My 14 Day Meditation Experiment

meditation

Day 1 –  11 January 2018 – Thursday

I had a 20 minute meditation session the morning. I am experimenting with a daily routine that includes meditation as soon as I have but my bag down at the office.

The impact this morning has been great –

  • Number one – I got back to my desk after meditation and found that I needed to clear everything up and create order. I did this for perhaps 20 minutes.
  • Number 2 –  when I got to my first task I was able to get right into it without distraction. Done and dusted. Ready  to go. The task was a very routine invoice that I needed to send off – that I have been delaying for weeks.
  • Number 3  – I received two business calls – one from Darryl Pryce Lewis, who is trying to  add more hours to a tender work plan than I would like and secondly from Mbulelo Notshulwana who was needing my assistance with accessing an aerial photo that was slightly more difficult to get than searching Google Earth. In both of these interactions I have the “limitless” feeling. I am not anxiously trying to get the conversation to end, so I can get on with whatever else it was that i was doing. In both instances I am able to see myself in the ring, as a boxer, seeing that this is a game and that there are certain objectives that I am trying to achieve here.
meditation space out building
It doesn’t look like much but it will do for now!

The space I chose to meditate is an outside room at the office – It used to be a Flatlet of sorts we are not using it for anything right now. I heard someone looking for me and peering into the room while I was meditating – they did not disturb me, I did not open my eyes or acknowledge their presence. My mind went to “Won’t they think I’m weird?”

“Won’t they think I should be working instead?” That, I suppose is what Eckhart Tolle would speak of as my “ego mind”. That part of my mind that confuses my identity with how people around me may perceive me.In any event, I am conscious of the fact that in fact people in my office will have a better view of me, knowing that I meditate. They will associate that with self -discipline, courage and determination. When I expose the script of my unconscious thoughts to the “clear light of day” I can see that they are meaningless and irrational fears. Perhaps meditation helps me to see this.

The other difference that I noticed in this morning’s meditation compared other times I have meditated, it how different it feels to go into my ordinary working day after meditating. (Compared to how it feels to meditate perhaps on a Sunday morning where, after meditating I would perhaps lounge around and not really to any challenging mental tasks. That is perhaps why I have not noticed the profound impact on the noise inside my head. The noise inside my head is very critical of me, is very judgemental, is not at all kind to me. It continually tries its best to remind me of the things I have not done (it does not praise me for what I have done). The noise inside my head continually tries to remind me of what can go wrong. “I may not have money for salaries at the end of January,  I may one day grow too old to be a good man to Poppina”,  “Litha and Noah may not make it through varsity this year” “I may lose all I have worked for in the divorce’. Of course these are all very real possibilities, but the noise inside my head keeps on playing the same record over and over again. The noise inside my head is unreasonable. It does not get it, that I am aware of the risks and have planned for them. It just keeps on making its noise, disturbing me  and distracting me, while I am working on the very plans, projects and tasks that will make the future a much better place for me and for those that depend on me for assistance.

Meditation quietens this voice. Or at least makes me conscious this voice. Meditation lets me see myself. Meditation helps me see that I am playing a game and it allows me to play the game at a much more effective level.

So my undertaking is to keep up with this experiment for the next two weeks. (After that time I will reassess) I will go back to my desk now and I will diarise my meditation sessions for the next two weeks,. I find putting something into my Outlook calendar is a statement of intent. I clearly communicate my intent to the universe. It is not a guarantee that it will happen as I have diarize it, but there is a much better chance of it happening than if I waited for a gap to open.

Let’s see how it goes. There is only everything at stake!

Day 2 – 12 January 2018 – 11:11 Seattle Coffee Shop

I got into the office at 7:55 this morning. I had my usual double short latte at the Seattle coffee station at the Caltex garage in Lorraine. Arriving at the office, I put my bags down, plugged my computer in, greeted everybody and went straight into the my meditation spot. Velile, says he saw me meditating yesterday. He has been meditating before and I can see that he is a little envious that I am building a meditation routine. Perhaps he will join me with time.

NBAF2859
Double Short Latte – Drink of Champions

The meditation was good. I sat myself down on the chair in the disused outbuilding. I put my glasses down between my feet. I put my phone on “flight mode”. I set me phones timer for 20 minutes. This time the 20 minute crept up on me very quickly. My method of meditation has evolved from what I learned from a Transcendental Meditation course that I did way back in 1989. I do use a mantra sometimes, if i really struggle. In fact I still use the same mantra the TM people gave me back then, but I am able to now just sit quietly and concentrate on not thinking. (Without using a mantra) Because I am able to recognize the state of meditation that I am trying to get to, I focus on the silence, or the emptiness or the color I see behind my closed eyes. Invariably my mind tries to think, and I try to gently nudge the thoughts away and reflect on the emptiness. If I pereserved in driving the thoughts away as I did this morning and yesterday morning I eventually emerge from a “tube” where I am aware but not thinking, not feeling and where it is no longer a struggle to not think. I no longer have to work to fight off the thoughts, I am just in that space of nothingness. The vast emptiness. I will then slip back into the tube and have to work hard to not think until I again emerge into the emptiness. My objective is to be able to hold the position in the emptiness for as long as possible without slipping down the tube again. It’s very hard to articulate what goes on in meditation without sounding a little crazy. I suppose that’s a challenge that I am facing be writing about this in this blog.

full moon
Emptiness, like the space between me and the moon

After the meditation I was very clear at my desk. A lot less going on in my head. A lot more focused on what was in front of me. I suppose I am only becoming aware of the anxiety and noise in my head now that it is gone.Yesterday, after a good meditation, I pushed hard to get the DEA tender out. I was able to focus completely on that. Ron Forlee came to say Hello. He is working on some projects here in PE and would like to partner with me. John White popped in to the office, there is a big project in Central he is trying to put together. I was able to remain present to both of them even though I was pushing for the tender deadline. I did miss gym yesterday. But I was able to think clearly about it and make the decision that I needed to take. There was not enough time.

I was tired when I got home last night. Poppina had a “girls night” out and I was missing her. By 9 pm I was a asleep.

It was a good day.

Day 3 – Saturday – 13 January 2018

I could be making thinks a little complicated now with this 14 Day meditation experiment. You see I am also now in the middle of a 3 day fast. So I will have to be extra attentive and try to figure out what (if any) effect on my mood and mindset are caused by the fast and which are caused by meditation. A little more about the fast for those who are interested. The rules I set for myself are as follows: (these are hundreds of different methods and routines – choose one that works for you)

  • Rule 1 – I eat my last meal on Thursday night, then break the fast on Sunday night.
  • Rule 2 – I allow myself water and coffee (and a tablespoon of coconut oil if I like)
  • Rule 3 – I do this once a quarter

Really quite easy and with a lot of benefits to health and wellness.

But let me talk about my 20 minute meditation this morning. It being a Saturday, I did not go into the office. The sun came up early at the farm and I woke up to find Poppina writing in the living area. I drank my usual two glasses of water (with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of Pink Himalayan rock salt) We then took a drive to get some coffee at the closest Seattle Coffee shop (which embarrassingly is a 10 minute drive from the farm)

Back at the farm, with a little caffeine in the system, I pottered around the Tilapia tanks for a while before sitting down with Poppina to meditate. We sat facing each other.
IMG_6019
I filter the Tilapia water though and aquaponics system growing spinach, chard and Peppermint.

