Archive for January, 2012


Have you ever watched Dead Poets Society? I watched it first as a much younger version of myself, no doubt because my sisters had rented it from the video store (yeah VHS – retro cool!). Of course I could think of cooler things to watch than what if I’m honest sounded pretty boring… I mean poets? And dead ones? Geez… boring… of course maybe if it was more like ‘The Return of the Dead Poets’ or ‘The Living Dead Poets Society’ or something it would have been more enticing to a 9-year-old, head-in-the-clouds kid like myself. I mean zombies, and poetical zombies… That’s good TV. Anyways, I digress, the movie, right:

So I begrudgingly watched the movie. The grudge slowly turned to awe though, and this may have been when I first entertained the idea of becoming a teacher like the awe-inspiring, oh captain my captain, John Keating (played by Robin Williams).

The Living Dead Poets Society

The Living Dead Poets Society

Much later on, the idea resurfaced when I realised  some time in 2010 that I was not really cut out for industry work as a Mechanical Engineer. I began to truly enjoy my studies and realised the academic life may suite me better. I had a few conversations with a few lecturers that I had at the time with whom I had been impressed. With the information gained from these conversations I began considering the lifestyle that an academic might have. I became convinced that I wanted to pursue such a lifestyle. The lifestyle sounded a lot more like freedom than any industry job I’d come across before.

I had the perfect style of erm, hair, and thinking to be that crazy and eccentric, bushy haired professor that the majority of university and college students love to hate. I could be that tweed jacket wearing, wildly intelligent (or at least appearing so to undergraduates) Prof. who finds potential in a few young minds and moulds and shapes them to become astute, shrewd and wise.

This has become a real passion of mine. Finding young minds and hearts to shape with what I have come to believe are extremely important truths. Truths not only about science or maths or English, but about the world. Philosophy. Religion. Psychology. Truth.

As time went on and the idea of vagabonding grew in substance and passion; this idea of teaching as John Keating did began to merge with the longing I had to travel and see the world, and by doing so; to widen my perspectives with which I see the world. In order to set out to share deep and wise perspectives with young minds, I would have to make sure my own perspectives were not narrow and unworthy of reproduction.

Hence the travelling, teaching, missionary-explorer-vagabond.

This goal for this year has taken shape now with its first phase beginning on the 7th of February 2012, where I will be joining CAPRO, a missionary organisation working to supplement the substandard education of grade 11 and grade 12 students in the largely rural area known as The Valley of 1000 Hills in the Kwazulu-Natal region of South Africa.

I have had many concerns since deciding to follow this path a few months ago, the smallest of which is not money. As many of my friends get jobs and begin to earn money this year as newly graduate engineers and as they begin to pay back their parents for their education, I find myself in a position such that I am completely and totally in the arms of my God who must fulfil his promise to provide for me while I do what I believe he has ‘called’ me to do.

Every now and again however, (with increasing frequency) I find myself quite excited to have jumped into what I have only spoken and postulated about before. The new environment to experience, the new challenges to figure out and battle, the lessons to learn, the young minds to shape and the spiritual strength to gain. All of these things have become of infinite importance to me, and I feel complete peace (most of the time) in giving up a corporate career and all of the security that comes with one this year, in order to chase them down.

I know this whole idea of the Inspiring Professor is very romanticised in the Dead Poets Society movie, but I don’t expect an exact replication, I just expect to make some noticeable difference in a neglected group of young and potential filled students that come out of adverse conditions and may still accomplish great things, if given the chance.

Peace.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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The last thing that I mentioned was that I had completed my degree after 5 arduous and astoundingly special years at University. I was off on an adventure, with the first stop being an outreach to the LIV-village orphanage in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa where I was privileged enough to logistically head up the musical worship aspect of the outreach…

Though I have many thoughts on this time I thought it would be more poignant and critical to fulfil my promise and extrapolate on what my plans were and are now, for the next phase of my path finding journey. So have a look around for the post after or before this one where you can read the stories of LIV village and its people. Right now though:

See, about 4 months ago the very guy who now inscribes his thoughts on your internet met a girl. This guy and this girl had liked each other for a long, long time, however providence and fate conspired such that this guy and girl only got together at the end of their degrees. Two months before each setting off in prospectively opposite directions. The guy, off to who knows where and the girl off to show and produce hope, love and meaning to the downtrodden and poverty stricken of the rural Transkei, South Africa.

As vagabond doctrine condensed and took on shape and further significance in the mind of the guy; a plan, a sacrifice, a solution and an adventure began to find clarity, with a first step being in the form of a roadtrip down to said rural Transkei, South Africa.

The girl and guy therefore travelled down to the LIV village together in the landrover defender that would come to be called Livingston, named after the missionary explorer, with the intent to backpack their way down the Eastern coast of South Africa, so as to eventually reach the Hospital where the girl would work for the rest of 2012.

I (the guy) was embarking on this journey for at least 3 reasons:

1)      Support the girl in her move toward her calling among the poor and uncared for.

