Monday, 30 July 2012

Harry Potter and Platonic Male-Female Friendships

Over the last number of days I've been watching again the Harry Potter series. Something that really stood out for me in this re-watch was the development of the characters' friendships with each other, and in particular the strictly platonic relationship between Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in the films. Both Harry and Hermione pursue romantic relationships with other characters, but never are they romantic to each other, yet their friendship is still undeniably rich and caring.

Even the added scene in the seventh film where Harry and Hermione dance is lacking in romance. It shows the two character's in state of quirky interaction at a very depressing point in the overall plot. To me it illustrated again the value of their platonic relationship.

I honestly loved watching this male-female platonic relationship develop and mature into something honest, nurturing, and yet strictly non-sexual. I enjoyed seeing it for two reasons. First, because the common misconception that such a friendship, where both individuals are sexually attracted to the opposite sex (i.e. neither of them are homosexual), is practically impossible is so prevailing. Well, I am definitely convinced that such male-female platonic relationships do exist, and this bring me to the second point why I enjoyed seeing such a relationship in these movies: it is so seldom displayed in the media, yet it reminded me so much of my own relationship with my best friend, whom happens to be of the opposite sex as well.

My best friend and I met around fifteen years ago. I have had many close friends in my life—it is just the sort of person I am; I enjoy emotionally intimate friendships. However, the friendship I share with my best friend is undeniably the deepest friendship I have ever had. We have known each other now for almost half of our lives and we have grown to trust each other practically fully and care for each other unconditionally. I do not think that there is another person that knows me as well as she does. For all practical purposes, she knows all my secrets, and all my fears. In a sense, she is the twin sister I never had. She is familiar with the most significant moments of my past, and so do I know about possibly all the significant events in hers.

I have often described our relationship in the words of C. S. Lewis: “[Erotic Love] will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.” My friend and I never stand with naked bodies before each other—but we definitely stand before each other with our personalities, our minds, all baring—warts and blemishes and all. I've also described our friendship in slightly more grisly imagery: our visits are sometimes analogous to voluntarily giving up your brain for dissection, fully trusting that the surgeon has only your best interest at heart. And admittedly, it is on occasion similarly painful, but always with the hope of understanding and growth. Or as my friend put it recently: We can trust each other with our guts spilled on the table.

It is true that people have wondered about my best friend and I. Wondered if what we have are not possibly romantic or attempted to convince us that we would make a good romantic match. After all, we have shared rooms often enough, even slept on the same bed on a handful of occasions. Yet, I can honestly say that our friendship is very non-romantic and mutually completely platonic. Over the past fifteen years there had been countless occasions for romance to develop, but it never did. That is not to say that it could not have occurred, but rather that we have come to value our friendship so much, that we have both (possibly subconsciously at first, and later indeed consciously) decided that what we have as platonic friends is worth more than the risk of losing it all by complicating it with romantic feelings. In fact, our platonic friendship has often proven to be a blessing for our respective romantic relationships. We have always supported each other's individual romantic pursuits, and tried to encourage each other's love lives; when problems arose, we always try to give support and find remedies through respectful and caring conversations—always trying to help each other have great relationships with each other's respective romantic partners. (I'm using the term “romantic partner” here because neither my friend or I are married, but the term can easily be replaced with “life partner” or “spouse”.)

I was reminded again of the positive effect my friend and I have on our respective romantic relationships recently when I told my friend of possible romantic feelings I have towards someone—very much an “it's complicated” (to use Facebook terms) sort of relationship. Regardless of the complications, my friend listened carefully to my description of the person, highlighted for me the positives and acknowledged the problems, without trying to shoot holes in the possibilities. Have it not been for her support, I think I may have given up on this romantic pursuit already.

On a web page on this topic I found the following benefits to platonic male-female relationships with which I could definitely identify:

  • They endure because you trust one another and share a lot together at a spiritual, emotional and shared experiences level.
  • You aren't plagued by the intimacy of romantic love and sexual relations, with all the accompanying doubts, jealousies, complications, etc.
  • Neither of you need to perform in front of one another; you are who you are.
  • You can learn about the opposite sex from one another in a safe and uncompromising way.
  • Both of you benefit from each other's perspectives on challenges facing you in relations with other people.
  • There is always someone you can go to for genuine, fearless, and forthright advice - platonic friendships tend to have a quality that transcends the often unspoken competitive and conforming needs of same gender friendships.