Me on my favorite fold up wooden chair and Poppina on the couch. I set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes. This meditation was a little different – a little harder to let go of the background anxiety. I think it is because I was not alone. Maybe just more thoughts about how is she doing? Is she comfortable?  I am not sure. But I was able to get quite quickly into a meditative mind. I would snap out of the meditative zone, but there were not long chains of thoughts that I have had in the past. I became aware of the darkness, I could become aware of the self that was observing the darkness. I was aware this morning about how my mind tries to describe what I am experiencing. My mind would say something like ”I can observe myself observing myself” rather than what I could do for only shorter snippets of time, which was just to observe the darkness, to be in the nothingness.

The method I showed Poppina this morning was the method of using a mantra. I gave her a simple three syllable meaningless phrase to repeat again and again and again under her breath. This method is useful because it displaces thoughts that would come into your mind by filling the mind with the “almost zero content” mantra. So the mantra is a great way to block thoughts from entering your head, but it is not completely zero content. I prefer, if I am able, to stop thoughts by concentrating on the darkness that is really zero content, but harder for me to hold than the mantra. The 20 minutes passed quickly. I could hear the woodpecker outside in the Blue Gum tree, I could hear the rooster crowing in the chicken coop, I could hear the door creaking in the breeze, but these sounds did not cause me to generate thoughts about them. When the timer sounded I was in a deep space, but came out quickly. Poppina had fallen asleep. Her meditation was not as successful as mine. Perhaps she will try a five minute session tomorrow, then try to build from there.

So to the question: “What is the impact of my fast on my meditation?”

To be honest I don’t feel any impact. The meditation does not seem deeper or shallower or different in any real way.

But the rest of the day seems different when I fast (especially after I have day 1 behind me) It feels generally more calm and calculated. It feels generally more meditative. It feel generally less anxious. Interesting….

Day 4  – Sunday  14 January 2018 – 13:33 Pebblespring Farm

Well, I suppose if you are reading day 4 of the story of my 14 day meditation experiment, then it must hold some interest for you. I’m glad. Even if only two people read this and decide to try out meditation as their own experiment then I would be happy that by recording this I would have done my bit to make the work a better place. The more you look’ the more you will come to see that so many people who are doing great work have a regular meditation practice. Often it would not be something that they advertise to the world, but with a little bit of in depth questioning many thought leaders and visionaries will reveal to you details of their regular meditation practice. How do I know this? Do I hang around with a lot of thought leaders and visionaries?

IMG_6043My favorite wooden chair

One or two I suppose. So then what is my secret to finding out the strategies, routines and inside tricks of exceptional people. Well, I read books about their life stories. And more especially I listen to a very good Podcast called the “Tim Ferriss Show”. Tim does a fantastic job of interviewing a whole lot of really cool people on his weekly Podcast. About 80% of whom we find out have a regular meditation routine. Coincidence perhaps?? I think not!!

But back to my experiment. I got around to meditating only at about noon today. It being Sunday I’m flexible with my routine. So today included another (embarrassingly long) drive to get a cup of fine coffee. A double short Latte to be precise. It’s just so nice! Then I go to pottering around the cottage – I checked the Tilapia. They are breeding out now so I scooped one or two of the fry from the tank to the bucket that I put out for this purpose. Then I got going inside with the tool shelf I’m busy building in the tool room. I told you yesterday that Im busy with a three day fast and I find it easier to fast if I’m distracting myself with physical activity. Not too much physicality like digging a hole or cutting a tree, but some light carpentry works just fine. Then into the shower before wrapping a towel around my waist and sitting down to meditate on my favourite wooden fold up chair. I set the phone’s timer for 20 minutes and sat opposite Poppina as she sat on the couch. She was fidgety and grumpy from not eating since Thursday so she took a while to settle down. She shuffled and applied moisturiser,making little noises that I would prefer  not to have when I am trying to meditate but that I was quite good at allowing not to disrupt my meditation. I was struggling a little with a busy mind. I tried my mantra, but still a struggled. As much as I tried to empty my mind, I was faced with a flood of involuntary thoughts:

  • I would think of how I was going to get Drake the rooster back in the coop this afternoon?
  • I would think of a cool idea I have for a meditation “gazebo” in the garden at the office.
  • I would think of the grid of screws I would set up on my tool shelf in the workshop.
  • I would think of writing this report in the “My 14 day meditation experiment”
  • I would think of how it was that the idea of writing a report actually impacts negatively on meditation, because I am trying all the time not to forget what the experience was like, thereby disrupting the meditation…………….AAAAAARGHHH!!

It must have been 10 minutes, by which time Poppina’s fideling an fidgeting had stopped. I was beginning to have longer and longer patches of “meditative mind”. Just being in the nothingness and observing the depth of it.  But then I felt Poppina’s hand on my leg. Her meditation was clearly not as deep as mine or as much of a pressing priority. She had another form of adult entertainment in mind! I think what I am trying to say is that in my records, I will show that today was a 10 minute meditation and not a 20 minute meditation : )

Some of you reading this may judge me for being weak and ill- disciplined and  for not sticking to my 20 minute meditation; “come what may”. To those people I say. “Get a life!!” Seriously, the reason I work so hard in the office, the reason I watch my eating, the reason I work out and the reason I meditate is so that I can experience more fully and with more gratitude this incredible life that I have the opportunity to live. And if the “magic” happens and the time is now to express my love to the most amazing woman in the world, then no office meeting, no meal plan, no gym routine and certainly no meditation slot will stand in my way. Meditation is not a bitter pill to swallow; “like it or not”. No, meditation is a beautiful time. Not asleep and not awake. Completely conscious, but not feeling. Aware but not thinking. It is a beautiful thing and we do it because it pleases us. I do it because it pleases me.

Day 5 – Monday 15 January 2018

I’m feeling quite a bit of tension as I sit down to write this. I feel in in my shoulders. I feel it in the shallowness of me breathing. I suppose though, more importantly, is that I feel it and I am conscious of the fact that I feel it. If I can feel it that means that I don’t accept it as normal. If I notice the tension it means I can at least begin to see it as something separate from me. I can see that a state of tension and anxiety is not something that I should be tolerating for my life. I should not be tolerating a life that consists of a sequence of tasks and events that I must endure in order for them to pass. I insist that my life must be one that I enjoy – A life that involves me laughing. That involves me loving what I am doing and looking forward to doing more of it. I don’t like to use the word “deserve”. As if somebody owes me this kind of life. I prefer to say that:

  • this is the life that I want,
  • this is the life that I choose.
  • this is the life that I desire.

What has all this got to do with my my meditation routine?….I’m not sure if it has anything to do with it. Or perhaps it has everything to do with it. You see in this morning’s meditation I felt a strong sense of love (or at least that’s the closest word I can think of that points to that feeling) As I was able to peel away the thoughts, perhaps like layers of an onion, I would go deeper and deeper in to a “centre” of sorts. The closer I came to the centre or the core, I could feel it as love.

candle

A very beautiful thing. At my core, at my centre, when I don’t think, when I don’t stress, beyond tension, beyond anxiety is a calm and beautiful place filled with love. So perhaps my way of seeing the day and my life in the office is not about me believing that I deserve something better than what I have, but rather that meditation reveals to me the state that already exists in me as a default, before the layers of thought and feeling are wrapped over me to create the distortion that I confuse as reality

Day 6 – Tuesday 16 January 2018

I meditated just after seven am. My day was very busy and I found it hard to find the theme to write about my session. My meditation was characterised by a strong “sexual energy”. I am sure if I was part of an eastern traditions I would have a name for this kind of energy. It’s not a desire to have sex as much as a urge to get things done and a feeling power almost throbbing in the body.

