ELVES AND DIESEL ENGINES

ELVES AND DIESEL ENGINES

Have you ever stood on a platform at the station while a diesel locomotive effortlessly glides past you? The smooth reassuring rumbling of that immensely powerful machine demands admiration while the trembles of the platform find their way up your legs. You just know that a mighty powerful force is at work here.

I’ve often linked the well-known saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” with this diesel-power and found some inspiration in it. I made myself believe that humanity consists of two main groups: Ordinary Elves (OE’s) and the Tough Diesel Engines (TDE’s). The Ordinary Elves represent the majority of people who are responsible for the normal day to day running of life as we know it. They get ready for work, go to work, do their work, go home, watch TV and go to bed. They are very important because they do just about everything from cleaning our streets, working in the offices, building our cars and houses, to making our clothes, nursing us, teaching us, defending and protecting us. Everything… up to a certain point. The OE’s only work until things start to heat up, when the challenges get more demanding and stress levels start rising.elves

That’s the signal for The Tough Diesel Engines to start up. When the OE’s can’t go any further, the TDE’s take over. You hear that mighty rumble and stand in awe. The TDE’s work, even when others sleep; they seem to get a sadistic pleasure out of problem-crunching. They never ask for pity but, hey, neither will they give a problem any. They don’t know the meaning of surrender; they persevere in the midst of adversities, battle their way onwards, forwards, always forwards.diesel

Are you a TDE or an OE?

One of the South African Defence Force’s elite units has a back-breakingly harsh selection and training program. Many try, but only a few make it to the end. The last phase of the program demands a survival route where the soldiers have to find their way in the most inhospitable environment and under the most unforgiving conditions imaginable. As the days drag by, the group of hopefuls dwindles because at the temporally bases transport is ready for those who wish. It’s your choice: allow the whole exercise to get the better of you and make use of the transport (and get disqualified in the process) or force yourself onward vigorously with the utmost exertion. special-forces-training

One pitch dark night an unfortunate soldier walked straight into a dry twig from a low-hanging tree branch. The twig impaled him in the eye, just missing his eyeball and blood was pouring from his wound. That same night another guy broke his ankle. These two decided not to go for treatment that would have put them at risk of disqualification and, after applying a bit of very basic medical treatment themselves, they pushed on.

As the days progress, you start to lose all sense of time and the only drive, ultimately, is to reach the prearranged rendezvous in time.

Unbeknown to the soldiers, the end of the course was in sight and, after a day with barely enough water supplies, the men reached the rendezvous, semi-conscious, anguished, hungry and dehydrated. The commander came up to them where they were huddled in a cloud of dust, flies and the sweaty smell of protracted scorching days in the bush on them. He addressed them – gesturing while clutching an icy cold beer. Pausing for a moment, he took a long sip, looked at the bottle and then emptied the content onto the absorbing sand, within sniffing distance of the shattered men. The beer was not cold enough.

“Guys,” he said, “I’m going to enjoy a colder one in the base after taking a long hot shower. Anyone care to join me? Transport is ready – anyone?”

Two men cracked then and there and stumbled to the waiting Land Rover. While two others tried to suck the wasted beer from the sand, the commander informed the remaining men that the next day would be the final day of this grueling encounter and that they could expect a barbeque and cold beer at the rendezvous.

With renewed effort and all the strength they could muster, they tackled the final stage.

The next evening, on approaching the rendezvous, the depleted group of men, drained to the bone, noticed a solitary Land Rover, nothing else. The closer they got, the clearer it became: no barbeque-fire, no beer, nothing to eat. Some of them flopped down onto their knees in a cloud of dust and started weeping. During the day they had consumed all their water and rations – no need to save it because, so they had been told the previous night, tonight the end of this phase would be celebrated with plenty to eat and drink. Of the initial squad, only nine had survived. The commander then stepped out of the Land Rover and walked towards the wretched group of men.

