To read this article in Deutsch, Francaise, Italiano, Portuguese, Espanol, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian, copy and paste the complete URL ("http://www.generator21.net/africa38.html") and enter it in the box after you click through.
G21 BARNES & NOBLE BOOKSTORE
G21 Digital Internet Postcards
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST. You'll be glad you did. Surveys that affect our look and feel and much more. Be part of the In-Crowd!
LETTER FROM SOUTH AFRICA
MONKEY ON THE WIND
MY GLASS HOUSE
NEW YORK STATE
THE SEX COLUMN
RECOMMENDED DAILY REQUIREMENT ARCHIVES.
LAST WEEK's EDITION
MEET THE G-CREW! These are the people behind this jam-band every week.
TABLE OF CONTENTS & BACK ISSUES
QUEENSTOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - One of the things Generator 21 has had since its inception is the renowned publisher, Rod Amis. It therefore seems appropriate when celebrating its anniversary to put his column on the couch.
Writing is one of the more difficult arts because it involves the whole of a person's constitution and personality. It is an effort to live up to one's identity in a more radical and consciously defined manner. Writers notoriously live defiant and non-conformist lives. Rod Amis, in "My Glass House,' combines a rare quality of humility with tingling sincerity and an equally rare ability to laugh at himself. To listen to the unrolling folds from the scrolls of his life is one of the reasons why most of us keep coming back to www.generator21.net week after week. We love his sensual mysticism of the ordinary that sublimates mundane emotions to artistic heights. The column throws us back at ourselves with a controlled impatience and a light of scrutiny. It says so much that, in the end, it says something for everyone. We recognize his search for essential value in of life, his lust after the real, because we share it.
Sometimes, as all of us, he tries to burn the candle from both ends:When I wrote the lines "I am in the season of hunting. My own assessment of the situation, last week, has proven premature. Given the least of provocations, I have gone back into the mode of the fly awaiting the fangs of the spider - or at least the strands of some tangled web ... " It was because I had begun seeing The Lurker. The Lurker and I have been playing the game of Moth and Flame for over a year. We alternate roles. This latter time, I played Flame. I think I might even have singed her wings a bit. I believed then that I would see her again that weekend. See suddenly disappeared without a word. I wonder about her a lot, but don't know how to reconnect...
Things, as we all know, have a knack of dwindling and dying in tragic reality before we've had time to get unused to them. The consequent nostalgia demands greater inner strength or despair:At that moment, I realized that you were probably only a fourteenth century Romantic in my own mind. And all the things that you had done to make me a better human being, appreciate flowers and art and love were as ephemeral as stardust.Who in us has never felt like that, in some time or the other? Rod has the gift of expressing complex emotions like these with an aura of contained energy and brevity of reserve. One's disappointments are not pleasant subjects but when they're assimilated with a meditative grip of experience they're lifted to permanent universality. The emotional poignancy and the restless turbulence in Rod is not an appearance of excessive courtesy or specious self abasement, but compassion and indignation wrestling with each other in genuine strife for greater human consciousness. To add to that he also has the ability to match the stirring events of his life with noble songs: You give me reason to live.
It was not seeing you with him that damaged me or even the stupid things he said. It was realizing that I would have to learn more about love on my own ... You never appreciated how isolated my life was before I met you, so you could not understand that after you I would experience true loneliness for the very first time.
I was never lonely until after I met you ...
You give me reason to live.
You give me reason to live... Randy Newman, "You Can Leave Your Hat On"
"My Glass House," in my view, arouses and sustains the thrust of an active interplay between anger, compassion, humour and moral sensitivity. It allows us an observation of a strong mind operating in life. As the result it appeals to experience. You can tell from its domestic tone and conversational ease that avoids generalities or abstract words that the column is informed by life. Narratives from life have an advantage of variety as life is a laboratory of the real. The irregular combination of fanciful invention may delight for a while but the pleasure of wonder is soon exhausted after a while. The mind, to rephrase Dr Johnson, can only rest on the stability of the real.
Some like "Charlie the Tuna" have listened ad nauseam to Rod's Eurydicean searching for his lover. They've started to find him cloying:While some of your readers might find you maudlin and angst-ridden tales of how you can't connect with a frail "soulful", frankly, milquetoast, they are startin' to bore me to tears! I'll tell you why: even Hitler had a girlfriend!Nothing new to that, the stars do not agree with the sun.
I'm one of those readers in the former category. I just hope Charlie has not fallen for the modern reluctance to face the realities of our lives. Or perhaps he thinks we visit "My Glass House" because we're bored and uneasy about our own lives. By inference, we resort to it as a greater amplitude and symbol of our desires. In short, we use it as a tabloid. Most of us visit g21 because of its promise as a "thinking zone." Nowhere more than in "My Glass House" is that promise fulfilled week after week.