The web page also gives some warnings:

There are two that I wish to highlight. First, it is important to be very open and honest with your romantic partner about the nature of your relationship with your friend. There cannot be any secrets. With this I do not mean that I need to divulge my friend's secrets to my romantic partner, but that if I speak about my romantic partner to my friend, my partner has the right to know. My partner needs also know what my friend and I do together. Not only will this put my partner's mind at ease, but it will build trust. Second, one need to continually assess your friendship and see if you are not possibly having an emotional affair; in other words, is your friendship fulfilling some emotional needs that your romantic partner ought to fulfil? If so, you have to re-establish proper boundaries (which may include distancing yourself from your friend) and make a decided effort to fix the emotional gap you and your romantic partner is experiencing.

From my personal experience and around fifteen years of being blessed by it, I can honestly say that platonic male-female friendship can work. I have frequently thanked God for the blessing I have received from this friendship and am quite convinced that this friendship has been a providential gift. I am convinced that our respective partners (past and present) have much to owe for the encouraging relationship that my best friend and I have. That doesn't mean that we are not sometimes critical of each other and our relationships. In fact, my friend and I often confront each other and challenge each other. But it is never motivated by jealousy or some other malicious intend. Rather, we look out for each other and only has each other's best interests in mind.

Having a wonderful platonic friendship with someone of the opposite sex is definitely possible and can be a great blessing.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

I'm on vacation, so why am I trying to work?

What can I say of this past week? It had been only partially productive. I have revisited the first six Harry Potter films, was able to get some books for classes that I will teach next semester, exercised nearly every day, met with some friends, got to do some important stuff with regards to my visa which will expire in a month, and worked on a magazine I'm involved with, and some other stuff. I feel slightly frustrated though, as if I had not accomplished all I had hoped, but I cannot honestly say what it exactly is that I had hoped to accomplish. For this coming week I guess I better make a proper list of goals, so that I can check them off as the week progress.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Dying Gaul

Possibly my favourite ancient artwork is the “Capotoline Gaul,” better known as the “Dying Gaul.” It was originally cast in bronze during the Hellenistic Classical period (late Classical Greek period), but was copied into marble by the Romans. It is believed to have been commissioned by King Attalus I of Pergamon, probably best known for his involvement in the Macedonian Wars, but also for his victory over the Galatian Celts. It was in celebration of his victory over these Gallic warriors that he commissioned this statue, depicting a fallen Gaul, mortally wounded and dying.


Yet what we see is not what one would expect—not a defeated, disgraced, barbarian. Instead, the Gaul supports his body with one arm, pushing himself from his reclined position, still in these last moments fighting his inevitable death. But he is not fighting death itself, merely the humiliation of an undignified death. There is nothing undignified about this warrior. He has bravely fought for his people against the Roman onslaught. He had charged into battle naked as the Gauls were known to do—probably only clad with body paint and his Celtic torc, the neck ring. They wore no armour, showing their fearlessness and defiance.


The historian Polibius wrote: “The Insubres and the Boii wore trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae [Gauls], in their love of glory and defiant spirit, had thrown off their garments and taken up their position in front of the whole army naked and wearing nothing but their arms... The appearance of these naked warriors was a terrifying spectacle, for they were all men of splendid physique and in the prime of life.” In contrast, the Roman soldiers wore iron and leather breastplates and metal helmets. I would venture a guess that had a great Gaulic warrior and a great Roman soldier met each other in battle, naked and weaponless, the Gaul would have won—not because of fighting technique, but purely because of his virile will-power and determination.


So impressed was Attalus I with his enemy that he commissioned this sculpture. A sculpture that although it depicts a defeated foe doesn't depict a humiliated foe; although it depicts a dying man, it still emphasises his potency, his athletic body and lithe limbs. This sculpture may be a trophy of Attalus's victory over the Galatians, but it is at the same time a tribute to the greatness of the Galatian-warriors.

