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WHEN I’M HERE
NOTE: Contributing to discussion on UNSTUCK – The Refinition of Manhood
“I live with no doubts. If I have any doubts, I don’t do it. If I do it anyway and get burned as a result, too bad. What’s done is done. If I die, I die. Closed chapter. If I don’t die, no regrets. I pay the price I have to pay, and move on; assuming that I can still breathe, stand, walk, and think,” Simon Chilembo.
It was as a four-and-half-year-old on my first day at school in Lesotho that I first became aware of my hereness. That was as an immediate response to the awareness of my differentness. The latter arose from my consciousness awakening to find me surrounded by many people. I somehow just understood that all were school children of all ages. There were numerous of my age, and others older. My guide, Dineo, was an older girl from the estate where I was staying not so far away from the school.
I found Dineo alternately being aggressively protective of me, and talking proudly about how far smarter I was compared to local children: I was of course tinier and blacker than all the other children because I was not one of them; I was not of their blood since my father came from a land far, far away in the north. In this so distant land, no Lesotho person had ever been. Dineo emphasized.
She went on to remind everyone about how ruthless her father was. So, if anybody was unkind to me, her father would come and destroy their lives the whole lot of them! Also, my father could do terrible things to them using powerful wizardry from his lands. Otherwise I was a sweet and happy child easy to be with, Dineo concluded.
This was a strange and fascinating scenario I could only watch without uttering a word. I did not only not know what to say or do, the atmosphere was also overwhelming in its simultaneous bewilderment and euphoria. The following day my grandmother took me to another school. I recall hearing whispers that word had been going around in the village that it was not safe for me to be at the first school. The alternative Peka Catholic school would be a safer bet for me, therefore.
At Peka Catholic school I recall being initially received by a group of nuns and the parish priest, Father Hemmel. The next thing was that I found myself in a room with several other children. We were singing “I am a tea pot. This is handle. This is mouth. Pour me out! Pour me out!”
Tracking animal pictures pasted up and around the walls of the room, I recall us repeating after the teacher, Mme Blandina, “A baby cow is called a calf. A baby sheep is called a lamb …”
And then, “A cat mews. A bull bellows. A hen cackles …”
Such began my school career. I would be at Peka Catholic school for four years, 1965-69. These remain the happiest years of my school life. This is the time I understood that I somehow grasped lessons faster than the lot of my classmates. I further found out that the teachers were extra fond of me. All nuns. The warmth they afforded me is unforgettable.
My popularity extended to older pupils, especially girls, in higher grades. At the same time, though, there were older boys that were not fond of me at all. They used to engage me into fights almost every day after school. I got my beatings much as I gave my share of the same. It ever infuriated everyone so much because I was unusually strong and stubborn for my age and, especially, body size.
I never thought too much about limitations of my personal attributes. All I knew was that I could never allow anybody to beat me up and get away with it. This was particularly so from age six, after my mother had instilled in my head the warrior heart attitude of learning to fight my own battles and settle scores alone.
I was already a seasoned fighter by the time that in my older youth years, my Karate teacher, in response to a report about a legendary fight that I had put up against some of the most notorious and dreaded street-fighters of Lusaka, Zambia, said, “If you must fight, fight. But don’t lose!”
That ethos drives my survival instincts in all situations to this day.
In the commotion typical around street fighting scenes, I would pick out ludicrous utterances that I was the way that I was as a hard-fighting child because of the strange blood that I carried from my strange, alien father. I was a little wizard that had to be killed whilst I was still a child because I was going to kill everyone else if I was to be allowed to grow up into a man.
These were really not nice things to hear for a child not even eight years old then. Now I’m a grown-up man soon to be sixty-years-old. Not a single person has perished in my hands yet. On the contrary, I have in my work saved more than one lives.
I thus learned how to balance getting unwanted extreme attention very early in my life. That, together with receiving much love on the one hand and buttressing myself against prejudice and hatred on the other, inculcated in me a strong sense of awareness of where I am at any one time.