“Listen guys, there’s been a misunderstanding and I admit that I’m the one to blame. I got the dates mixed up, and I’m truly, truly sorry. Tomorrow, not today, will be the end of this phase. As a token of my remorse, I’ve brought you a little something to eat. It’s on the Land Rover. I will completely understand if some of you want to go back with me, there’s plenty of space on the Land Rover. The rest of you, get your instructions for tomorrow and something to eat.”

Two men summarily got onto the Land Rover, Their grazed, grey faces, empty eyes sunken into the sockets, told the whole story of disappointment and disillusionment. The remaining seven opened the stainless steel food container – raw cabbage drenched in diesel. No water either, only their instructions. Was it a sadistic smile on the commander’s face as he started the engine? Another guy got onto the vehicle. The remaining six contemplated the long, dry stretch ahead of them, and then started walking.

About two kilometers further, as they came round a hill, they could at first smell it and then they saw it: a campsite with flames from barbeque-fires and cold beers to welcome them. The end of their ordeal!braai

What went through the minds of those guys on the Land Rover? If only they’d held on for two more kilometres – two kilometres stood between them and a victory!tired-soldier

All so often we throw in the towel without really knowing how close we are to success. Isn’t it worthwhile, after all the pain and suffering, to give it one more push? Are we not just two kilometres away from victory?

My mother engraved a saying in my memory and even when the diesel engine wearies, her catchphrase echoes:

NEVER SAY DIE, GET UP AND TRY!

never-say-die

May you experience God’s loving care in the same abundance I have.

God bless.

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STILTE

STILTE

cathedral-winchester-1

Die watergevulde kelder in Winchester katedraal

Daar’s mos baie soorte stiltes.

Kyk, jy kan vir enige pa van ‘n tienerdogter vra oor wakkerlê-stiltes. Dis nou wanneer die pa wakkerlê en wonder hoekom dit so  stil is daar waar daai einste dogter met haar kêrel in die sitkamer is. Veral wanneer die pa nog kan onthou van die dae, baie lank gelede, toe hy ook so saam met ‘n ander pa se dogter in die sitkamer gesit het.pa-in-bed

Dan kry jy katedraalstiltes wanneer jy ‘n gebou soos die Notre Dame binnestap en die swaar houtdeur sluit die buitegeluide agter jou uit. Sulke stiltes het  ‘n reuk ook. En dis ook nie heeltemal stil nie, want mense fluister en neem foto’s.paris_notre-dame

Die stilte voor ‘n storm, enige storm, kan senutergend raak. Dis nóú stil, maar iets gaan gebeur, dit broei. Jou maag voel dit en jou nekspiere raak styf. Hierdie stilte hoef ook nie regtig iets met die weer te doen hê nie.stilte-voor-die-storm

Daardie stilte onder die sterre van ‘n Karoonag – ‘n stilte wat jy in jou gebeente voel, deur jou are voel pomp. ‘n Dankbare, lofliedstilte. Nou en dan is daar die geluid van ‘n nagdier, verder niks behalwe jou asemhaling en hartklop nie.karoo

Vir my is die ergste stilte egter daardie koue stilte. Stilte wat jy met ‘n mes kan sny.

Byvoorbeeld.

Jy ry in die kar, dalk effens te naby aan die padprop voor jou. Jy weet wie sy nommerplaat gemaak het, want jy kan duidelik die plakker in klein lettertjies sien. Maar dit pla jou nie. Hoekom beweeg hy nie oor na die stadige baan nie!  Jy’s haastig, want julle is laat. Eintlik is dit jou blom wat langs jou sit se skuld, want vroumense draai mos altyd. (Amper altyd. Oukei … soms.) Maar jy sê niks, konsentreer op die pad, probeer tyd wen.tailgating-banner

Jy flits ligte, praat en beduie: “Beweeg oor na die ander baan, jou uil!” (Goed, ek skryf uil ter wille van wie ook al hier lees, maar dit is nie werklik wat gesê word nie.) Jy weet voor jou siel jy moenie so naby die ou ry nie. Jy weet dis gevaarlik en waarskynlik die oorsaak van die meeste ongelukke. Maar jy is die beste bestuurder in die wêreld. Mos. Jy kan vinnig rem as daar gerem moet word. Buitendien, dis die uil (sien verduideliking hierbo) hier voor jou wat verkeerd is. Hy moet bietjie ‘n les geleer word. Mos. Jou ligteflits het geen effek op hom nie.

