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2 May 2022


We are flying into a world on the brink



Dear all


Our boat is going afloat again.


After returning from our first longer tour after all the COVID disruptions and stand-stills, we walked into the little cottage that we have nested in over five years and realized that our life is back on the road again. Combined with an insecure future for this property and a desire to explore other parts of the country that might suit us better as a base, it all lead us to decide to uproot ourselves for a while. Which means that when we are not on the road or in the air, we will “park” at different places – two weeks here, a month there, and so on.


While digging ourselves out from the COVID financial hole, it would also save us money, by not paying 12 months’ rent for a place where we only spend three months living. For the foreseeable future then, we will either make use of standing invitations to stay with people, or temporarily book ourselves into an Airbnb or self-catering accommodation. These will mainly be in South Africa. If you’d like to advise us or invite us regards such “parking periods” we’d be happy to hear from you.


The decision to uproot is one arrived at mutually by both Joke and myself. It attests to the immense strides Joke has made in her healing process. At this point, I would again like to thank each and everyone who supported us in small and big ways through this challenging period. Your “investments” that allowed us to stay more at home the last months of 2021 has paid off. Joke herself, however, deserves most of the thanks and the recognition, both for the full-hearted way she dived into this process and the immense courage she showed by rebuilding her life and being. The foundation has been laid. And we are all the stronger for it.


Within a month, we will start touring and I performing in Europe again. We literally spread our wings again. But we are flying into quite a changed world from the one we left as the virus started to run amok. I do not want to sound over-dramatic, but the phrase “a world on the brink” keeps popping up. On the brink of a world war, on the brink of runaway global warming, on the brink of the collapse of any kind of world order that keeps people and nations safe.


What has lead to these three “brinks?” (Not that they are new. It is just that with an ever shrinking globe, they have become more intense and consequential.)


I would like to point at the deficit of feeling that leads to disconnection and polarization. Do we want to live in a world where there are weapons in store that could destroy the planet many times over? Do we want to live (and die) with increasing extreme weather events, mass displacements and a collapse of human civilization? Do we want to live in anarchy, where the world is “run” by self-seeking kleptocrats?


I think I can safely say that most people on earth do not want any of these scenarios. And this is because most people are still in possession of a fairly sound emotional life. And this goes beyond ideology, being liberal or conservative. When we still have the capacity to feel for one another, to be hurt when we see that nature gets hurt, to be concerned when things lose order and flow, with an active impulse to restore order and flow, then we still have an emotional life. A basic capacity for care.


So how can the world be on brinks while most people still care?


The crux here is power. As for these three brinks, the relevant means of power are: weaponry, fossil fuels and money. But before you think I am now going to focus on all the bad apples that are in abuse of these powers, I’d like to remind you and myself that the trouble with power is as old as civilization itself.


It is civilization that sets us apart from all other forms of life. These powers are an intrinsic part of its very foundations, and spring from our abilities to apply abstract thought to manipulate our environments, to worship gods and form complex organizations. The trouble is not that some of us are abusing these powers, the trouble is that, collectively, after 12 000 years, we have not yet learnt to handle our powers in a mature and sustainable way.


And I am not talking peace and love here. Maturity does not mean to deny one’s powers. Maturity does not mean to shy away from conflict, or to treat nature as if it was some precious piece of porcelain, or to order the world so it operates in a neat and precise way like a clock. Maturity knows (like Solomon did) that there is a time for conflict and a time for peace, for love and for hate, for order and for disorder, for being strong and being weak. A time for utilization and for preservation, a time for being liberal and for being conservative. Which all implies that there is room, as well as the need, for both those who can fight and for those who can make peace; for those who can make and for those who can break; for those who liberate and for those who conserve; for those who gather more and for those who give more. The choice is not for the one or the other. The choice that marks maturity, is the choice to have all these working together, complimenting each other, for all these to contribute to a dynamic whole. It is not Left nor Right that brings us to the brink. Not the rich or the poor, not the powerful or the weak. It is the disconnection between these that radicalizes each, that breaks the middle and make things spin out of control.


If I am Right and have no connection left with the Left, then Right becomes my whole world and anything on the Left is evil. And vice versa. Things come to a brink when one side acts as if it is all sides; one community acts as if it stands against the whole wide world; one leader acts as if all else is against him or her; one species acts as if all belongs to it; one faith lives on as if it alone is in possession of truth.


In the same vein, there can be no talk about power if it is not understood in the light of its underlying vulnerability.


