Change Writer

be the change you want to see

Page 3 of 5

Sliding the Rolling Wet Hills: an Interview with Dougal Paterson

There are surfers who are happy to keep within the established norms of the sport, and there are those who are driven to experiment, to push the boundaries and to challenge themselves.

Dougal Paterson is a member of the latter group. He’s a big wave surfer, storyteller and photographer based in Kommetjie, a world renowned surf spot on the southern coast of Africa. I spoke with him about his journey, surfing finless, and his two paths to innovation. 

Dougal Paterson big wave

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you start surfing?

I grew up in the landlocked city of Johannesburg. When I was 16 years old I sold my grandmothers old car and ran away from home for a few weeks. The place I ran to was Jeffries Bay which is home to the world’s best right hand wave. I had dreamed of being a surfer since I was the smallest boy. It was during that time that I learned how to slide the rolling wet-hills.

And you now surf big waves?

Surfing big waves always represented to me the pinnacle of the pursuit. To me, riding smaller waves always felt like climbing in the foothills of the Alps, whilst looking at what towered above them. I dreamed of climbing the highest peaks in the far off distance.

I’ve seen your quiver of boards and know that you love to experiment with them. What have been some of your favourite experiments?

Between my wife and I, we have 25 of them. I love boards that are difficult to ride. I’ll intentionally commission a shaper to build me something eclectic that is challenging to ride. After sliding it for a few months, I’ll cut off the tail or change the fin configuration. I have this board that was made in Hawaii for a famous surfer back in ’86. It was in mint condition when I found it in a secondhand store. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! At the time it was probably worth a few thousand dollars to a serious collector. It was something that you’d NEVER normally ride but, to cut a long story short, it’s been thoroughly ridden, snapped and fixed multiple times and now I’ve entirely re-shaped it and all the fins have been removed.

For those of us who aren’t surfers, what are fins, and how is surfing without them different from standard methods?

Surfboard finsFins on a surfboard have the same combined function as a car’s steering wheel, brakes and engine. Fins provide control, direction and forward thrust. As soon as you take the fins out of your surfboard you loose both the ability to generate speed and steer. Riding without fins has close parallels to sitting inside a shopping trolley as it finds its own line down the hill, whilst using nothing but your body weight to try and direct it. The steeper the hill or the larger the wave, the more horrifying the experience.

What inspired you to try it?

One of my highest values is authentic creativity. For me, people who take their own line will always be my greatest source of inspiration. There is a 57 year Australian surfer called Derek Hynd. 9 years ago he took the fins out of his board whilst working on a film project with a friend of his. He liked the drifting-sliding sensation so much that he never put them back in. Derek is now globally acknowledged as one of our liquid-pursuits truest innovators. More importantly however, he is easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing surfers to watch. I first saw Derek spinning and gliding at Jeffries Bay 6 years ago and over time became convinced that a part of my future was also finless.

What kind of reactions have you received from the rest of the surfing community?

Ha! They think I’m crazy, like Derek. A lot of people ask “are you trying to be like that Derek Hynd guy?” To which my answer is “yes.” After spending many hours in conversation with him, I became convinced that it would be possible to ride big waves finless too. For three nights after leaving Derek I dreamed the whole night through that I was watching him surf. On the fourth night, suddenly it was me surfing whilst he watched. At first everything was wrong and I couldn’t figure it out, but then, in an instant I felt a sensation of understanding rush through my body (I can still imagine it now). Suddenly it made sense to me. Surfing finless only worked if you surfed opposite to how you surf with fins. It was counter intuitive. I stopped trying to push against the wave like I normally would by using the fins to create resistance. Instead I began to rather flow with the wave. In a very real sense, I became a part of the wave. When I awoke I went back home and immediately hacked up the collectors piece that I mentioned earlier. I reshaped the bottom contours and removed the fins. I then proceeded to ride the board in most difficult waves that my courage would allow. It continues to be equal parts horrifying and deeply liberating.

Does creativity and experimentation play a big role in your life when you’re not in the ocean?

