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...and it was good
The story of a man and his journey in true love
Story I run my hands through the soft curls on my head as I often do when I am slightly stressed, or slightly relaxed. When I look around me I can see the orange-yellow brick apartments lined up like large crusts of super white bread. The tiled roofs have lost its ability to shimmer in the heat, it simply displays square waves of clay red and dust covered gutters. I am surrounded by a happy variety of computers, printers and other technological paraphernalia, all softly humming in chorus to provide power to this very screen upon which black little letters are appearing at maybe a few per second. Sometimes my mind drifts along with the intermittent breeze that breaths over my shoulder and whispers into my ear. The world has changed, and changed again over the past 14 years. Or maybe it stayed the same. I am never sure and yet, there is one thing I am sure of: true love. It may come as a surprise to you that a man has such a strong certainty about the one thing that seems to be so difficult to define. But you may find that my story, although at times somewhat reminiscent of a soap opera, is unique. A promise “Hallelujah Hallelujah The Lord Almighty lives! Hallelujah Holy! Holy, is the Lord Almighty. Holy is the Lord, Holy is the Lord, Amen.” A holy voice of an innocent child rang through the room. As the first 'hallelujah' was followed up by the shuddering roll of the deep throated timpani drums, a number of violins eerily filled the thinned air with near perfect harmony. It all drifted to silence, but before the memory could fade, the child brought forth a new 'hallelujah', this time striking home with so little effort that it felt as if your very soul has been split open for the world to see, and you simply cannot understand why you are naked before the eyes of the Lord. With the rhythms that was born from an ancient truth the music grew until a tenor voice completed its mission – to explain in the most clear-cut way that the Lord Almighty lives! He lives and He is holy! There are no exceptions, no other gods, no other way and no existence of any matter, man, or otherwise that supersedes the ultimate power and will of the one and only God. Holy is the Lord! I am not a man that prays on my knees. I am strong, almost wilful and normally prayed as I walked down busy streets or worked in my malformed business life. I am a man with a vision, a mission and a dangerously detailed plan.

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The music grew, and the drums pounded my heart into submission. My pride slowly crumpled from its shining armour plate condition to reveal the ancient rust of my tears and sadness. The child's voice took hold of my most intimate pain and held it out towards me in vivid pictures. My knees gave way until it struck the glazed terracotta tiles beneath me. The events of the past two and a half years flashed before me - the beauty, the all consuming love and the passionate exchanges. I saw the promises and the smiles, I saw myself as if in a bent mirror, all askew and then I saw the day it all fell to pieces. That was the day that all of certainty lost its hold and crashed into darkness. With an overwhelming sadness, tears shaking from my face, my hands constricted into broken claws. I couldn't bear the pain anymore; I couldn't bear the complete destruction of what I once believed to be love incarnate. Not having had much practice at crying, all I could do was to kneel as the music tore through my skin. As the final notes hovered in a beautiful halo around my skull I croaked a prayer to my Almighty Friend: “God...please, God...it hurts. I can't live...I can't. Please God just fix this...just heal this love...” 'Amen...Amen' chanted the tenor and his innocent child. The Father put a hand on my shoulder and another on my head. Softly He whispered: “I will do so my son, I will give you true love.” Lover children Winter in the southern hemisphere has a peculiar way about it. At least, in the town where I lived it had somewhat of a strange character, often pronouncing its existence in the too crisp mornings, or exuding its personality in endless grey days of rain. Every once in a while it would shake its boa and dust the high mountains with a layer of snow. Those days were the coldest, the kind of winter day that never warms up, in spite of the sun. My life as an untypical man found its roots at the tender age of 15 when I first found that words served a purpose greater than mere science or mathematics. Words conveyed more than a friendly message or a stern warning. It was a sudden change in my heart that brought about a deep understanding that words have a life of their own. If you choose your words well, they will serve you well. More than that though, words are something akin to fairies; with magical twists and zaps and stings they colour the world around you with new meaning, sometimes even opening doors to worlds within the cracks in the wall or the crumbling stones around the steps. It was with these enchanted eyes that I closely surveyed the wintry world in the school quad, filled with gravel and dust. As I often did, I let my eyes drift to the peaks of the mountains just behind the roof of the science class and then back to the swarming break time crowds. At break time the kids would flow about like oil in boiling water, breaking into smaller groups, then forming new ones or breaking away to the edges where they would remain until the bell rung again. Through my fairy glasses I saw this oily business and rarely bothered to mingle. Much rather I saw myself as the undercurrent that would every so often disturb the surface on which the oil floated. A few kids knew this, even though it was never said and chose to surf the underwater squalls with me whilst enjoying the social turmoil that only misfits could create.

