“And so we come to it, the place”, says Ovid in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life after crossing the Ister river with the Child who is leading him to the fulfilment of his metamorphosis and the place beyond the oppressive land he once called home where he will flare up like a butterfly and drink deeply of freedom’s springs.
And so we too come to it, the place— the place between yesterday and tomorrow where all our hopes wait to burst out of cocoons to give us an iridescent present: the place of our dreams.
There are many stories about the place. It is called by many names. To some it is known as inheritance or the land of promise. Others call it home. Our story holds the promise of a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end. Somewhere over the rainbow there is a prize for everyone, a kingdom where we are all kings and queens. A better life for all.
A better life for all? A better life for all.
This is the dream. And where there is a dream there can be hope. And where there is hope there can be perseverance. And where there is perseverance— well, anything can happen.
History belongs to those who got up again and again and again and said they would not rest until their dream came to pass. Others gave their lives but never saw the fulfilment of their hope. Dr. Charlotte Maxeke. Ida Mtwana. Walter Sisulu. Chief Albert Luthuli. Lillian Ngoyi. Oliver Tambo. Victoria Mxenge. Ruth Mompati. Nelson Mandela. A few names among the many heroes, both sung and unsung, who made this present possible. Twenty-seven years spent unjustly in prison can leave a person thirsty for revenge, instead Mandela chose to forgive and helped to save us from descending into a bloody season of unbridled vengeance and retribution, if not all-out civil war. Things could have looked very different sixteen years into this stumbling experiment called the Rainbow Nation. But they don’t.
So what if things aren’t perfect at the moment? So what if we still feel a bit awkward when our lives intersect in unfamiliar ways? So what if the ‘suspect other’ has moved in next door or is adopting our sacred traditions? So what if the ride is a little bumpy? Since when has history not been a turbulent ride? The secret is to learn to have fun riding this wave and to exit on the other side struck with wonder at the beauty of this miracle of a nation at the tip of a marvelous continent on this pale, blue dot called earth, this speck perfectly positioned in the solar system to preserve the fragile but glorious lives we lead despite the fact that at times we are hell-bent on destroying ourselves while at others our acts of compassion border on touching the divine.
And so what if this article is a touch too sentimental? It’s time we left our pity parties behind and started to dream once again. One thing is for sure, when we do we will find that those discontent, dissenting voices that sound out from every corner don’t matter anymore. It might even change the way we look at each other, seeing the treasure inside of the many local and foreign individuals we have the privilege of sharing our communities with instead of as potential threats to our livelihood. Perhaps we will find South Africa a radically changed place when we open our eyes to the dream materialising at the rainbow’s end?
Perhaps. We can only dream… Come, let us sit down together and dream again.