Dougal portraitYes. Unequivocally YES! As a misguided kid I accessed my spirituality by taking LSD and initiating adventures into the cathedrals of nature. The object for me was always to find new ways of looking at the world and communicating that with those who were on that journey with me. Now the redeemed version of that looks like someone who is constantly gathering big wave surfers together to go on wave-chasing expeditions. It looks like a husband and Dad who is relentlessly working out ways to include his family, and other families, in spiritually uplifting community environments. It sounds like I’m an amazing and inspiring guy to be around the whole time but, in reality, I can be extremely agitative and fractious in that role too. I struggle in the flatlands of life. I thrive on the adrenaline of the peaks and valleys.

And for those reading who want to initiate change, or experiment in their own field, what advice would you have? How do you motivate yourself to keep leaning into the path of creativity?

True-Innovation is a deeply personal journey. It’s impossible to access True-Innovation until you begin attaching value to your own ideas. Like I said above, we all want change but in reality change can be very fractious and painful. Sustaining change is the hardest task of all. I always assumed that for deep and lasting change to happen, you had to have a complete break down of the vehicle that wasn’t getting you where you knew you could go. However, I am beginning to understand that there is another higher way to access True-Innovation. It’s the access point that we all know is possible, if only because we wish it for our children. This access point is the door called curiosity. Be brave enough to nourish your curiosity and you will leave the world a better place.

Dougal runs regular storytelling nights in Cape Town’s Southern Peninsula. You can also find him online at dougalpaterson.com and on Instagram.  

(Image credit: Gustavo Veríssimo (fins image), all other images provided by Dougal).

Parallel Bible: An Interview with Andrew Breitenberg

Parallel Bible is an exciting new experiment that takes an ancient text and anchors it in day to day experiences through crowd-sourced images.

I spoke to co-founder Andrew Breitenberg about the app and their Kickstarter campaign to fund the first printed gospel of Mark in which all of its visual content is sourced by its readers.

HERO

Jonathan: Hi Andrew! Before we get into the deep on Parallel Bible, can you walk us through your back story? What led you up to this point?

Andrew: The path after university started in New York City and wound through Amsterdam and Cape Town and many places along the way for shorter periods. I’ve always had a passion for seeing Scripture come alive in new ways – in Amsterdam my thesis work was a redesign of the gospel of Matthew, and in Cape Town I began spray painting Bible verses in huge letters on public walls (see selahmade.com). My brother and I had always wanted to take a big adventure together which we thought would amount to a month long train ride through India or something. But when the idea for Parallel came to me, I invited him along for the ride and it’s definitely been a bigger adventure than we ever expected…

selah

Tell us about Parallel…

Parallel Bible is a Bible app for iPhone and Android phones – it’s a marriage between social media and Scripture. Think Instagram for the Bible. Create an account, follow friends, post pictures and tag them with verses. With everyone adding images to different verses, what results is a visually-rich Bible, illuminated by images and stories brought by its readers (you!). And more than this, we begin to see a Bible emerge that carries right alongside of it, stories of how it is being applied in people’s lives. A living concordance of the Bible’s work, parallel to the Scripture itself.

parallel bible iphone 6

What was the red thread running between this and your previous work?

Essentially the work has always been about being a voice for the voiceless – so advocacy of some kind – with Parallel it’s amplifying the words of the Bible itself by unveiling where they are taking root in people’s lives. It’s also about organising and ordering – in this case ordering a massive series of images according to this sacred text. And Beauty. Always Beauty.

You’ve spent time living in the Netherlands and South Africa, In what ways did these places influence the progression of this concept?

Let’s see – NL was all about ‘killing my darlings.’ By which I mean – the little ‘preciouses’ – the elements that you treat with a bias because you like them subjectively – they are only clouding the true value of a solution. For example I created a typeface for this project which I loved, but its meant for big sized headlines – not small copy on an app. Letting go of that was hard but has improved the app significantly.