I want to speak about coincidence and luck. Is it my imagination or are things beginning to happen that i have been hoping for for a long time? John White walks in to my office this morning out of the blue. He wants to partner with me in expanding his portfolio of properties. This is a very exciting prospect, There is no guarantee of course that anything will come of this, but the fact is that I am attracting into my my life the kind of opportunities I desire. I know I will build a great rental property portfolio. Does meditation open me up to allow this to happen? Does it make things happen? I don’t know?

What I do know is that mediation is teaching me, (or perhaps more accurately reminding me) to do one thing at a time. In meditation I have to put aside my thoughts and say “Hey! I’ll get to you guys later…right now I am focusing on one thing and that one thing is meditation” This attitude bleeds over into my day, where, when I am meeting with John I am in a meeting with John, when I am talking to Ken, I am talking to Ken. Is sounds really obvious, but this ensures that I am giving my best by focusing on what it is that I am in a unique position to offer and then giving that.

Day 7 – Wednesday 17 January 2018

I got in to the office at 8:05 this morning

I had to send a quick email before i could start my meditation. Peter Kennedy wants to meet this morning and wanted to confirm a time. So I mailed him to ask for a 4:30 time slot:

  • A – I prefer not to let other people’s sense of urgency drive my agenda
  • B – I prefer to keep my mornings free of meetings – slotting those in the afternoon rather.

I sat down in the meditation room. It was not easy to go into meditation. I was a little upset with Myself. I had wanted to greet mandisa at school with a cup of coffee on her first day. I got going too late. The queue at the coffee place was too long, and the traffic was terrible. I was whipping myself. Giving myself a hard time. I was though conscious enough to see that i am being hard on myself. Maybe my meditation routine is helping me to be aware of my inner dialogue including that part of the dialogue where I beat up on myself.

The meditation though was crowded with inner thoughts and a kind of heaviness that made it hard for me to get into the zone I wanted to be in. Toward the end of the session I was however able to get snippets of time in the nothingness. Right at the end i got a powerful sensation that i was being blasted with “light energy’ it was coming into my face from the front. I could feel the energy, but while this was happening the alarm sounded and the 20 minutes was over. I got back to my desk and had a few minutes to spare before the 9 am teleconference with Eldred and the Sisanda people.

Day 8 Thursday 18 January 2018

I did manage to meditate, but I didn’t get a chance to write about it : (

Day 9 – Friday 19 January 2018

Wow. What a week. As i write this it is 18:15 i am sitting at the gym (I did not workout- but just needed a place to site and write)

My two weeks with Mandisa starts today – she is meeting friends down at the “food truck Friday” event. I’ll go down there as soon as I have written down my thoughts. Firstly – I’m very happy that I am not into my second week of 20 minutes meditation a day. It’s been a rough week, an exciting week, a creative week.

There’s a whole lot of things going on at the same time. Let me try and list a few:

  • I have Musa on site at 48 sixth avenue – converting the loft into a flatlet
  • Mandisa had her first day of the school year on Wednesday
  • I had the kickoff meeting for the coega dairy project yesterday
  • I received a counter plea to the divorce summons (which attempts to take mandisa away from me)
  • XXXXXX at work,  told me she has cancer
  • I met with Kas, to ask for advice on how to formalize my relationship with Poppina
  • We have placed adverts for the sale of the prado and the polo
  • XXXXXX’s best friend found out she was pregnant
  • I prepared the concept design for the ports St. John’s  Oneness university campus
  • I presented the concept to Punji – she’s “all systems go”
  • I’ve been invited to take a 50% stake in the Easy accommodation
  • I managed to overcome another one of XXXXX’s attempts to halt the sale of our shares in Sisanda
  • I got quotes for the insurance claim at 71 upper hill
  • I entered into an agreement with Steve for the letting of part of 71 upper hill
  • I took delivery of 5 new hens at the farm,

What I am trying to illustrate, is that there has been a lot going on, but I have not missed my meditation times. I missed Gym a few times, I missed meals a few times but not the meditation times. I have felt strong. I have felt that I have the energy. I felt that I have been able to face the confrontation. And in all of this I have felt that I have been able to be creative. I have had the discipline to sit at the drawing board, (something I love to do), and something that I have been doing so seldom, first last week for the master plan for 48 sixth avenue and then this week for the Masterplan for the Oneness university. I am getting that Limitless feeling. A feeling of indestructibility and feeling of the inevitability of my success. Coincidence?? Does it matter??? I will continue and complete the 14 day experiment. At this stage it seems foolish to even consider not pushing this to become permanent!!

Day 10 – Saturday 20 January 2018

I didn’t get around to it. Sorry!!! But I suppose that’s also OK.

Day 11 Sunday, 21 January 2018

I had a great start to my Sunday morning – Poppina and Mandisa and myself took a drive down to Hobbie beach. The weather was windy, but warm. The sea was like a washing machine. But what a glorious swim. If there is a perfect temperature for sea water, then Sunday morning was it. Diving under the waves, flowing head first back into the white water. Such an energizing time, why don’t I do it every day, or at least every weekend? It’s just so great. I’ve been hearing people talk about electrical currents of the earth and how we need to “ground” ourselves by walking barefoot. I suppose there is a real possibility that the conductivity on the wet beach sand is really at this best. But is it important to know the science behind what makes me feel great? Is it important for me to know and understand the science behind what aspect of meditation makes me more creative and more productive? No, Not at all. What is more important to me in my own life, is to conduct the experiment and observe the effects. And that’s what this little writing experiment is about. I am recording this 14 day experiment, not for the purposes of “science” I have no intention to get my results published in a scientific journal. I am recording my experiment purely for my own benefit. So I can look back at this for it’s and take a decision regarding whether to make this a full time feature of my daily routine or not.

So Sunday, after coming back from the beach, I spent my time ordering my tool room. In itself quite a meditative exercise. I must of spent maybe three hours doing this. It was terribly windy outside, so inside work was a much better idea.

I meditated for 20 minutes at about 15:00. I sat in my bedroom on my favorite fold up wooden chair. The 20 minutes was good. With some deep patches toward the end.

Day 12 – Monday 22 January 2018

The traffic was quite bad this morning. We left the farm at 6:20, but I only got to my desk at 8:00 admittedly we stopped for our usual morning coffee, but it normally does not take that long.

My meditation is normally a battle with my thoughts. This morning was a battle with feelings. Trying to set aside feelings that were dominating my mind. I had a fight with Poppina on Sunday evening. My feelings were of sadness, of fear, of jealousy. But using the same method of meditation I was able to put these elation’s aside. As they entered my mind, I was able to gently move them away, until my mind became clear, It’s almost as if though the wind stops blowing and suddenly I can see the pond in all its beauty, I can see below the surface through the crystal clear water.

stones

The meditation went through patches of intensity. I developed a clear vision of an eye with three eyelids, the three eyelids revealing a rounded triangular shape. I will make a sketch to explain.

I also had a clear sensation of flying with big black wings.

I noticed again though my day yesterday, how in fact my whole day becomes a “Meditation” what do I mean by that? I mean in the same way As I am able to sit down for twenty minutes resisting the impulse to think and do, so too am I able to apply a similar mind to the day today situations I find myself in without getting distracted. We have been interviewing people to take on a position as general assistant. These are the types of tasks that generally tend to make me fidgety. They generally tend to make want to move on to the next task. They make me want to check my phone or doodle in my sketch book. But tin this instance I was present to the process. I was focussed. I was mindful of what I was thinking. I was listening to what Jessica had to say. I was listed it to what Velile had to say. One of my many flaws is that I would become impatient with people that irritate me, especiatial it they come across at slow or lacking in understanding. Yet I was able to remain polite and caring and not become my usual sarcastic and hurtful self. I am also drawn to getting tasks done. Not allowing things to hang and drag out. My work drive has been quite impressive.