Therefore, when I’m here, I’m here. What has to be will be. I shall do what I have to do to sustain my hereness for as long as possible, or for as long as it is necessary. If I have to love, I shall love. If I have to fight, I shall fight. The assumption being that my presence is valued here and now, and that my being here is not detrimental to my continued real and conceptual existential imperatives.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear that I take too much space when I’m here. It’s of little interest for me to seek to impose my hereness to personal and conceptual spaces that cannot, or are not willing to accommodate my being here.
If I’m here for a specific reason, I’ll do what I have to do to the best of my ability according to expectations, if not instructions. If it is really fun, I tend to go beyond, though. I’ll perform and deliver to the extent that what has to be done is compatible with my values and defined obligations vis-à-vis the given situation.
If I succeed, I succeed. If I fail, I fail. If the latter is due to factors I can correct, I shall do so accordingly. If it’s beyond my powers to correct, or do anything else in order to attain the original desired outcome, then I let go and move on to next level challenges; paying the price I have to if need be. It is what it is.
I never carry on with regrets. I carry on with new learned experiences that often empower me to perform better in the next level, even if the next level may not be related to the previous fiasco in any way. What matters is the new mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical fortification I’ve attained for the new way forward.
Throughout my life I’ve lived with the consciousness that I’ll meet all kinds of resistance in my endeavours to live my life as I see it, and as I wish to live it within the parameters of established life-supportive societal norms. I learned very early how to exert my presence with all my outward expressive faculties. This was an important skill to develop given the fact that I, as earlier stated, was a tiny child in a partially but grossly cruel world. In my adult years I never grew up to be the physically biggest man around either.
My mind, my intellect is my weapon. I load my mind with knowledge acquisition pursuits. I fire with my words: I write, I speak. I can sing too. My body is my combat machine. In this state of being, self-doubt is a known but non-applicable phenomenon to me. That is how I’ll always rise above negative forces working against me. Indeed, I might fall and lose one thing or another.
Actually, I have lost a lot of tangible and intangible things during the last twelve-to-fifteen-years. If I don’t die, I’ll rise again. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but I will rise again. I am on the rise again as it is. My death can wait. I ain’t got no time to die as yet.
It happens time and time again: for each knock and fall I get, for each loss, at least tenfold new options for the better present themselves upon my rising again. For that reason, I never cry over spilt milk. When it is clear that the milk loss is inevitable no matter what preventive measures I may apply, I let go without shedding a tear.
No resistance. When change is gonna come, it’s gonna come. If one of the new options emerging after the milk loss will be a dairy cow, I hardly ever get surprised. Nevertheless, I remain ever humble in the face of continuous favours bestowed upon me by nature, my ancestral spirits, and my God. The resilience I put forth in times of trouble, in my darkest hours, does wonders for my ego. But that resilience is of origins far beyond the realms of my ego’s mind games’ current manifest performance and ultimate potential.
Deep down inside of me I know that constant pursuance of being a decent human being is my inclination by default, much as are my human fallibilities. When I get a knock for my own failings, my inadequacies, I shall with dignity take the punishment I get. My sense of dignity gets even more profound in the face of injustice and malice directed upon my person. Always.
I am cognizant of my strengths and vulnerabilities. These two qualities annihilate any sense of self-doubt I might have in any given situation. Because I know, i.e. my personal cognitive and intuitive data bases are adequately supplied with relevant information and energy, I’ll always have options in both good and challenging times.
The phrase Machona Awakening came not only from that moment I finally understood for myself that a place called home can be more a function of thoughts and feelings, contra its being one’s place of birth only. Machona Awakening is also about that moment in time it dawned upon me that I, indeed, am that I am. I am that I am with all the beauty and the ugly that define me in the eye of the beholder. That with respect to the conscious and unconscious display of my deeds as I dance through the intricacies of my life for as long as I live.