I'm still not sure what exactly it is about the sculpture that so resonates with me. When I studied History of Art I often found myself paging through my textbook and stopping at the picture of the “Dying Gual,” just staring at it pensively, admiring the dignity of this dying man. Years later and nothing has changed. The sculpture still speaks to me as it did back then. I guess that is the power of great art.

You can see a beautiful detailed close-up of the sculpture at the Google Art Project.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Group

I try to think the best of people. I'm sad to admit that it is not always easy and not something I have always done with a fair amount of consistency, but I'm glad that I'm improving. As Joyce Meyer is fond of saying: "I'm not where I ought to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be!" So at an interpersonal level I can say that I'm not really a judgemental type of person. I try to accept people for who they are regardless of their religions, creeds, and what not. It is, I think, partly this reason why I have so many diverse friends, ranging from atheists to religious folks; from Catholics to Protestants to followers of Islam or Wicca or Buddhism; from artists to mechanical engineers to philosophers to artisans. 

Yet while I can love diverse individuals, I often find myself much less optimistic of humanity as a whole, and of political powers in particular. I see humanity as innately selfish, and politicians (as the figureheads of groups) as inherently power-hungry mongrels that ought to be distrusted. There is therefore a peculiar paradox at play: individual humans I accept, but groups of humans banded together I mistrust. 

Why exactly this is the case I do not know, but it is a motif that I recognise in myself as something that is taken over into various contexts. I enjoy individual sports, but not group sports. I enjoy intimate social moments with friends (one, two, three people), but am not very fond of big parties. I value individuality and praise people that dare stand out from the crowd, but am disappointment with all the "sheeple" that just follow the popular streams. 

My distaste in the "group" may have started very early. I remember for example instances when I was still at school and having very civil and pleasant one-on-one conversations with a fellow schoolmate, just to have this person turn into a bully when in a group -- a type of menacing wolf-pack mentality that brings out the worst in a person. Think of football hooligans who are often separately nice individuals, but turn into crazed bastards when they are part of the mob. For similar reasons I distrusts fraternities, political parties, religious groups, and so on. Any congregation that creates a homogeneous entity where the individual is assimilated into the group and the group becomes the new grand organism makes me feel uneasy.

Yet, with all my aversion to the group, I know that the group is not all evil. Sometimes groups are good: People do sometimes come together for a shared altruistic goal. I love music and music is often the result of people working as a group together. It is of course significant that I should especially love jazz music, where the individual musicians never give up their individuality, nevertheless, there are positive groups, of which music and the arts abound. I know of groups of people that raise money for charity, to build houses for the poor, or schools or hospitals. Spontaneous groups of people that come together in times of crisis to help one another. 

What should be the difference in these altruistic groups, and those other groups? In part, I guess, it is the we-against-them attitude that so often occur with a group. What makes a group a group is that the group-members should share something, some identifiable trade. Something that makes the group different from people that are not part of the group. This focus on difference is often the cause for the antagonism against anything that is not the same. The magic of an altruistic group seems to be an outward focus, rather than an inward focus. A group that comes together to build a school in a rural community is not focussed on themselves and what makes them unique, but is outward focussed. Their goal is altruistically other-focussed. Unfortunately my disapproval of groups is based on the fact that there really are so few altruistically other-focussed groups. Most groups are formed with an inward focussed attitude and selfish goals.

As an outsider living in a group-oriented society like I do (here in Korea), one gets to perceive the interesting nature of groups. One get to see the ugliness of groups, but also the encouraging characteristics of groups. Like is often the case in real life, groups are not all evil or all good. I often say that I have a love-hate relationship with Korea, I guess in part because there are aspects of Korean culture and society that often irks me up the wrong way, but then there are other aspects of the culture that is heart warming to see and experience. 

Although it will still take a very long time before I get over my near reflexive distrust of the group, I am slowly learning to accept that groups can be forces of good, that groups are not necessarily always the sandboxes of devils. The spirit of a group may very well be guided by angels, by altruistic principles, too.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

"The Shocking Reality of Foreigners in Korea" Spoofs

In May I wrote a post in which I discussed the issue of Korean media's often misrepresentation of the truth. I particularly commented on MBC's "bigoted xenophobic image of foreigners in Korea" in their insert about "The Shocking Reality About Relationships With Foreigners". This footage has been removed from YouTube, hopefully because of the many complaints of its clear racists contents, but probably because MBC claimed it a copyright violation. So unfortunately it is not possible to see the original video on YouTube any more and I couldn't find it hosted anywhere else.

