To live is to risk and to risk is to live

This past week I attended the Woordfees in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Woordfees (Festival of Words) is a yearly event, which takes place over a week where new publications and plays are presented. There are also many panel discussions regarding current issues in the spheres of politics, literature, socio-economics, languages, cultural diversity and religion.

Many of these discussions included participants who hold very different views. The outcome of such discussions were highly stimulating, challenging and sometimes controversial dialogue. As I listened to many of these discussions, especially regarding religion and spirituality and the expression thereof, it affirmed my awareness of risk. To take a stand on a issue often will position you as the “other” – distinct to those who might believe or understand differently than you. One risk being seen as the opposition or in the worst case scenario, being completely misunderstood.

My awareness of risk was heightened during the several theatre productions which I attended. One such production dealt with a mother’s agony and desperation as she tries to convince her daughter not to commit suicide (Good night mom – Nag Ma). The heart-wrenching story is not just about hopelessness, but rather about the daughter’s decision to take control of her life and therefore decides how she can or cannot live in it and how she would end it. From here I moved to a play in which a middle-aged woman shares her journey of lost love, youth, betrayal, divorce and the re-defining of her life (Just desert, dear – Dit is koue kos skat). And lastly, I watched Vaselientjie, the story of a white girl who grew up with a coloured family in South-Africa. She was removed from this loving and nurturing family due to the Apartheid policies and placed in a orphanage. We see how she has to fight for her own survival and well-being. In this orphanage each child had their own story of abuse, survival and who to make meaning of the cards which they were dealt in life. It was an inspirational story, deeply sad and tragic at times but also funny, uplifting and encouraging.

All these experiences made me reflect on the concept of risk. There are so many story lines about risk, but the most compelling one for me is what I define as: To live is to risk and to risk is to live. One can stay within ones comfort zones and never challenge your ways of believing, understanding and meaning-making. Or one can move outside that which you hold as the known and your safe space: emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, culturally and relationally – to discover and explore new story lines and new meanings of the taken-for-granted knowledges and unchallenged “truths”. It invites us to engage in an ever-changing “reality”, to move beyond and outside that which is safe: to experienced in different ways.

Reflecting on the concept of risk, made me ask the question: What is safe or safety? The answer I came to (for the moment) is that safety is a state of mind. You can feel safe in the most unsafe situations when you allow yourself to let go of that which you believe is the only way, in order to create space to allow other voices and ways of understanding in your space. The “other” is then no longer the enemy, but rather just another way of making meaning, which not necessarily means that you have to negate your understanding. It allows for many different “realities” and which can co-exist in the presence of tolerance and co-diversity in an ever-changing discourse.

English site: Just desert, dear


Die Woordfees (Festival of Words) –