I had a good work out in the gym doing arms. I came within millimeters of achieving 14 pull-ups (which is my all time personal record. I also put in good effort with the bench press and the crucifix exercises.’

When I got to the farm I found that the pressure pump was not working. I was able to notice my calmness at I sat doing doing my best to troubleshoot and get it going again. I was not angry at the world I was not “Wo is me” I simply did what I could. And when I realized that it had to be taken in for repairs, I simply disconnected it an loaded it on the back of the bakie, making peace with the fact that I would boil water on the gas stove to wash in.

I went to sleep and 9:30 and set the alarm for 5:15

I slept well!

Day 13 Tuesday 23 January 2018

This morning was a bit better as regards traffic. I got into the office at 7:30 having left the farm at about 6:15.

The meditation was good but interrupted with many thoughts with huge positive energy and an urge to get off my seat and start getting things done. When I slipped into meditation there was a sensation of throbbing or pulsing…a powerful energy. The colour I could see behind my eyes was a bright white. (not the usual blackness with s centre of luminous yellow and a circle around the black of luminous yellow and luminous purple)

The day was very productive. I got immediately into “getting stuff done”, dropping the pump off for repairs,then into the last interview for the general assistant post. Then meeting with Musa the builder – finishing the reconciliation for the flat – I could see myself being calm and collected. I could see myself not getting flustered or upset. I was patient  but firm.

A text came through from Steph my neighbor. I tree fell down last night on her fence. She wants to know how I’m going to deal with it. I was not angry I was not frustrated. I was not tempted the weak “why me” I was pleasant – said I would have a look in the evening. I did. And I got back to her. No issue (I’m waiting for the quote to repair it now – but let’s see)

I picked mandisa up from school, then went together with her to Gym, that was nice, I’m gonna try to schedule more of my gym sessions with Mandisa in the weeks when I am with her. We worked Abbss – she is really good and physical. I am very proud of her. I am conscious of the fact that I am proud of her and I am conscious of the fact that I love her. I wonder if having less anxiety and being more conscious radiates out and effects the people around me, Mandisa, Poppina, Litha Noah and the  people that work for me? I am absolutely convinced that it has a huge impact.

Day 14 – Wednesday 24 January 2018

So it came to pass that I reached the last day of my 14 day meditation experiment.

The meditation this morning was a little hard to get into. The problem being that I was bursting with a creative energy. My mind would not slow down, it was flashing me with things that I would love to do and get done. Not the anxious flashing of thoughts that says “you haven’t done this and you haven’t done that” but more like”wow, I’d love to get that done right now. “ or “would not it be nice to get this done quickly” But I did persevere  and I did get into a beautiful throbbing meditation. I was able to visualize the colours behind my eyes “throbbing” or “pulsing” just watching them change became the focus of my meditation. At one stage I felt a dropping sensation. Like a dip on a rollercoaster. I feel this every now and again and my attempt is to just let go and keep moving with the roller coaster. But it only lasts a few seconds then my mind tries to hold onto something. I am sure its just a case of practicing this a little more.

Looking at the this 14 day exercise I can see that it has helped my come to see a number of benefits to my life.

  • I sleep better
  • I am more productive
  • I am more creative
  • I am more loving
  • I have improved Libido
  • I have reduced anxiety
  • I have become conscious of my thoughts

I will not attempt in anyway to quantify these as in “I was rating my anxiety at 8 out of 10 and now I rate it at 2 out of 10” Why will I not attempt this? I’ll tell you. It’s because I am not trying to prove anything to you. So much of our thinking revolves around the concept that some one else, some scientist in a white coat and thick black glasses, must prove something in order for it to be true. I support this way of thinking for almost all questions that require answers. Where I don’t support it is where the answers can be gained through self experimentation. And yes, I also agree that some things are just too risky to try personal experimentation. I think for example that the risk of experimenting with eating mushrooms I find on the farm to discover which are deadly poisonous and which simply induce mild hallucinations is just too risky. With mushrooms I rely on the nerds in the long white coats and thick black  rimmed glasses.

But if the question is:

What song helps you get in a party mood?

Or

How many glasses of wine cause a hangover the next morning?

Or

Do beans make me fart?

Or

Is my life better with a 20 minute morning meditation routine?

Then I suggest that self experimentation is by far, I mean by at least a mile, the best way to find out. Why is this truth so obvious, but yet so seldom practiced? I’m not sure, but what i do know is that I cannot lie to myself. When I put my hand into a bucket of ice water, the pain I feel is not a lie. When I fall in love, the love that I feel is not a lie it is real. I suppose it’s about trusting this feedback from a deep personal space in a world where we are thought to be cynical and distrustful.

This experiment has taught me two things:

1 – regular meditation is good for me on a whole lot of levels

2 – I will seek out other experiments to help me find other ways in which my life can be improved.

 

If we can split the atom we can live without borders.

(This piece first appeared in the Weekend Post on 24 March 2018)

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The Ocean has a powerful and mysterious effect on me.

 

On our way to swim in the ocean on Wednesday morning, we were chatting in the the car about Human Rights day. As we drove, I gave a little lecture explaining how on the 21st of March 1960, 69 unarmed protesters were gunned down outside a police station in Sharpville. “Why were they protesting?” asks Mandisa. “They were protesting about the “pass laws”. They burned the papers that they were required to carry as evidence that they had permission to leave the “homelands” in order to seek work in the city”. Mandisa silently nodded her head in the backseat as she continued to flip through Instagram, but Poppina said: ”You know, come to think of it, not much has really changed since 1960! If you walk down any Hillbrow street today, you run the risk of being thrown in the back of a police van if you don’t have the correct, ID papers, Refugee papers or Asylum papers”

I thought about this statement as I bobbed in the ocean that morning. Mandisa and I swam to the end of the pier. Poppina strolled on the beach. “What has changed since 1960?” I asked myself. Yes, things are much better for a whole lot of people that happen to have the right papers, but really, we have fallen into exactly the same thinking of the apartheid government. Then, the state said: “If your ancestors come from the wrong side of the Kei river, you go back there and do whatever your ancestors did there” All that has actually happened since 1960, is that the state has now just changed the rivers that they choose to use as reference points for their cruelty and brutality. “You dare not set your foot on “our” side of the Limpopo River. Go back to where you came from! Go do there whatever it is that your ancestors did there!”

We feel good about ourselves and justify our cruelty by referring  to concepts such as “The Constitution” or “The Sovereign State”. My friends, I am writing to you today to remind you that these, and many such like fabrications, are merely “concepts”. They are just ideas formed in the minds of people. They are neither real nor tangible.  What is real and what is tangible is the tremendous suffering of many millions of people across the globe and especially in africa that are unable to flee drought, famine, war, rape and slavery because of the notional concept of a “sovereign state”, with borders that cannot be freely crossed without risking death and imprisonment. People are dying (and worse) for the sake of these concepts. The “lucky” few that make it out of whatever desperate situation that has driven them to give up their ancestral home and their families, find themselves in a situation in a country like South Africa perhaps, where they are, at best, treated as second class citizens. They struggle to get a bank account, they struggle to own land, they struggle to get the same wages as those who have the “correct papers”, they struggle to access education. They are harassed by the police, they are exploited by the criminal underworld.

