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[Un] Structured

The word “structure” in relation to society has been on my mind in a subtle way for the past month or so. The word triggered quite a topical discussion in my personal space, and I had to reflect on my position in relation to social structures. Through my deliberations I found that structures have not worked in my favour nor in the favour of ordinary people thus far. My nonconformity to social structures is a tool that has helped me navigate my life’s journey. Had I been consumed by the need to belong to a particular social structure, I would not have survived. The structures I was born into as a child failed to do their job. They did not provide a safe environment for me; they did not nurture me and my talents; they did not allow me to become the best version of myself. Or at least that is what we’re led to believe those structures should do. As an example, we are taught to go to school so we can get an education and make something of ourselves. For millions of South Africans that has not been the case, as is evident by the multitudes of unemployed graduates we have in our country. The existing social and institutional structures have produced poor public leaders who have not displayed any regard for the people they ought to be serving. That’s another failed structure. I am sure you will agree that religious institutions have failed to create and sustain structures within the church that help communities deal with the day-to-day struggles of life. And certainly we all know how flawed the economic structures of this world are.

So, in the grand scheme of things, human-created structures have failed.

On a more personal level, had I truly believed that the social structures I was born into had any bearing on who I would become, I would not have become who I am.

A week ago I remembered that I had been sexually abused as a young girl.

There is a gap in my memory that swallows up my childhood; it’s called dissociative amnesia. According to doctors Stephanie Leong, Wendi Waits and Carroll Diebold (in an article in online journal Psychiatry), “Dissociative amnesia is a disorder characterized by retrospectively reported memory gaps. These gaps involve an inability to recall personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature.”

Perhaps I just could not allow myself to wallow in that trauma. Maybe I thought that was just how the world was. But the point is this: as a young girl I was failed by a social structure (family and community in the broader sense).

If there is anything I remember about my childhood, it is that I struggled with understanding why there was so much pain in society, and so I was suicidal. I tried to escape this world three times between the ages of 13 and 16. I also remember being severely beaten up by a family member during this period, all for being the confused, abused and suicidal child I was. As a young adult I remember how a male family member tried to force himself on me. And so, if social standards are anything to go by, here is another failed structure.

I could go on and on with more examples of failed social structures – institutions, families, churches, the economy, marriage – but I am sure I do not need to. We can all see it in the levels of general unhappiness of our society. People are struggling economically, the political system doesn’t work, the violation of women and children is on the rise and, to top it off, the world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Even people who have more money than the average citizen are unhappy in their lives – they can just mask it with more expensive stuff. I believe this is a global phenomenon.

Seeing that the structures we’re surrounded by have not worked, I implore you to consider an alternative.

For me, the alternative has been finding my purpose and realising that’s what I was seeking all along. I have always been the type of person who breaks barriers specifically because I did not believe in the barriers and the structures. I always thought that there was more, but the more I achieved, the more I realised that it did not make me feel quite the way I thought it would.

I believed there was something greater, though, and through my spiritual journey I found that what I had been searching for all along – being whole – could only be achieved by returning to Source. I don’t mean the God we are taught of by the church or our parents.

Realising afresh that according to social standards I should not be who I am, and that the social structures in my life had failed, led me to the conclusion that it could only have been God who brought me to this point. There must have been something Great helping me navigate my life. It had no form, no shape, no religion, no gender and no social position. It was not structured. It could not be contained. Too Great to be measured, one can only experience it. As Deepak Chopra so wonderfully put it, “​​knowing God consists of many experiences acquired over a lifetime, a slow-motion epiphany.”

Now that I know who has been guiding me all along, I have chosen to actively and purposefully walk the journey of my life being led by this indescribable, incomprehensible Being. If it has always been in my life without me fully realising it, and I still managed to create the life I have, imagine what it could do if I actively walk with it, if I actively allow it to lead and guide me. I think I’ll be able to create magic.

For me magic is living my life in a way that is pleasing to God. This translates into me actively trying to show up as authentically and unconditionally loving as I can in my relationships, doing more of what I love to help people heal, and simply allowing people to be who they are – in whatever form and shape, not within the prescripts of any structure. After all, the Lord teaches us to go to Him just as we are.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 (King James Bible)

Namaste.

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