The first wars were fought over food and water as civilization started with the power of the grain and the dependency on the flooding of the great Mid-Eastern rivers (including the Nile). Here was the power of mass food production. And here was the great vulnerability from being dependent on the behaviour of the rivers and the availability of land. Many more babies could be born, yet many more lives were at stake when things went wrong. And instantly, the need for powerful leaders and gods erupted. God-leaders. The leaders to raise armies to protect land and food. And the gods for all that could not be controlled - the availability of water, or the eruption of new diseases (for a grain-based diet is far inferior to a hunter-gatherer’s diet).


We have not moved on much from this early conundrum. We are still vulnerable to many uncontrollable things and we still need some people to control the powerful means we have developed, up to the power of nuclear arms. And oil. And money. We still have-not quite figured out how to prevent those in such powerful positions to handle that power in ways that are not only responsible, but also equitable – because to disempower the majority brings on revolutions and a collapse of the working systems on which all depends.


But we also did not stand still. We did learn some lessons. We have learnt that war is an ineffective way of dealing with disputes and conflicting interests. We have learnt that problems do not go away through magic. That disparities of wealth is not sustainable. And finally, we have come to learn that the planet is finite.


And we have come up with ways to apply what we have learnt. We have come up with something called democracy – a way to empower the masses and to check the powers of those in the lead. This “way” is not perfected by far. But it is a step forward from the bulk of our civilized story, where autocracy was the norm and the lives of those at the bottom pretty miserable. And even as democracy on a global level lags behind the level of democratic governance within some countries, we have come a long way.


Very belatedly, we have also come to address our wanton exploitation of the environment. There is finally a shift from maximizing our advantages over nature, to finding ways to restore a sustainable relationship it.


As for money, I am afraid I do not see that we’ve learnt much here. Both capitalism and socialism have healthy ideas at their core, but we are still either knocking left (total control) or right (runaway free-markets). Hence the massive economic divides persisting in both capitalist and socialist countries, even as masses of people have been lifted out of centuries-old poverty. There are a few rich countries who strike a more middle-of the road economic path and they do give some hope. But they are rich countries benefitting from the virtual slavery of people in other places, providing raw materials and cheap products. We have a long way to go.


But OK, now for those bad apples.


Putin has money. Lots of it. Would he have been so cocky, going into the kind of war we thought we’ve left behind, had he not the toxic hubris given to him by so much personal wealth?


I wrote on him last time and would like to thank you for your reactions to it. It remains an ongoing event and there are changing perspectives and developing thoughts around this. But we should not make the mistake of trivializing his war-making on the Ukrainians - not from a liberal nor a conservative viewpoint. On a moral level, there are many more war situations that requires equal concern. And the West is absolutely not innocent. But here is a war of broader significance and systemic impact. Here is a game-crasher.


During the times that I was engrossed in reading about how the West pummeled the world through its bloody empires – up to the American empire – I had to question its continuous leading role – through the USA as its anchor power – as representative of the “good” in the world. Can an apple with such a bad and bloody history be of any good today?


I then had to come to terms with the real-politik fact that the West, with all its flaws, along with those allied with it, still singularly carries the necessary power to at least uphold the expensive lessons we have learnt so far and provide the prime space for its further development.


This is not to say the West has all the answers. Much of what goes through as “Western” is ultimately derived from cultural contributions from Africa, the East and the rest of the world. Furthermore, in the long run it is not sustainable for one part of the world to have too much influence vis-à-vis the rest. But for all of us on this planet concerned with becoming more mature as human beings, concerned with the responsible and equitable handling of power, the reality is that the West, by and large, remains the current block with the means to check on major threats to our well-being.


The historical dynamic is this: the long established world-view of autocracy has hit its limits, just as the world population pushes against the limits what the planet can bear. Autocracy was still tolerable as long as there were plenty of spoils to go around. But we are running out of space and resources. The pressure to share more equitably amongst ourselves and be more economical in our ways is not just a moral one, it is a very, very practical one. However, the change required for this, after thousands of years of top-down social structures and mental make-ups, does not come easily. There is a natural push-back from those who enjoyed, and still enjoy the priviledges granted by such vertical ways.