As we speak, right now, somewhere north of the Limpopo, young girls are being captured by rebels and sold into slavery. As we speak, right now, children are embarking on foot on a thousand mile journey in the hope of escaping the hell that has driven them to find the courage to flee. As we speak, in this town of ours,  young girls from Somalia or Zimbabwe, or the DRC or Sudan, with no papers, no means of support and no hope, are trapped in a living hell of drug induced sex slavery. Tell me my friends, why, why, why do we think of this unspeakable injustice in different terms to the way we have come to think about the crime of apartheid?

We are deluding ourselves to think that this is in any way OK!

It must stop right now!

I am not a prophet and I do not pretend to be one, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that we will look back at this time and we will judge ourselves for tolerating this situation. We will be embarrassed that we committed our energy to attempts to rid the oceans of plastic bottles, arguing against backyard dog breeders and whether our leaders should be permitted to smash each other’s heads with water jugs. We will judge ourselves for dedicating our time to this relative pettiness while this tragedy of human suffering continues as the result of our silence in condoning the rubbish idea of “Sovereign” borders.

The reality is that our species is a wandering species. From the time when we first emerged from the Cradle of Humankind near Krugersdorp, we have wandered. We have moved our families on to new lands when the conditions we were facing became unpleasant. This movement over thousands and thousands of years was a gradual process, but a fundamental ingredient to our continued success as a species.

Impermeable national boundaries are unnatural! They cause untold suffering and must abolished without delay. We are a species gifted with profound intelligence. We split the atom.  We send our representatives to the moon. We have credible plans to colonize Mars. Trust me, we can figure out how to overcome the challenges that emerge out of the removal of national boundaries. What do you think?

 

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How do build a simple “clip on” guttering system in your lunch hour for less than $10

I love design, I love simplicity. I love the idea that we can rethink cheap readily available materials and use them in a way that was not imagined by the manufacturer. So in the video below I show how I use 75 mm diameter PVC down pipe as a guttering system. Building a rain water harvesting system normally takes a complicated range of fittings brackets screws and masonry anchors.But very often the same objective can be achieved using only 75 mm diameter PVC down pipe and elbow fittings.Watch this short video to see how we use this idea at Pebblespring Farm.

 

Click here to watch this excellent little video

 

 

pvc pipe

 

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I Love Building!!!!

I love building! The hammer and nails, the step ladder, with cordless drill. The pain in my joints in the evening as I rest after a day of sweat and pain. Building of course starts way before any hammer is swung or any brick is laid. Building begins like all other created phenomena. In the mind as an idea, a notion. It may then find form words in discussion with a loved one, an argument with a banker, then later it may take the form of text, a letter, a blog post, an idea in a journal, emerging only later perhaps into sketch form growing over self-confident: a serviette in a late night restaurant at first, a koki-pen drawing on a desk pad soon after. Each step of this building process comes closer to completing the vision and giving physical form to what was just a notion. The bricks mortar, timber an steel follow when the idea is strong enough to survive in the physical world.

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Building “Littlewoods”

I love the feeling of freedom that building gives me. The freedom to move beyond all the “reasons” why something cant be built. Overcoming the “reasons” and excuses and physically seeing the from emerge to completion.

While building is my great interest and passion, so too over the years I have come to be very interested in “Freedom”. I have become interested in what this word “Freedom” actually means to to me, and how the idea of Freedom may be different to you reading this post right now. Also I have become especially interested in the idea….in the truth that Freedom is not something that we simply stumble across, but rather that it is something that we build for ourselves. Freedom is something that must start out as an idea, then find its way into conversation, eventually into text and writing, then documented plans and ultimately in the concrete action in the physical and spatial world.

This website is about Building Freedom. Not about marching for freedom or fighting for freedom or voting for freedom. Here we test the notion that for freedom to be lasting and meaningful, it must find its expression first at the level of the individual. (You and I). Sure we can collaborate, pool our individual energies where we can align ourselves to obtain such freedom, but here we will explore there idea that you and I must first define for ourselves what it means to be free in our own lives. Having defined that freedom for ourselves we can choose to become free or to remain imprisoned.

Imprisonment may come in different forms for different people. You may be imprisoned in poverty, you may be imprisoned in your dead-end job, in your sexuality, in your family traditions, in your relationship. Most people reading this will not be physically imprisoned or enslaved, but sometimes those that are physically held captive are in a way more fortunate in that there is know doubt in their mind that they are not free. They have no doubt in their mind that they are being held against their will. If they try to escape their captors, they will be instantly met with violence.

In 1986 and 87 I was held captive as a conscript in the South African Defense Force. The army at the time was a brutal institution known for it cruelty and intolerance. Never once did I try to cut my way through the razorwire  fences that surrounded our barracks or risk being shot by the guards. The threat of violence was though imminently clear and evident. The public punishment of those that did try to escape was enough to discourage me and most others not to even try. In that system I knew that I was not free. It was made clear by the fences, the guard towers the barbed wire and the armed guards and by the military police. It was made clear by the suffering of those held in the notorious “detention barracks”. I had no doubt that I was not free. I had no doubt about who my captors were.

But what about you and me today? In our ordinary jobs, in our ordinary families in our ordinary relationships. Are we free? What does it really mean to be free? I have thought about this quite a bit. I have played with a few different definitions and I suppose what I have settled for is “freedom is choosing without fear”. So, In other words if I decide to stay inside the military base because I love the accommodation, the food and the camaraderie then I am free. But if i stay because I fear getting shot by the Military Police or being held in the detention barracks, then I am not free. If I stay in my job because I fear that my children will not eat, then I am not free. But you may say “well of course we need to feed our children”. But hear me. To be clear, I am not saying for a minute that anybody “deserves” freedom. All I am saying is that many of us (maybe most of us) are not free, because we are motivated everyday by fear to get out of bed and endure what we endure.

I have come to see in my life that it must be my mission to live free. Perhaps I will never achieve this objective. Perhaps until the day I die I will be striving toward achieving a life motivated by joy and not by fear. But what I have decided is that I will not resign myself to a life of fear. I have decided to build freedom. I have decided work in the same way we would set about building a house or a church or a hospital. I have decided to build freedom in a methodical way. Starting first by recognizing where I am not free, then conceptualizing and designing a new, free place and new reality. Then working hard to build it. To make it real.

