“Listen to your elder’s advice, not because they are always right but because they have more experiences of being wrong.” – Unknown author
“Kokwani” is the Shangaan word for “elder” (it can refer to both grandmother and grandfather) and I was struck recently by how lucky we are at Londolozi to have so many kokwanis, many of whom have been at Londolozi for decades. In fact, in our remote bush community we are privileged not only to have many elders, but also to have something that is becoming a noticeable rarity: access to the wisdom of those elders. Time spent just “being” with our elders is encouraged – this is time spent in exchange, time spent learning, time spent quietly problem-solving (and laughing). It is a part of our culture that is safe-guarded and revered and I can tell you that I have learnt invaluable lessons (Colbert Mdluli’s contagious “Hakuna Matata” on Varty deck comes to mind, and so does Linah Lamula’s exceptional retelling of the history of the Shangaan people, not to mention Richard Siwela’s “how not to get eaten by a leopard” stories).
Which brings me to what I would like to share today:
One of our long-standing and much-loved kokwanis has recently returned home to Londolozi after a two month sabbatical. Gogo Mo (known more formally as Maureen Groch) is a teacher, the coordinator of the Londolozi Digital Learning Centre, a member of the Londolozi Women’s Cooperative and, most importantly, a respected Londolozi elder.
Shortly after Gogo Mo’s return, a group of us gathered in the shade of a tree and Gogo Mo shared three pieces of wisdom that she felt came back to her while she was away (she also shared her sabbatical reading list, which can be found below and is highly recommended).
These thoughts are not long, but we thought we’d take the time to share.
- Rest is a necessity
The word “sabbatical” is derived from the word “sabbath” and refers to a period of rest. I always say that it is important to listen to your body. Your creativity, your lateral thinking, your ability to see things clearly all require that you rest, and that you find peace and enjoyment in rest.
- Find stillness
Remember, rest does not mean “party” or “watch television” or “catch up on admin”. As necessary as it is to rest, it is as important to find stillness in that rest. In the words of the songwriter, singer and poet, Leonard Cohen, find stillness so that you may “see things more clearly and love more dearly.” I am also reminded of the words of our very own Boyd Varty from his article What City Slickers can Learn from Bush Dwellers: “We need more firelight and candlelight – more occasions and environments that facilitate the gentle transmission of intimacy.”
- Think about the path less travelled
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
I took the one less travelled by
And that made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
There have been times in my life where I have had to be brave and choose the path that is less travelled. And here’s a surprise – I’m still taking the road less travelled. As a professional educator I believe the way of real progress in education will be achieved by following the path less travelled. A very different model is needed as we move into the future with hope and possibilities for a better world. That model needs to make learning addictive, just as addictive as the Internet, television, apps and online games. I may be a kokwani, but I know all about “learning in the cloud” and to get there, I have had to adapt and make some decisions that aren’t always conventional.
To summarise, through investing in rest and finding stillness, I have been able to walk with more courage down the road less travelled.
Now if that isn’t wisdom, I don’t know what is. Here’s Gogo Mo’s sabbatical reading list:
Iyer, Pico. The Art of Stillness – Adventures in Going Nowhere
Backman, Frederik. A Man Called Ove
Diamandis, Peter & Kottler, Steven. Abundance: The Future is Better than you Think
Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist
Have you read any of the books on Gogo Mo’s reading list? Are there any books that you would add? We would love to hear from you.