- Portraits of Africa: This image has been in my mind’s eye all week. It is so quintessentially and quietly African amongst all of the cacophony, violence and thunder of this huge, complex continent. The picture was taken by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher who have spent thirty years photographing Africa. Their work has seen them travel across 270,000 miles to remote corners of 40 countries. And their fourteen exquisite books have allowed us glimpses into the lives of more than 150 traditional African cultures. This intrepid team of explorers are committed to preserving sacred tribal ceremonies and African cultural traditions which are vulnerable to the trends of modernity. This boy – and his beloved cow, after whom he was named, will go through life together. Spirits united. The animal will even accompany him when he woos his bride. Beckwith and Fisher’s work is a reminder to me that Africa is not Europe, is not the US, is not the UK and we should never expect her to be. Nor try to make her so. Beautiful. (Read more about the photographers here)
“The real reason why human life can be so utterly exasperating and frustrating is not because there are facts called death, pain, fear, or hunger. The madness of the thing is that when such facts are present, we circle, buzz, writhe, and whirl, trying to get the “I” out of the experience. We pretend that we are amoebas, and try to protect ourselves from life by splitting in two. Sanity, wholeness, and integration lie in the realization that we are not divided, that man and his present experience are one, and that no separate “I” or mind can be found. To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, ‘I am listening to this music,’ you are not listening.”
Smart, necessary words by Alan Watts. (From his book: The Wisdom of Insecurity. Written in 1951, even more resonant today.)
3. Maria Popova runs, writes and researches the immeasurably wonderful Brain Pickings site. She mines the world for interesting bits and pieces, learns as much as she can about them, and then shares them with us. I love this poster “Seven Learnings from Seven Years of Reading Writing and Living.” created by Maria together with the smart folks at Holstee, (remember their great Manifesto?) in which she shares lessons learned in seven years of writing and editing her site. Every one worth noting. I will be purchasing one for my office …. just as soon as the SA postal strike-Xmas slam aftermath has cleared.
4. The Farmer and the Clown is a sweet, warm, wordless story by author and illustrator Marla Freeze. The tale follows the accidental, unlikely friendship that develops between a kindly old farmer and a child-clown after the little boy falls out of the circus train into the farmer’s arid patch of the prairie. By choosing such a gentle and innocent version of a clown – often an image that many people find scary or threatening – Frazee gently reminds us that sometimes the things we fear most can become our most rewarding experiences. As long as we bring to them a warm curiosity and a welcoming presence. And as long are willing to put down our fear. (Meet Marla Frazee here.)
5. Life is never too full to add a goldfish. Meet the yolkfish: my favourite must have just because kitchen accessory. Simply bring its lips to the yolk, squeeze gently. And transfer over. A smile every time you use it. Adopt one here.