During the winter school holidays, my 17-year-old son discovered an old book of mine, a treasure from my turbulent youth in the 1980s, when I felt things falling apart around me.
It is a translation by Dr. Jun Wu of an ancient Chinese book written around 400 BC Tao Te Ching.
I was fascinated by what drew my son to this philosophy of a balanced way of being, written in puzzle-like form as a collection of poems.
Taoism It can be summed up in three basic principles of living: simplicity, patience and compassion. according to Britannicathe Tao Te Ching It was a way of life aimed at restoring harmony and peace to a kingdom plagued by rampant chaos and self-fulfilling rulers.
like Damien Walter explained in WatchmanCentral thing Tao Te Ching We are asked to be aware not of the world, but of ourselves.”
In a sentiment very similar to the second commandment of another self-aware sage from the Middle East some 2,000 years ago, verse 13 says: “Love the world as yourselves; love the world as yourselves. Then you can take care of all things.” And the best part of this ancient wisdom is what it says about leadership.
“The sage is so self-absorbed and wordless that when his task is done and things are completed, all people say, ‘We have achieved it ourselves.
Why was I drawn to this wisdom when we were living in the death throes of a brutal apartheid system that treated the majority of us as disposable inferior races?
One thing is for sure, the economic heart of South Africa needs not just a bypass but a transplant.
And why would the simplicity of this wisdom appeal to my teenage son many decades later, in a country that has a splendid constitution cherished by all equally, but which is crumbling because of a greedy, uncaring, and short-sighted elite?
What is this attraction to the yin and yang of the Tao, especially when things fall apart? Maybe it’s about staying calm in the eye of the storm. About accepting the duality of life. Things have to fall apart in order for a new way to emerge, a kinder state of being.
Light and dark
This week’s news summed up the yin and yang of light and darkness. On Tuesday, the birthday of the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, it was amazing to see so many people of goodwill South Africa They do their best to work in Ubuntu soul.
Then, Boom, the next day, we watched in horror the CCTV footage of the massive explosion that tore through Lilian Ngoy (formerly Berry) Street in central Johannesburg, hurling mini-taxis and cars into the air, injuring 48 people and killing one.
Speculation was rife about the possible causes. Some blamed it on From time to time, desperate and illegal artisanal miners who risk life and limb to extract what remains from abandoned or closed mines. Others blamed it No maintenance The city’s aging infrastructure has been attacked by both the ANC and successive rival alliances. City manager Floyd Brink said the most likely cause was Accidental leakage of natural gas in the service stream down to explosive concentration levels of 5% to 15% ignited by an unknown source.
Whatever the ultimate cause is identified, one thing is certain, the economic heart of South Africa is in need of not just a bypass but a transplant. Rather than play political poker, the various coalitions that have recently run the city and the ANC, which has been in power in the city since 1994, should have come up with a plan to repair, maintain or replace the ailing infrastructure.
Perhaps those companies that have benefited most from gold mining should also be asked to play a role in fixing it and a post-mining future that is not as alarming as the present.
Johannesburg, Jozi, Iguli, the place of gold where millions migrated in search of their fortune or just a mundane livelihood, is literally crumbling, its cavernous base under ancient buildings built during the mining boom collapsing in on itself.
Fortunes were made in the gold mines that dig deep into the city’s veins using cheap labor to create generational wealth for some of the richest families in South Africa and indeed the world.
With the departure of the wealthy to the next mining Mecca and the closure of the mines, the remaining communities are left with unemployment, pollution, crime and desperation to put food on the table. Perhaps those companies that have benefited most from gold mining should also be asked to play a role in fixing it and a post-mining future that is not as alarming as the present.
And perhaps the people of Joburg should also think carefully about who they choose to run the apocalypse, as the current set-up is failing fast, with potholes, exploding water pipes, and exploding inner-city roads on their guard.
Perhaps because of this chaos, people can discover that the real leaders they are looking for are not the clowns on the ballots, but can be found in themselves. Don’t be dazzled. No false promises. No bastard rhetoric. simplicity. patience. sympathy. To accomplish the slow, long and arduous task of reforming Johannesburg.
In this week’s newspaper, dear readers, you will find stories on this and other matters of state, heart, art, life, sports, and poetry to ponder.
In our feature story for this week, our international affairs expert Peter Fabricius and our political writer Koenen Maswabe explain why they believe that in South Africa, our democratic institutions like our opposition parties and our courts have forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to shrink the realm of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This feat has been achieved despite the stalling of our president, who funny- ly told the Supreme Court that he did not want to prevent Putin from coming here because he feared Russia may declare war on South Africa. Yes, correct. Vlad, beloved of many ANC cadres like Jacob Zuma and David Mabuza who made it all the way to Russia for that magical giver unknown and unavailable to South African doctors or traditional healers, would Sumer declare war on us?
The world is really crazy. I’m going to take a break to read more wisdom from you Tao Te Ching.
Do not forget to share your thoughts, which I will post on our message page by writing to [email protected]
Yours to defend the right and balance in existence,
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168, available nationwide for R29. The DM168 is available for sale in all retail stores from Saturday, July 22nd to Friday, July 28th.