Fear I might have. Insecurity I might have. These may arise in times and situations where I lack applicable functional and conceptual knowledge. When and where I don’t know, I’m likely to be invisible; silent. If I’m ignorant relative to a given reality, it may perhaps be because it’s neither interesting nor important for my existential needs here and now, or there and then. Knowledge is power over fear, insecurity, and self-doubt. It’s about knowing what branch of knowledge is relevant where, how, and when.
I’m not a thrill-seeker. As such I’m not given to blind pursuits of the unknown at any cost. So, let it pass. Ain’t no love lost. No regrets. Self-doubt possibilities eliminated. But does that not limit maximal growth potential? Well, all things considered, I can only grow to the level I reach today. The next levels of growth tomorrow and beyond are only dreams with today’s growth experiences as their launch pad; as certain as the sun shall rise tomorrow for all living creatures of the earth. No doubt from the self, neither from nature. Solid knowledge. Self-doubt expunged.
March 02, 2020
MOYA NKHABU: TRIBUTE TO A ROLE MODEL
Growing up in the old, subdued black South Africa, I could never see myself playing serious football in a formal club setting. From the point of view of personal drive, the game has never charmed me that way. I could never say whether or not my lack of success as a junior street football player was due to being untalented, or simply that my passion was never aroused strongly enough. I’m inclined to suspect the latter.
In the old, apartheid South Africa days, football talent groomed itself, and thrived on the township streets, and rural playing fields. It was raw, pure, and ecstatic. Paradoxically, it provided spaces for all the joys of a free childhood in a then tyrannical state. Moreover, my childhood street football reality provided escape from the attendant ills of poverty in many a black South African home: all round domestic violence, woman and child sexual abuse.
Like most South African township boy children, I imagine that the first expression of my active physical power, from the time I managed to stand up, balance, and walk, was probably to kick at something. I have been kicking for as long as I can remember. Ball control, reading the game, and stopping opponents from scoring against my street team were my forte.
Dribbling was never my inclination. But, I recall, even the very best of our dribblers during my street football active years, up to age 12 years old, knew well not to fool around with the ball around me. If I had any football talent at all, it shone brightest whenever we opted to play a rather rough version of the game. Often, if it’s genuine street culture, it has to be rough; it has to be tough, it has to break all the rules, like Rock & Roll.
Here, the object was not to score goals, but for the competing teams to incapacitate each other’s players until there was only one young man standing, with the ball. If the one team totally demolished the other, the winning team’s members went for one another, then. Thus, the last man standing outcome. It gave an unforgettable, ego-boosting adrenaline rush. Great, great fun, it was.
In this brutal game, we had to be subtle, but extremely effective. That was so that if any adults were watching us play, they wouldn’t understand that we were, actually, out to deliberately injure one another. A strict rule was “no ball, no attack”; meaning that we went for one another only to the extent that one side had ball possession. And, direct kicks to the legs above the ankle were not allowed.
The idea was to “slice”, or “chop” each other’s legs at the ankles, much like Karate players execute the devastating leg sweeping technique called “Ashi barai”. Serious injuries, necessitating hospitalization, often occurred here. I never got injured. Several casualties have pointed to me, though. In action, I can be light and quick on my feet. I developed this ability from this dangerous kind of football playing. I would, later, take the skill with me to Karate. Fifty years on, I’m still standing, rocking as if there’ll be no end to my rolling life. Truth is, I want to live forever. I am a dreamer, and so shall it be.
My street football career was much fun, whilst it lasted. It gave me lasting valuable life lessons, as well: street survival alertness (“Tsotsis”, violent street hustlers, didn’t play football!), and fierce competitive spirit, or killer instinct cultivation. Street football also afforded me the first real taste of leadership, going into puberty and subsequent young manhood. The leadership trial run would reward me with just as premier and unforgettable taste of the thrill of victory. That owing to the coaching my impromptu leadership role empowered me to do with my team, one day.
