‘Stimela’ as a metaphor for pain, and why I’ve been inconsistent

“We are told… that they think about their land and their herds that were taken away from them with the gun and the bomb and the tear gas and the gatling and the cannon… and they curse the coal train. The  coal train that brought them to Johannesburg.”
Five years later and forever, one of my favourites. From one of the greats. Jazz in its purest form. Deep, emotional, painful, touching the soul. Pain is something we all share. We have all felt it; or will. It is a part of life. Stimela, meaning ‘steam train’ in my native language of isiZulu, communicates pain in its deepest form.

Music has an immense power to communicate emotion. And few artists can do so as artfully and naturally as South African Jazz musician, Hugh Masekela. One of my long time favourites.

This song speaks of South Africa’s apartheid migrant labour system and the degradation, pain, humiliation and destruction that it caused. Pain, however, is universal. And if you have ever felt it. This song, this song in particular will resonate with you.

As for why I’ve been inconsistent. I’ve been involved in a new endeavour. One that has taught me a lot and has impacted me, albeit sometimes painfully, for the better.

Here it is. There’s nothing like it.

The Foe called Fear

Fear is that uninvited dialogue in my head that raises its voice every time I attempt to write my thoughts honestly, and candidly. It is false armor. It pretends to provide protection; but really all it does is encase and suffocate. It is the brother of anxiety, the cousin of depression, the grandfather of failure, and the evil twin of regret. Because, I find, that fear always, somehow, leads to regret.

Growing up, my mum always told me not to use the word ‘can’t’.

I understand that now. Because the lexicon of fear is ‘can’t’, ‘don’t’, ‘won’t’, ‘never’ and, deceptively, ‘later’. Fear will remind you of what is impossible. And every time you consider what is possible, it will remind you of every possible hindrance to your possibilities, until the possible becomes impossible, too.

Fear is the colonizer who will not stop until it has taken all of you. It thrives in the absence of hope and creates a vacuum, where hope cannot exist. Fear is a friend of no one. It has been my foe for many years; and something I have fought against, struggled with, at times even conquered, but only recently started to understand.

I will write more on this topic in future. This piece, however, is more for my personal benefit than anyone else’s. One day I will find myself skimming through my archives. And that might be a day that I need to remind myself to resist the foe called fear. And perhaps reexamine areas of my life where I have allowed this foe to linger, or even dwell.


Resist it. Fight it. Conquer it.


Light, space, zest—that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. – Psalm 27:1 MSG



Here’s a thought:

Life is short.

We are here today; gone tomorrow.

In the grand scheme of things, 90% of what we worry about is of zero consequence. We worry about the actions of others (that we cannot change) but not about what will be said of us at our funeral.

Or what legacy we will leave behind. What our mark will be on our community; or world.


Why not turn off your phone for the weekend. What’s the worst that could happen?

I think many of us could do with just a little perspective.

A Reflection, a tribute: Muhammad Ali

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, in Louisville Kentucky, 1942, the man known as “The Greatest: Muhammad Ali” was pronounced dead today, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

The Greatest

He told himself he was the greatest before he ever was. He worked harder, longer, smarter than anyone else. He overcame every obstacle and disadvantage the world had set before him before birth, and after. He was hated, he was loved. But he said he was The Greatest before he ever was; and he became what he said. He became the greatest.

I am a person of habit. Today, Saturday morning the 4th June, I woke up, made my coffee: milk, no sugar. I turned on my iPad to see the day’s news. And there it was. One of the most audacious, inspirational men of our generation, a black man, who dared to be the best. Today he is gone.

Growing up with my mother, an avid (closet) boxing fan, I knew that I could not stay silent about this. I knew this news would shake up my household, at least a little. And I knew, almost as a duty, that I need to honour his memory; and his life.

Such is the nature of life. We are here today; gone tomorrow. But his memory will live on; it must live on. This is my contribution: what I have learned from Mr Ali, the vital lessons for life that I hope will never be lost. Not on this generation, nor the next.


(Source: Entrepello.com)

  1. From birth, the world will try to tell you who you are. You define your identity; you define who you are.

“My name is not Clay. Clay is the name of the people who owned my ancestors. My name is Cassius X.”

Mr Ali had a unique ability to see the world beyond his disadvantages. He decided he would shape his life the way that he wanted, regardless of if any had done so successfully before him. He rejected the identity society placed on him; and he rejected it wholly.

He decided that he, and only he, would define his destiny. He fought the status quo. He tried to please no one.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

A beautiful motto, and if any, word for word, it is one to live by.


  1. Never, ever give up. 

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit’. Suffer now and live he rest of your life as a champion.”

Do what you dislike, and do it first. If you have the audacity to dream big, if you have the audacity to see yourself achieving your ultimate goal in your mind’s eye; you had better be willing to work hard, make great sacrifices and be very uncomfortable along the way.


(Source: i.huffpost.com)

  1. Gratitude

“I’ve been everywhere in the world, seen everything, had everything a man can have.”

In my opinion, it is vital to actively exercise gratitude. I keep a gratitude journal; and have found that focusing on what I have, on my blessings, helps me to position and orientate my mind in the direction of my goals, but more importantly, steer it away from negativity, thoughts of inadequacy, complaints and excuses.

Actively practicing gratitude helps me to get my focus right.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out: it’s the pebble in your shoe.”


  1. Failure only makes you stronger; so long as you do not fail in your mind.

“Only a man who knows what it is to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”

In life you will experience many failures; unless you never put yourself in the position to fail. If you are in the ring, you will, at some point be defeated. But an incident of defeat should never create a personality of defeat. Defeat should never be internalized in that way. You have only truly lost once you have lost the battle of will, heart and mind.

I learned this the hard way. But sometimes, the hard way is the best way to learn.



(Source: boxingjunkie.usatoday.com)


  1. Set your mind to your goals and then align your words

My favourite Muhammad Ali quote of all time:

“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

Great words spoken by a great man, who knew something that the world at large did not. I have no doubt that his lessons, and legacy will live on. And, that each one of us, in this short, fickle affair we call life, will be able to use it to impact others after us. That our time on this earth will not be wasted. But that it will be an asset to our families, communities and mankind.

As was the life of the The Greatest, Mr Muhammad Ali.


– Chonye