Friends of mine, however, made a spoof of the video, in which they hyperbole the ridiculous nature of the original video and I gladly embed their video below.


I also saw this cartoon spoof on YouTube.

As far as I know MBC is yet to formally apologize for the original video. Apparently they claim that it was put together by a freelance journalist or something and therefore do not need to take responsibility for it's content. Regardless of who put it together, they ought to take responsibility for airing it, but "taking responsibility" is unlikely to happen.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Inspirational Tae-Ho

I just saw this video of a little (dis-)abled Korean boy. Touching.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A Truncated Visit to Busan

This past weekend I headed off for Busun for what was supposed to be a fun exploration of Korea's second largest city and one of the probably two most famous holiday destinations in Korea (the other being Jeju Island). I've never been to Busan before, which is strange considering how long I've lived in Korea. Okay, this is not technically true. Upon my first year in Korea I did come to Busan for a wedding. I took the bus, went to the wedding, and got on the bus again and went back to Seoul without having seen any of the sights. So the prospect of coming to Busan for real this time had me a little excited.

However, the reason for this visit was not merely to have a short holiday in Busan, but to visit a Korean friend of mine whom have begged me on numerous occassions to come visit his "home town". My friend, who now goes by the name of Charles is an engineer and currently lives in the Philipines where he is branch manager for a Korean engineering firm. He came to Korea for a week and came to Busan for the weekend and told me to meet him here.

Which I did . . . Or so I thought. The moment I arrived in Busan he wisked me off with in a car to Pohang to go visit his uncle, aunt, and cousins in this much smaller coastal town. I've actually been to Pohang before and can't say that I had a particular interest in going there now.

Eventually on Sunday afternoon we returned to Busan from where my friend departed back to the Philipines. I'm disappointed that I didn't have more time to enjoy in Busan, but also couldn't get myself to pressure my friend to leave his family whom he hadn't seen in a long time. As an expat I know all to well the importance of spending time with loved ones when your visiting your own country.

In any case, I eventually arrived in Busan Sunday afternoon and quickly headed off to the beach, where I just collapsed on the sand and watched the slushing waves and the people enjoying the sand and sea. How soothing the sound of the sea is! As it got dark I went to see a movie, found some dinner and hunted for a motel to stay.

This morning I slept late, went for a stroll in the city and find myself now in a restaurant for a late brunch. Afterwards I'll probably go by the beach again to soak up the atmosphere before heading back to Seoul this afternoon. Tonight I'm teaching a Taekwon-Do class, so I need to get back.

Since I haven't had time to see much of Busan, which reminds me a little of Durban, I definitely plan to come back sometime. I was also supposed to meet with a South African friend, but that unfortunately didn't pan out either, so another visit down South is definitely necessary.

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Friday, 6 July 2012

Changgyeonggung Palace

A friend from South Africa is visiting, so yesterday we decided to go do some site seeing. First we went to the Seoul National Museum of Science, which turned out to be a children's museum. There were some interesting displays of physics in action, but over all it was pretty disappointing. Right next to the museum is Changgyeonggung Palace, one of the five great Joseon palaces in Seoul and actually one that I have not been to before. While the palace itself is pretty consistent with the other Joseon palaces, what stood out to me was the beautiful gardens surrounding it. It is probably one of the most peaceful royal retreats in Seoul. Since it was raining I didn't take photos of the gardens -- it's a bit difficult to hold an umbrella and shoot with the camera at the same time. I did, however, take some photos of parts of the palace buildings.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Spring cleaning day (in mid-summer).

Image Source
I'm having a cleaner over. I usually do not have a cleaner, 'cause I feel guilty spending the money on something I can do myself, but I just do not have the time (or energy after work) to do the deep cleaning that every apartment needs to get every so often, and now that I am on vacation and ought to have the energy the work just looked so insurmountable that I didn't know where to start.

