Monday, November 25, 2013

The "truth"

We tend to think that, when the truth comes to us, it will be in a box, clearly marked The Truth and pre-organized for easy use. It does not work that way. It's more like a huge haystack, with a few tiny needles hidden inside.

So what am I doing? Well, I have a few needles in the palm of my hand. Which means I'm probably looking for a haystack. Or two...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Art of Understanding

Some time ago, I wrote a somewhat wry blog post on the joys of being misunderstood, which can be found here. Soon after I realized that I would inevitably end up writing about understanding as well, or rather, the art of understanding, because to me, that is what it has become. An art form, like music or painting or story-telling, rather than an absolute.

One way of explaining what I mean by that, would be to tell you about Table Mountain. This mountain dominates the scenery of Cape Town and has a very distinctive outline, from the city side, but there are many other faces and perspectives to it. From Kirstenbosch Garden it presents a completely different face and again, from the Atlantic seaboard side. You really wouldn't say it is the same mountain at all. To borrow an analogy from Robert Heinlein, how do you know the WHOLE house is painted white, if you've only seen one of its walls?

In the same way, the process of attempting to understand something, keeps shifting, showing new vantage points to the reality you are trying to grasp. Understanding, in its true form, is an active, ever-changing song, that keeps playing different phrases to your consciousness. It keeps refining itself... finding new pathways to the same destination. It is not frozen within a single moment. Understanding does not stop unfolding. You are never, ever finished ... in fact if you are done understanding, it probably means that, really, you are done with the process of understanding... you have thrown in the towel, or perhaps, you arrived at a certain spot, grown attached to that particular viewpoint, and now you do not want to move on anymore... It means, "I've made up my mind; stop adding things to it. I don't want to know any more. I'm closing the door and switching off my brain now."

Being understood, often hurts.

Understanding hurts doubly so.

Understanding is like an alchemy of ideas that briefly blends to a particular compound. But, tomorrow, life will add something... perhaps time, perhaps another element or thought to consider and then the compound is transformed into something completely new... the only constant being the ability to continue changing...

Friday, September 27, 2013

The key turns...

They spiral out
from inside of me
all the who's
that I could be...

(This is an old drawing, dating back to August 2009)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A personal koan...

If you have been painted into a corner, how do you escape before the paint dries? There are at least two solutions to this one...

(definition of a koan: 'A paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.')

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You're the most misunderstood person on the planet? And this is a problem?

... this train of thought began months ago, when some metal musician (I think it was Mike Portnoy, ex of Dream Theatre) called himself the most misunderstood person on the planet... and my first knee-jerk response was: And this is a problem how?

Having spent 40 plus years on the planet, I can safely say I've probably had a fair amount of experience being understood and being misunderstood and when the dust clears and the smoke and mirrors road show that is the human ego goes silent, I'll say this... being understood can be a heck of a lot MORE uncomfortable than being misunderstood...

Being misunderstood, on the other hand, can be one of the greatest opportunities for entertainment and inspiration. Being misunderstood has given me some of the best laughs of my life... and an untold wealth in song and story ideas. In my opinion, every creative person should relish and embrace being misunderstood. Sure, the ego wants people to get how clever he/she is, but let me tell you a little secret, the ego is neither the artist nor the genius, so screw his/her precious little feelings...

Life is a game, and words can be the game pieces or the boxes you hide in... if you truly want to play, hold your secrets close and stay just beyond the edge of shadow and mystery... because, if you want to have fun, then being misunderstood is definitely the longer game...

But that's just me...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Not quite #fridayflash fiction: Pondering the Rat King

The Rat King first came into our world three years and three moons ago. He brought a gift, but hid a barb. And in his wake, nothing was ever the same again...

This week I read The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman. After I cried for the fox and for the monk, what lingered were the dour words of Dream: 'Lessons were learnt." This is true also of the Rat King. Lessons were learnt. But at times, I can't help wondering:

Will the marks of his claws and his teeth ever heal completely?

