The son of Lithuanian immigrants, he served as captain of the school’s boxing team, fought in a world war, and traded a career as an accountant for pottery.
But perhaps his greatest achievement has been his constant and constant presence in my life. It was always about. The farthest he would be was a 10 minute walk through a pine forest. He was never “in the office” or “in a meeting”, and when he was “away from his desk” he was probably sitting under a tree sipping a cup of Rooibos and looking at the mountain.
The environment he chose for his home and studio was idyllic, but it was the quality of being he brought to the world that stood out. For many decades, visitors flocked from all over the world to visit the master potter. They didn’t just come for pottery. They were there to experience my father’s presence – the presence of a man completely at peace with himself and the world around him. Someone who, as a friend once said, “provided unconditional love, inspiration and hope for a different kind of life to be lived.” A life of purpose, passion and discovery.
A few months ago (before the request to write this article hit my inbox), I woke up at 3 a.m. and found myself “downloading” some of her guidelines for living a living. blooming. Hope some of them resonate with you.
Follow your heart relentlessly. If pursuing your passion means subletting your cabin and sleeping in an oven for six months to make ends meet, you’ll be fine.
Spend years perfecting whatever profession it is. Creativity is born from repetition. And whistle.
If you need a mentor, find one. If they live in a remote location (like Cornwall, Abuja, or White River), make a plan and show up at their front door. Or organize a Zoom call… don’t come and pick up their children from church in a sarong, it makes the neighbors nervous.
Do your morning stretches. Practice drawing the alphabet with your nose while lying down (apparently it’s good for your neck).
Cultivate a healthy disregard for material wealth, possessions, and property in general. As the memes proclaim, “The best things in life aren’t things. “
If you have a hard time staying warm in the winter, get a Channel Islands fisherman’s jersey (preferably a Guernsey jersey – Jersey jerseys aren’t great). Feel free to wear your Guernsey, a balaclava, and a pair of veldskoen to bed (especially if you live in an oven).
Clean decks regularly – there’s a reason Confucius didn’t sit on his mat until he was upright (and yes, that reason could be that he had OCD, but still).
There’s no shame in taking a nap during the day, even if it’s when you get to work. If your boss won’t let you take a nap, sharpening pencils is the second best form of procrastination.
Eat healthy. Store your muesli ingredients in your favorite jars. Experiment with bean stews. If you store your backpack with padkos, remember that raw carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli cure all kinds of ailments. Keep in mind that when it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Are you sure your trip, they are on theirs. Whenever possible, contribute your work to a good cause.
Cherish old friends and photo albums. Make new ones.
If you are lucky enough to have a partner, cherish them and be prepared to let the inevitable storms pass. Life is too short to waste time fighting anyone. (Except the Nazis. If you have the chance to fight Nazis, you should fight Nazis. Even if sand fly fever and seborrheic dermatitis send you home without firing a shot).
Spend time in nature as often as possible. Hike to Sandy Bay early on a Sunday morning, but leave before the bizarre nudists arrive. Camp in the wild, count shooting stars, keep your eyes peeled for archaeological remains, drink ‘moerkoffie’ (preferably stirred with a flaming stick) and be careful not to smash your ankle after overdosing on Old Brown Sherry .
Walk regularly through the forests. Find a good place to rest along the way where you can be quiet, contemplate life, and take an anti-angina tablet (especially if you have angina).
If (and when) your body fails, be patient with it. If you need triple bypass and they need to open you from your guggle to your zatch (as James Thurber said), take your recovery step by step. Be surprised by your own resilience.
Spend time with the kids, your own or others. Involve them in your work. Help them crack pine nuts, hunt mushrooms and commune with fireflies on hot summer nights. Enjoy their joyful abandon and their curiosity. Allow them to remind you of your true nature.
Love your mother, despite her weaknesses.
Take an interest in others.
Be generous in spirit.
But above all, be nice.
Finally, if in doubt, check out Hamlet’s Polonius (which your older brother luckily forced you to memorize for your 1937 English exam):
This above all: be true to yourself
And he must follow, like night to day,
So you cannot be wrong with any man. DM / ML
In memory of Hym Rabinowitz (1920-2009).
My father’s lessons is a series of interviews and stories collected and written by Steve Anderson. Anderson was a high school teacher for 32 years, 26 of which were at two schools in east London and the last six at a school in Cape Town where he heads the Welfare and Development department and teaches English and guidance at the life. Throughout his career, he has been interested in the role of fathers in the lives of their children. He says, “This series is not intended to hold back those who are presented as ‘The Perfect Father’. It’s simply a collection of stories, each told by a son or daughter whose life has been, or whose life has been in some way or another, positively influenced by their father… And that doesn’t take away not the important role played by maternal figures in the formation of their children. These are the stories from another series!