August 2016 THC

Technological advances could herald a future without government

I have never yet been a civil servant and I don’t have any immediate plans to become one. In fact I have my doubts that I am really “employable” in that the sense of the word. But if I was employed by the taxpayers,  I suspect I would be a little miffed that Minister Malusi Gigaba thinks that it’s not such a bad idea that the PIC (the public investment company) bails out ever-ailing South African Airways with the savings of ordinary working people who have contributed a chunk of their civil servant salary month after month to a pension fund they believe will look after them in the years when they are too old to be a fire man, or that guy that comes around to your house to be sure that you have a TV liscence

Windmill near Waterford
There was a time when we could not imagine how wind could be used to pump water

 

But I am not angry at Minister Gigaba. He like many of my otherwise intelligent friends, labour under the continued belief that the only way any of us can ever fly from PE or Joburg, or from Cape Town to Singapore, is if we use taxpayers money to own and run airline to do so. But I must admit, I struggle to get it. Is it a matter of national pride that we fly to Doha in a plane marked “South African”? Is it a huge embarrassment if I fly from Mangaung to King Shaka International in a plane owned by Comair or some other privately owned enterprise? I don’t think so.  So why then, I ask, are so many of us obsessed with the idea that we need to year after year be called upon to bail out SAA, or the Postal Services, or Eskom or Sanral? I’ll tell you why. It’s quite understandable actually. You see, there was a time, not very long ago, where the only way to get an airline up and running was to use tax payer’s money to do so. There was a time, not too long ago (before email and couriers) when the only way to effectively get important messages to each other was through a Postal Service paid for by the tax payers. There was a time, not to long ago, before Skype, WhatsApp and Cell C, when the only way in which we could ensure effective voice communication was by the taxpayers investing in a telephone network now called Telkom. The reality of course is that times change and as great minds bring new innovation. We figure out ways in which projects can be made to happen in such a way as not to depend on violently extorting funds from the public (remember tax would not be collected unless there was the violent threat of Jail time). There was a time that it was the accepted general consensus that the only way humanity to get into space was through the efforts of publicly funded programmes like NASA. Now companies like Space X embrace advances in technology in order to make it possible to do so without any government support.

Where am I going with all this? What I am trying to do, in a roundabout way, is to open a conversation beyond the political poles of “statists” and “anarchists”. Where the extreme “statists” would argue toward the state controlling everything (like in North Korea) and the extreme anarchists would argue for a “government free” situation as we may find in Somalia. What I am trying to argue is that as technology and innovation advance, the things we think we needed government for become fewer and a fewer. Right now, I believe that we need government to, for example, see to basic education and to address the wealth gap. I am however completely open to the idea that we will very soon have access to innovation and technology that is able to achieve these critical objectives without the requirement of a state. It’s just that I can’t yet imagine how this could be done.  But then again, it was inconceivable a few years ago that we could bypass the state in the creation of a reliable currency to use as a means of exchange. Now we have Bitcoin and Ethereum (Google them if you’re out of the loop)

I saw on Youtube the other day how the IBM Artificial Intelligence platform “Watson” was able to compete and win against very able human players in the US television game show “Jeopardy”. That’s not very exciting in itself, what is exciting, is that there are now stories of UK Law firms and Japanese Insurance companies buying the Watson computer and as a result being able to retrench dozens of graduate attorneys and actuaries.  I begin to ask myself then, if even these highly complex professional posts can be replaced by computers, how soon will it be until we begin to reconsider our belief that the only way to, for example, keep our toilets flushing and out refuse removed is to have a 120 elected Councillors overseeing thousands of unionised municipal employees? It must be plain to us that it is only a matter of time until we come to see that the idea of government, was an “interim measure”;  a mere blip in history until technology caught up with our desire to live in a world where we are free, but a world where still there is order.

Exploring the Relationship Between Land Use Right Restrictions and Wealth Inequality.