A team had challenged us from another part of our township, Thabong Location, Welkom. Our challengers were notorious for severely beating up their opponents when they, the former, lost matches. These guys were a little older than us, and they had some of their neighbourhood supporters following them everywhere they went. Our team, on the other hand, was, usually, an ad hoc affair. It spontaneously organized itself around whoever was available on our street, and wished to play, there and then.
Unfortunately, on the day of the challenge, whereas we had more than what we needed of potential players, no one wished to play. All were afraid of getting beaten up by the visitors, in the event of the latter’s loss against us. The problem was that the visitors were still going to be violent if we chose not to play. These guys, the challengers, were crazy: when they won, they still beat up the opponents, if only to teach the losers not mess with the bad guys! So, either way, we were in trouble. Catch 22.
I do not seem to recall what led to my team prodding me for a solution to the dilemma we were in. They even decided that I should be the team captain for the day. Because I had already started training boxing by then, a thought struck me that if I made my team believe we were strong as individuals and as a collective, we could win in such a way that the bad guys wouldn’t want to fight us afterwards.
How? Let’s wear them out, whilst we remain strong all the way, throughout the match. How? Let’s do what nobody else did at that time: do a pre-match, team spirit enhancing jogging and calisthenics session! It’s called warming-up these days. Doing that would also give us a psychological edge over the opponents. It worked like magic.
My team played with the intensity and unity of purpose that we had never thought were possible before. In my head, I still vividly see replays of the match to this day. Playing on what we, then, called the “12 hurra!” principle, we beat the bad guys 12-0. The loss, combined with my team’s upbeat, super confident mood, overwhelmed the bad guys so much that they left our zone running as if they had just seen snakes, or some scary monsters like that. Eventually transferred into Karate, I have enormously enjoyed sports leadership and coaching since. I’ve won, I’ve lost. I’ve been stupid, I’ve been wise. I’ve made friends, I’ve lost friends. I’m here. I live. I love.
Adult club football was a different ball game altogether. I enjoyed watching this, not so much for the thrill of the game, but out of the fascination I had for those players that stood out as the best in the game, regardless of position played. The fascination was about the aura these guys seemed to carry, both on and off the field. They seemed to be ever so strong and happy.
It’s always been a great fascination for me as to how men, and women these days, running after, and with a ball could, at the same time, induce so much euphoria amongst the spectators. Off the field, the super star players seemed to wield so much power that it appeared, for me then, as if they could be rulers of the world. That was despite the fact that I, at that time, I had no real clue as to how gigantic and complex the world really was. They had all the beautiful girls. Attendant hyper fornication scandals I didn’t care much about. Rock & Roll is what it is: you burn, you burn. If the highway to hell is short, let it be. I’ll talk to Mother Mary another time.
One of those super star players was Abel Nkhabu, a.k.a. Moya, or Mgeu, late, 2017. May his soul rest in peace. I first came to personally know, and look up to him in the years 1972-74. Looking back, I like to think that, actually, this man was my first real-life, non-family Super Hero. He seemed larger than life, and, yet, he could touch me, ask me about my wellbeing, and encourage me to be good at school always.
There were also some of Mgeu’s generation of original black South African football mega stars around. By status, they were bigger than him by far; they have remained so, and are, today, living legends in their own rights. I still look at them with awe; still getting that tingling sensation in my hands and feet I used to get at their sight, on and off the pitch, in my early teens.
These men, in various capacities at club and national association levels, continue to steer modern South African football. They are doing so with the same inspirational class I recall from the early 1970s. In them, I still see hope for this troubled land of my birth, South Africa. However, these men are still far away from my immediate spaces. They have yet to touch me like Mgeu did. A consolation, though, is that, in my eyes, they carry on his spirit, and that of numerous other giants of the pre-1994 South African football scene.
Much of my desire to defy and beat the odds in order to succeed in life, be a super star, and live forever, is owing to these men of wonder in the history and development of this land. There is more to football than just seemingly mad twenty-two men chasing a ball around a stupid rectangular space limiting their freedom to run away with it, the ball.