Would it be wise to wish some of his trickery undone?

Who was he really?

The Rat King

The Rat King steals
from door to door
Across the wall
and through the floor
He nips your scars
scratching your pain
Because he wants
to make you bleed again

The Rat King sniffs
at your mistakes
He chews and chews
till something breaks
The Rat King rules
the underground
Where only tears
and misery's found

The Rat King tends
that patch of weeds
and waters all
the bitter seeds
and don't you laugh
at his modest size
The Rat King's plotting
your demise

The Rat King sans this wry introduction is one of the poems featured in Secret (a collection of nine poems) by Carine Engelbrecht (i.e. me). It is a free download.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


A little bit more than three years ago, I told someone an admittedly strange story and was promised 'There will be an answer'. I waited for a while, but then things started to happen around me and the patterns that formed, told far more than any words could.

There is a saying that people sometimes use to patronize the poor in Africa that goes Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Well, the absence of a verbal answer taught me to fish in the greatest reservoir of them all - the universe itself. Try it sometime. It's lots of fun and the results may surprise you.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


The mask of skin
is wearing thin
But still you fail to see
The tongue-tied stranger
the friend in danger
Are two faces of me...

You fixed my coat of bearskin hide
But never saw the wound inside
If I reached out to dry your tear
Will you even know I'm here?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Unlocking the alphabet matrix...

You learn the alphabet in a certain sequence, but in order to use it for any sensible type of writing, you will need to break that abc sequence and leave behind the rules you were taught. Mix the letters up and employ them in a way that goes against the grain of your learning... only then will they begin to hold any true meaning...

In the same way, to do anything useful with your universe, you need to take it apart... (t.y.m.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Siblings (for Theo and Nannerl)

I've been wanting to write this blogpost for some time. We all admire artists, often a whole lot better once they are dead and gone. But we often forget the price paid by their family members... the ones who invisibly served as gatekeepers to a great spirit truly gaining the opportunity to express itself. Behind many creative people, you will find parents who financed music lessons, sisters and brothers who paid the groceries, or perhaps merely through their presence, became the bridges to excellence.

Theo Van Gogh idolized his older brother Vincent and financial supported him. It is known that the only Van Gogh that sold in the artist's lifetime was bought by his younger brother, but how many people realize that we owe Theo a great debt for each and every coveted Van Gogh that now sells for millions at auctions. Theo bought Vincent's art supplies and regularly sent him financial means to support himself, but Theo also encouraged the development of his artistic style through regular feedback on Vincent sketches and plans and also by introducing him to other prominent artists of the era such as Paul Gauguin, C├ęzanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. Vincent van Gogh's story seems so sad and lonely, until you see that one Theo is probably worth a million admirers. Theo van Gogh died about six months after his now famous brother, almost as if subconsciously he realized that his task here on earth was done.

Since his father was a music teacher, it is unlikely that the incredible music talent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have gone untapped. However, it might not have been discovered at such an early age, if there had not been another, slightly older child in the household who was just beginning with piano lessons. Mozart worshipped his sister, Maria Anna, a.k.a Nannerl and spent much time watching her playing and practicing, which eventually led to his own very early improvisations on the same instrument, in an attempt to copy her. Wolfgang and Nannerl played together in public until she reached marrying age, and although none of her work survived, it is known that she also composed music and that her brother had a high regard for her efforts. It can be argued that it was Nannerl's talent and mischievous influence, as much as their father's lessons that helped shape Mozart's incredible career as a composer.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

An experiment in story-telling: How to make a wizard's spectacles

For several years, I have participated in the live reading event called Bloody Parchment, which makes up part of the literary component of the SA Horrorfest. Following the success of these readings, I have for some time been playing with the idea of using my youtube channel to launch an experiment in story-telling. Most writers are unaware of the potential of youtube to showcase their work. I thought it might be interesting to revive earlier traditions of verbally sharing fiction, albeit through a new platform.

