When we speak of wealth, we generally refer to our material wealth. How much money you have in your bank account, what kind of salary you earn and the type of car you drive. But this is only one aspect of your affluence. Your capital value is found in many different ways, some of it hidden in amazingly unexpected places.
Not everything has just one value. Take from your wallet or purse, a banknote and place it somewhere where you can see it while you listen to this part of our show. Ask yourself, "What is this note's value?" I bet that your immediate answer is to say that its value is what is printed on the note itself. If you took out a R100 note, you would say its value is R100 and you'd be correct. But your note also has another value, which is not immediately recognised but obvious when you know it. This value is only a fraction of a cent representing the cost of the piece of paper and the ink used to print the note. World economic systems care nothing about the note's intrinsic value but only about its nominal value. Your financial wealth is calculated not in terms of the value of the bundle paper you have stuffed into your wallet or purse but rather in terms of its collective nominal value.
Similar principles apply when it comes to determining your personal worth. There are multiple ways to define your value. Let's take a look at this in a little bit more detail. You may have material value. If you have ever applied for a bank loan, you would have been asked to provide a balance sheet. This is a statement of your assets and liabilities. Under the asset column, you would have listed everything that you own or receive, things like your salary, interest on investments, movable and immovable property and other things like clothing, tools, books, DVDs and other possessions that you have. In the liability column, you would have listed all of your financial obligations. These would include the tax you pay, money you owe to creditors, repayments on your bank loans and mortgages, and an estimate of your cost of living expenses. By subtracting your liabilities from your assets, you will obtain an indication of your financial wealth. If you owe more than you earn, you might find yourself bankrupt.
But is this the only way to determine your value?
You have other possessions that you own which don't come with a price tag? Like your body for instance. Would you say that your body is an asset or a liability? Having a really sexy, fit body that is well-groomed and styled may an asset because through its attractiveness, you certainly will get a lot of attention, admiration and maybe even some interesting offers of sex. But good bodies don't run cheaply.
Let's take an imaginary walk down to the body shop. This is not the shop that sells soaps and cosmetics but is instead, a fictitious shop that sells … bodies. Here, they sell bodies of all shapes and sizes, male and female ones and young and old ones too. There are bodies from all nationalities for sale here and they all hang like empty wetsuits on the racks. Let's walk along the rows and select the most attractive body you can find in this shop. It probably looks a bit like the body of your favourite Hollywood movie star. It is perfectly shaped and is amazing to look at, naked or dressed. Pop across to the change room over there and kick off your own body so that you can try this one on. Notice how it feels when you climb into it. It fits tightly and weighs very little. All its bits are in great proportion but it requires a lot of fussing. It needs an awful lot of grooming, it needs to be taken to the gym regularly, and you will have to be very, very careful what you feed it. Notice its price tag. It might cost you more than you can afford in maintenance bills.
Take this body off and give it to me over the top of the cubicle door and I shall fetch the cheapest body I can find for you here in this shop. … Here it is. It won't fit over the top of the cubicle door because it is too big so I'll have to slide it in along the floor. Step into it and you will quickly notice how heavily it hangs on you. You can barely cope under its weight and you can't even place your legs together or your hands at your sides because there's just too much padding everywhere. It's very cheap however. When you wear this body you can eat anything you like, and you are free to spend the entire day lying around on the sofa watching TV. Mmm!
Very expensive bodies, like very expensive cars, take a lot of resources to keep them going. However, cheap bodies, like cheap cars, putter along at very little cost but are so unreliable that you can't really put your faith in them when you need them. Step out of this oversized body and put your own body back on. Notice how snugly it fits, like a well-worn slipper. It might need a bit of attention here and there, but it is your home and it feels just right. Good health and stamina are amazingly valuable assets that add a lot to your intrinsic value.
But whether we talk about money in the bank, valuable possessions that you own or even having a great body, we are still talking about the value of your tangible things. Have you ever considered that a lot of your value is found in the abstract aspects of who you are? These are not things you can put in a bottle but they do contribute enormously to who you are as a person. These are attributes like your beliefs, your cultural values, your ideas, and of course, your creativity. They are extremely valuable in a strategic way because they give you skill, personality and character which help you tactically navigate your way through a very complex world.