Inspired by the big and strong, unbeatable Hercules in the bioscope, I liked making leather wristbands for my friends, my lebandla, my street gang, and me. The finest I ever made was of some fine, thick, nicely patterned leather piece from one of my mother’s old handbags. Mgeu liked that wristband so much that he borrowed it for a while. He wore it on several big matches he played, with Welkom Real Hearts FC.
“Monna, dude, I, actually, feel stronger and more courageous when I’m wearing this band. And, you, know, the other thing is that people on the field get afraid of me, believing that the band is a fortifying juju gear. I like it very much!”
I refused Mgeu’s offer to buy the wristband. Of course, I was taken by the symbolic power effect it had on him. I wanted to have the power too. When he, eventually, gave the wristband back to me, he was overwhelmingly effusive. An ordinary older South African man would have bullied me and kept it, anyway. Mgeu’s return of the band permanently cemented the bond that we already had. Before that, no other adult man had ever shown me that kind of respect for my personal integrity. It was gratifying for me to find that there, in fact, were still some grown up men one could trust.
As first-born child in my family, I was raised to love, protect, and support my younger siblings, that as a matter of course. My general love for children and youth derives from my upbringing values. From the time I became aware of my sibling position and role in the family, fondness and caring for those younger than me, to beyond my home, was something one just did without question. It was something I never put much thought to, even.
My younger, and last-born sibling, Lucy Dintletse’s birth, in 1974, brought the real intensity of my love for children to my consciousness for the first time. Lucy’s affectionate family nickname is Sonono, often shortened to Sono. The very nearly nine years of her life would thrust the love to heights I have yet to fathom. MHSRIP.
I see Sono in every child of the world. Whenever I see children of the world suffer under mankind’s proclivity to wars in outrageously vain attempts to impose peace upon one another, her sweet face emerges above the misery I see; the pain, the hopelessness I feel. And, then, faith that, someday, we gonna be alright, is rekindled. Through every child whose life I touch wherever I am in the world at any one time, my steadfast hope and wish are that, one day, these children will grow up to be conduits of love and peace for all mankind.
Mgeu was one of the pioneering black professional football players in South Africa, in the early 1970s. He made a dashing and influential figure, to his grave. His entire life, he was fiercely anti-apartheid and black people’s oppression. From Mgeu, I learnt that a man could be big and strong as a super star, but he could still have time and energy to engage positively with children and youth. This has remained one of the key defining moments of my life.
Whereas my father remains the formidable force behind my formal dressing taste, my smart-casual dressing style has heavy Mgeu undertones. My father was laid to rest twenty years ago today, July 04, 2018. MHSRIP. I remember him with immense love with this article too: my father, the finest of gentlemen, my hero; the original Machona – (the) Emigrant, the traveller, the gypsy from the warriors of love mystics of my Tumbuka people, Eastern Province, Zambia. If you jump into Malawi, Tanzania, and, partly, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), you’ll land into the midst of the extended empire of my people.
The one quality I’ve not quite been able to grasp, though, is the phenomenal “Ladies’ Man” tag Mgeu proudly carried to the very end. If we meet up again on the other side, I should ask him for specific coaching on this one; assuming that there’ll still be ladies abundance when I arrive there. But then again, we might find that the ladies on the other side are more work than what I have down here on earth. Nnnahhh, we let this one pass.
In the presence of Mgeu, I’d always feel like a 12-14 year old boy, if not even younger. In the photo accompanying this piece, we are meeting up soon after I had arrived in Welkom, from Norway, Christmas time, 2006/7. You know that sweet, loving feeling you get when you are with your favourite uncle, I had it at the time the photo was being taken; I’m feeling it as I write this article, at this very moment. Thanks, football, for one of the most significant men in my life!
I was fortunate enough to have had a few good men to relate to during my formative years. Many of those that were not so nice to me never lived to see the close of the 1970s. Good riddance. A lot of these not-so-nice men were generally unkind to youngsters. It’s just as well that longevity was never to be their gig. Morons!
