A Place to Heal
Eric was head of the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which sponsored my stay in
. From the outset I knew there was something about Eric that I did not know; that very few people really knew. He was charming and unfailingly courteous, but something lurked behind his eyes. He smiled often but I had never heard him laugh. South Africa
There was an alert vigilance about Eric's manner; often when sitting down one of his legs would vibrate in a kind of compulsive action, that I would describe as controlled but highly agitated distress. There was something out of sync about Eric. He was both present and elsewhere at the same time. In the midst of a crowd one could almost see him reach for that private space. The Orphan’s antennae had zoomed in on an outsider.
Representatives of foreign governments made a beeline to Eric’s office for advice and wise counsel. He ran the largest most successful NGO in
After leaving school he was employed as a technician in the electronics firm where his father worked as a driver. Eric said he cringed with embarrassment, dismay and indignation at how his dad was treated. The secretaries referring to him as kaffir (a pejorative racial term in
) would order him to get their lunch. The bleks were undeserving of respect, and their dignity as human beings was simply trampled under foot. South Africa
In employing Eric, the company was breaking the law. It was illegal to employ bleks as anything other than labourers. Eric grew increasingly militant and joined the trade union movement. He was eventually detained by the security police and initially taken to the infamous
John Vorster Square police station, used as a detention centre mostly for political activists, and from which Steve Biko is said to have fallen to his death.
Now back in the
After two-and-a-half years in
, I too was in need of a place to heal. An initial sanctuary turned out to be that course in transpersonal psychology. It helped me to reach somewhere beyond human chaos, to begin to acquire a different perspective on a world filled with madness. South Africa