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On this particular day my eyes bounced from group to group until it rested on a child of innate beauty. At that age (almost 16) you don't quite see yourself as a child, but you readily judge those a mere two years your junior as such. It was a solemn and personal vow that I would not get involved with somebody so young, but this girl, young as she may have been in years, glimmered of something so intimately beautiful that I couldn't help but stare just a little bit until an automatic grin crawled over my face. In front of me stood this girl whom we shall call the Fairy Queen, for as enchanting as words can be, she commanded hundreds of thousands of words from my heart much like a queen would. Years later she would also perform a most brilliant vanishing act and appear at her own leisure, or more often than not at the calling of my yearning existence. What began that morning was a relationship of lover children. Something so intricate and fragile, yet glimmering of the naïve hope that it would last forever. As it happened throughout the course of its two-and-a-half years, the relationship consisted of forever promises and being intensely in love. It weaved its way into our identities and contorted our senses until there were not two, but one single person. Without each other we simply did not exist. On one condition One often hears noises in the underbrush amongst the tall, dry grass and thick leafed shrubs. Even if you have walked many times on the dusty tracks through fields of corn and the spattering of forest edge, the scuffling and rushed scurrying pricks the senses. It sometimes brings surprises – maybe a small grey buck with its sharp horns and dainty hooves or an alarmed snake on its way to a rat hunt. I have walked these tracks so many times that the trees became like children growing up before my eyes. You don't notice how tall they get until they start throwing shadows. With every hike I would stop at the edge of the valley where the tractor path winds towards the Gwaing River and the watering hole known as Osgat. Before me I would see the river mouth gushing into the ocean with foaming vigour. Across the valley some farmland patches the crown of the last barrier against the persistent waves Osgat was a holy place to me. Not so much because of the actual river or rocks, but because of the solitude. Hiking down the steep valley wall with its unexpected twists and turns would lead to the watering hole. It was almost as if the story of life was drenched into the pathway where one would sometimes feel the strain of the decline. Even if you have walked down a hundred times it always felt as if there was an extra twist in the road that you didn't see the previous time. The watering hole was reckoned to be so deep that the handles of eleven long whips could not touch the bottom. In fact, when farmers pump water from the hole to water their crops, the water level would supposedly drop to a point and not go lower. Yet the water always left you thirsty if you drank from the river. I hiked to Osgat for the tranquillity after the effort, and the effort back up after the prayer. I would lie down on the riverbed and simply drift along with the low piped whispers of the mountain water spilling over the quartz scarred rocks. About a year since the Fairy Queen beset my existence I was once again on such a pilgrimage to pray. “Father,” I said whilst balancing playfully on a river boulder, “I would one day like to marry this girl. I love her with all my being and want to share my whole life with her.” Even as a young man I have escaped the fears of commitment. “Son,” God answered, “you may have her as your wife. I ask only one thing of you: to remain a

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virgin until you are married.” I turned my eyes to the valley walls and nodded contently. It has been my intention to remain so in any case, and this request from the Lord would not ask more of me than I have already considered. It was a simple condition that would bring me a life with true love. Soon after, I presented the Fairy Queen with an open brass ring as a sign of my choice. Neither in metal nor in shape the ring was quite fulfilled, as was the promise until the day I could give her a complete, golden ring. Broken I left school to tackle “real life” with bare hands and a wild grin. My calling in life was rather obscure, but sizzled with opportunity and I revelled in the thought. Unknowingly however, things started to change between the Fairy Queen and myself. I went to Pretoria on a business trip. In those early days I went by bus which easily took 16 hours or more. I called my love regularly, talking about little things. But on the eve of my trip back she said: “I don't know...I have been thinking a lot and...I am uncertain.” My heart sank and an imperceptible tremor quivered through my body. “Don't make any brash decisions before I haven't come back...please, let us talk first.” Grabbing hold of the only certainty I had, namely the unbreakable bond we shared, I convinced myself that we will get through this. This will be OK. And the following afternoon it was all over. Without a word she gave me the sign that we agreed upon two years, six months and eleven days back. With that sign true love died, and I died with