As for SA – Well what can I say – Cape Town is the birth place of this app – I had a studio on the ‘high road’ in Woodstock and watching the mass of human life passing my window all day had a profound effect on me. I think my fixation on the primacy of images has come from seeing people from every part of life walk by that window – and in realising the ability of images to communicate across languages, cultures, classes and denominations.

spread 2

You talk about the format of the Bible remaining unchanged while our culture has undergone countless changes in rapid succession. Could you unpack that idea for us?

I think that the Bible apps we use today are essentially Gutenberg’s 15th century tech pasted onto a screen. We’re still looking at the Bible in terms of black text on a light background. The Bible was not always this way. For centuries it was simply spoken. You only got the Bible by listening, not reading. We feel that Parallel Bible is simply getting at what Jesus has done all along. Speaking in image-pictures. Jesus never wrote a thing down. He never said – hey go read this and you’ll have it sorted. In fact – he would sometimes tell his disciples to ‘speak not’ of what they’d seen or heard. This was about allowing the experience of the thing to simply have its moment, before letting it calcify into words. Parallel Bible is nothing new at all. We see it as a return.

Marshall McLuhan famously said “the medium is the message”. He felt that there is a message implicit not just in what is said, but the medium used to communicate it. How does this play out for PB?

I suppose I got to that in the previous question – it might be worth adding that besides screens, we are putting a social medium to work in the employ of our app as well – personal imagery, shared and commented and liked, friends followed…this new social media reflects well the idea that the Bible is to be lived  – that we are meant to look up from its words and actually DO what it’s talking about.

There’s a tendency in the social media world to curate your own life, so that it appears far better than the real thing ever could. In what ways do you address this with the PB community? How do you ensure that authenticity is valued?

Such a good question – we write about this on our website – essentially all we can do is example it and ask for it. But we’re finding that the bulk of our readers understand this intuitively. We have a disconcertingly small percentage of selfies (: and the truth is – when you’re pairing a beautiful landscape from nature with a verse – it’s just not giving the same feeling as when it’s happening purely for likes. It sounds vague – but the general experience around this imagery being posted feels quite vulnerable and real. At this stage it’s probably because there are only thousands of readers on the app – so anyone posting for volume likes is not going to get them in any case… it will be fascinating to see how things develop.

Much has been said online about the tendency of smartphones to act as a distraction from inner growth, family and long form communication. It feels like Parallel is approaching smartphones from a different angle?

YES! We keep joking that we should just make an app that shuts down your phone for 10 minutes at a time. Seriously we are into exploring the idea of slow use – in fact it seems to be the biggest obstacle thus far in our app’s adoption. People generally seem to use their apps in a matter of seconds to check, scroll, swipe and close. We’re talking about spending 5 seconds on each post – at best a minute – looking, reflecting on the passage and story, and writing comments. It’s a paradigm shift for what the screen is capable of offering. And while it’s one of our biggest obstacles, it’s also one of the greatest opportunities.

Who have been your major influencers on this journey?

Well you mention McLuhan – he’s the godfather of social media so that’s obvious. AS regards the Bible we’ve been really inspired by the mentorship of Richard Rohr, a Catholic monk who writes a lot about the shifting milieu of the Bible across time was well as the practise of silence and listening which are deeply important to Bible reading. (Also along these lines we <3 Simone Weil, Thomas Keating). Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes about the possibilities of collective faith action which applies beautifully to a group of people doing this Bible in this way. And St. Francis – he has inspired us to walk our little path and persevere in what the Lord has called us to do with this project.

And from a design point of view, I am unapologetically Dutch. Create a system and let it play out to all its weirdest and most beautiful conclusions. Don’t arbitrarily edit anything. Have a reason rooted in your vision for any aesthetic changes made. Kill your darlings. Shoot your idea to pieces until it disintegrates or reveals the diamond.

How has the concept been received? Who have been your greatest allies so far?

The concept itself is received well and widely. Our greatest allies are people from the progressive Christian community who are most willing to think outside the box in terms of how we might introduce the Bible to the next generation. Also we have a large community of artists and creatives that have found an outlet for their desire to explore faith and visuality.