Financial, material and physical assets come and go. Health and beauty fade the older we get and your earning capacity dwindles, leaving you reliant on the reserves you build up for your retirement but your abstract assets don't fade as fast. To paraphrase what Jesus said (and you'll get to know me as an advocate for all spiritual philosophies and not just Christian teachings) that, you should store up treasures not on earth where moths and rust can find them but instead in heaven where neither moth nor rust can reach. This is a neat way of saying that you should revise your concept of your person wealth. Jesus, as one of our great master teachers, taught us that it is wiser to put more value on the things we have that are not likely to decay.
You might know somebody who through bad choice or bad luck, lost everything. But he was able to bounce back because he placed more value on his creativity and entrepreneurial skills that helped him make up the loss. Asset values like strategic thinking, tenacity and bravery, self-esteem, courageousness, confidence and your deep sense of spirituality are hugely important values that you can use effectively throughout your life. With this valuable capital you will be able to manage life regardless of your state of health and financial wealth.
But I'd like to close this segment by leaving you with a little twist to the tale. There are those that say that when you are dead, you are dead. Is this true? Science is not able to prove this one way or another. There are some anecdotal stories of people who say that they have returned from death's door. They seem quite convinced that there is much more to death than just turning the lights off and closing the doors. Many religious text also speak of the afterlife. Fundamental to the beliefs of many mainstream religions is the idea of reincarnation. These beliefs presuppose that there is a part of us that was never born and which will never die. This spiritual essence comes and goes in repeated incarnations, each giving us a chance to learn a bit more about who we are. If this is so, it completely changes perspectives regarding our value. This immortal part of you that is safe in the knowledge that it cannot cease to be is then much, much more valuable than anything else you own. It is a part of you that is so valuable that it would be impossible to put a price tag on it. All other value pales into insignificance when compared to it. So when the master teacher said that we should store up treasures in heaven when neither rust nor moth can reach, perhaps he was referring to this amazingly wonderful spiritual aspect of who you are.
It would be so nice to have others recognised this amazing aspect of who you are? "Hello there amazing spiritual being… Tell me, what is it like having those experiences of yours in that that body with all those other material things around you? I can tell you what it is like having my experiences. They are not always easy. Sometimes I get lost in them. But every now and then I raise my awareness and I remember who I truly am."
The traditional greeting from one person who recognises his or her greatest intrinsic value and who recognises the same value in another, will greet that person by saying, "Namasté." This greeting, when translated from Sanskrit, means, "I recognise in you the divine light I see in myself."
We now turn our attention to Pastor Steve Anderson of the Faithful World Baptist Church in America. He is very soon to set foot on South African soil to further his evangelical cause. He is vociferously anti-gay and preaches that gay people should be executed — in accordance with his interpretation of Biblical Law. A petition of over 50,000 signatures seeks ways to thwart Anderson's efforts to denigrate gay people in this country. Although the South African government is aware of Anderson's hate speech, they appear lukewarm in preventing his visit. Anderson's itinerary was leaked and since then many companies have refused to have him preach on their premises. Mambaonline lists some of these companies which include: the Ocean Basket in Kempton Park, the Holiday Inn at OR Thambo Airport, the Burger Republic the Sugar Cube Café, both in Boksburg. There is also a plan to meet Anderson at the airport on Saturday morning 17 September, in a loud but non-violent protest against his hate speech by blowing vuvuzelas as he arrives.
From the comments I have read on social media about Anderson's visit, I get a sense of growing anger towards him and his entourage but we should remember that "fighting for peace" is nothing more than an awful oxymoron — for how can one attain peace when one embarks upon a war to obtain it. The South African Constitution is this country's proud heritage that guarantees tolerance towards and protection of diverse minorities. It would be a big mistake for the LGBTI community to mimic Anderson's hatred by engaging in reciprocated acts of hatred towards him. Peace is best attained through peaceful protest. As misguided as we know Anderson's view to be, we should still honour that he is entitled to his opinion provided that it in no way breaches our constitutional rights. The community is at liberty to stand up for its rights, just as it does at all the Gay Pride festivals throughout the world.
