Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ben and the universe

so dr ben parker died today. he was my lecturer, boss, mentor. a friend who i so admired. he was safari craig's good friend.

he's been sick for a while. Ag. and i am glad he is out there now. floating out there amongst the stars...above all the shit. but still. it's sad eh? whoa. sad. i keep remembering them both in that beautiful old house in kloof..ben smoking and telling us all about lecturing in 'Maritzburg (because it was way more progressive than the durban campus where we knew him, maybe not quite as rad as westville where he eventually ended up, but still...) di, an ethereal earth hippy maths wizard mother, a raphaelite beauty, who if she had been born a few hundred years ago, would have graced a thousand canvases. and their two tousel haired boy children, nut brown and fucking hectic, chasing each other with knives, bellowing, tearing through the lounge like mad little dervishes, flying plates and glasses in their wakes....and ben and di just being so, um, laid back..it was beautiful. they were beautiful. .ben lectured me in psychology in education...(one settler one bullet sort of thing)...his were the only lectures I vaguely attended. political and psychedelic in nature... he let me know on the phone, the night before the exam, which topics to spot. he was spot on. i passed. every other exam i had ever cheated in, i had failed. i managed to fail an entire second year, an achievement I don't usually admit to (the failing even after cheating bit). that year, i had an entire French dissertation transcribed into the margins of the tiniest novel, on which we were being examined. almost word for word, accent for accent.. and still failed.

Ben inspired Craig and I no end...we really loved him. guru Ben. i'll light a sparkler or two for you ben parker, over divali. now you can go surfing whenever you want. and think about the next time round....

poultney emailed to tell us about ben this afternoon. another great mad friend. our bearded anthropologist golden earringed fearless buddy, with whom i canoed down the flooding croc infested pongola river, where i spotted my first fin foot ever. craig and i were not on talking terms. he was paddling with moses posega, the witchdoctor from mozambique, who lay stoned at the back of the canoe the entire way, steering their canoe into thickets of fevers trees. they got a little caught up for a lot of the time, much to my utter delight, the sicko i am....) poultney can drink as much whisky as me and still stand (or ride a horse at dawn). i think that's immensely impressive. he used to stand on his head every morning so his hair would grow. (don't try it. it didn't work) he is a white zulu kabisa 100% and has a laugh not dissimilar to a fierce viking. he is the only real friend i know (apart from ben who just died) who really was active in the mkhonto we sizwe ( i know i can't spell it) - the military wing of the at-the-time-banned ANC (African National Party - the one still in power now in South Africa). oh and he's quite adventurous - slashing paths through the Congo jungle, blazing the way forward for commmunity conservation and tourism...dealing with his sinus issues by sniffing freshly jarred sea water (this works. try it) and, in case i didn't mention it, he also happens to be a little clever. i answered his email and told him to stop being a slacker and a politico, hanging out with big fat fish, and to hurry up and read my blog. his response:

What the fuck is a responsive universe?

well. he asked. so i took it upon myself to try and explain what i thought it was and quickly realized that in fact, i had no bloody idea either. der bloody brain. i had the nerve to give it a twirl, nevertheless...nothing to lose but my entire face, eh?

It's a blind faith in thinking you might have something to do with what happens in your life. With your life. With, sometimes entire nations. In actually thinking that possibilities lie with you, in fact, deeply lodged.....you've got to believe it before it happens, act like its already happened ... even pretending. you know, play play. it can bring porches to your garage. and spouses to the alter (or the courts, whichever way you see it).

It's putting out genuine (ok and preferably intelligent) positive energy, thoughts and words and in due course receiving some of it back. (even if it means becoming part of a website called "tut" or something bizarrely inane like it, which sends you daily feel good emails and signs them The Universe...and says things like You Rock Janelle. Groove it Baby and other feel good phrases, particularly effective on monday mornings or sunday evenings....i know I know. At least it isn't drugs or alcohol...she lies poker facedly... not THAT different from the bible...at least it doesn't mention sinful things and a killer god...) This is where the faith bit comes into it, you see... Man. This better be right or else I'm just going be a fucking bitch from now on.

It seems to me that the unfriendly man sitting in the corner over there, with a glinting scythe over his shoulder and a really pale face, doesn't quite see it the same way. quite frankly, he couldn't give a spinning shit if you were positive, negative or ACDC, now could he? Ven eet ees time eet ees time, shentelmen.