2)      Finally complete a goal that was set 4 years prior and take a roadtrip along the coast of South Africa

3)      Attempt to discover God’s calling on my life. Discover where He is leading me. To determine if there was an opportunity near to the girl where I could be a missionary and continue to be close to her (who he was gradually beginning to realise he couldn’t do without for very long, such were his feelings for her)

4)      Begin the process of adapting and discovering the merits and truths of this idea of living as a christ following vagabond, as a free agent of the lord, a traveller and a real seeker of truths and all that is really important in this world.

The journey began as the other LIV village volunteers left in their bus early on the 16th of December, on their way back to Pretoria and their holidays and lives back home. The girl and guy packed up the landrover and with a rumble of the engine and the clatter of camping gear in the back set off on their adventure.

The extent of the couple’s planning covered about two pages of my moleskin notebook and a hastily scrawled A4 itinerary; we were going to wing it. Not necessarily by design, but that’s how things worked out, and we felt freed by the open possibilities presented to us through minimal planning.

We travelled from backpackers to backpackers, realising that for R100 per night one could spend the night in some of the most beautiful places in South Africa. On a whim we took the 4×4 route through the mountains of the Transkei, traversing some of the most beautiful scenery and scary off-roads I’ve ever seen.

Livingston carefully carrying us for days on end across the mountains and valleys, small Xhosa huts dotting the landscape, children running alongside us and friendly villagers giving us directions whenever our GPS failed.

At one point we found ourselves at the entrance to a game reserve we never intended to reach. The friendly guards  at the entrance explained to us through broken English where we lost our way and so we turned around and began heading back, we were intrigued however by a little dirt (off)road (very off road!) leading up a little hill onto a grassy slope. So we decided to see what was at the top. Livingston carefully climbed up and then, as we edged up the hill, a sudden and unexpected view I will never forget came into view…

The coast stretched out before us, hundreds of meters below us the waves broke upon kilometres of beach, reaching out to sea again on another cliff and then retreating back inland to meet more sheer cliff face and lush forest greenery.

After many more such experiences we eventually reached Madwaleni Hospital where the girl was to work. This hospital is 60km of mostly dirt roads to the nearest little town. Rural in its deepest form.

After a night here the majority of our journey was over and we began to head back to Pretoria, via a much more direct and tarred route.

There are many more stories to tell, for now I’ll leave it here though because this post has grown quite large.

The next instalment will follow, and will be available for when you find yourself with a few minutes of free time on the webternet.

What comes next?

The next couple articles you’ll read here are:

1)      How I have officially become a full time missionary and the mission I’ll be involved in till June.

2)      How I will be travelling to the East to do more missionary work there, including my plans for taking a Muay Thai fight in Lat-Krabang, Bangkok, Thailand.

3)      The stories that unfolded out of the LIV village adventure

4)      The rest of the roadtrip story.

5)      Lots of photography.

6)      I may even upload some music I’ve been working on.

Peace.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

People keep telling me how they only way to ensure a good readership on a blog is to be consistent with posts and uploads. This has always irked me because I know that this will always be one of my failings, I am uncontrollably inconsistent and sporadic in content creation…

This comes as a result of a few key reasons:

1)      I have been known to be incredulously lazy.

2)      I tend to appreciate the idea of something almost as much as (or even more than, sometimes) the thing itself. This means that sometimes I’ll postulate and invent an entire post in my mind which screams of descriptive ingenuity, clear profundity and obtuse insight, however I’ll be so happy with myself for having created such serenely exquisite content that my satisfaction will be complete and instead of putting it down on paper or LCD I’ll make a cup of coffee/tea/hot beverage and do something else instead.

3)      As time piles up like a thick layer of dust on my previous post, I begin to fear and worry about how I haven’t posted in so long. I will inevitably then disappear into the webternet/pc game/sci-fi novel/whatever to escape my inconsolable grief and discontent at my lack of content on this blog since my last entry.

4)      The inevitable result of this crippling guilt and decrepitating defeat is that I attempt to counter the moral injustice inflicted upon my readers by deciding that the next post will be dramatically brilliant and exceptional. That it will be the best thing you’ve ever read. That major news broadcasters will hear of the vast traffic, slowing the intertubes, as people flock to my blog, and feature it on prime time television. So rich in depth and precise in execution that I’ll be swept from my seat by swarming fans and offered sacks of money, innumerable peace prizes, literary awards, fame… This of course suddenly becomes a bit too intimidating to do right away and so I disappear into the webternet/pc game/sci-fi novel/whatever to escape my inconsolable grief and discontent at my lack of content on this blog since my last entry. It’s all just a horrible cycle actually.

A badly drawn comic (c) Jack Figure aka Jeremy

A badly drawn comic (c) Jack Figure aka Jeremy

With that said, I have just broken the cycle and written three posts, including this one. The next two will follow tomorrow and the next day, come back and see, they’ll be good. I promise.

Peace.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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