
 
We look to friends for honesty in a world of half-truths and lies, for support when our lives creak under the weight of life’s pressures, for encouragement when we are shooting for the stars and only hitting the moon.
 
Friends listen when we need to talk, comfort us in our tears, and celebrate with us in our moments of joy.
 
Friendship is the journey of discovering the miracle of another’s being.
 
When we begin a friendship, we light a single candle in the dark room of mistrust and scepticism, and we are delighted by the hope it gives us.
As the friendship grows, as we reveal more of ourselves to each other, we light more candles, and are amazed by the glorious sights that become illuminated – parts of ourselves and our friends we never knew existed.
Occasionally, some of the candles may go out – blown by the winds of our changing circumstances, or snuffed out in our impetuous anger and frustration – but always, they can be relit.
 
The trail of light which is friendship knows no end.
For once one room is bright and our exploration of it complete, there are other rooms, other houses, cities, countries, planets.
The answer to “what are the limits of friendship” is “how many candles and how many lifetimes does it take to light the universe?”
 
There are no shortcuts to friendship.
Building bridges takes time and effort; lighting candles takes care and attention; sharing another’s world takes curiosity and endurance.
But who would want to take a shortcut when walking the path of friendship is in itself so rewarding?
 
So take hands with your friends today, enjoy their company, shed a little light on each other’s lives, and build a bridge across forever.
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

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Food

Food

Prose by Wayne Visser

~ Food is a universal language spiced by delicious local dialects ~

Have you ever been away from home on a trip, or beyond the ready conveniences of the city, and started to miss your favourite foods?
Or if you think back, are there certain foods that you associate with particular periods of your life?
When is food a treat and when is it a chore?
 
So much of our lives revolve around food.
How often don’t we find ourselves planning or preparing food, eating or digesting a meal, or even just daydreaming about some or other delicacy?
 
From the moment we are born, food shapes us.
We are taught what is good food and what is bad food, when we should eat and when we should abstain, how much is too little and how much is too much.
We soon learn about the vagaries of appetite and appeasement, the possession of cravings and indulgences, the slavery of diets and binges.
 
Food takes in the full spectrum of human experience – from our highest virtues to our basest vices, from the painful ache of hunger to the blissful glow of satisfaction, from the wholesome fruits of earth’s bounty to the artificial concoctions of science’s manipulation, from the steady sustenance of staple foods to the delicate delights of fine cuisine, from the dreaded sight of the foods we loathe to the intoxicating joy of the foods we love.
 
Like so many things in life, food works on multiple levels.
In its most elementary form, food is all about nutrition. It is our source of energy, the fuel for our activity.
And yet, it is also so much more.
 
Food is the ritual which structures our day, the way in which we celebrate our blessings and mourn our losses.
Food is a symbol of abundance, a sign of plenty, recalling the harvest festivals of old.
Food represents the habits of generations past and the legacies for generations to come.
 
Our ancestors passed their remarkable food discoveries down through the ages – what flavours and what heals, what grows well and what preserves well, what grinds to flour and what presses to wine.
This wisdom owes its survival to a strong oral tradition – the telling and retelling of food stories.
 
The written word has been no less important.
Since time immemorial, recipes have been chiselled into tablets and etched into palettes, written on scrolls and inked on parchments, printed as scripts and published as books.
The swapping of recipes is a glue which cements families, a thread which ties friendships, and a yeast which leavens communities.
 
Food is the original tradable commodity, the seminal object of barter.
Even in mythical terms, Adam and Eve traded their innocence for an apple, exchanged their obedience for the fruit of knowledge.
 
Throughout history, food has been a stimulus for the discovery of new lands, a catalyst for the establishment of new civilizations.
The phenomenon of globalisation was set in motion thousands of years ago by the spice trade.
 
Food is as universal as it is diverse.
The commonality of food allows us to connect across the divide, even while the uniqueness of food allows us to retain our differentiated identity.
Like language, food can create shared understandings, but this should never be at the expense of the rich heritage of local dialects.
 
Food enables us to express who we are and where we are, to tell the tale of how we got there and what lies ahead.
Food links us to the chain of life.
It connects us to the land and binds us to our cultures.
It emphasises our interdependence with nature and stresses the unity of humanity.
 
Food is an analogy for creativity – we can be starved of inspiration, or feast on ideas; sometimes, we have all the ingredients to make magic happen; other times, we overcook our efforts at ingenuity.
 
But food is also an art in itself – every time we prepare food, we engage in an act of creation, a demonstration of creativity; we are artists mixing a palette of colour and flavour, painting a dish of texture and aroma.
There is no limit to the masterpieces we can craft.
Food, unlike any other art form, engages all of the senses.
It is the quintessential holistic art – best appreciated when fully consumed, and a change agent as soon as it is taken in.
 
Food has transformative power.
We all partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist in our own way – every time we quench the thirst of our minds and feed the hunger of our souls.
 
So take care what you eat today.
Let it be food which sustains and delights you, food which boosts your energy and buoys your spirit.
 
In short, have a yum-yum day.
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

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