The upload embedded within this blogpost, 'How to Make a Wizard's Spectacles' is my second attempt, but the first one I'm going public with. Following feedback on the first (unlisted) video, I decided to keep the format simple. Just voice and text.

As other members of the Adamastor Writer's Guild (of which I am a member) have expressed interest in the project, I am not ruling out the possibility of featuring stories by other writers. For the moment, I'm just seeing where this leads. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tumba Rumba...

Tumba Rumba
Tumba Rumba
to the bottom
of the hill
Making scars
and seeing stars
I am crying
but I'm flying

(just because... life is precious..)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5th Dimensional People

People influence who we are by 'observing' us. Most people 'fix' us by drawing rigid lines around how they perceive us, as if afraid that a rogue bit of self might escape, but occasionally, someone will, by observing us, transform us. Those rare souls have the ability not only to see what is, but also, 'what could be'. They touch our lives with the vision of change they bring. They are different from the rest of the population, but you can't tell what they are just by looking at them. They must be experienced. They are like artists, except their medium is the matter of souls. They are different, almost like fairy-folk or angels. They are among us. They are the people of the 5th dimension.

One leap, one fall, one catch

The problem with a leap of faith is that you never ever know exactly where you will land. You don't know if the ground will hold you, or crumble under the force of your sudden arrival. Only fools rush in, when it comes to faith, but it is everyone's perogative to be a fool at least once in their lives, even if it ruins them forever (my leap of faith: late September/early October 1986).

A fall is a teacher and an education. A fall hurts but it helps. A fall leaves you broken, but stronger. The sad thing is that most people see only the broken part. A fall is a landing that comes too quickly. A fall is a change of direction, sending you on a path you would not have taken otherwise. And that is always a necessary path. A fall is a future 'save' because, a time will always come for you to use that which you have learnt when you fell. (My fall: 17 June 2012)

A catch is perhaps the rarest bird of them all. You see something hurtling towards you, and some instinct that you didn't know you had, makes you put out your hand. A real catch will always knock you completely out of orbit. You stagger under the impact of something you were ill prepared for. And yet, you realize at the same time, that on a subconscious level you have been rehearsed for this all your life. That is its mystery and its paradox. The catch is the Black Swan Event that comes but once in a life time, and you are never the same afterwards.(My catch: 12 July 2009)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

You must be mistaken...

You must be mistaken
I'm not he
The guy haunting your memories
The wasted life you see...

Once my veins bore the flow of
his brew of guilt mixed with regret
But the angel came and wiped my brow
And his shame seeped out like fever sweat...

You must be mistaken
That's not me
The fool bound to your expectations
Yearning to be free...

I woke up in his skin one night
I thrashed and thrashed to cope
But someone loosened up the knots
And cut his bonds of rope...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Not Quite #fridayflash fiction - Alice by the Sea

There must be tens of thousands of little girls called Alice in the world. Some of them are not so little and not so innocent, but if we wrote down stories for every Alice that lives, breathes and swallows pills, they could fill a library, all by themselves.

But ask yourself this, how much mileage can you really get out of 'one pill makes you tall' and 'one pill makes you small' withing beginning to repeat the pattern, again and again and again, like a row of warped mirrors in the madhouse.

I'm going to tell you about an Alice that simply got fed up with it all and took a Path of Whispers, away from all the White Rabbits and Mad Hatters and Murderous Queens until she came to the sea.

The wind blew her perfectly brushed blond locks into a wild nest of disarray and the spray of the ocean splattered the unblemished pinkish white skin of her bare feet. She was happy, but still the possibility of being discovered loomed like a distant storm cloud on the horizon.

She did not bring much, but she still had two pills left and without hesitation, she popped the pill that makes you small under her tongue. That was the one that always shocked your senses - a swiftly impacting sensation that made you feel as if your weight had abruptly tripled. Followed by your ears popping and then a disorientating light-headedness, as if the see-saw that had just plunged, now swooped back up again. And finally, that dry burning at the back of the throat. Yep, that was the pill alright.

