The Tragedy of Dan Vickerman

What happens to a sports hero when the crowds go home?

Have you ever spent extended time with family and friends and then suddenly you were on your own again, doing mundane things? What did it feel like – that jolt from a kind of elevated communion to sudden quiet?

I think a neglected truth about being human is that we actually battle with transitions.

A few years back, I had two children, moved house four times, changed jobs twice, moved provinces, all in the space of just over two years. In the midst of this, I also had gunmen in my house.

Months later, I was burnt out.

Psychologists say even if we go through a multitude of good or even great life events, too many in too short a space of time will cause major stress in your life. Continue reading

Finding Love in a Romantic Age

Never in the history of humanity has romantic love been so celebrated. But what if all the romance on sale this week clouds a basic and vital truth – in a tragic world, love is meant to be something deeper than happiness and the fulfillment of desire.

When I teach poetry, I’m often struck by how unromantic the Romantic poets were. Most of the time their poems are really just about wandering off to nature and forgetting about everybody else. There is very little mentioned about the actual nitty gritty of love, marriage or raising a family.

Yet they still cast a long shadow over the way we view love in the modern age.

The idea that human beings are constantly filled with majestic desire that must be fulfilled – that a perfect world awaits if we just have the courage to begin it again according to the wonders of our imagination – these are all ideas given to us by the age of Romanticism in the early 19th century.

Suffice to say, I can’t think of one of the Romantic poets who had a happy marriage. Most of them treated women pretty badly – even while they were adored by women.

Rather, if you trace their ideas all the way to the 20th century you can find their ideas lurking behind the social devastation given to us by the concepts of Free Love and no-contest divorce. If our desires are always noble, then nothing should stand in their way.

This is all obviously fairly ironic when you consider how so many people today thirst for more romance in their lives. Continue reading

No borders; no nations?

My generation will have to decide what a country is for…

Recently a group of students at the Berkeley division of the University of California started rioting in protest against a public speech on campus due to be given by pro-Trump journalist, the provocative and very strange Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News.

He was unable to give his speech and now much controversy ensues about the ideal of free speech at academic institutions.

But one chant from the protestors really got me thinking: “No borders, no nations, f–k deportations!” Continue reading

The Top 8 South African Songs of All Time

There is such a thing as a South African sound – indefinable, tragic, with a hint of glory.

Growing up in the ’90s, most South African bands were trying to sound like Nirvana. In short, they were terrible. I gave up on South African music. In my little corner, it seemed there was no swing, no roll with the rock.

Last year, I went back in time and listened to more South African music, and gradually I felt like I got a sense, a taste, of a certain sound characteristic of South African music Continue reading

What’s Behind the Federer Magic?

Why one man hitting a ball with some framed string is just so inspiring.

Federer

Most of the time we watch sport because we want to see who wins and feel the tension as that fact gets decided. People who harp on about aesthetics in sport are usually a bit misguided. I don’t care if a South African batsman looks ugly while he makes a hundred. Some of our best batsmen could barely cover drive (see Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten).

Which is why I have been scratching my head to try to work out why there is something about how Federer hits a tennis ball that is almost… beautiful. Continue reading

4 Lessons on How to Rock ‘n Roll in 2017

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of hearing people moan about 2016. Trump, Brexit, George Michael – these things have very little impact on people’s day to day lives. Leave all that behind this year, lay a record down, and learn from last century’s greatest art form.

When I was growing up in the early ‘90s, grunge music was all the rage. Bands were all copying Nirvana – wearing cardigans, shorts, and generally moping about while singing loud and boring songs.

Somehow I managed to hear music from an earlier age that grabbed my attention and sent me off on another direction.

In my early teens I bought Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ album, put ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Thunder Road’, and ‘Badlands’ on loud on my hi-fi, and somehow knew I was connecting to something deeper than the nihilist youth culture of our postmodern age.

What I heard in the Boss’s music was rock that had a roll – a type of music that had its roots in the blues and gospel; that drew a golden thread from Elvis to Roy Orbison to the Rolling Stones; and that spoke to something deeper than angst, something more along the lines of joy, freedom, and redemption.

To my mind these are ideas we need every year. Continue reading

This Good Night is Still Everywhere to Me

The reason Christmas is still our culture’s most celebrated day is because at some level we subconsciously remember the revolution of that night a few thousand years ago in the Middle East.

“Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars.” GK Chesterton, ‘The God in the Cave’

Soak it in Boney M, elaborate lunches, shopping malls, and family bickering – but the truth remains, as GK Chesterton noted, we are all still haunted by the weird notion that God was once a Baby. Continue reading

The Immortality of the Soul

Why you will live forever. (Or, are we human, or are we dancer?)

Are we human?

It is a sign of backwardness that so many of us, unbelievably, affirm that human beings are only random collections of quantum particles.

Thus, when we die, nothing really changes – random and minute quarks just do a different dance. There is, apparently, no soul. Which ultimately leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is no me, there is no you, there is no love, there is no beauty, there is nothing after death – because no thing, and no person, really ever existed. Continue reading