Parallel Bible bookshelf

Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign

Our Kickstarter project is to print the Gospel of Mark alongside all the imagery being submitted to it on the app. We see it as giving people a tangible example of what it is we are trying to do on the app. It will be the first community-illuminated Gospel ever made and (we hope) a book that draws people collectively to go and do the very truths that they are reading about.

Finally, what lessons have you learned in the process of creating PB that might be helpful for other people wanting to initiate change?

Patience. Perseverance. Play. Pray. Patience. (Patience.)

 

Join the Parallel Bible community here.

The Upside of ISIS

The Imam and The PastorYou know how sometimes something really horribly grotesque somehow ends up having a positive, unintended byproduct?

Like when you see someone who has faced the worst kinds of abuse find their way out the other side. And they’re not just the same person they started out being. They’re stronger. They somehow turn the utter shit-that-should-never-have-happened situation into something that gives hope to others?

I think something of a similar ilk might be happening in the sphere of East-West relationships. Let me explain…

I think that most of us agree that ISIS/ISIL/داعش (DAESH) is not a good thing.

In fact, if we took a vote, we’d be close to unanimous in saying that they seem, much of the time, to incarnate evil. They behead, kill, rape, drown, burn, shock, force convert and displace people.

It’s very hard to imagine anything good coming from them.

But I’ve noticed a strange byproduct of their unholy rampage: people who didn’t used to talk to each other are starting to.

And it’s not just that they’re talking that’s interesting. It’s what they’re talking about.

There was a time not so long ago when Christians and Muslims didn’t have very much to do with each other. Especially Evangelical Christians.

At best, Christians pretended Muslims didn’t exist. At worst, they regarded Islam with deep suspicion.

In fact, back in the 80s and early 90s, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to come across Christians who, if you got them talking about the subject, would echo the sentiment of what Franklin Graham said just last month:

“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad…we should stop all immigration of Muslims to the US until this threat with Islam has been settled.”

But recently the church, or at least many within it, have begun asking “if we say we are following the teachings of Jesus, and he says ‘love your neighbour’, and even ‘love your enemies’, what should we do about our Muslim neighbours?”

And, at the same time, Muslims have started asking: “if our Holy Qu’ran teaches us to love and respect Christians, how can we practically do that?”

People are setting aside centuries of confusion and misunderstanding and are working together for the sake of peace.

And the thing that has added an urgency of life-or-death to this movement is the work of ISIS.

ISIS, in all their savagery, are polarising people. Some turn to violence (in the West against Muslims, in the East against Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a), but others turn to peace.

If you’re like me, this sounds like very good news.

It puts a smile on my face when I hear about Evangelical megachurch pastors standing up to Franklin Graham because he’s not being Jesus-like towards Muslims.

Not to mention when Muslims help to rebuild burned down churches.

And when I got to visit a mosque in the UK (in a city that has spawned several well-reported ISIS members) and I see Christians and Muslims sitting side-by-side, listening to each other attentively, answering questions in the spirit of peace, I feel optimistic that ISIS’ days are numbered.

So Close

so close

Click.

I sat glued to my screen, hitting refresh, knowing that in 15 minutes time it would all be over.

The last time this happened to me was when we came to the end of our crowd funding campaign last year. We knew that the outcome of the campaign would determine our future: would we be moving to Jordan and studying Arabic after all?  

Click.

This time it was a good friend’s Kickstarter project for a new album they’ve been writing. It was to be their first in 8 years.

Click.

The way Kickstarter works is that you set a financial target, upload a video, share your plans as best you know how, then click ‘start’. Your campaign runs for a specific timeframe, during which you post updates. Friends pledge money towards your project, and you offer rewards for different amounts pledged.

If, at the end of your campaign, you have reached your financial target, you get all the money (minus Kickstarter’s %).

If you don’t reach your target, you get nothing.

Click.

My friend was trying to raise $10,000 for the recording of her album.

1 day before the campaign closed, she had $8,761.

With 2 hours to go, she had reached $8,996

At 50 seconds, she had $9,161.