it. There was no talking, only tears. Viking Man Men are strange creatures should one try to be objective about them. Being a man myself I can truly admit that, even at the best of times, we have a strong and ancient call from our lives in the caves that more often than not results in us making stupid mistakes. We love being strong and powerful (or at least being perceived as such). Four years have passed since I cried to God for help. From time to time she would appear in my life, as if called by forgotten desires and memories to feed them with a few crumbs of hope. I had a powerful belief in our everlasting love, thinking that the day would come that it would all fall into place. Even if my hope faltered at times, she would come back and give me a kiss. Yet, in this year things were different. My business was doing well and it was as if my spirit went through some kind of metamorphosis. It was as if my eyes were open to a new existence and I was entirely unsure what to do with this newfound insight into life. One evening God told me that we need to talk. I sat on a chair in my room and closed my eyes to focus on His voice. “Son,” He said, “I will give you strength and power, the likes of which you have never experienced before.” Men love the idea of strength and power. When I was a little boy I would run around pretending to be the Lone Ranger, Superman or even my own made up super hero called “Blue Star”. I loved the idea of being stronger and using that strength to save people. Even as a grown man I have bought myself a plastic Viking helmet which I call my “party hat”. This silly helmet turns me into Viking Man – the guy with so much self confidence that he dares to wear this helmet in public (along with his friend wearing a different hat, for the same reason)

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without missing a beat. This hat symbolically seeps with attitude and self confidence. People stare, and if they have the courage to speak to me they would comment on how they wished they had the guts to do something as crazy. Oh yeah baby, look at the horns on this thing... One can almost hear the Heavenly Father sigh at the sight of a man wearing a plastic Viking helmet, believing he is so much more powerful than the rest of society. “Boy,” He would say, “just, please, just take off the hat. St. Peter is not so fond of the Vikings after all. So for Pete's sake, take off the hat!” All men have a helmet of power, whether it is their car, or their house, their wife or their children. We all look to be more powerful. But as you might have guessed by now – none of these things are true. Then what is it? The following year after God spoke to me I decided to give up my business and go to university. Confronted with new ideas, new people and a new environment I got to a point where I knew that I needed to kill off this childish hope for a pure and lasting love with the Fairy Queen. There was no use in making oneself lonely for a dream that depended so heavily on another person's choices. And so, in my second year at university, I made the choice to put that time of my life behind me for once and for all. One does not make a choice like this lightly. As if to make a point however my life received another knock when, a few months after a made my choice, my parents got divorced. They were married for 35 years at the time. Not that it was entirely unexpected – as a family we knew things were awry for quite some time. It is different though when one arrives at that point of finality where you know that there is nothing to be fixed, nothing to even try anymore. My love for the Fairy Queen seemed to be a lie; my parents' love for each other seemed to be a lie. Soon my entire concept of what love is, was thrown into turmoil by a force so great that it shifts dimensions. Thus started my seeker's journey to the true meaning of love. First time In the nine years since she broke off our relationship and the time I made the choice to let all hope go, my Fairy Queen often came to me. In fact she always came to me at critical times in my life just as my faith in our love seemed to dangerously teeter on the edge of dying. It was uncanny how precisely she would call me up and invite me back for a few short hours. It was incredible how those few short hours would sustain me for months on end. Now I was standing in front of an impossible journey where there is apparently no clear road, no final answer. I didn't know where to begin my search for the meaning of love. I was feverishly trying to fight an intellectual war with the chaos and uncertainty until I realised that I didn't have any real answers and nobody could show me the way. In my efforts I started asking people, mostly the women in my life, what they thought true love was. None of the answers satisfied me, they were all mundane repetitions of the ideas that have been floating about since the dawn of the poet. My need to know drove me back to a place I wanted to avoid, and in my heart knew that I could not. For the first time I went to her to ask her the question of what true love is. The Fairy Queen seemed almost surprised, but I brought her gifts and she complied. Even when our words were few our every movement spoke of that old love, that force and bond that we shared. We fell in love all over again in a short few seconds.