... and grains of sand were now sharp pebbles and rocks of quartz... The cold brine of the sea, the stabbing sunlight. Everything overwhelmed, as Alice stumbled to find the nearest haven of sanctuary within a sea shell.

Its smoothly curved pearly walls were easy on the eye, except in those places where they caught a glint of sun. That hurt. The surface felt good on her cheek, but the best and worst thing about the shell was the music you could only hear from the inside...

I know you've probably held a shell to your ear, but this is very very different. A secret that shells have kept very well is that they only let you hear what they want you to, and that corresponds roughly to what they think you expect to hear. A roaring whoosh and most people will wander off, none the wiser.

But each shell distills the vibration of the waves to a fine and delicate series of melodies that never escape. Each shell tunes the vagaries of the wind to secret arpeggios that might have been the undoing of Paganini and each shell blends the harmonies of the shifting sands outside to something rare and exquisite.

Before Alice, no human had ever been an audience to the overpowering symphony of the sea.

Madness conducted the little spikes of intensity that rose and fell, drilling against the inside of her skull during the first movement.

There was no interval, no break, but the shifting carried her to a scary sort of sane that gnawed and grinded relentlessly against its confining prison of bone.

Then, it broke barriers and spilled....

Her mouth was open and her throat vibrated with a high-pitched fluting whistle. Was she still listening to the music or had she become it?

Sensing a new element, an enhancement to its features, the shell had worked the dimensions of Alice into its music, bouncing new improvisations off her form. That was the way of the shell. It employed everything within its environment in the greater quest for audial excellence.

The girl thought tone was god and tried to move towards it. Then she decided that tone was the devil and tried to move away from it. Because the music surrounded her, the results were exactly the same.

She crawled towards what felt like the heart of the sound, its crescendo whorling around and around, in colors she could almost see.

The music changed, becoming cold and wet. The vibration of tone lingered in echoes, but it was passing. She had found the mouth of the shell, but outside, she still felt as if she had no skin, no hair and no face, even. She was nothing more than a pulse that continued to go ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, without end. She could not even tell whether she still crawled or had stopped. She might have hugged herself, had she been able to locate any of her limbs.

She had no awareness of time passing, but after a while, she realized that the music had shifted from being an event to becoming a memory. She felt her fingers curled around her toes and slowly the rest of her body came back online.

She opened her eyes. She had to brush rags of hair the color of sleek seaweed from her eyes. Her skin was tinged green, hands and feet webbed. The girl called Alice swallowed hard, but then she remembered that she had wanted to be different.

Something grubby and white stuck to her palms. She stared at it for a long time before realizing that it was the remains of the pill to make you tall. Painstakingly, she licked her hands until they were clean. Then she got up and walked into the wild and the deep.

(t.y.m.... thank you to my inner muse and guide for coming through for me, once again)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A tale from the Taiga...

First, a bit of personal history... When I was in my late teens, very early twenties, this was my going-out song....

Know what I mean by a going-out song? If that's it, the world is about to go KA-BOOM and you've got time to listen to just one more song.... this was mine.... a heartbreakingly sad tale about betrayal on grand grand scale... the song is about a group of Russian soldiers returning home victorious to a horrible, horrible 'reward....
To quote from the last verses (lyrics by Mike Scott of the Waterboys)

But I never got to kiev
We never came by home
Train went north to the taiga
We were stripped and marched in file
Up the great siberian road
For miles and miles and miles and miles
Dressed in stripes and tatters
In a gulag left to die
All because comrade stalin was scared that
Wed become too westernized!

Used to love my country
Used to be so young
Used to believe that life was
The best song ever sung
I would have died for my country
In 1945
But now only one thing remains
But now only one thing remains
But now only one thing remains
But now only one thing remains
The brute will to survive!

I am posting this today, because the song has an odd echo in a piece added to the Smithsonion's website yesterday.... a tale of survival from the Taiga...

Please visit the link and read the absolutely awe-inspiring tale of what it's like, not to die, but to live in the Taiga... as the Lykov family did for more than forty years...