Click.

And that’s the figure it stopped at.

$839 shy of her target, with $0 to show for it.

I was crushed.

How could the world be so unfair? 

Will this (unquestionably beautiful) album ever see the light of day?

And I got to thinking how often this must happen in the course of each day. People get so close but don’t quite make it across the line. And they end up with nothing to show for it. Nada.

Now I know this friend of mine well enough to know that this little setback isn’t going to stop her making music. In fact, she’ll probably take some valuable lessons from this experience and do something even better with it.

But I’m still a little pissed off with the process.

(Image credit: Tim Norris)

Links: While I’ve Been Away

I thought it might be nice to share some things that have caught my attention during the quiet few months preceding this one. In no particular order, here goes:

Fairphone 2

Fairphone
If you, like me, like the idea of owning a phone that hasn’t been made in the harsh conditions of much of today’s technology, the new Fairphone might be for you.

But before you buy one, you might want to read this: Why I Love the Fairphone — and Why I Won’t Buy One


The Myth of the Ethical Shopper

myth of ethical consumer
This is an eye opening read for those of us who really bought into the early energy of the Fairtrade movement. It’s a challenge to do much more than just buy the right brands…


The Guardian’s series of Short stories

From wonderful writers like Dave Eggers and David Sedaris, and others not called David.


Street Art With a Message of Hope

elSeed
Two artists from different backgrounds have been up to some interesting things recently:

elSeed, a French-Tunisian street artist has been painting quotes in beautiful arabic ‘calligraffiti’, in Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East. Check out his TED talk here.

Andrew Breitenberg, AKA Selah, has been painting messages of hope around Africa for a while, but is currently back home in the States working on The Parallel Bible, check out their Kickstarter for the Book of Mark here.


Build A House

Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns, my good friends Liana and Jason are working on Build a House, their first album in 8 years. Check out their campaign, and pre-order it here.

Reflections on my in/voluntary tech fast

Four months ago, just as I was getting into a regular rhythm of writing, my computer’s graphics card failed. When I took it to the Apple Store in Amman, I was told that although it’s covered under warranty in the rest of the world, they couldn’t repair it for free in Jordan*. So I decided to wait until I would be back in Europe.

technology addiction

I toyed with blogging via my phone using dictation, but couldn’t really get into it. Instead I decided to give myself a writing break, as well as some time away from technology. Here’s what I discovered:

1. I’m addicted to information. Instead of just doing everything via my phone, for the first month I decided to delete Twitter, Instagram and Facebook from there too. I figured this would give me more time to focus more on Real Life. After a couple of days I noticed that I had swapped the time I would usually be using Twitter for reading BBC News and Al Jazeera, as well as starting to restructure my Feedly account.

2. Sometimes the creative juices flow more freely when you’re not trying to think of something to write about. I found myself having several “must write” thoughts each day, that may have been stifled by feeling I should write.

3. Reading more, and broadly, is really enjoyable. I decided to take a break from Scandi Crime novels and instead focussed on things that would stimulate ideas. I read theology, history, old literature.

4. It’s easy to use technology as a comfort blanket. I endeavoured to press into the discomfort of living in a new culture. Instead of connecting regularly with far flung friends, I spent more time asking myself “who could I spend time with here?”

Even though I’m now very relieved to be back at the keyboard, I’m glad I didn’t let my first instinct – to be super frustrated – dominate the last four months.

* I was assured by the Apple Genius who served me in the UK that they were more than likely just trying to avoid extra paperwork.

(Image credit: Jake Stimpson)

Life Hacks for Successful Change

I’ve moved countries a few times in my life. First to Sweden, then South Africa, and now, just 6 months ago, to Jordan.

Change can be exhilarating, but it can also be a challenge, especially when the “honeymoon phase” begins wearing off.

home sickness

Here are a few things that have helped me to embrace change…

Decide to ignore the less appealing aspects of your new culture
Anyone can find things they don’t like in an unfamiliar culture. But if you take a closer look and step outside of your comfort zones, you can find beautiful things anywhere in the world.