(...gulp gulp. maybe that's who its been...not a fat red faced german gentleman alter ego at all...she says in a VERY small voice.)

some people think its perfectly acceptable and fine to discuss these departing issues with the man with the scythe. that tall pale very unfriendly fuckin' freak in the corner. yup. the one with the outdated black hood over his face. he looks eternally medievil. man. he is scary and so not bloody welcome in this happy place...and they say, oh lets just go and have a little chit chat with him over a nice cup of tea, shall we. i'm sure he'll understand that its not quite convenient for me to leave the planet just yet...um excuze me...? sir? whack.

i don't think so buddy. you must be deluded or have some kind of funky psychotic death wish.

him aside (he's definately a man. women just don't do that kind of thing), a responsive universe should laugh when you laugh. and make magic because you believe in it and love it, and put pots of gold at the end of the pretty rainbows it makes....it says it can do it apparently...oh and stop global warming, mass genocides, abject poverty, homelessness, rape, child abuse, wars, physical abuse and neglect, cancer...

Of course.


I'll be off then....and if you didn't laugh I will never speak to you again. (or comment. ever.)



Kitchen Board: 28 October 2008: Tuesday Evening:

dressed in yeller...

Contributors: Gabby and, god, who was that, dropping into board space....? spooky.

Comments: up to date. oh and just so you all know. i totally winged it at school for the last two days and delivered my best lessons to date. mime. so all shut up and act these out. invisible boxes. climbing invisible ropes. invisible ladders, ice creams, cars, elephants, door knobs and while you're at it, peel a banana and slip on its skin. they did it all. commendably. so.....

toodely old pip then. and watch out for the weirdo in the corner wearing that spooly black coat. it should be outlawed..

and of course bisous bisous bisous, toujours, xxx j


family affairs said...

That is sad news....great post - bit worried about the alter ego xx word verif "unsumg" - hero?

tut-tut said...

Losing someone; nothing harder. I'm sorry. But your words help me deal with a loss that I've had difficulty with.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

a poignant post...very gentle and sweet..

Mud in the City said...

Sending love and hugs.

Reya Mellicker said...

What is remembered, lives. What a wonderful word portrait of your guru Ben. May he fly high, surf hard and have a wonderful time now that he's free from his body. Wow.

What is a responsive universe? I, too, believe in reciprocity. The way I see it is that this reality (whatever that is) is a tightly woven tapestry of interconnections so complex we can't really even imagine. Whatever each of us puts out there has an impact. Maybe that impact is subtle, but it's impact nevertheless.

Relatedness and oneness with everything is at the heart of every spiritual path that I know about. It's a deep knowing for everyone who has faith. But it works even for those who don't believe in anything in particular.

Love to you, beautiful janelle. I feel the way your energy puts lovely tugs and smoothings into the tapestry of the universe. I benefit so much from your existence. Thank you! (imagine me waving from across the tapestry).

Janelle said...

thanks lulu..me too...worried about the alter ego being the man in the long dark cloak...oh boo hiss. can;t be helped though..x
i'm glad my words helped you tut tut. and sorry for your loss. i am not sad about ben. a little. but not too much. x
thanks fff. well. sweet? think i used the eff word too much in there. glad some form of poignancy is there. x
thanks mud. always wholeheartedly received! ditto x
oh reya me too! wave wave!! xxj

Dick said...

This is a helluva post, Janelle. The reader is drawn right into the heart of this meditation on a death and on a concept. That's as fine a life tribute as anyone could wish to receive beyond it. And your characterisation of a responsive universe chimes with mine as allowing for a spiritual dimension without a god motivating and monitoring it.

'I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door - or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present'. Rabindranath Tagore.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

hey, I wonder if I knew Ben? Me may have overlapped 64-70 or 83-87?

Reponsive universe - fair enough it seems to me: you do something, it does something.

Hang in there!

Miranda said...

Umm, Janelle? Are you on drugs?


Janelle said...

thanks dick. love the quote. exactly. x j
ernesto! good to see you. um yeah you might have...sure..it was about those years...i'm doing fine. just fine. not even hanging in.walking the line. x j
yeah! der mo! man. your phone is STILL here baby...and it has a blue flashing light on it..saw it last night and thought it was a trapped firefly.. howz the kitty? x j

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Sad yet so poignant...
Hope you get over this OK - remember: “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” author unknown

Adrianne said...

Tried to leave a comment earlier but was defeated by the damn "word verification."

Anyway, what I said earlier was - I am very sorry for your loss. Clearly Ben was deeply important to you. When I saw that beautiful cloud-at-sunset photo, I imagined that Ben's spirit was what gave the clouds their beauty. Don't know if it works that way (or even when the photo was taken in relation to Ben's passing), but it's a nice way to think about it, I think. My thoughts are with you.

Janelle said...

thanks here there and everywhere and adrianne...kind words! love to you both. x janelle

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