The cleaner's name is Grace. She's amazing! (Pun intended.) After only two hours my apartment already looks like a place where I can enjoy my vacation in. My floors are glowing! My dishes are all done and the stove top is spic and span. Just these things alone are enough for me to feel like my quality of life suddenly increased a couple of stars. But Grace is going to stay on for another two hours! I cannot wait to see what the end result is going to be. 

In the meantime I need to tidy up my desk and bookshelves. A man's desk is a shrine that nobody else, but the high priest, can enter; and my books are my children--I'm very particular with who I allow to interact with them. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Seven Things I Want in a Partner -- No, Make That Eight Things

"21 Things I Want in a Lover" is a song by Alanis Morissette in which she list different qualities that she would like her partner to have. I like the idea of such a list and agrees with Alanis not only on many of the characteristics that she mentions, but also such a list is itself quite appropriate because, after all, "I have a choice in the matter." But a good friend of mine Skyped me the other day. She is in her 60s and never got married. She warned me quite seriously that I should not be too picky because we all have a "dating shelf life" and soon I might wake up and find myself much less marketable. Another elderly female friend had a similar warning, saying that it is easier to find someone if you are in your mid-life if you had had a wife before; i.e. if you are a widower or divorcee. She explained that if a man reaches a certain age (which apparently I'm swiftly approaching) without having gotten married yet, women think that there must be something wrong with him, otherwise he would have been "caught" long ago.

So while I could easily make my own list of 21 Things recent circumstances, including platonic and intimate encounters, have forced me to rethink what it is I want from a life partner.

#1 Respect

One important thing, I realised, is respect. I am not talking here of respect in the patriarchal man-as-head-of-the-house type of respect. I'm merely talking about respect of me as an individual. Respect admits that I am a free agent. If my partner respects me for who I am, then my partner will never force me to do things I'm not comfortable with, at the same time will my partner try and allow me the freedom to do those things that are important to me. In the past I used to think it of absolute importance that my partner and I have the same religion and ideas about God. I've come to understand now that respecting my views and allowing me to live out my faith is actually more important than sharing my ideas about God. A person can share your religious views, but still hinder your spiritual progress if the person do not respect you and where you are on your spiritual journey. Similarly, I used to think that my partner and I ought to share the same dietary preferences, keeping in mind that I'm mostly vegetarian. But I've seen a number of healthy relationships where one partner is a vegetarian and the other is not, and the relationship is still successful because the two respect each others preferences. Respect, I now believe, is absolutely crucial for a truely healthy relationship. It goes without saying, of course, that the respect should be mutual. I should have the same type of respect towards my partner as my partner has for me.

#2 Unconditional, non-judgemental love

The other thing, which goes hand in hand with respect, is unconditional, non-judgemental love. Most people do not truly love, in the purest sense of the word. True love is unconditional. Unconditional love, I believe, is the only true form of love, for it is wholly unselfish. It is a love that unfetters, rather than restricts, that makes free, rather than imprison. This is the type of love trusts; it is not jealous. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity or selfishness -- both characteristics of an immature, false love. A "love" that is inward focussed, rather than outward focussed. True love, also, does not judge. Non-judgemental acceptance, I have realised, is probably the most redeeming quality in a person that I admire. The individuals I care for most, the people I truly allow into the deepest layers of my soul, are those I know will love me regardless of my worst secrets, my most foul blemishes. Since I have such individuals in my life already, I don't need judgemental individuals in my circle and I definitely do not want such a person as my life partner. An unconditional, non-judgemental partner will always think the best of me. For example, were I to say something that my partner thought insulting, my partner will think that I have maybe miscommunicated, and instead of going on the defensive, will try and resolve the misunderstanding. This type of love requires a self-knowledge and maturity that comes with experience, I know. Again, as I hope to receive such unconditional, non-judgemental love, I expect of myself to give it too because, again to quote Alanis "This is the only kind of love, as I understand it, that there really is."