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Coex, Seoul

Abstract
In order for a city to express its “soul” through built form, a framework must exist where real people, with real passions and real desires, are able to give direction to urban space and structure. The reality however in most cities throughout the world is that it is not the passion and energy of committed individuals (be they Architects, developers or investors) that drive the shape and form of the city. We observe rather that increasingly form is given to buildings and the spaces they frame by an anonymous set of bureaucratic procedures, codes and planning controls.
We live in a time where much of the world is emerging into greater and greater freedom. This culture of freedom permeated the US hippy movement of the sixties, South Africa’s “Freedom Struggle” of the eighties and the Arab Spring in the earlier parts of this decade. In spite of news headlines that speak of a minority reactionary backlash, the general tendency is towards freedom to choose one’s religion, sexual orientation and vocation.
It seems contradictory therefore that during this time of widespread personal freedom, we have witnessed a global tendency toward increasing state control over what individuals may and may not build on land that they own. The work of Architects, more than ever, is an almost impossible task of navigating land use rights, permits and compliances. The physical act of building too is constrained by state imposed controls instigated by career bureaucrats and “technical experts” under the guise of “Health and Safety”. While the sustained attack on the Architect’s freedom to guide the building process is to be understood as part of a global tendency toward bloated self-serving civil service, desperate to claim increasing power as an end in itself, we argue here that this should not be allowed to continue on its current trajectory without exposure to the spotlight of academic scrutiny.
While this paper will contextualise itself within the global tendency away from freedom in the built environment, it will focus specifically on impact of land use rights and building controls on wealth inequality in South Africa. The paper explores the possibility of establishing a methodology that can reliably measure whether the building and land use controls currently in place represent a “nett cost” or a “nett benefit” to economy, the environment and to the community and especially to wealth inequality.
Keywords: Wealth Inequality, Freedom, Building Codes, Local Government, African City, Land Use rights, Planning Control
1. Introduction
It has become widely understood that wealth inequality is a significant threat to stability and sustainability. Even in advanced economies like the US the reality is that the 10% that make up the wealthiest part of the population own 76% of the country’s assets. The French economist Thomas Piketty argues that “extremely high levels” of wealth inequality are “incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies” and that “the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism.” Piketty, T, and Ganser, L. J. (2014)
The basic premise of Piketty’s argument is those whose livelihoods depend on labour (blue and white collar) tend over time to have to work harder and harder to maintain their status quo. By contrast those that own assets tend to become wealthier and wealthier. More significantly to the architects reading this paper is that we know from an analysis of Piketty’s data by Matthew Rognile, an American scholar, that in fact the growth in wealth among those who own assets can largely be ascribed to real estate assets and not to equities. Rognlie, M. (2016)
Since at very least the time of Marx and Engels, scholars and politicians have discussed, formulated and proposed a broad range of solutions to wealth inequality and motivated their work as an attempt to respond to a threat to global order. Most recently Thomas Picketty has proposed a progressive wealth tax as an essential component to any economy aiming for stability. Piketty, T, and Ganser, L. J. (2014)
Picketty’s “wealth tax” falls into the category of strategies that the state can employ through coercing the citizenry into doing what they would otherwise not choose to do. It is understood that scholars and politicians would resort to proposing coercion in the absence of any other seemingly workable macro solutions. This paper will therefore begin to explore the possible effectiveness of “micro” solutions born out of industry specific knowledge gained through years of professional practice. It will explore the detail as it applies to the real estate and construction sectors and to the Architect’s profession. This paper will not seek to add complexity to existing strategies to address wealth inequality. It will not propose new legislation or regulations that serve to further coerce or constrain private individuals. This paper explores rather the potential impact of simplifying the approach toward land use rights and building controls with the aim of initiating a discussion around the relationship between land use right restrictions and wealth inequality.
Corresponding Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman
PO Box 12956
Centrahil
Port Elizabeth
6006
Phone: +27 415822753
Email: tim@noharchitects.co.za
2. Defining land use controls
In Port Elizabeth, where I have lived and practiced as an architect for the last twenty five years, owning a piece of land does not necessarily mean that you are free to use this land as you please. While you are free to sell the land or generate and income through rental, the manner in which you use the building and the manner in which permanent changes and improvements are made are restricted by a range of land use right restrictions and building controls. While controls and restrictions may vary, the following schedule of controls and restrictions would apply to a sample site in Port Elizabeth.
table
 In addition to these controls more specific by-laws are developed from time to time to limit specific uses including keeping animals, accommodating paying guests or accommodating students.
3. How do land use right restrictions impact on wealth inequality?
It may not be immediately obvious that restrictions on land use rights as expressed in zoning schemes, building regulations and other “compliance measures” are not in the public interest. When they are discussed at all, they are defended as necessary devices to avoid urban chaos and mayhem. The scientific evidence however for this supposed chaos and mayhem is very thin. We have reviewed the National Environmental Management Act, National Heritage Resources Management Act, National Building Regulations Act, Port Elizabeth Zoning Scheme, The Nelson Mandela Bay Guest House Policy and the South African National Department of Transport Parking Standards. Not one of these documents quote any case study or any scholarly work that predicts the chaos and urban mayhem that would emerge should these restrictions on personal freedom not be imposed.What is clear and beyond discussion or dispute is that land use controls have the very powerful effect of entrenching the status quo. Any attempt to change the status quo is met with complicated compliance hurdles that need to be overcome. So while being defended as necessary devises to maintain urban order, land use right restrictions serve to maintain and the status quo of the built form making it difficult for new entrants in to the market. Since, as it can be seen from Rognlie’s work, much wealth accumulation actually arises from the ownership of real estate Rognlie, M. (2016), any attempt to maintain an urban form status quo, must simultaneously be understood to be an attempt to maintain (if inadvertently) a wealth inequality status qou.
Those individuals attempting for the first time to build wealth through real estate are confronted with a set of building regulations that are very difficult to comply with when working in such a way as to best mobilise sweat equity. Building materials that are freely available, such as those required for wattle and daub wall construction or round pole roof construction for example, are not permitted by the national building regulations. While South Africa has a rich and varied pre-colonial architectural tradition, Frescura, F. (1981) traditional building skills have also been lost (partly as a result of the imposition of building regulations making the application of these
traditional skills illegal). The net effect of the imposition of building controls historically in South Africa has been to outlaw traditional building methods, bringing to an abrupt end the evolution of building materials and methods that comes with societies that urbanise organically outside of the context of colonialism. This evolution of building technique from rural to urban circumstance is evident throughout Europe, India and China but largely absent in societies that have been colonised. While this may appear to be a subject of importance perhaps only to architectural historians, the loss of a tradition of building to meet a families’ housing needs, has had a significant impact on wealth creation over passing generations. Those new entrants into the market, who do manage to acquire a structure compliant with the National Building Regulations, find themselves limited in a number of ways. They very often may not build on the full extent of their site (limited by coverage and bulk factors). Their attempts to increase their wealth by adding value to the property are limited by these controls. They are very often limited in the uses they may put their property to. Their ability to grow their wealth by adding revenue generating actives to their land is severely curtailed. The height to which they are able to build is very often limited, once again limiting the value that could have been added and thus the wealth growth opportunities.
Because of a pattern of restriction on land use rights over the years, the understanding that changing the status quo is very complicated and time consuming has become common among landowners. The impact of this “common knowledge” is to dissuade land owners from ever attempting to build wealth through expanding their own properties. This results in either spending on non-investment grade consumer items or in allocating resources toward poorly performing listed assets or derivatives thereof marketed by the financial planning industry. The available research on the impact of land use rights on wealth inequality is sparse or only indirectly relevant. The research however on the impact of the tendency of land use rights to dissuade landowners from consider changing the status quo is completely absent from scholarly literature. This is not surprising as it is of course very difficult to develop a methodology to quantify that which did not happen or that would have happened. Taleb, N. N. (2007). So while the points above illustrate the mechanisms that serve to limit the ability of new entrants and small land owners to fully exploit the wealth generation potential of their land, wealth inequality does not arise out of this phenomenon only by virtue of it being very complicated to close the wealth gap from the bottom up but also because those investors in the economy that already have significant wealth are able to negotiate the hurdles of land use right restrictions to release value and thus increase their wealth. In the case of land and land use rights it is certainly a pattern of the rich get richer, not only because the rich are able to purchase real estate in greater quantities, but because “the rich” are able to afford, the lawyers, town planners, environmental consultants, architects, engineers and heritage practitioners required to unlock the value in investment land. This is evidenced by the fact that by far the significant majority of new retail space, new office space and new industrial space in cities like Port Elizabeth results not from the small private land owners transforming their properties to meet these needs, but results rather from the work of big capital acquiring land and (at great expense) changing its rights to accommodate significant new investment.
4. What can be done?
In South Africa, as in many other parts of the world, land use rights and building controls are entrenched at many levels of government. To remove or modify them will prove to be a very complicated task requiring significant resources and determination. But before there can be any hope of progress in this regard, the important work that needs to be done is to develop a comprehensive “cost benefit analysis” of the barrage of land use right and building controls that are current and applicable. This paper postulates the hypothesis that land use right restrictions and building controls in their current form serve to not only perpetuate wealth inequality in South Africa, but in fact aid in the increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.
5. Disruption
The economy of Port Elizabeth, South Africa and the world, has been characterised since its establishment by a series of “disruptions”. A disruption can best be described as an innovation that creates new markets and radical transforms and industry or even an entire economy. Seba, T. (2014). Perhaps the first major disruption the Port Elizabeth region experienced was the introduction of an agricultural economy introduced by Nguni speaking
people migrating slowly from the north along the east coast of Africa. Beef, dairy and crop growing technologies combined with a whole range of implements possible with iron smelting technology, completely overwhelmed the pre-existing hunter gatherer economic model. Mostert, N. (1992) Evidence suggests that hunter gatherer economy that had existed for tens of thousands of years was completely disrupted and replaced with in a relative “blink of an eye”. Since that disruption there have been continuous waves of disruption characterised by among others, shipping and navigation, gun powder, telecommunications (since the telegraph), railways, the internal combustion engine, Air transportation, the internet and smart phones. Disruptions are very difficult to predict. Taleb, N. N. (2007) This fact is true even for the most well-resourced corporations in the world including those corporations who are highly specialised in the sector of the economy in which the disruption is about to occur. In 1985 AT and T famously predicted that the US demand for mobile phones would be no more than 900 000 by 2000. The actual figure was in fact will over 100 million. Seba, T. (2014) Governments have an even worse record at anticipating disruptions than do corporations. When we return to our focus on land use rights, we see that in places like Port Elizabeth where we find that restrictions on land use rights, have the potential to significantly impair and slow a region’s ability to take up new demand that may emanate from a future disruption.
This is especially significant in economies, like South Africa, that are attempting to transform existing and entrenched patterns of wealth distribution. This is true because one of the few things that we do know about disruptions is that they generally tend to not favour those already entrenched in the sector or the economy. AT and T was not the major beneficiary of the disruption caused by mobile phones in the US, the existing taxi industry was not the major beneficiary of disruption caused by Uber and horse breeders were not the major beneficiary of the disruption caused by the steam engines.
Transformation in patterns of wealth distribution is of course complicated and all encompassing, but where transformation touches land use rights, it is clear that we need to act firstly to remove land use right restrictions that are standing in the way of current and future disruptions. Presenly, technologies like Air B and B are disrupting the short stay rental economy, but the Local Authority has on its books a “Guest House Policy” that would cause law abiding citizens to think twice before taking advantage of the sometimes significant revenue streams that would be accessed by making use of the simple, free disruptive technology.
Uber and its competitors have begun to disrupt the pattern of private motor vehicle ownership. One of the consequences is a dramatic reduction in demand for parking space at for example shopping centres or theatres. Henao, A. (2017) We know that government takes a long time to react. It takes a lot of effort to remove a regulation or a statute, the real fear therefore is that in spite of a disruption enabling a much greater percentage of the investment on each retail site being invested in retail space, that this will not happen very soon because of the length of time it takes for processes to pass through government. It is because of our poor track record in anticipating disruptions and governments poor record in in reacting quickly that we argue that the options under consideration must include the complete removal of land use right restrictions and building controls.
It is anticipated that there will be significant resistance and intransigence toward any campaigning for the removal of land use right restrictions and building controls. It is also anticipated that it will not be enough to popularise and analyse studies that point to the many success stories of cities with little or no planning.
A possible route to consider is that of the court system, where the attempt would be to show that land use right restrictions and building controls are an infringement on personal freedom that cannot be justified by any scientific evidence of harm that would be caused if this personal freedom were not infringed upon. While this route remains a possibility, what is required to precede such action, is a clear and defensible methodology to illustrate the beneficial economic impact of the removal or relaxation of land use restrictions and building controls. The route therefore proposed to test the hypothesis put forward in this paper, is the development of a computer model that is able to test the impact of relaxing or removing land use right restrictions and building
controls in the context of a functioning urban economy. It is proposed that we use data from the city of Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to develop and test this model.
This type of modelling has been used with varying success for years to model demand for public and private transport. Sophisticated modelling packages have been able to test impact of various road building projects on trip times and other quantifiable measurable that enable policy makers and public executives to make decisions regarding the allocation of funds to public works projects. What we propose is the development of similar city wide modelling software that is able to deliver clear physical, spatial and economic measurables resulting from the manipulation of land use right restrictions. The economic measurables we propose though should include, overall economic impact, impact on job creation, impact on wealth creation, impact on wealth inequality. Because of the number of variable involved it is anticipated that the computing power required of a model of this nature would be significant. The timing of this proposed model may therefore be especially appropriate given the continued rapid grown in computing power with machines now rapidly nearing human intelligence in some complex fields and already outstripping human performance in a number of less complex tasks.
6. Conclusion
Understanding land use rights and their impact on the potential of land to express its full development potential, is a highly technical field. Many architects through years of practice and working up against these land use right restrictions have become acutely aware of the impact that these controls have. In South Africa there exists a group of professionals that call themselves “Town Planners”. These professionals, in the South African context, are experts in the processes involved in changing land use rights from one form into another. Due to the amount of time that Town Planners spend dealing with the technical aspects relating to land use rights, they are well placed to articulate themselves on the subject. The fact however that the town planning profession relies for its income on Land Use rights existing (in as complex a form as possible), makes it less likely that voices will emerge from this profession that will honestly and critically reflect on the negative impact that land use right controls may have on society.
This being the case, Architects, as a group of professionals seem the most likely group to take up the cause of activism in this regard. This paper therefore reaches out to Architects to criticise and guide the activism and research that may be triggered by ideas contained herein. Feedback from this paper will guide the next step to be taken either by the author of this paper or by other individuals that may emerge as a result of the discourse that flows from it.
References

