How Then Shall We Live


Amethyst._Magaliesburg,_South_Africa wiki commons

How Then shall we live?

Asks Wayne Muller in his book of the same name. “ Who am I? What do I love? How shall I live, knowing I will die? What is my gift to the family of the earth? “ are his simple questions.

“You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people –

and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Fire is within us its a driving force fuelled by love passion and purpose. It also warms, heats us up.  For the Bushmen the fire is central to their life. It is a rope to the other world, when they dance it is around a fire, it is how they connect to that world believed by indigenous people to be their real home and this a home we are passing thorough as humans. When our fire becomes out of alignment it can turn outside to become,  rage, violence,  war and destruction, we are no longer climbing the rope to God.


As we approach the end of this fire year, I am struck by the obvious. Millions of acres in USA and Canada and here in South Africa burned down to the ground. The fires continue here in South Africa.  In Knysna 7 people were killed and the fires devastated thousands of homes and acres of “plantations”. Animals two weeks later were still found lost wandering around searching for food in the aftermath. Droughts along side floods, and hurricanes brought disasters of biblical proportions.

The rest of the world also saw fires and terrorist attacks and massive gun violence, an all too eerie “business as usual” as it’s now so common -place. The shadow of America raised its ugly head to show us what was already there and had been there all along, a leader of the “free world”  acting as a catalyst wearing a visible white hood,  is voted into power to shake up, stir up and boil up all that  rumbled under the surface. What we have witnessed is fire out of alignment, and it includes  the spate of gun violence and hate crimes.

His actions  also pushed women to speak up “Me too” when the Weinstein sexual violations scandal broke we’d had enough and we too began to uncover another part of the human species that we have known about but were too afraid to expose.  More importantly we did speak what had been held inside us, many more are now speaking wether it be for or against with or without, justice no justice we are speaking, and isn’t this what the world was waiting for?  When this all too familiar face of a man appeared in front of us in January 2017 to lead us to hell and back the fires broke. Some one wrote “Stop the world I want to get off” 

Hell NO! Don’t sit back, don’t stay silent, get up, stand up, change, the world responded.


Many who couldn’t express  appear lost,  afraid and too scared to move, helpless and hopeless, creating a freeze, a drought, a scarcity that is so deep it rocks the very core of our being. It is primal its called “survival” In that is a sense we are no longer protected, we can no longer trust, we are suspicious, immobilized. Do people shoot down 25 people in a church because they are sick or guns should be banned or are they so afraid, lost and how many more then are out there carrying  all of the above? DO we stop going  to church, leaving our homes, become frozen too? How then shall we live? 

It felt like wrath at times, punishment, an angry God, Nature had had enough, and each day I was and still am  reminded that messages are coming fast and furious in unimaginable suffering and grief and that it is all of that and also in some weird and beautiful event a sacred intervention, believing that  “every moment is an opportunity to change”

Out of the ashes many rose up,  shaken awake to protest, to speak up, to align with, to show our true selves and were offered in no uncertain terms the opportunity to wake up. 

Has it made us stronger as a human family, have we learned our lessons,  have we changed? Fire and mineral elements move alongside another with the mineral element being about dreaming envisioning and re imagining. When all has burned to the ground and we are left with the ashes, are we closer to  great spirit, ancestors and our creator? I believe so. Disasters bring us together reminding us in the great scheme of things we are not all there is, we are not alone we share a common bond of interconnectedness. And mother  Nature even the face of her devastation,when tiny buds start pushing through the charred land,  mirrors  to us, things will be restored but cannot, must not be the same again.

We use ash as an offering in the Dagara tradition in which I am an initiated stick diviner. Ash is what is left when the body is burned and is the closest to the spirit world. In the aftermath the answers we seek, live into, are no longer feint rememberings of something we think may have happened, can’t believe is happening or too afraid to say what we think may be happening. We have been shown raw truth, ugly shocking realities and blatant, frightening wake up calls.

Mullers question is an invitation not a command, an invitation to revision re dream and re remember the offering of the mineral element accompanying the fire. My questions keep coming back to this,  what’s the true nature of what I am experiencing, what can I draw from the indigenous people of the land of my birth, how then will I live where I can participate authentically in this living human document, in the understanding that the only reciprocation is to become more of myself  and climb the rope to reach God.


The spirit of man is nomad, his blood bedouin, and love is the aboriginal tracker on the faded desert spoor of his lost self. Laurens Van der post

  It is in the depths of difficult times that hurls us into an abyss of darkness, chaos and self evaluation. We are raw crystal, jagged edges, rough stone, black coal until we have been eroded by rushing waters or, cleansed by earth and cracked open  to reveal incredible facets of the alchemical gold we have always had inside. We have though been chipped away at,  unmasked, and in that raw state we have forever changed, another part of us has been opened, freed and we feel closer to something real, greater than ourselves, larger than life, the God of our understanding.

When we come through, everything is still the same but we are different.

More and more I understand the importance of not romanticising the ancient ways as though it’s a magic elixir that will solve all the worlds problems.  It’s not about going back to how we once were, its about re remembering what we already know so we can make sense of our changing world. It’s about building bridges of connection and re connection to the past to live in the present with the ultimate connection to spirit and leave a legacy in the future.  Its about infusing modernity and indigenous wisdom and culture in order to bring alignment in the world we live, so that we can heal past legacies and our children and the larger community can go forward. 


Bringing alignment, the true order of things as per the original peoples was to live alongside nature as a reflection of our own true nature. What we love we honor, protect preserve. If we don’t love nature how do we love ourselves how do we reach a consciousness that matters? Now we have risen up and spoken up isn’t action louder than words? We have entered the great forgetting.  All though is not lost, when we return to Nature, there we re remember what is already inscribed in our bones. Children have attention deficit disorder, and elders Alzheimer’s and the ones in-between we  have forgotten.  The messages I hear when I see floods and fires, earthquakes and tsunamis is that  we have not paid attention. The children are trying to get our attention, we have forgotten our elders have work to do, nature is trying to get our attention and the animals are trying to get our attention. The root word of attention is “give heed” or “apply ones mind to something,” how many more messages do we have to get before we give heed and when and if we do,  How then shall we live?

May all worlds bless and protect you always. Mbali


2 thoughts on “How Then Shall We Live

  1. Powerful reflection/provocation. How then shall we live? Seeing the pain, anger and urgency to decolonise in the current moment on South Africa’s university campuses, I am struck by this question most of all. How then shall we live? Living inside that question seems to offer the grounding that there must be a vision of how to live beyond violence/rage/wounding. Thank you.

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