#3 Humbleness

Humbleness is another characteristic that I have always found very attractive. Humbleness is not to be confused with a bad self-esteem or a low self-image. In fact, it is particularly those individuals that are both confident and humble whom I find particularly attractive. Humbleness is the ability to admit when one is wrong, to say thank you for a compliment without becoming proud or boasting, to be thankful for one's blessings. 

#4 Honesty

Another characteristic that I believe to be of utmost importance in the person I hope to share my life with is honesty. Yes, truth often hurts, but if conveyed in respect and love and with a humble attitude it is a wonderful balm. There are times, of course, when truth should be withheld until the hearer is at a place to hear it, and this requires sensitivity and wisdom. While I can accept the former, deliberate deception and falsehoods (lies) are poisons that never has a place in a loving relationship. I truly do not believe that we have to say everything, have to share everything with our partners. The Principle of Respect, already mentioned, requires me to accept it with love and trust if my partner feel not to divulge some things to me. I should trust my partner to share with me those things that I need to know. Respect and unconditional love should make room for untold things. At the same time, non-judgemental love should accept whatever my partner does wish to share with me. I do, however, believe that there are some things that need to be said, some secrets that cannot be kept, but I believe each person should be free to decide what that is for themselves, and that they should listen to their conscious and to the promptings of the Divine Spirit on such matters.

#5 Sexual attraction

It is an unfortunate necessity that I should include a carnal aspect on this list, but mutual sexual attraction is important. I am very much a sexual creatures and although I have found deep heart-to-heart connection to somewhat defer my sexual urges, they do not replace this primary bodily need. It might be that as I grow older this requirement will diminish, but to be honest, as of yet, I can get just as lustful as I when I was an adolescent, and since I try to keep a healthy and active lifestyle I do not foresee this to change dramatically in the next couple of decades.

#6 Appreciation of creativity

A creative sense is, for my particular constitution, a must. In the past I might have expected my partner to also be creative and artistic as myself, but I do not hold this as a standard any more, as long as my partner has an appreciation for creativity. Notice that I'm not saying a mere appreciation for art. No, it must be an appreciation for the artistic impulse -- my partner will, after all, be living with an artist and us artists can become quite odd at times. We go through seasons of strangeness (melancholy, mania, apathy, bliss, etc.), that doesn't befall other people to the same frequency. Although I'm quite a "balanced" creative soul, a mere indulgence of an artist's creative waves may not be enough, I think, to live with one. It needs to be an understanding -- an appreciation -- of the creative mind and its cycles. To put it in the words of Alison Krauss: "Some folks seem to think I only got one problem: I can't find nobody as crazy as me."

#7 Comfortable friendship

A comfortable friendship is an often overlooked quality, but it is a crucial one. After all, it is the thing that will make us want to spend time with each other and be comfortable in each others space.

#8 Inspirational

After contemplating my list of seven things over a couple of days, I came to the conclusion that there is another quality I wish for in a life partner: my partner should inspire me to be a better person. The key word here is inspire. People can tell you to be better, nag you to be better, try and manipulate you to be better, but such attempts at changing someone will only cause superficial changes. I have no interest in such a relationship, which would of course be against my earlier point of unconditional, non-judgemental love. No, my partner's love for me, and my partner's own life and example ought to be the things that inspire me. If your partner inspires you to personal betterment, how can that not be a good thing, a good relationship?
For now this is my short list of qualities I want in a partner, mightily reduced from my previous check-list that my friend warned me against, and which, according to her, made me much too picky. I think, however, that this shorter list doesn't make it any less difficult to find a match! *sigh*

Of course, there are other things that will create the initial spark, for instance a beautiful smile, diverse interests, a sense of humour, a healthy lifestyle, nice legs . . . but let me stop here before I start making check lists again!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Oom Andre, my “pa”, is dood.

Oom Andre, my “pa”, is dood. Hy het gisteroggend gesterf nadat hy vir 'n klomp maande aan kanker gelei het. Die laaste drie weke was hy veral in pyn en sy liggaam ongenadiglik afgetakel tot vel en been, so sy uiteindelik sterfte kom as 'n verligting. Maar o!, die wêreld is 'n armer plek sonder hierdie man. Ek het gehoop dat ek hom weer kan sien voordat hy sterf, sodat ek vir hom kon dankie sê vir die geweldige besonderse invloed wat hy op my lewe gehad het.