Nest
One of the things that has helped me to feel more settled is to set up home in a place. Ask yourself: “would someone visiting my home when I’m not there know that I live there?” and work at making the answer “yes.”

Hang pictures. Grow plants. Do whatever it takes to make your house feel like a home.

Develop routines
It’s easy to feel at sea when you first arrive. Everything is new and unfamiliar and everyone except you has things to do and places to be.

Get into a rhythm.

For us this has been easy, because we have language school every day. Outside of language classes, we visit people for about 2 hours a day and we study our books and memorise vocabulary for at least another 2 hours a day.

Usually when you first arrive in a new place, life isn’t so structured. Do your best to build a routine.

Stay Thankful
I’ve blogged about this before, but make sure you notice the beautiful things about your host culture on a regular basis.

When I start to feel homesick I like to take a walk and look around at all the things that I don’t get to enjoy back home: falafel stands, friendly faces spontaneously inviting you to drink coffee, the way the city comes alive at night.

Make local friends
When faced with a foreign land, many people gravitate to those who share the same cultural background. This is definitely the easiest thing to do, but it’s not necessarily the one that will make you feel most at home. It’s important to make friends with local people as soon as you can.

To begin with, this might mean showing up on your neighbour’s doorstep with a plate of cookies, or making a bit more small talk than you usually would with a local shop owner.

How about you? What tips do you have for a successful transition into a new place?

(Image credit: Emile Krijgsman)

How To Handle Transition

We all go through times of transition, whether it’s changing jobs, moving cities or saying goodbye to friends. Here are some ways to handle transition well.

About a year ago I did a week-long debrief of my last 5 years.

One of the things I discovered from it was that I hadn’t done as good a job at handling change as I thought I had.

Instead of going through a healthy process of grieving loss and coming out the other side, I’d been avoiding it altogether.

This time, as we approached moving countries, and saying goodbye to a seriously amazing bunch of friends, I resolved to handle things differently.

Here’s how:

1. Plan
This time I sat down with my wife and we wrote a list of all of the people and places that we would miss and wanted to say goodbye to before we left. Then we planned out when to visit each of them.

2. Celebrate Friendships
In the past, it wasn’t until I would reach my new destination that I’d begin regretting the things I hadn’t told my friends. To transition well, it’s really important to make a point of doing this. If there were things that were hard to speak out, we wrote them down and gave them to our friends.

3. Express Emotions
Even though it might be culturally awkward, it’s really sad to be on your own when you begin to cry over the loss of a friendship. I made the point this time to be okay with crying in front of people, because I realised that I wanted them to see what they mean to me, and to be able to share the weight of the loss.

4. Tell Stories
My natural tendency is to focus on what’s next, but I’m learning the importance of looking at what has been. During our most recent transition, we reminded ourselves and those around us of the things we’ve experienced together. We told the story of our time there. We talked about what we learned and how we’d changed.

How You Can Stop Giving Forgettable Talks

Every teacher wants their students to remember what they’ve been taught. A recent study show’s that that’s rarely the case. Here’s how you can teach to be remembered…

6284181389_36af02b058_z
Photo by cybrarian77

I love that this blog is about change. Change is what humanises us.

Think about any narrative you have ever read, or watched. A truly captivating character is one that changes. At the the heart of every good story, whatever the surrounding circumstances, there is a person who changes.

And yet, despite being captivated by the idea of change, most of us feel the futility, or at least the slowness, of change in our own lives and those around us.

Forgetting is the norm

According to a recent study the highest performing pupils in the UK forget around 60% of the basic concepts taught in the months between taking the entrance exam and arriving to class.

I think this is the sign of a deep seated misunderstanding in our culture and our age about learning and knowledge.

Imagine this: the brightest doctors, teachers, government leaders and scientists of our next generation being taught to re-call information but not being given the skill of integrating that information into anything deeper than rote repetition.

In a culture obsessed with information, we are perpetually informed, but we have lost of virtue of allowing knowledge to transform us.

