Baboons laugh at each others' foreheads
It was 1996 and I was head over heels in love. A love that was only possible in the latter stages of the Apartheid era and the New South Africa. My girlfriend and soul mate was stunningly beautiful, amazing, somewhat younger than me and from a different culture and religion. I was on a delightful and somewhat belated path to a new life with my first and only wife. (Read more stories like this... and view our project site)
I spoke to Arthie about our age difference. Did she understand what could happen in the future?
Was she sure that I was who she wanted to be with? Time hung like wind-blown feathers in the sky as my entire spirit secretly begged that she would say, "Yes!" She answered, "I want to spend the rest of my time with you, my love. Forever and ever!" I was eternally blessed!
Initially, when we went out in public together I would not hold her hand. Yet when we were together in a safe place I did. There were many reasons for this strange behaviour and I had not yet worked them out. Arthie asked me why and I slowly overcame my resistance and began to hold her hand.
Bi-cultural relationships were not very common and people often had something to say. Some went so far as to point and openly gossip. Somewhere deep within me a need to save Arthie from these "racists" began to emanate in my behaviour.
At about this time I began to notice people who were "obviously" judging our relationship, or Arthie. Thoughts began to rage inside my head. "Who do they think they are?", "What gives them the right to judge us!", "Arthie is as good as any one of you!" One day I even heard an Indian man say, "Typical whites they always take the young pretty ones!" He was lucky to survive my outburst.
It became my mission to "protect" my beautiful Arthie from all and sundry. I now began to walk with a warm hand in mine, looking outwardly for the "judges." I searched for people who had "something to say." As soon as I noticed a finger pointing in our direction I would point back and loudly ask Arthie, "Do you know those people?" The world was full of racists and I was going to fix them!
My behaviour reached an all time low one day in the local mall. A group of what I perceived to be cool-girls sat at an ice-cream parlour. One of them turned towards us and began to laugh and point, calling her friends to look in our general direction. I took a strong hold on Arthie’s hand and said, "Come!"
With Arthie in tow, I arrived in front of the "offending" group and announced, "OK girls, it is your turn to stare and say what you have to say. When you are finished we will do the same to you." There was a stunned silence followed by a babble of denial. Having made "my point" I walked off with a bemused Arthie, who then had to listen to my justifications.
A time came when I suddenly realised how much better people were becoming in South Africa. I had not noticed anyone pointing for months. Nobody seemed to be noticing us anymore. The racists were all gone. We were in a new country!
As time went by I began to realise that the only thing that had changed was me. I had suddenly fallen so much in love with Arthie, with our relationship and with our being together that I never saw anyone else. I was so totally in her presence and with her that nothing else mattered! It took me a long time to take these realisations to the next level.
The reason that I had seen all of the "racists" is because I was still programmed to see everything from a race and age perspective. In stronger terms it was easy for a racist to find other racists. Yes, the problem was my own deeply etched racism and I could blame no-one else.
The Zulus have a saying, "Izimfene ziyahlekane izipongo." which is matched by the Setswana saying, "Tshwene ga e i pone makopo." which both mean that "baboons ridicule each others’ foreheads." The message - what you don’t like in others is often your own and personally unobserved fault.
I resolved to look at the results that I was getting in my life from various relationships. If the relationship was bad, what was the attitude that I was showing in that relationship? If it was good, what was I doing right? I began to identify the people who had attitudes towards me.
I suddenly saw that the attitude I perceived in them was as much mine as theirs. I identified a member of my family who "always felt that he was superior to me" and I realised that it was my feeling of inferiority that was the problem, and not his attitude. When I became happy with my self, all superior people disappeared.
I began to observe others and noticed that "troublemakers" always blamed others for causing trouble with, and for them. I noticed that people who were the least accepting of criticism were often the most critical. I began to see that people with great attitudes received rave reports and people naturally gravitated towards them.
The lessons became quite simple. If you see many racists - perhaps you are a racist. If you think that others perceive you to be inferior perhaps you feel inferior. If you find many difficult people - perhaps you are difficult. If you have a problem with others - perhaps you are the problem. If you think others don’t like you for your perceived disability/ inability, perhaps you don’t like yourself for that very reason.
Thus, if you are achieving great success in your relationships - perhaps you have a great attitude.
All the religions say quite clearly, in various ways. "treat others as you wish to be treated." This is true of your attitudes. Somehow, we always get back a bigger dose of what we put out. And if we are fishing in the sea of life, perhaps we need to cast out the kind of bait that will attract good. To attract respect bait up with respect!
Yes, our best bait will always be our best attitudes.
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PS. I am still deeply in love with Arthie and will be forever! We are heading towards our 4th and 5th weddings! She is incredible and so too is our son Lliam!