In Memoriam – A Final Article from Douwe: Untangling Life’s Traffic Jams
By Douwe vanderZee
Editor’s note: We are deeply impacted to learn that our “elephant whisperer” friend, Douwe vanderZee passed away in an automotive incident in his native South Africa. When we first launched “The Embrace,” we solicited an article from Douwe. Within a week, he sent us FOUR articles, all of them excellent, personal, and inspiring. Three of them have been published so far (see archives for November 2015, January 2016, and June 2016). Douwe’s beautiful, honest, open, and fearless spirit shines so beautifully in this, his final article for The Embrace. Following the article and in the right-hand column are further reflections taken from his recent writings.
While I was teaching at a high school in Pretoria, we had an athletics day in the centre of town. When we came back, hundreds of parents were waiting to pick up their children. There was a four-way stop in front of the school, a traffic regulation device in South Africa meant for low volumes of traffic. Now there was an immense volume of traffic, and the traffic jammed.
Spontaneously I felt an urge to direct the traffic, something I had never even dreamt of doing. It would be a tremendous risk. What if I failed?
“You who are worried about the risks you may be required to take, worry not! The changes that come to you will be chosen changes. You will lose nothing you would keep.” (A Course of Love T3:14.6)
I stood watching for some time, carefully working out what to do, and then boldly walked into the middle of the traffic. As I started directing, motorists started obeying. But I never realised how much concentration such an activity requires! While concentrating fully on three alternating streams of traffic, motorists from the fourth side started revving their engines. Oh shit. I had forgotten about them! OK, your turn.
The students had a ball from the side, and I had to really concentrate to avoid being distracted by the kind of comments teenagers like to make!
A bus driver ignored me and turned at the same time that a truck crossed. They collided, though with only minimal damage. Now I had to think quickly. If I were to stop the process and wait for the police to arrive, there would be chaos. Apart from that, they might question my authority to direct traffic, and there could be all kinds of legal implications. These thoughts flashed through my mind in the second or so it took me to decide. I walked up to the bus driver, who had just alighted from his vehicle, and with a confidence most uncharacteristic of me I ordered him to get back into his bus. He just looked at me and got back in. Similarly I showed the truck driver in no uncertain terms to move on. He too, obeyed. Within two minutes or so the traffic situation was clear again.
Who had done this …?
When the headmaster joked about my endeavour in the staff room the next day, a teacher sitting next to me said, “What if something had happened? It was almost dark already. You could have been hit by a car, and then you would have been in trouble!” And he didn’t even know about the bus and the truck!
My fellow teacher was right: the traffic situation could have gone horribly wrong. But it didn’t. When I left a prestigious position to live in faith, I was warned that things would go horribly wrong, But they didn’t. Of course, these admonitions but reflected my own underlying fear.
Only later did I read in ACOL what I felt all along: “You must birth the idea of having no reason to fear these consequences [that seem to result from whatever action your ideas have suggested], no matter what they may be. You must, in truth, birth the idea of benevolence and abundance.” (T3: 13.12). What an utterly radical idea!
But yes, even my little traffic act had lead to benevolence and abundance as a result of the impact it made.
There were many times that I had metaphorical buses and trucks colliding in my life and chaos seemed inevitable; many times where it truly felt as if my life was going horribly wrong. But it didn’t.
All I needed do was to let go of fear, blame and bitterness, as I did in the fraction of a second when I was surrounded by what any ‘normal’ person could only assess as disaster. Unfortunately it took me a bit longer than a fraction of a second, and it isn’t over yet …
Actually, living by the Truth has always been easy. It happens by itself. It’s thinking about it that makes it difficult.
Douwe had a marvelously varied career – he was indeed a Renaissance man in that way. He was a scientist, an oceanographic research coordinator with a PhD after his name. For many years he was a safari leader in the African bush and CEO of the Field (Nature) Guides Association of Southern Africa. He was a certified “original play” therapist employed by Montessori schools to play with young children. He was a high school teacher, permaculturist, and writer. Most recently he was planning to launch retreats around the theme, “Emotional Pain as a Path to Life.” Overarching all, he was truly a man of spirit, a lover of A Course in Miracles, A Course of Love, and many other expressions of truth. In the words of ACOL, he lived “an extraordinary, and miraculous, and observable life.” His web site, “In the Light of Darkness – Discovering the Joy of Being in Authentic Spirituality,” http://www.douwevanderzee.co.za/, has a wealth of his writings and observations on emotional healing, depression as a call to awakening, original play, group process, and much more.
Notes from Douwe:
– On Fear
Elizabeth’s neighbour came to visit. It turned out that he had read Tom Brown’s books on tracking, and I was asked to share some stories about my experiences in the African bush. Mark said something in the line of, “You don’t experience fear?”
“On the contrary,” I said. Not with animals really, but on my journey in general I have repeatedly experienced the most intense fear. Last year I posted about it on the Course of Love (ACOL) Facebook page. He seemed kind of relieved. When I told him that I “deal” with fear by deeply “entering” and feeling it, it seemed like a revelation. Elizabeth then elaborated. We experienced a Holy Instant.
It is one thing I have learned over time: I do not learn to trust by fighting fear, even though A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love urge us to deny it. The difference between denial and suppression seems very subtle. I don’t quite have an answer yet, but in the meantime I just let the feelings be in presence.
– On Science
Science has not, and is inherently unable to solve the mystery of human consciousness. In fact, it has increasingly been used by that consciousness to develop instruments of violence, war and destruction, thereby increasing our problems. Ascribing consciousness to chemical processes in the brain is a very convenient cop-out, a kind of non-explanation, as more and more scientists and medical experts are beginning to acknowledge.
The only logical consequence of our present denialist approach is complete self-destruction. If this is not what we want, as we proclaim daily, a drastically different approach is needed. The answer has been around for as long as humanity itself. In the words inscribed in the temple of Apollo at Delphi: gnothi seauton – know yourself.
– On Miracles
Although many people like what Jesus said, not that many, and especially not those who approach Jesus from a scientific perspective, believe that he truly performed miracles. Our scientific “knowledge” (belief) has made us as unbelieving as the Pharisees, and therefore we experience no miracles.
I have experienced miracles. There is no way that what happened to me in the USA recently (see this blog), and in fact often before, could be called “coincidence”. As I jokingly conferred to the man who asked me whether I had performed any miracles yet, I haven’t walked on water yet, but I have certainly experienced miracles. I left my job with the FRD almost 30 years ago to “live in faith”. I cannot “prove” this to anybody, but in the depth of my being I now know with absolute certainty that ultimately only Divine Reality is real.
– On Healing
The phenomenal paradox of authentic healing is that, instead of finding ever more horror when we allow our “dark side” to surface, the pain dissipates and we ultimately find a joy that transcends the understanding of the mind: the joy that “passeth all understanding”. As A Course in Miracles puts it: “The deeper you go into the blackness of the ego’s foundation, the closer you come to the Love that is hidden there. And it is this that frightens you.”
This is not just another theory. It is gnosis, as in gnothi seauton. It is a truth that I – and many others – have discovered and are discovering through authentic personal experience. I cannot “prove” it, because “proof” is a mental construct, the effectiveness of which depends entirely on the willingness of the receiver to accept (believe) it. Yet I cannot possibly describe – nor hide – the joy that comes from awakening: it goes far beyond what the human mind can understand. With this kind of knowledge, who still needs “proof”?