Upon reaching the summit, I was greeted by a warm and now familiar sight I had come to enjoy daily over the past two years. For the briefest moment I wondered how much I will miss this place; then I let it go. The cobble-lined walkway towards the temple, found atop The Ascent of a Thousand Steps and leading up to the proving grounds and the main halls beyond, was opened in the middle by a sturdy and determined cherry blossom tree featured in perpetual bloom—a truly spectacular sight to behold. The surrounding earth was carpeted in thick, attentively manicured grass, and the butterflies still preferred this particular spot over any other in the entirety of the vast temple gardens to frolic about.
Senpai Yasahiro was raking the fallen blossoms again into neat little piles on the lawn. I always thought he approached the task of yard work with more delicacy than required, but he always seemed so content in his decision that I never felt the need to question him about it.
He greeted my smiling approach without breaking from his flowers.
“We remain foolish, brother. Always so eager to exact our will–“
He drew the rake across the lawn, pulling a few flowers along; others would slip between the prongs and be left behind.
“–that we never appreciate what can be all by itself.”
He gestured with his down-turned head to the remainder of unraked flowers off at the rear of the cherry blossom before turning back to me and capturing my gaze. His eyes were the softest sky blue.
“Just as you already know the answers you think you seek, you come not seeking truth.”
He returns to the fallen flora.
“My final teaching to you is this: Even as I willingly rake these flowers, it is done with the understanding that tomorrow the wind will blow again.”
Are you pleased with your life? Are you happy with it? Do you wake up in the morning excited? Do you crash into bed at night, exhausted for the right reasons? Have you found love? Have you fought to keep that love? Do you challenge your body? Your mind? Your perceptions? Do you act out of fear or love? Have you read a truly great book yet? Have you truly let go of the past? Have you told your parents you love them today? Have you told yourself you love you today? What’s your favourite word? Do you believe you have a purpose? Do you believe you’ll ever see it through? Are you afraid of dying? Do you ever wonder who else is? Is passion a part of your day? Ever think that being an adult is stupid and you should totally just be a kid again? Ever act like a kid when no one is around? Ever do more than just merely survive?
I’m a professional writer. That is to say I get paid by companies and clients to apply my personal insights and persuasive expertise in written form to the end of sales. Just as an athlete applies their quadriceps, explosive reaction times or hard-as-a-rock head to the end of goals/points/concussed enemies and sponsorship ROIs, I am expected to be good at what I do. And great at what I do if I ever wish to make a real name for myself. I am Capitalism’s deep and stirring voice reminding you to “Just do it.”
That aside, it has happened before where, upon learning what I actually do for a living (note: copywriting has zilch to do with law*), I have been asked what literature I choose to indulge in. This is usually posed by fiction readers whom I can only assume see me as some kind of credible authority on what makes great writing. Maybe they hope I read the same books they do. Perhaps they want a new genre or author to get wrapped up in under a blanket with a cup of cocoa on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Maybe they’re just humouring me because I tell the occasionally witty joke and offer my hoodie to dames when it gets cold out**.
Whatever their reasons, I usually get the same reaction when I do tell them.
Her: *smiling* So you’re a writer? What books do you enjoy reading?
Me: Yeah, I don’t really read.
*face loses expression*
Her: At all?
Me: No, not really.
Her: But you’re a writer…
And she has a point. According to my LinkedIn profile, blog title and box of business cards I never hand out, I am “a writer”.
Me: I read the papers occasionally, but then I get depressed and do spec domestic violence campaigns instead.
She’s unsure of how to respond. Her boyfriend grabs her by the arm and they leave. I’ve seen the type before.
This week has been different, though. My girlfriend bought me a copy of “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss (or Tim to his friends) and I haven’t been able to put the damn thing down. It’s strange, but in a good way. And it got me thinking: The last book I truly enjoyed this much was Freakonomics. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before, but if you haven’t read it (and the follow-up sensation SuperFreakonomics), do yourself a favour and order a copy. Today. Available now in paperback on Amazon for the low low price of $12. “Just do it.”
Anyway, the conclusion I have arrived at is this: I read what I find deeply interesting, and it’s a pity that it doesn’t happen all that often. At this junction, mind you, my life coach would reprimand me for justifying why I don’t read as much as I should, but on this point I stand firm***. If I’m going to invest twenty hours in reading a book, I want it to be an absolute pleasure whenever I pick it up. Anything less and I ask you, “What’s the point?”
I look at bookworms with a sense of awe and (on some level) jealousy. I wish I could pick up any book, or go to a book swap and walk away with five novels I know will be coursed cover-to-cover by next week, but I can’t. It’s too painful. I’m not strong enough.
Maybe I’d be a better writer if I did read more. Maybe I’d feel more fulfilled. I don’t know. All I know is this: 1) I read what I love to read and don’t find nearly enough books to satisfy my particular taste, and 2) I highly recommend The 4-Hour Work Week to anyone who has not read it yet.
Okay, so I’ve been MIA a while… I promised myself this wouldn’t happen and here we are. What can I say? “Sorry.” I’ll say it to myself. To anyone reading this, I’ll say the following:
Life is duality. Good and bad; Cain and Abel; Astros and type 2 diabetes. Let’s put a pin in that for now.
I was in a weird space when I started this blog. I was trying to freelance full-time and saw this blog as a great way to showcase my abilities. But I lost the fun along the way. As I do with most things. I had been frustrating myself (again) and only very recently starting realising why:
Somewhere along the way in my life I started tying my work to outcomes. At some point I stopped looking at my art as something I enjoyed creating, and started looking at it as the solutions to all my “problems.” I painfully recall spending a year working on a script that was only ever seen by three people, fully believing that it was going to be my ticket to something bigger and better in my life. I’m not regretful, though; just frustrated.
