The musings of a silly student... And not much else.

The musings of a silly student... And not much else.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have taken it upon myself, as an exercise in thinking and writing and comprehension, to offer a piece of writing to you every day this week. Upon which inexhaustible theme will I base these writings, I hear you ask. Well, I am going to go about this thinking and learning and mulling over-thing in the simplest (and probably most effective) way possible. I am going to choose a book, every day, and open it on a random page, pointing my finger blindly at a random word on this page. This word will lead my discussions, observations, and general meanderings this week. I will tell you a little about the book and its significance to me, as well.

This year, I have noticed in myself an insatiable hunger. Not insatiable metaphorically, but literally unsatisfiable. Try as I might to placate my ravenous cravings with food, new clothes, parties or whatever other exciting but largely pointless activity or interest came my way, I could not pinpoint the origin or nature of this craving. Growing quite sick of gorging myself on sweets and other assorted junk in my spiritual quest to fulfillment, I decided that eating was not the way. When I started to see my addiction to food or shopping or whatever else was new that week as a craving, an effort to fill some deeper vacancy inside myself, my thoughts started trying this metaphor out for size. It's been reiterated by many a philosopher, psychologist, and aspiring crackpot, though - I didn't come up with this one myself.

An interesting book that has helped me to understand a lot about my feeling of insatiable hunger and compulsive attempts to ease it is called The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness, written by Kim Chernin. It is, to make a long book a short sentence, a book about women and their socialised rejection of their own femininity, leading to obsessive dieting or beauty regimens to try to fill the void left by their casting off of an intrinsic part of their selves. Chernin seemed a little fixated on the image of the primordial "Earth Mother" and the parallels drawn between being fertile and nurturing with being fat, bordering on dangerously obese. I have no problem with her assertion that voluptuousness and curves are as much a part of being female as fertility and the ability to nurture, but I find her argument subjective and quite one-dimensional. She did not, in all her reference to what is "natural" and "instinctual" and "right", take into account that most fat women today are that way because of a deeply unnatural lifestyle, complete with a junk diet and complete lack of physical activity.

Just a couple of thoughts on the constant battle being waged in the world between 'thin' and 'fat'.

The word upon which I stumbled in The Obsession is "discover", and I was quite shocked to see that this would be my word for the day. I selected the word at random after finishing the book, but while reading it I came across a quote that I found interesting and inspiring:

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
- Albert Szent-Györgyi

How's that for a coincidence? Now, I will tell you a little about discovery, discovering, and how I apply these terms to my own life.

If you pick the word apart, discovery simply means to uncover something that already exists, to remove the veil obscuring it from your view. Therefore, a discovery is not the same as an invention, but awesome in a whole different way.

My favourite daily discovery is that of the awe-inspiring beauty, self-sufficiency, and intrinsic weirdness of nature. I love having my breath taken away by glistening leaves, I love breathing their scent, I love marveling at the intricacies of every flower as equally as of every creeping, crawling bug and every soaring bird.

Yesterday, while taking a walk with me in the Botanical Gardens here in Grahamstown, Ben said something that I found quite amusing (and very interesting). He said: "The greatest thing about nature is that, thanks to natural selection, everything is pretty much the most awesome it could ever be at any point in time". Our walk was punctuated by other beautiful moments, as well. We saw a flower of the most breathtakingly beautiful colouring and patterns, the flower of an unassuming weed, a flower I had never laid eyes on before. We also saw a magnificent hawk, soaring above us as we sat on a rocky overhang overlooking the City of Saints.

When I don't take at least a five minute walk in nature - whether it be the botanical gardens, a Tsitsikamma forest, or right outside my res - I start to feel antsy, restless, and confused. My thoughts become a neurotic blur, and I feel heavy and depressed. One could say that I have learned to fill a large part of my soul-hunger by simply staring at nature and expressing my simple awe and gratitude at its existence and my ability to share in it.

And when we go for walks, we never step on flowers.


  1. Haai Kayla!

    Dankie vir daardie blog. Dit was/is vir my baie roerend om te lees.

    My ervaring van my oudste dogter se eerste jaar ver weg van die huis af op universiteit is een van verwondering en trots en dan 'n emosie wat ek nie in net een woord kan beskryf nie: ek dink ek kan die gevoel beskryf as 'n intense happiness-by-proxy in jou journey of (self)(other)(thought)(possibility) discovery.

    Dis nou nie so elegant, of selfs eens taalsuiwer gestel nie, maar basies wil ek sê dat ek dit so geniet om te sien hoe jy dit so geniet om die lewe en jou self te ontdek!

    Dis soos toe jy klein was en ek met jou gaan stap het op die plaas in Eastwolds. Ons stappies kon ure neem al het ons net 'n paar meter gevorder, want daar was elke paar treë 'n wonderwerk (soos 'n wurm) of 'n skat van onmeetbare waarde (soos 'n stukkie blink glas) om te ontdek. Jy is nog steeds besig om te verwonder en te ontdek.

    Ek is so bevoorreg om te kan ervaar hoe hierdie pragtige vlinder uit haar kokon beur en in die wye wêreld invaar!

    Ek is lief vie jou, Kaylawê.

  2. En ek is hoendervleis oor my dogter en haar dogter. I am in awe...