selected studies of our past-imperfect
So in their three hundred and twenty years of a new life, even in the Africa of their promise, when this craving for a better way of being seemed thwarted, they had again and again renounced homes and possessions just as readily as any in Europe and moved deeper into the interior, looking once more for a place where their problems would not exist, where life would be innocent like a slate wiped clean, and they could write all over it perfect phrases and sentences of the perfect life on earth. They had of course found no such thing. They had not only not found it but had gradually begun to create a greater form of tyranny than they had opposed and fled from in the beginning, so unaware were they of the new heresy of believing in places where evil did not exist. Not only were there no such places in Africa but there were none anywhere else in the world. Man had run out of places, had run out of geographical solutions for his problems and changes of scene as a "cure" for his restlessness. The journey in the world without as an answer to our searching and resolution of our failings was dismally bankrupt.
There was only one thing which could lead to an answer and that was to let the sense of journey expressed for so long in travelling the world without become a journey within the spirit of man. Statesmen, scientists, philosophers, even priests and the whole intellectual trend of the day put up a plausible presence that our troubles were due to imperfect political systems, badly drawn frontiers and other environmental and economic causes. The whole history of man as he, Mopani, knew it, had tried all those approaches over and over again and at last, as far as he was concerned, they were proved utterly bankrupt. The real, the only crises out of which all evil came was a crisis of meaning. It was the terrible invasion of meaninglessness and a feeling of not belonging invading the awareness of man, that was the unique sickness of our day. And this sickness, he was convinced, was the result of the so-called civilised man, parting company with the natural and instinctive man in himself. Never had the power of the civilised over the natural been so great and never had power corrupted man within himself so dangerously. For that reason the journey within could not be resumed soon enough, the journey of what he called the exiled Jacob back to the Esau, the hunter, whom he had betrayed and with whom he had to be reconciled before he could come home again to inherit his full self.
This journey to total reconciliation within depended on man standing fast at last in his surroundings and there refusing to give in to any assault on his integrity. He had been horrified by the extent to which people were leaving Africa, saying that they were leaving it for the sake of their children and going back to other amply discredited geographical points of departure and patterns of behaviour as a way out of their problems. Yes-no, we had to stand fast and in standing fast bring out into the world around us what was revealed to ourselves on a new journey within and make it part of our here and now; make what was first and oldest in us, new and immediate. Man had to give all his imagination, all his devotion, before it was too late, to whatever was nearest at hand, refusing nothing, however humble or insignificant or even distasteful that came out of him and at him from his immediate surroundings, but accepting all as the raw and only material, however base, on which he could work, just as those old alchemists of whom he had heard so much from Ouwa, took the basest of all metals -- lead -- and tried to transform it into gold.