The Rat Race - Part III

The Rate Race III - by P.K.Odendaal - November 2014.


Back to our roots.

I recently wrote to the people in Ukraine that they should go back to their roots, and that inspired me to think of my own roots. Where have I come from and what are my roots - and also, where are the roots of mankind.
In general I know that our roots are in Paradise, where our roots and even the roots of the Tree of Life still stand. However, I now find myself in a new sort of paradise which I do not like at all. One filled with the superficialities of mankind - a vanity fair so to speak. On the surface all seems to be fine, but I know very well that it is built on a foundation of straw - a foundation called civilization - which is very frail and unstable. When will this house of cards fall in? It falls in every few years in the form of a financial, economic or political crisis and waits in anguish at its last stand between good and evil.

But that is not how far I wish to go back in search of my roots. I only wish to go to where I was born and where I was taught what I today regard as my roots. Back to a time when I was innocent and without pretense and ambition - the opposite pole of the rat race.
In companies they talk of intrinsic value. We have lost our intrinsic value like integrity, honesty, dedication, piety and care for each other and we have moved on to murdering our own or neighboring country folk and other such beautiful enemies, committing the cruelest atrocities against them as man can devise. If we can't do that with impunity then we incarcerate them in jails.
And that is why two literary pieces about jails fascinate me so much. The one is a poem named 'Reading Goal' by Oscar Wilde and the other a book named 'Cold Stone Jug' by Herman Charles Bosman. In both the suffering of mankind on the wrong side of right and fashionable are described in emotional and vivid detail by two persons who suffered it.
But I am also not writing about that today. I wish to write about my own roots. Why do I visit my place and birth, my old schools and old universities with so much ado and so many tears? Apart from anything else I think I cry because I realise that I have lost those values and can never have them again. I realise that my dedication to my fellow sufferers of decades gone by - partners in crime so to say - has gone. I realise that my life now is superficial and without real purpose - that my real purpose has become this unreachable star which is the rat race - a race I can never win.
A few weeks ago I fulfilled a lifetime promise to my wife to take her back to her roots. A very small town called Herbertsdale in the Western Cape. So it was with immense anticipation that we challenged the bad roads to get to that place. The town was almost deserted, the old farmhouse empty and almost ruined, the people unknown, and I am quite sure that my wife shed a tear or two which I was not able to see. There was nothing left except a memory.

I conclude with that beautiful song by Phil Coulter (sung at its most beautiful by Ronan Tynan)

The Town I Loved So Well

In my memory I will always see
the town that I have loved so well
Where our school played ball by the gasyard wall
and we laughed through the smoke and the smell
Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane
past the jail and down behind the fountain
Those were happy days in so many, many ways
in the town I loved so well

In the early morning the shirt factory horn
called women from Creggan, the Moor and the Bog
While the men on the dole played a mother's role,
fed the children and then trained the dogs
And when times got tough there was just about enough
But they saw it through without complaining
For deep inside was a burning pride
in the town I loved so well

There was music there in the Derry air
like a language that we all could understand
I remember the day when I earned my first pay
And I played in a small pick-up band
There I spent my youth and to tell you the truth
I was sad to leave it all behind me
For I learned about life and I'd found a wife
in the town I loved so well

But when I returned how my eyes have burned
to see how a town could be brought to its knees
By the armoured cars and the bombed out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by that old gasyard wall
and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God, what have they done
to the town I loved so well

Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what's done is done and what's won is won
and what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well