Gisteraand toe ek by die huiskom lees ek my e-posse en sien dat my X vir my 'n boodskap gestuur het. Oom Andre was haar oupa, maar omdat haar ouers geskei was, was dit juis haar oupa wat grootliks ingestaan het wat vaderlike verpligtinge betref. In haar brief skryf sy “Hy was my Pa!! . . . troostelose winter koue sny my siel en ek bloei, ek bloei – trane sny my siel – weg is Oupa . . .” In 'n opvolg e-pos voeg sy by: “sterkte – ek weet jyt hom soos 'n pa liefgehad, jammer man”. Toe ek dit lees, bars ek onbeheurd uit in brullende snikke.

Niemand, behalwe miskien X, weet watse groot invloed Oom Andre op my lewe gehad het nie. Hy is die persoon wie ek altyd wou hê as pa. Ek bedoel geen disrespek aan my eie pa nie, maar ek is oortuig dat ek 'n beter mens sou gewees het indien ek onder die faandel van Oom Andre groot geword het. Daar is 'n paar redes hiervoor, maar een pertinente een is dat Oom Andre was 'n kunstenaar. My eie pa het niks kunssinnigs in hom nie. Hoe kan 'n man soos hy, wat nie eens van musiek hou nie, 'n artistieke kind soos ek lei tot manwees. Daar was 'n tyd wat ek my pa baie kwalik geneem het vir sy ontrekking van my, maar ek het intussen effense simpatie met hom. My pa het eenvoudig nie die bevoegdheid gehad om 'n kreatief-sensitiewe seun tou wys te maak nie. En vir jare het ek groot geword sonder enige rolmodel, sonder enige voorbeeld van hoe 'n man 'n kunstenaar kan wees, maar steeds 'n man kan wees. Ek het my hele grootword alleen gevoel. 'n Buitestander in wat dit is om 'n man te wees. En toe, in my twintigs ontmoet ek oom Andre, hierdie weermagsoffisier, 'n vegvlieënier, wie se eie pa eens 'n weermagsgeneraal was. Oom Andre was die epitoom van manwees. Maar hy het sy graad verwerf in die fynere kunste, as skilder, en kon in homself die harde vegtersgees van 'n soldaat, en die sagte sensitiewe gees van 'n kunstenaar verweef tot 'n persoon na wie ek kon opkyk en uiteindelik uitroep: Daar! Daar is 'n voorbeeld vir my. 'n Man na my hart!

In sy 60s het Oom Andre in sy CD-versameling geluister na Mahler, Bach en Brahms, maar ook na Alanis Morissette, en Sheryl Crow, en Madonna. In sy studeer kamer het fotos van hierdie kontemporêre musieksterre gepryk langs fotos van vegvliegtuie, potrette van ou geliefdes, and tekste uit Hebreërs. En dit was hierdie Oom wat so paradoksaal die ou en die nuwe bymekaar kon bring, wat die harde en sagte in 'n yin-yang kon balanseer, wat my geleer het wat 'n regte Christen is: wat my gewys het—op soveel kere wat ek moed wou opgee met die Christen religie—dat daar wel so iets is woos 'n werklike Christen; wat my geleer het wat verlossing deur genade alleen, deur geloof alleen, in Jesus Christus alleen beteken.

Een van my grootste vrese terwyl ek hier in die buiteland leef is dat geliefdes soos Oom Andre en vir wie ek so lief is, sterf voordat ek nog kans gehad om meer tyd met hulle te kon spandeer. En nou voel ek dit—die werklikheid van daardie vrees, kou taai en morsig aan my siel soos teer.

Hoe vul 'n mens die leemte as jy jou geestelike vader sterf?! Hoe vul jy die leemte wanneer jou grootste rolmodel verdwyn?!

My pa is gister dood. Die wêreld is 'n armer plek sonder hom. Ek is 'n armer mens sonder hom.

Maar ek is 'n ryker mens omdat hy my toegelaat het om sy seun te word en ek is intens dankbaar dat God aan my Oom Andre en Tannie Lydia as geestelike ouers gegee het.