I had trouble deciding which part of the last two weeks to write about in my final column for 2015.
I sit here looking back on the past 10 days and my head reels at what has happened and what has been said. Do I write about Paris? But what about Beirut? Do I write about Israel? But what about the Palestinian territories? Do I write about the four Israeli Generals that BDS SA said the South African Police were issuing warrants of arrest for over the Gaza Flotilla incident in 2010? It’s really been a plum week for half-truths, accusations and horrible statements from all sides. Do I write about Chanukah and just run away from the mess regarding politics and religion?
The story goes that there was a king who had grown old and was looking to see which of his three sons should take over the throne and rule his land.
The eldest son was a natural leader, strong and brave. The middle son was really smart and great at arguing a point and the youngest son was kind and gentle.
Who would be the best son to rule the kingdom?
The king thought and thought and then decided that whichever of his sons could fill a small room in the castle completely and utterly to capacity, would be worthy of ruling his land.
The oldest son went first. He chose to fill the room with rocks. He carried heavy, huge boulders and threw them into the room. He shoved pockets of pebbles in between and when there was almost no room left, he poured even smaller grains into the cracks. When the king came to see his son’s work, he was impressed — a room filled with hard, unyielding rocks of all sizes. “You may yet take my throne,” proclaimed the king and he ordered the room to be emptied for the second son.
The middle son, who was smart and quick, decided to use paper. He found reams and reams of paper. And piled the room high. Once he couldn’t find any more reams, he crumpled sheets of paper into balls and pushed them into the spaces left behind. Tiny little scrunched up pieces of paper filled the gaps. When the king came to see his son’s work he was doubly impressed. “Your brother still had little holes between the rocks he chose to fill the room — the paper you have used has filled the room far better — you may yet take my throne,” proclaimed the king and he ordered the room to be emptied for the third son.
Being a gentle and kind person, the youngest son was unsure of how to proceed. He couldn’t use rocks — that just wasn’t his style and he couldn’t use all that paper — that wasn’t how he operated. The third son took a candle and lit it and immediately flooded the room with light.
The king, and even the older brothers, could not deny that the room was filled to capacity with warm, glowing candlelight. The king had found his worthy successor. If rocks symbolise our capacity for violence and paper our apparently never- ceasing ability to argue our points, I think my anecdote becomes pretty obvious. If we fill the world with rocks and paper, we will have a world of violence, both physical and verbal.
In the words of Somali–British writer, poet, editor and teacher Warsan Shire:
This is my message to our community this month. It is my message regarding Beirut, proposed walls through Jerusalem, terror attacks in Paris, Facebook incitement to violence, terror attacks in Nigeria, the future of the Middle East, judging people publicly for not grieving in the right amounts for the right things and the Swedish Foreign Minister. It is my message regarding changing profile pictures to other countries’ flags, and then changing them back.