Sunday, June 12, 2011

Letting Go and Sunday Soul

Jonathan Butler is in my estimation one of the greatest South African musicians of my generation.  I spent many years listening to the song below as I wrestled with leaving my life in the US and returning to South Africa.

I remember bumping into a Haitian-American colleague at the airport and she asked me how I felt as I finally set aside three decades of American life. 

"I have no keys.  No house keys, no office keys, no car or motorcycle keys.  I feel scared and hopeful," I said as I patted my jeans pockets.

"Write that story Ridwan.  If only so you and yours will know what it means to live in doubt and impermanence," my colleague said.

We were catching the same Delta flight to Atlanta and sat together.  Her ordeal of living in doubt and impermanence became clearer to me.  

The world is in crisis and transition.  What is to become of belonging in these contexts, I thought?  And I remembered my best friend Mark's remark that "you may return but you never go home again".  In many ways he was right and I will be the first to admit that the thought of leaving South Africa never leaves me.

"You young enough to reclaim that part of your life and your origins.  Go tell your story and write.  You must write.  People will want to know.  They will read you," my colleague pressed on.

Just yesterday a close friend called asking why I had not started to write if even as a singular resistance against the nationalistic revisionism that has my dad, Sobukwe, Imam Haroon, and many others almost erased.

And so the project toward retrieving memory must start in earnest now that this lost chapter in Pretoria plays out.

It won't be easy.   There are other more important voices that must rise too.  How that must look still baffles me even now that I have a few keys in my pocket.

 Left my father’s land
To become a man
But I can’t let go
I can’t let go

I found the greatest gift of all
Freedom and independence called
Here I stand complete
On my own two feet
I can’t let go

There’s so many famous rivers I’ve crossed
So many many beacons left and lost
I have played to win and paid the cost
But I can’t let go

As I walk my old stomping ground
A flood of memories are unbound
Feeling guilt inside
Did I do things right?
I can’t let go

... It's in my soul ...


Anonymous said...

Sometimes we leave to return to ourselves.
Everytime I ever left- I came back a little more me.

And your book's waiting to be written.
*good luck*

But i suspect you don't need it.

Ridwan said...

I think that is very true. Coming back is not a place necessarily then.

I like the notion of coming back to "ourselves" ... plural too hey.

Because memory is not singular and it is not just stuck.

In these terms it would be unrealistic to expect things just stayed stuck.

Thank you for making me think.

And thank you ever so kindly for the "good luck" wish on the book.

It is overdue and I absolutely need your wish.

Peace to you.

desert demons said...

Write a 'people's history' so that those who gave their lives for the revolution may have a fitting memorial and also coz I'm pretty certain that your book would make a good read :)

Ridwan said...

Thank you for the vote of confidence DD. How can I not move forward now hey?

Peace and struggle to ya,

desert demons said...

My thoughts exactly!It must be done... The Demon has spoken!