So how do you teach people in a way that they transcend being simply informed, to being transformed?

1) Make A Connection

Your paper qualifications are just that: pieces of paper. They might gather you a room full of people, but it takes true human emotion, relational connection, to truly impact people at the deepest of levels. Put simply, you have to be more than smart, you have to be likeable.

2) Listen To The Learner’s Need

Often teachers arrive with a pre-conceived notion of what the learner needs. Instead, start by assuming that the learner is the expert in her own scenario, and provide only the tools that assist her in fulfilling the need she has defined.

3) Encourage Participation

Inviting the learner to be part of the discovery, is the most transformative experience you can offer someone in a learning environment. That is why good science teachers don’t just tell you what happens when you throw potassium into water, they let you do it and watch the glass bowl explode! When we invite people into the experience of discovery we ignite their imaginations that the world is bigger than 2D concepts.

 If you want to be someone who teaches to be remembered, be sure to listen hard and engage your students’ imaginations in the learning process.

The Perspective of Travel

If you’re feeling stuck in the same old rut of desiring change, but not knowing how to get started, perhaps you need a change of scenery.

Movement gives us greater objectivity

I remember as a boy, pedalling up the closest, highest mountain I could find and looking down at Cardiff, the city I once called home.

As I watched the glimmering windows and faint strands of traffic, the flashing of the light at the top of the highest building, and even the shore of England in the distance, I felt liberated.

All my problems and frustrations and crises came dislodged.

I could focus on bigger things: ideas, theories, priorities and principles.

These bike rides helped me to learn what really matters to me, what makes me tick.

Somehow when our bodies start moving towards unfamiliar territory, and experiencing unfamiliar things, creativity gets unleashed.

It cultivates humility and open mindedness

When we get exposed to new people and new stories, those things shape us.

We realise that not everyone looks at the world the way we do.

Not everyone perceives our motives as purely as we do.

Some friends of ours live in a village in Zambia, situated alongside the great Zambezi, several kilometres from The Smoke That Thunders (the Zambian name for Victoria Falls).

When they first moved in, they noticed that every village had hollowed out concrete blocks that were being used as tables, benches or were just abandoned alongside the path.

On closer inspection they realised that these concrete blocks were water filtration systems. The water passes through sand, and in the process 98% of the bacteria is removed.

These filters offered a solution to the stomach aches and illnesses that the villagers caught from drinking straight from the Zambezi.

But the people already believed they knew what made them sick.

Their ancestors were unhappy with them.

The water wasn’t causing their sickness, so why would filtering it prevent it?

This taught our friends, who were working closely with the villagers, the need for slow change that is combined with transforming world views.

Instead of trying to solve the villager’s problems directly, they began by forming relationships of trust.

Through those relationships, they could offer new ways of looking at things.

Over time, the villagers themselves can initiate changes based on their new perspective.

It gives us appreciation for what we have

When I first travelled Europe, I Inter-railed with my friend Tim.

We travelled from the Czech Republic to Rome, often sleeping on trains to avoid the cost of hostels.

I would stuff my backpack into the bottom of my sleeping bag, and my passport into my pants to avoid the fate of the many travellers we’d heard about: stuck in an unfamiliar place, with no ID, no money and no way home.

I lived off bread and McDonalds milkshakes, to stretch my budget as far as it would go. And I cut the trip short in Rome because I was so homesick I felt compelled to get back to my Sister’s birthday.

(She later commented on how gaunt my face was from my meagre diet during those weeks.)

Although it was a chaotic trip, it gave me fresh perspective on myself. I realised that there was pain ahead. There would be goodbyes. I realised that I would be doing much more travelling, and because of that I’d better get used to change.

Moving gives perspective in a way that staying doesn’t.

You see your family and friends with greater fondness, your workplace with new compassion, and sights and sounds that have become mundane spring back to life.

As I prepare to leave South Africa, its beautiful people, life changing experiences, and awe-inspiring scenery, I eagerly anticipate the new perspectives that await me.

Page 3 of 5

© 2014-2017 Jonathan Morgan