In my dealings with children and youth, I endeavour to be, at least, as good as those adult males that have, each in their own special ways, contributed to my being the mad energy bundle that I am, now as a fully grown adult myself. I have never been able to think of a better way to express my deep felt gratitude for the presence of good men in mine, and other children’s lives.
In the early 1970s, Mgeu, together with a host of other first generation of black professional football players were organized under the auspices of the then National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). In my forthcoming 6th book, 4th novel*, read how these transformed the lives of the black people of South Africa, at a time when the then South African apartheid regime was at its most venomous. The NPSL effect is played out around a particular family’s life in Thabong, Welkom. Watch this space for more information about the impending book release. Coming soon!
SCIENTIFIC MAN OF GOD
Epigenetic inheritance theory has captured my fascination in a profound way. It has cast new insight into how I now think about the nature of man. That with reference to how I relate to man in the spontaneous, continuous process of writing and playing my own story as I go through the labyrinth of life. Some call it legacy.
But I don’t really care much about “the legacy I shall leave behind”. If I do have a legacy, it has, actually, built, and shall sustain itself for as long as time wants it alive. Nevertheless, immortality is the goal. Who wants to live forever? I do. Why not?
All I care about is the integrity of the authoring of my life story lines as I dance my way through to my exit point of the maze that far, far away.
My hope is that my life story shall be read and judged with open, scientific minds, both whilst I still walk the face of the earth, and when I’m dead.
Thanks to epigenetic inheritance theory, I have finally seen the light: yes, the human body is, indeed, a temple of God. By extension, any other creature that subscribes to, and lives according to tenets of any prescribed faith, has its physical body as the temple of God; at least in the Western world’s perception of the Deity.
Even more precisely, the philosophical duality of God and her anti-thesis, Satan, is not only a construct of the core of man’s existential questions’ thinking: their abodes, heaven and hell, respectively, are, in fact, in the DNA of man.
There is no place called heaven outside the realm of man’s existence on earth. Neither is there a place called hell in the same illusory domain. Heavenly rewards, or satanic retributions for our virtues and sins, respectively, we live them accordingly right here on earth. When we die, we are dead: our DNAs have switched off from our consciousness, and so have the ideas of God, Satan, heaven, and hell.
It is only the unenlightened that fuss about life after death for the deceased. The human soul leaving the dead is as real, as independent, and as infinite as the universe. So, leave it alone. It knows how to take care of itself. Ever heard of a buried soul? They failed to bury Jesus.
It ought to make perfect sense that life-after-death is, indeed, a reality for the living only. Life goes on. But, living in the dark, and confronted with challenges of life with nature, the survivors seek answers outside of themselves. Finding no workable solutions out there, panic grips them. Fear of the unknown rules over their lives through and through … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
December 19, 2017
We all have
While you last
Gold shall glitter
With or without you
Diamonds are forever
Let The Platinum Age begin
©Simon Chilembo, 16/ 07- 2014
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
July 16, 2014
UNDERSTANDING (SOUTH) AFRICAN INTER-PERSONAL POWER RELATIONS DYNAMICS, Part 1
In India I met a 16 year-old boy. Full of life. Looking very fit and healthy. Strong. Centre of attraction. My kinda youngster. After out-dancing him at a wedding party of a mutual friend, he kept asking, “WHO is this old guy? WHERE is he from? WHAT does he do?” I was 42 years old then.
My own queries led me to know that the boy was the youngest member of a large family. Despite his very strong presence and all, he was semi-literate. How come? He doesn’t go to school. How so? He doesn’t want to; he prefers to spend his days in the gym, and he trains a lot of Karate too. Maybe you should talk to him, Simon. Sure!
“I have never seen the point of wasting my time going to school because I’ll never suffer even if I don’t become a Doctor. My family is extremely wealthy, you see. As things are already, I own more than half of the vast family estate. But I’m not entitled to use it now, until a certain age. When you come back my uncle will build you a Karate school, and I’ll tell you more things. …”
I never went back … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
June 28, 2013