We come to "My Glass House" wearied by the slapdash sales talk of lustreless journalists with premiums to collect, seeking people like us saying and thinking about things we do. And sick unto death with the empty euphoria spreading over the predominant culture like a bland smile of an idiot. We come in order to escape the anaesthetics of modish consumerism, the rant of heroic monsters and the nag of grand victims.
Rod's column is not gross sentimentalism. That's its attraction. He does not justify his perversions in an attempt to erect them into principles. He is fallible like the rest of us and does not wear masks to hide it. On the other hand, I too confess to a personal distaste for advertising my adventures in love. Yet there's too much clairvoyant sense of affinity between myself and the author of "My Glass House" to share Charlie's incipient disgust.
To bare one's self unbound before the public, with such felicitous exposure, requires a courage that should be appreciated. Courage as the mean between timidity and recklessness, not arrogant indifference to other people's opinions. It also requires some form of a crisis for most of us to let go of our false selves. And crises come in all forms, but all require tremendous courage and a certain degree of emotional maturity to overcome.
The genius of Rod's column is in the informal elegance he uses to conceal his virtue of courage, the brilliant ease of spontaneity, the masks of amiability and smiling mockery of the impotent despair in his life. His love of dominating others by generosity. His startling calm and controlled impatience from having learnt the value of things (that terrible knowledge that makes a spring of melancholy run as a rapier of wit his column.) It makes his life into a piece of art. This, naturally, invites a certain kind of stasis that mirrors death. To gain your life you must loose it. I believe this is what's repulsive to those who prefer the satire manqué. Death of self-will is in conjunction with spiritual awakening in this column. It is almost impossible to appreciate this unless you've also undergone a similar experience. After the experience nothing is left for one but an intense life of keen awareness of reality as depicted in :My Glass House." Everything becomes grist to this mill.
What other people might not recognize is that now is the season of agonised brooding and a slow recovery of liberty from a chaotic, anarchic and inchoate morass into which that liberty seems to have fallen. It is not a season for frivolous (humourous, yes, but not frivolous) men. What are needed are men of dimensional depth to correspond to the sense of tragic possibilities in the offing. Even the emotive words of our light-hearted geniuses must express and arouse moral indignation and reflect the sense of outrage the public feels against the folly of their leaders. Their task is to give statements that they want leaders who can create confidence by the power of their insights, foresight and a genuine capacity to identify themselves with people's humble ideals.
There is all over the world emerging men of vital faith who prefer wistful agnosticism to formal religion or robust scepticism under the illusion that it is the voice of educated people. Men who feel the historical events of their day as events in their personal emotional life. Those who are no longer prepared to take the cowardly road of cynicism as the easy way out of making effort for the good. That futile accusing shadow of authenticity. G21 is the site for them that's not afraid to negotiate, in refined simplicity, a point where faith and progressive cosmopolitism coexist in harmony. A zone for those who're tired of the threadbare vocabulary of the hoot owls. A zone where (sometimes) illiterate voices from ordinary people about things that should be is given a voice of reason.
Next time you see what you may feel like an attractive naivety inbueing people all over the world demonstrating against war in Iraq or an oppressive hand linked to globalisation, for instance, visit www.generator21.net for the intellectual sentiments that express your dreams.
People might be ignorant of the nature of the things they're trying to change, but they know what kind of world they want to live in. There are still things brewing in the oceanic vat of ordinary people. The political scene is not yet permanently adjusted. These people have the right to their hopes because they've earned it by their courage to hope instead of despairing about the satanic pride of the fundamentalists. We see the burgeoning opposing culture of fundamentalists, with its savage and moral dogmatism, just as reprehensible as the Darwinian operations of globalisation. We refuse to undertake the power to despise in the name of their frustrations just as much as we refuse to be resigned to their miseries. But as they do have a right to their moods of sober indignation, too, G21 gives them an opportunity to let off steam while plotting their course.
MPHUTHUMI NTABENI attended the school of Architecture in the University of Witswatersrand after High School, though he's not certain now what he was doing there. A misunderstanding occurred somewhere as he was looking for an education and all they could do was to train him. After that he left in a despairing mood for the city of Port Elizabeth where he re-invented himself. When he suspected there was nothing more to learn from the honking gulls of the sea, and he had paid off the government loan for his studies, he went back to his home, Queenstown. He now lives there under the nurturing care of his mother (no one else will have him) trying to make sense of the society he grew up in and exorcise the demons of growing under the apartheid regime. He's also waiting to grow up ad dreaming of being a member of that wretched tribe that earns its living by composing thoughts into words. This is his fourth article for The World's Magazine.
© 2003, GENERATOR 21.E-mail your comments. We always like to hear from you. Send your snide remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org.