 

Frescura, F. (1981). Rural shelter in Southern Africa. Ravan press,

Henao, A. (2017) “Impacts of Ridesourcing-Lyft and Uber-on Transportation Including VMT, Mode Replacement, Parking, and Travel Behavior.”

May, J, and Juby G. (1998) “Poverty and inequality in South Africa.” Indicator South Africa 15

Mostert, N. (1992) “Frontiers: the epic of South Africa’s creation and the tragedy of the Xhosa people.” Taleb, N. N. (2007). The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable (Vol. 2). Random house.
Piketty, T, and L. J. Ganser. (2014) “Capital in the twenty-first century.”

Rognlie, M. (2016) “Deciphering the fall and rise in the net capital share: accumulation or scarcity?.” Brookings papers on economic activity 2015.

Seba, T. (2014) “Clean disruption of energy and transportation.” Milton Keynes

Elon Musk is dead wrong about Mars!!

(This piece first appeared in Port Elizabeth’s “Weekend Post” on 1 July 2017)

 

I am inspired by the phenomenally innovative work of, California based,  Elon Musk. You may know him as the founder and CEO of the ground-breaking Tesla Company. You may know that in spite of Elon growing up with the smell of mind-numbing bureaucratic paralysis in the Pretoria air, his thinking on electric cars and battery storage is proving to be hugely disruptive. His bold ideas will absolutely and fundamentally change the way we all live and work. This dramatic transformation will happen very soon and I am very excited to see it all pan out.

 

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But I heard Mr Musk speaking the other day about his planned missions to Mars to build a colony there. I just can help feeling that that this kind of thinking is just a lot of crap, perhaps not unlike the kind of thinking of other technologists like (the American) J. Robert Oppenheimer,  who applied his incredible skill to enable our species to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I can see that I think a little differently to Musk and Oppenheimer. In my reading and in my quiet time, I have come to see that we, as a species, have evolved here on this planet and are an integral part of it, perhaps like our gut bacteria are an integral part of us. To just plonk us somewhere else, is misunderstanding just how integral we are to our ecosystem and to what extent we are a product of it. I see this in the writings of brilliant and enlightened souls and I see this when I watch my cattle going about their business in the pasture.

Pasture and grasslands are a fascinating subject, but I do understand that it  is quite possibly more interesting to me than it is to you. Books have been written about pasture. Entire library shelves filled. The important thing to take from our knowledge of pasture is the undeniable fact that we are dealing with a living interconnected system. In a very real and observable way cattle and grass and soil are part of the same “organism”. Grass has evolved to thrive on nutrient provided by herbivore manure, which in turn is digested by specifically evolved  soil based mycelium and bacteria. Grass had evolved to look, taste and behave the way it has because of grazing animals like cattle. Cattle have developed their size, shape and biology because they have evolved in the pasture (alongside their predators) eating the grasses that they do. These are not just curious facts of anatomy and biology. These are fundamental truths. They are absolute “laws”, that whether we choose to or not, are a governing force in all of our lives. It may appear to me that I, as an individual, am a separate organism to the people around me and to the things that I consume and to the things that try to consume me, but in truth, with the perspective of evolution and of time, I am not.

So much of what I see around us attempts to convince me that I am a separate organism, that I am able to survive even without this planet; that I am separate from the earth. The spectacular 1960’s project to send a man to the moon, walk around up there and take photographs of the blue planet from that far off position, is one in a sequence of events, since the beginnings of consciousness, that have made us feel more and more comfortable with the argument that we, human beings, are a separate and distinct organism.

But when I sit in the pasture. When I observe the earthworm magically building soil from excrement, when I appreciate the cattle, I let the picture remind me of who I am. I let the picture remind me that I am a part of an organism that is beginning to show signs of disease caused largely by  people (people  very much like me) that have somehow come to forget the obvious truth that they are only a small (yet very important) part of a big and complex organism. Perhaps, with time, we will come to see that the disease afflicting our planet is like the disease of cancer that afflicts so many of our bodies.( A disease that killed my own father.)  Some doctors say that a cancer cell is a cell that has forgotten that it is part of body, that it is part of an organism. A cancer cell consumes energy and replicates very rapidly, but it has forgotten its function within and as part of the organism. Cancer cells grow and grow until they kill the very same body that it forgot that it was integrally part of. Cancer cells form tumours that are fuelled by excess sugar in the system. In the same way perhaps as our bodies make up rapidly growing populations that cluster in cities that have become distorted way beyond any useful shape and size by the injection of excess energy in the form of over exploited fossil fuels.  Perhaps tumours, cities and Elon Musk behave in this way because they have forgotten what our species has known since it has first emerged from the cradle of human kind all those years ago.

So what do we do about all this? I can only suggest that you come sit with me in the in the pasture one afternoon. Perhaps we can be still, observe and help each other remember.