And that’s where the duality comes in. Every day I wake up and I am faced with opposing choices like this: Do I create what I love or what I think will sell? Do I keep my post-freelancing job or become a full-time backpacker? Do I do some goddamn push-ups tonight or just play a game of LoL because “I’m too tired from work?”
I think I made the wrong choice with this blog. I fed the wrong wolf.
I mean, I think the posts I’ve written thus far are okay. Some maybe even good. And I did get enjoyment from writing them. But I wasn’t exciting myself. I wasn’t exploring the reasons I love to write.
I wrote a status today about realness that got a couple nods. But more importantly, it got me thinking: Am I being real with myself? If every time my inspiration stems from the question, “What are people talking about right now,” or, “What would so-and-so find interesting to read,” then am I really creating what drives me? What I’m passionate about? It’s been so long I don’t even know if I am passionate about anything else other than writing, which I don’t do all that often any way.
Jacob Zuma has resigned from his position as President of the Republic of South Africa.
He has not yet confirmed this verbally, nor has he released the letter of resignation. Still, it is accepted that he has resigned. We may or may not have resigned for him: it doesn’t matter who resigned him, only that he has resigned. Those of us who know and accept that he has resigned will simply spread the word that he’s resigned until it is known from one end of South Africa to the other that he has resigned, and that anybody who says otherwise – including Zuma himself – is woefully mistaken on the matter.
This is not a petition: it’s the declaration of an accomplished fact. This accomplished fact may take a few weeks or months for Zuma to admit. But he has certainly resigned. It…
My parents play the lotto religiously. I think that there is a deeply-ingrained desire in the modern human to better and build the world around him. To improve our situations and have all [the media told us] we ever wanted seems to still be the general life goal of the still early 2000s.
Even so, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting. And in most cases it’s a blessing unto humanity to wish to build and create where there was only scarcity before. There was a time in early human history where everything was so limited that having anything above the stock of one’s peers held a significantly greater chance for the survival for the individual: the ultimate* human need.
It’s unfortunate to see, however, how the modern-day equivalent of this need has perpetuated itself. To see people who have so viciously identified with the idea of monetary acquisition that it comes at the expense of their values, their lives and, more often than not, the well-being of fellow beings.
War would be the ultimate example of this idea: A few good men** who sit around a board room table and send brothers and sons out onto a battlefield like pawns on a chess board, all for the grand aim of filling numbers on a ledger. War isn’t hell, dear boy; it’s business! And business is booming according to Reuters.
One of my dearest friend’s stepdad was fatally stabbed in South Africa a few years back over a R300 TV set. While I can never claim to understand what the situation of the killer was like leading up to the incident, I use it to help convey a very troubling thought:
That right now, lurking in certain individuals among us, is the belief that money has greater value than human life.
The True Cost of Playing
On Monday 13 October 2014, iWits – local social marketing and web dev company – launched an awareness campaign sneakily disguised as an online scavenger hunt.
The scavenger hunt was a (legitimate) competition for N$1,000; however, some of the tactics employed in the competition were less than dignified.
To enter the competition, eager contestants were required to fill out an online form, read some terms and conditions, click “I agree” and start their journey towards winning that cool N$1,000!
Today (27 October 2014), over 250 Namibians are receiving emails from iWits informing them that they have been conned! Duped and swindled out of their hard-earned money and assets…
The email goes on to explain that hidden within the terms and conditions, which a staggering 83% of entrants failed to read carefully enough, had the following clauses hidden within them:
By entering this competition, the entrant agrees to pay iWits a monthly fee, totalling their full salary, allowance or retirement packagefor a total of 48 months.
By entering this competition, entrants agree that all property owned by the entrant or the entrant’s parentswill be signed over to iWits within 30 days after the competition has closed.
By entering this competition, the entrant agrees that iWits may select one family member of the entrant to use in any and all advertising materials for iWits for atotal of 12 months, furthermore agreeing that no compensation will be provided to the entrant or the family member that is being used in the advertising promotion.
The average time the non-reader (a.k.a “sucker”) spent on the terms and conditions page was 1 minute 7 seconds, compared to those who followed the hidden links to the legitimate terms (14% of entrants) who spent an average of 9 minutes 6 seconds reading. 3% of potential entrants (this one included) opted to simply eject from the competition entirely.
It’s scary because it has real-world implications. People sign contracts every day, and every day people are cheated out of their money. When I was still posted at Ogilvy, I handled the NAMFISA Consumer Education Bulletin and almost every edition there would be some article or paragraph outlining the importance of reading contracts. People will literally sign their salaries and houses away for a thousand bucks without a second thought!
Scarier than that is the fact that there are people who do this for a living! People who spend hours crafting and perfecting ways to trick you out of the money you spend all day earning. And he’ll get it right if you aren’t vigilant.
I personally at least scan through terms and conditions. I’m particularly interested in how a company or website wishes to use my information, as I’m equal parts paranoia and spam hater, but even I missed the first crazy clause. Had it been the only one, I too, may have been suckered.
But I encourage you keep dreaming, Namibia, because there’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life for yourself. Just always a) ensure that whatever you want in life does not come at the cost of your fellow man and b) don’t be so blinded by what you want that you are taken for all you have.
View the official iWits release with all the stats here
EDIT: Lastly, iWits wishes to inform the public that the offending clauses have been invalidated and no entrants will be held liable for them – this was only an awareness campaign, after all.