Blom kom in beweging. “Bedaar, bedaar!  Jy kan nie so op die man se stert sit nie, my maggies. Jy maak hom senuweeagtig.” Sy trap rem, maar daar is geen pedale waar sy sit nie.

Al die goed wat sy sê, weet jy, maar iewers spring ‘n spiertjie.

“Wil jy bestuur?” vra jy met jou kalmste stemtoon. Sy ken egter al jou stemtone, almal van hulle.

“Jy gaan ons verongeluk. Ry net stadiger.”

“Luister, as jy nie so gedraai het nie, dan hoef ek nie nou so te gejaag het nie.” Effens ander stemtoon.

Jy wéét eintlik dat dit nie die werklike rede vir die gejaag is nie, want jy ry altyd te vinnig. Die duike in die vloer aan die passasierskant waar Blom altyd vastrap, getuig daarvan.

“Ek… ag, jy…” probeer sy, maar sy is nou te warm om behoorlik te dink. “Reg, ry soos jy wil. Ek maak nie weer my mond oop nie, maar…”paartjie-in-kar

En met daardie “maar” pak sy ‘n gevaarlike wapen uit.

Stilte.

‘n Ysige stilte sak oor jou toe. Daai een wat wat rillings teen jou ruggraat laat afgly, wat die sweetdruppels in jou nek laat vries. Jy besef jou fout en probeer haar hand vat om dinge in trurat te gooi.  Jy ry selfs stadiger en beweeg oor na die middelbaan. Maar dis te laat. Sy gooi haar gewig op haar linkerboud, trek haar hand weg en kyk by die venster aan haar kant uit.

Stilte. Dit kom lê soos ‘n sak mielies op jou bors, kom vou soos ‘n nat mus om jou kop.couple-after-argument2

Julle bereik jul bestemming veilig. So tussen die groetery en glimlagte probeer jy weer, maar haar hand is weer te vinnig vir jou. Jy vat haar om die lyf. Sy glimlag vir die gasvrou en kners vir jou. Jy hou jou greep om haar middel.

Soos die aand aanstap, begin die ys so staaadigaan te smelt. Die stiltegordyn maak op ‘n skrefie oop. Haar hand word stadiger weggeruk.

Ssjjjjjjt… Versigtig nou.

dagwood

HE WHO HAS A WHY? TO LIVE FOR CAN BEAR WITH ALMOST ANY HOW?

(Title: Friedrich Nietche: Twilight of the Idols – 1888)

 

(Watch the video at the end – but read the article first)

My attitude to my circumstances very often dictates my actions as well as the end result.
At some stage or another in our lives, we have all been touched by astonishing accounts of people who have risen above their circumstances. When I find myself in such a position, though, it is not always that easy to be objective about it.
Not long before his death while in exile in Mexico, knowing it was just a matter of time before Joseph Stalin’s assassins would catch up with him, Leon Trotsky wrote:

 Natasha (his wife) has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.  (TROTSKY’S TESTAMENT – 27 FEBRUARY 1940)

 In his poignant book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl (what an appropriate name!) describes his experiences in a German concentration camp. He shares the methods that he applied to carry him through this horrific ordeal and helped him find a reason to live.

 We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

 According to him, when we are no longer able to change a situation – like an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.

 Frankl set out three different ways to discover this meaning in life:

1. By creating a work or doing a deed

2. By experiencing something or encountering someone

3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

He writes that it does not really matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us. In the concentration camp “…we needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

 We should live as if we were living already for the second time and as if we had acted the first time as wrongly as we are about to act now!

