Seven observations/parables from my daily walk:
1] Outside the office traders nod, greet and smile. I have heard them from just after 5am setting up their stalls. They will pack up again in the dark. An inspiration in their resilience and perseverance. They look after each other’s stalls for everyone to have an opportunity to find a toilet or get something to eat. They laugh loud and argue passionately. A caring and watchful community. Neighbours who Psalm 139-like, know my coming and going.
2] The rotating group of smokers from an office block huddle together on the corner. Ignoring me, they all greet Jubilee by name.
3] Past the Taj Hotel. It is so good to see hotels alive with activity after being empty and closed for so long due to COVID. A relief to see people crucially employed. Full tour buses. The melody of foreign languages. Luxury vehicles and luxury travel bags. Just across the road people sleep on the pavement on cardboard mattresses in the nooks and corners of Cathedral walls. The intractable inequality is wounding. Security guards make sure wealth and poverty do not meet. What feels like peace to some, feels like threat to others.
4] Under the woven wooden canopy – the arch for the Arch. 14 arched beams, each representing a line from the preamble of the Constitution. Circled on the ground beneath the arch, are 14 brass plates each bearing a line from the Constitution’s preamble. Three have been wrenched off, presumedly to be sold for scrap and possibly to score a hit. A fourth plate is not quite pried off. I speak to the cops who sit in a little booth only 5m away. They have not noticed but will keep an eye out. The next day the fourth plate is also gone. The desperate decaying state of things. The vision of Arch Tutu and the Constitution are struggling to stick.
5] I hear water running beneath my feet. Gushing beneath the paved surface. A reminder of the underground rivers that flow all year round. Free flowing water from the top of Table Mountain through the city gardens and eventually into the sea. A food garden no longer. Why? Surely we are surrounded by more need for nourishing food than ever before. Towering trees tap into the water below. They congregate so densely together that city buildings are hidden from sight. Benches full of people enjoying the abundance of beauty and life. Squirrels leap from branch to branch releasing a rain of leaves to the ground.
6] Then up past the burnt-out parliament buildings to where the avenue opens up left and right. Two children – around 8 years old are throwing stones at the geese on the pond. They are on their own. There are no adults around. I ask them to leave the geese alone. “Give us money” – they reply. I tell them that I don’t have money, but to please leave the geese alone. They continue to throw stones at the geese, saying, “We want money”. It is easy to be angry with the children. What they were doing was cruel. Yet, I am convinced that behind their cruelty lies further cruelty. They were ‘only’ doing to the geese what they have experienced society do to them. And when cruelty replaces care in one direction it is difficult to expect cruelty to be replaced by care in the other direction. When a “social-compact” fails a group of people or even worse, turns against them, then one has little-to-no moral authority to expect them to honour the very same social-compact. The same is true for the above-mentioned Constitutional vandalism. Removing brass plates is a response to a Constitution of justice and healing that one feels removed from. Behind this vandalism is a vandalism more difficult to photograph. The vandalism of the priceless worth of human beings.
7] Then finally into the paddocks. Quadrants of grass guarded by trees. Seated upright on a bench beneath the trees a person blows into his saxophone. Like a call to prayer. The haunting beauty of jazz floats on the air. The volume rises and falls with the strength of the wind. He plays for himself and yet at the same time he plays for everyone and for all of life. An imperfect offering. A generous gift.