Pastor Steve Anderson — Founder of the Faithful Word Baptist Church
Remember, that nobody has the means to take away your personal power without your permission. This is such an important statement and so I have to say it again. Nobody has the means to take away your personal power. People may threaten you, slander you and even bully you but your power will remain intact until you embrace fear, revenge or any other act of vengeance towards them. I learned of this first hand, when as a youth of 19, I defied the apartheid government as a conscientious objector. As long as I steadfastly held onto my principles and beliefs, they were powerless. But there is another story that illustrates this too: it is a story of a Chinese General who was sent to lead a platoon of soldiers into Tibet. The general was an arrogant and mighty man and enjoyed wielding his power wherever he went. As he marched the soldiers across Tibet, he set villages alight, he had the soldiers rape the women and abuse their children, and he dealt with the Buddhist monks in the most atrocious way. All the monks fled into the hills except for one. Upon hearing about this solitary monk, the general commanded his adjutant to assemble the troops before dawn so that he could lead the soldiers up the hill to the temple where the monk was in residence. The soldiers surrounded the temple and the general walked up to the monk who was sweeping the fallen leaves in the courtyard as he had done every morning. Spitting saliva and jabbing his finger against the monk's chest, this vexed general barked, "Do you know who I am? Because in an instant I could draw my sword and plunge it into your belly." But the monk was a man of faith who firmly believed in reincarnation. He just looked at the furious general through peaceful, tranquil eyes. The monk stopped sweeping for a moment, and replied, "But you don't know who I am! Because in a moment, I would allow you to draw your sword and plunge it into my belly." What power does an arrogant Chinese general have over a gentle monk not afraid of death? Stripped of power, the general slowly sank to his knees and after a while, looking up at the serene monk, said, "Forgive me! For it is only now that I realise my arrogance." And the monk replied, "I cannot forgive you…" "Why not?" asked the general. "I cannot forgive you," replied the monk, "because I never took offence. There is nothing to forgive!"
Nobody can take away your power and less you offer them your power — not even Pastor Steve Anderson, who believes that he is sanctioned by God to "kill the gays." Retaliating to Steve Anderson in the manner that he uses to accuse you, simply strips you of the dignity that you have which is enshrined in our constitution. Protest by all means by showing Steve Anderson and the world that we are proud of our Constitution, and of who you are. Going to OR Thambo airport in numbers to blow your vuvuzelas is of no less importance to you than attending Gay Pride. Meeting Pastor Steve Anderson at the airport is actually just another Gay Pride. If the LGBTI community had the time and resources, its members should drive in permanent convoy with Steve Anderson on an ostentatiously over-the-top float to fearlessly flaunt their pride in themselves.
I have often wondered why Gay Pride needs to be such a flamboyant affair. Having grown up in a very, very conservative household, I always found myself cringing a little at the in-your-face style of Gay Pride. Float after float of half-naked men, men regaled in dresses, high heels and feather bowers, red lipped and rouged-cheeked drag queens parading down the high street. It is certainly a parade that cannot be overlooked. People line the pavements, some in awe of the pageantry and almost carnival atmosphere, others stand there aghast, their faces a reflection of disbelief and incredulity. Then there are often those anti-gay processions that trundle along behind the main pageant, like a tail pinned on the donkey.
The 1950s and 1960s were an extremely repressive time for LGBTI people in America where few basic civil rights and protections were afforded them. Queer folk were thought of as mentally ill people and many of them carried huge social stigma and feelings of personal guilt and shame at being gay. In 1968 Frank Kameny came up with the slogan "gay is good" to counter what was happening in America at the time. In the next year, in the early morning of Saturday, 28 June 1969, LGBTI persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street, New York City. This became an iconic watershed moment in modern LGBTI rights movements and gave impetus to organising gay pride marches on a much larger scale. In the beginning, Frank Kameny tried to convince heterosexuals that gay people were no different than they were. He once organised a march outside the White House with the objective to look as though they could have worked for the United States government. But slowly a shift occurred in gay liberation movements away from "liberation" and "freedom" to a more celebratory philosophy, namely one of "pride." Pride became a hugely effective antidote to the shame imposed on LGBTI people.
It is therefore important when one deals with someone like Steve Anderson not to lose one's way. Sexual bigotry of the past is not easily forgotten and one's heckles soon rise when confronted by the hatred that Anderson propagates in the name of God. But it would do no good to have a vitriolic backlash to Steve Anderson's views. On the back of Anderson's hatred, LGBTI people should go out of their way to show how proud they are as lawfully fully accepted citizens of South Africa. To quote a part out of the Bible: he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Give Steve Anderson enough rope and eventually he will metaphorically eventually hang himself.