 Frankl concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. Life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. Frankl demonstrated this notion in a group therapy session during a mass fast inflicted on the camp’s inmates trying to protect an anonymous fellow inmate from fatal retribution by authorities. He offered the thought that for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed. He came to the conclusion that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering.

 The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having a hope in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that hope, he is doomed.

 

We see an example of Frankl’s idea of finding meaning in the midst of extreme suffering in his account of an experience he had while working in the harsh conditions of the Auschwitz Concentration camp:

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbours’ arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honourable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfilment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory”

In the original musical, Time, by Dave Clarke the character, Akash – brilliantly played by the late Sir Laurence Olivier, delivers the following verdict:

Throughout the universe there is order
In the movement of the planets, in nature
and in the functioning of the human mind.
A mind that, in its natural state of order,
is in harmony with the universe
and such a mind is timeless.

Your life is an expression of your mind.

You are the creator of your own Universe –
For as a human being, you are free to will whatever
state of being you desire through the use of your
thoughts and words.
There is great power there.
It can be a blessing or a curse –
It’s entirely up to you.
For the quality of your life is brought about
by the quality of your thinking –
think about that.

Thoughts produce actions – look at what you’re thinking.
See the pettiness and the envy and the greed and the
fear and all the other attitudes that cause
you pain and discomfort.
Realize that the one thing you have absolute
control over is your attitude.

See the effect that it has on those around you
for each life is linked to all life
and your words carry with them chain reactions
like a stone that is thrown into a pond.


If your thinking is in order,
your words will flow directly from the heart
creating ripples of love.

If you truly want to change your world, my friend,
you must change your thinking.
Reason is your greatest tool,
it creates an atmosphere of understanding,
which leads to caring which is love

Choose your words with care.

Go forth … with love.

 

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO:

(Oh, that voice, that voice…)

My Octopus

MY OCTOPUS

manifestation-miracle

Many years ago the most astounding thing happened to me, a miracle. It was so extra-ordinary that, for many years, I struggled with the question: Why did it happen to me?

I was a young man living in South Africa, unmarried and my income was nothing to be envious of. Like any young man, I dreamt of my own house and so I bought a piece of land, a beautiful plot on which I had to pay monthly instalments. Every month the levies and taxes had to be paid as well. Shortly after that I got married and moved into a rented flat with my new bride. Then my pocket truly started to feel the strain: Flat rental, instalments on my loan for the plot, levies and taxes and all the usual added expenses that come with a wedding (furniture, honeymoon, ring, etcetera, etcetera…).

We have all, at one stage in our lives had something that clings to our shoulders like a big octopus. “One day” I am going to run a marathon. Another person wants to go overseas, “one day”; or, “one day” starts a business. This vague ambition just hangs there round your neck, dragging you down and, until you actively do something about it, that’s all it does – just weighs you down. If you see someone jogging, you think: “One of these days…” Or if a travel brochure slips out of the newspaper and you longingly look at the inviting idyllic pictures of foreign destinations, you think: “One of these days…”

octopus-backpack-1

My octopus was a house on the plot that I was still paying off – I constantly dreamt of my own house on that piece of land. When I saw a truck with a load of bricks or trusses, I felt the grip of this weight around my shoulders. Or when a building society dangled their mortgage rates with alluring advertisements in my face, I felt the tentacles tightening. My wife and I even went so far as having the plans drawn up.

empty-plot

But, with the war going on between my income and liabilities, I just couldn’t imagine my dream house ever becoming a reality. So the situation dragged on until one day when I decided enough is enough and took the day off. With the building plans, bank statements and all the determination I could gather I went to see anyone who could possibly advise me on what would be the best route to realise my dream. Banks, building societies, an architect, building contractors, a quantity surveyor…and I gathered information, a bulky folder full of it.

That night, after supper, I sat down with all the collected information and I processed it. Much later that night (could have been early morning) I came to the conclusion that, if I could get R10 000 (that is South African Rands) for one week, I could build my house – but where would I get such an amount (quite a fair amount for those days!). I didn’t know anyone who could lend me that sort of money. I hadn’t got any security for a loan and, after all, financial institutions would be very reluctant to lend me money for a week only.