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Being 'in love' and 'love' are two very different things. In the first instance the sluices of one's hormonal glands are opened and one euphorically floats about in the mishmash of emotions that follows. The latter I still had no answer to and I was still seeking it. And the Fairy Queen was holding it back. The thing with time One morning I was taking a shower when it struck me yet again that this whole love thing is taking forever. I seemed to be waiting my life away for this woman to make up her mind. “Lord,” I asked, “how long do I have to wait still?” “What do you mean 'how long'?” He replied “I mean look at me, I am once again waiting for her to make up her mind about me. How long before I can know for sure that we will be together for the rest of our lives?” “Son, time does not exist. It is a very human invention, just like a trap. Think about it, where is yesterday?” God said. “Its, umm...apparently not here”. I washed my armpits vigorously. “It is in your memories. And how about the future?” “Well the future is still to come Lord”. I washed behind my ears. “Indeed, and everything you now about the future once again lies in your mind...these things are your hopes and ideals and even your fears. What exists are those ideas. And even 'now' is out of your reach because the moment you say 'now', it is gone. The 'now' is where I exist.” “So if all of these things are a figment of my imagination, what is left?” I asked trying not to get soap in my eyes. “The only thing that exists for man, dear son, is choice.” The strength of choice She knew all about my choice to stay a virgin and one afternoon we talked about it. I shrugged and said: “People make their own choices, I made mine.” The following evening she came to my home – she received the good news that she graduated. I congratulated her with a hug and a kiss. The kiss became more kisses and the hug became a passionate embrace. The romantic interlude became more feverish, leading us down a blissful path of the joys of being in love. In a moment of complete surrender she brought me close and whispered in my ear: “Make love to me.” The soundtrack of the movie Gladiator filled the silence, but my heart was skipping two, three beats at a time. Everything I could ask for, that I could or even couldn't imagine, was right here in my arms. My Fairy Queen was completely at my mercy, completely willing and she was waiting for me. My mind ground to a halt at this very junction. I wanted this moment so badly and yet I made a promise so many years ago. Was God relieving me of my promise at last? “God,” I prayed silently, “what should I do?”

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“Show her your love, son” came the reply. “Umm, huh? What?” “Show her your love” “Am I allowed to do that? Father, what about everything...I mean...” “You are allowed to show her your love. All we have is choice.” My mind grabbed hold of some clarity whilst looking into my lovely queen's fiery eyes. She smiled so sweetly and so encouragingly, and then I said: “No. I can't.” In the throes of passion once is never enough and I said 'no' eight times before the reality of my choice sunk in. I couldn't take what was not mine to take, and I knew that my choice to do so would cause immeasurable damage to us both. What if some day this relationship doesn't work out, and she had to explain to her husband she slept with me. That cannot be love! Love is strong, love is powerful. Love, I learnt that evening, was to be found in the strength of a good choice. That was the proverbial beginning to the end of the lie we believed for 10 years and nine months, and opened the door for both of us to something better. Today she is happily married to another man. The balance of beauty After having made the most difficult choice of my entire life, and I am by no means melodramatic here, other choices seemed relatively easy to make. After a short while I knew that there would be no life for me with the Fairy Queen and I was able to move on quickly. I smiled at every difficult decision because now I have found the answer to my biggest question. Everything is choice! Love is choice! As it goes with knowing everything, you soon realise that you don't know anything. I soon met a charming and somewhat aristocratic lady (at least in her manner). We fell in love as people sometimes do and had a good relationship. The thing is, let's call her Lady D'urbanville for now, she was very much in love with dancing. She loved to move even though she was not quite built like a dancer. She loved to make up new movements and she had old ballet posters on her walls. At the very heart of her soul she was moved by the rhythmic sway of dance. I was never a brilliant dancer. I rarely stepped on my partner's toes but before I met Lady D, I often stepped on the toes of dancers around me. So my lady took my hand (sometimes with a bit of an impatient sigh) and I learnt to dance in a way I never knew how. Dancing was nothing like the simplicity of making choices. Yes, choice was involved but there was something else that enabled two bodies to move in such unison. Different to my experiences with the Fairy Queen, my relationship with Lady D'urbanville was emotionally a lot simpler. We knew what we had and lived accordingly. This was a good thing, because my life had otherwise taken a bad turn. After a failed project I lost my job and struggled for almost two years to get a new one. Every choice I made seemed to drag me deeper into economic depression. My sanity was saved by the love of my lady, but my power to exercise choice suddenly seemed powerless. Nothing I could choose would come about.