Mulling over this problem I went to bed with absolutely no sign of sleep as my brain was running in overdrive.

puzzle_man_house

“R10 000! How will I raise such a vast sum? Can I pray for it? Maybe, but then again, how many people on earth went to bed tonight on an empty stomach and I want to ask for R10 000! Yet, in Matthew 7:7 God promises: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Yes! I am going to ask.”

Then I went onto my knees and I prayed for God to give me R10 000 for a week. After finishing my prayer, calmness descended upon me and I peacefully fell asleep.

I was employed by a university at that time and we had a spacious tearoom where most staff members went during a tea break.  My boss and I however, chose to have our tea served by the secretary in his office so that we could discuss important matters like the weekend’s rugby scores, latest films and books or even sometimes the forthcoming faculty meeting – always in the office, never in the tearoom.

That day (following my struggle the previous night) was no different – initially. Like every day, most people went to the tearoom, and we had our tea served in my boss’s office. By the way, at this stage it is important to mention that absolutely no-one knew about my R10 000 or the previous night’s struggle.

I was just about to take a sip of tea, when my boss announced out of the blue that, for some reason he would like to have tea in the tearoom that day and he wanted me to join him because he didn’t want to go there on his own.

tea

For the first time in all my time working there, it so happened that we went to the tearoom to have tea.

In the tearoom people sat around these low coffee tables scattered with magazines and newspapers, chatting and discussing the latest happenings. My boss engaged in a conversation with the professor next to him while I was stirring my (new) cup of tea, intensely absorbed in my thoughts, pondering on my R10 000. Opposite me a professor noticed my absence of mind. He wasn’t particularly well-known to me, I only knew him from greeting in the hallways.  He commented that he could see my thoughts were miles from the tearoom which triggered the rest of the conversation: about my excursion the previous day, my tussle with all the information and finally my conclusion that R10 000 stood between me and my dream.

Then he said: “Young man, this has got to be the hand of God that brought us together here today. You know, I seldom come to the tearoom. I usually have tea in my office, but today is the maturity date of one of my investments and I was hoping to see old Gerald here so that I could prod him for a bit of advice on how best to re-invest my money.” (Gerald was professor of Economics). “What’s even more intriguing is the amount of my investment: R10 000, exactly! You can have it for as long as you need it.”

For a moment I was speechless – a complete stranger offering me R10 000 without any security or guarantee, nothing. To cut a long story short, the next day he brought me the cheque, which I used to settle the outstanding balance on my loan for the plot which I could then use as security for a building-loan. The loan was approved within a week allowing me to make the first withdrawal: R10 000 to settle my dues with the professor (interest free!). I was owner-builder (a builder friend advised and assisted where necessary) and six months later my wife and I took up residence in our brand new house. 

For many years I contemplated why God had answered that particular prayer of mine so easily and so quickly – until, later in life, it dawned on me. I often prayed for – according to me – equally worthy issues, in just as righteous a way as the R10 000, often without apparent success. When old Satan then tried to delude me into believing prayer is a futile act, I could banish him by remembering how God, when I was a young man, indeed answered my prayer and gave me R10 000. God listens! I have proof.

I also learned another valuable lesson from this episode. We often ask God to give us a house, for instance, but God has another way of working. He is keen to give it to you, but not just like that. No, you too have to do something.

If someone had told me before this amazing experience that God is going to give me R10 000 for a week in order for me to build a house, I would most probably have sniggered and said: “A doll’s house, maybe. What else can you build with R10 000? And after a week, do I have to return the doll’s house?”small-house

After doing a bit of research, though, and putting in some effort, God opened my eyes to bring me to the conclusion that, with borrowed R10 000, my dream could become a reality. Trust God with your dreams, but never expect Him to deprive you of the satisfaction of partaking in the accomplishment of them.praat

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