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In the tumult of having to fight a daily battle for survival, and having to maintain some degree of self worth, my lesson about choice suddenly seemed empty. Things were not in my control and I suffered the consequences of other people's decisions. Lady D'urbanville stood by me, or rather, she held my hand and sweetly went about as if it was a dance. I had to learn new steps, and more importantly I had to learn how to dance life with somebody in my arms. Choice is good if you have only yourself to account for, but as soon as someone else steps into your life, making a choice means the other person has to accept it before things can work out. Men are providers. That is what we naturally do. Sure there are woman who provide for their families and such – that is not what I am referring to. I am referring to the instinct of a man to whip out some sort of ferocious weapon and hunt the deer to feed the wife and kids. In our simplicity, our ability to kill and provide food must impress our women. And it does too – for example we kill in the stock exchanges to bring home the cash that buys the groceries. Men who can't do this often feel like something of their manliness has been robbed from them. As such, being down and out in ways I cannot begin to explain had severe implications for me as a man in a serious relationship. I really wanted to bring home the proverbial deer to my lovely lady but it was seemingly impossible. I gave as much as I could without having to sell off the last of my possessions. It was in this time that I learnt the second lesson about love. At the worst of times she gave more than I wanted to accept, she held me up when my legs didn't want to do the job anymore and when I was stronger she allowed me to give what I could. It was in the giving, receiving, giving, receiving motion that love was hidden. I call this the balance of beauty. Scientists have proven that people perceive beauty in symmetry. We find beauty in displays of physical strength – not so much the brute power of force, but rather the controlled arcs of a gymnast, the fluid power of the ice skater and the well honed steps of the ballroom dancers. In every one of these examples where beauty exists in movement, the key ingredient is balance. In my relationship with Lady D'urbanville the balance of beauty was in giving with kindness, and receiving with grace. Love is a series of choices all brought into balance through giving and receiving. It is a dance that requires two people to agree to the steps they intend to take and eventually bring about joy to themselves and everybody who is watching. Like all dances, this one ended when the music of her soul changed to a different beat that she was to dance alone. I thanked her and we went our separate ways. The power of passion A good friend of mine once fell for this beautiful, but stubborn, girl. He was so in love he couldn't see straight, literally. The girl, although responsive, seemed less convinced of her feelings for this guy, which of course frustrated the hunter to the extreme. One Friday night he gave me a call: ”Dude, did you just receive an SMS from me?” “Nope, why?” “Oh. Oh no.”

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Before I tell the rest of this story, it is important to note that my friend dislikes bad language and rarely uses it. This is what happened next: “That does not sound like good news my friend” I said, puzzled at his comment. “It isn't” he replied. “I could have sworn I sent it to you.” “So where is it?” I asked. “I sent it to the girl. Oh man, am I in trouble now.” “Dude, what did it say man?” By now the suspense was killing me. “Well it basically boils down to this – She is making things difficult again, I am tired of this game. Yadda yadda. F--- all of this. Exclamation point.” “Yes, that is indeed bad” I replied as kindly as possible. There is an innate difference between power and strength. Strength has got more to do with the amount of stress we can handle (like muscle flexibility brings strength). Power on the other hand has everything to do with impact. Both are useless without balance. The fact of the matter however is that even something like a car has power, strength and balance. It is a dead thing that has all of these characteristics. Something is amiss Watson! When it comes to true love, the power the drives it forward must be passion. But what is this passion? How does it fit into this picture? The word “passion” is derived from the Latin word “patis” which is translated as “to suffer”. My good friend suffered in more ways than he intended in his passion for this particular girl. Passion is powerful, it has impact and if left unchecked by choice and balance it ruins opportunities. This incident has now been recorded in the history books under the heading “Lessons learnt”. The love of our Christ Jesus culminated in The Passion when He died on the cross. If passion is equated with suffering, how then can this be a good thing? Well, the truth of the matter lies in our understanding of what passionate love truly is. Quite literally, Jesus made the choice to die at the hands of his enemies against His own fears. In so doing He gave us freedom, He gave us a new life, He gave us the opportunity to discover true love. Passion is to give your self completely in spite of your fears. Passion is often filled with pain, but also with joy. It is the most sensory of ingredients in true love. Passion is the harmony of all our senses, everything that we are, that pulls us to change another person's world with strength and beauty. Passion is the purpose that brings life to the otherwise empty expressions of choice and balance. True love at last It was two days before my 29th birthday. I decided to visit my friends and family on the Southern Coast for the weekend, which is a four hour drive if traffic is good. About a quarter of the way a strange phenomenon appeared – millions upon millions of butterflies filled the air, floating on the currents of early summer. I was astounded by the sheer volume of these bright orange bugs. It was beautiful. I smiled, and wondered what the Father was up to now. It was Friday. The following day I took my camera to take pictures of the sunset. The weather was strange for the area, as well as the time of year. Weather like this always brought good sunsets. I stood on a man made hill in the botanical gardens as the dusk was gathering like water around the blades of grass, the leaves of the shrubs and the trunks of the trees. The wind was blowing so strongly that I was able to tilt forward at an angle without tipping over. I stretched my arms out and smiled – the wind wasn't angry, it was passionate. As I looked up, the

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drama of the clouds caught my breath and held it for a few minutes. To the North the mountains towered high and the clouds hung like large droplets of milk from the sky, just waiting to drip over the lush, dark green mantle of the solid rocks beneath. To the South the clouds swooped with a soft curve like the hips of a beautiful woman. To the East there was an almost regal mass purposefully moving out along the coast in a grey and purple coat. To the West the sun was spilling blood red love onto the streaks of cloud reminding me of how it feels to be in love. The Father was directing a most powerful play with every natural device He created, telling me with clarity that He loves me, and He loves me true. That was the Saturday. On the Sunday I went to a church meeting. We started singing songs of praise and we prayed. Then the first harmonies of a familiar song reverberated through the hall. The music grew into a chorus and waned as a tenor voice started singing... Hallelujah....Hallelujah...The Lord almighty lives! With tears streaming down my face, joy welling up through every fibre of my existence I sang the words to the music. Somewhere along the way I could only listen. I felt the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth lay a hand on my shoulder, another on my head and He spoke: “Happy birthday son. I kept my promise and healed your love. You have not found true love, because it isn't something to be found. Through all these years, with all the sufferings you had you kept true to the calling. Today your mission is complete and my promise fulfilled. You have become true love.” Epilogue It took ten years from the day I cried for help on my knees until the day my love was healed, but God kept true to His promise. True love is not something to be found, it is something to become. True love is the strength of a good choice, balanced by the beauty of giving in kindness and receiving with grace, all of which is brought to life by the power of passion. May this story bless your eyes to see that the future holds hope, that the past holds joy and that the now holds your choice, and only that. May you too become true love.