The current rise in autocratic behaviours is furthermore fuelled by general insecurity. You have imperfect democracy, you have an exploitative economic system (capitalism) and growing instability through the effects of global warming. People feel these and are affected by it all. Lots of us, therefore, are easy targets for the parochialism and simplistic solutions put forward by the Big Men (and a few women) to regain a sense of security. And Putin is the big men’s big man (China plays this role too, but in more subtle ways, and on some levels is of bigger concern than Putin, even as the price of autocracy’s one-mindedness is also fast catching up with Xi Jinping regards his zero-Covid policy).


The autocratic moment for humanity has passed. The danger is not anymore that it will endure, but what it will destroy on its way out. As well as the progress it will stall in the process.


Our collective legacy of autocratic abuse has wounded us all, some much more and some less. We are trying to heal from this. What Putin has done is to drive a knife right into that wound. This is why the world-wide reaction against his move was so powerful – far beyond his calculations. All the myriad smaller wars do not do what this war is doing: it tries to bounce right back at our efforts to get our human house in order. It also, ironically, boosts those efforts, even though, ideally, we can do with better boosts than destruction and critical disruptions.


I don’t fear a third world war. I think it is safe to say what Putin does is anachronistic. And that we can call his bluff. But the push-back from autocracy won’t go away if Putin is defeated. It would be a major advance for restoring feeling in human relations. But there is still much top-down power interests going around.


Which brings me to a very bitter issue: the fact the the country without which Putin cannot be thwarted, is itself in danger – serious danger – of falling in the hands of a power block that is by now rather blindly clinging to an older sense of meaning and security. And through the cynical manipulation of one man, Trump, it is hell bent on bringing its own democratic house down.


Trump has morphed into the ultimate autocrat. Decent men and women defy their own conscience, they lie through their teeth, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, just to please him. It is a pathetic spectacle to behold. But it becomes rather intelligible if seen against the background of the last gasps of the most powerful bastion left of the old hegemony enjoyed by the West – the West as a white and Christian West – as it realizes that its days of glory and control are long numbered.


Trump is no white patriot. He is no Christian. He is a genius self-seeker who pounces on anyone and anything that can prop and gild up his image - the ultimate marks of an ultimate autocrat, if ever there was one. That the white, conservative Christian block took to a man like him says all about their very real desperation. Demography, history and time are against them. But through Trump, they can still feel something of the old high grounds. And the frightening thing is that they are ready to sacrifice America’s crucial role in stabilizing the world in order to keep feeling that feeling. (And I know that feeling, having stood in that camp as a youngster).


In the long run, though, the push-back against a more shared world cannot last. And this I do not say from knowledge. It is a statement of faith. I cannot prove that human civilization won’t necessarily self-destruct. I can only believe it won’t. This belief is fed and strengthened by seeing how Ukrainians of all persuasions and ethnic backgrounds defend themselves against autocratic aggression. It is strengthened by seeing how far we have already shifted towards more sustainable energy sources. It is strengthened by the ways I have seen how we can learn to live together if we get the chance to feel each other. It is strengthened by looking at history and see how we have actually come through times when all looked like it was going to be the end (the book of Revelations was written with a vision of the great ending being immanent, and yet, here we are, two thousand years later. World War II has been seen by many as the Final Straw. And yet..).


Faith can be disappointed, however. Faith is not fortune telling. Faith asks for and leads to action. We need to push back against the push-back. And do it decisively.


Which brings me to a good apple. Whatever weaknesses the man has (weaknesses that might cost him dearly domestically), i am with many commentators who give Joe Biden credit for a sterling job of holding an alliance together and strengthening their resolve to act. He does this without brag and bluster and especially without playing the media. He is someone with a clear sense of right and wrong and a remarkable swiftness of decision. Biden has lived through deep pain in his life and has the kind of heart that can share this pain and be vulnerable about it. That is why he can show up a bully for what it is and call it by its name. How awfully different all of this could have unfolded without someone like him at the helm of the Western response.


Now, I have not yet touched upon that other brink: money. How money empowers some men to think they can save the world by themselves. It is not funny (and it is funny) how these most expensive men are making life cheaper for all the rest of us on a massive scale. Who then is more dangerous – Putin or Zuckerberg? Putin could be gone, but right in our hands we keep carry instruments that weaken democracy and strengthen bullies and murderers the world over.


The tech barons of our time are as dangerous as the industrial barons of a century ago who pushed us into World War I. Today’s barons make billions on our backs as they destroy what is left of individual privacy. This insidious fact is calling for a battle to protect our collective sanity which is far from won - just ask the rising tide of screen addicted teenagers suffering from mental illness. (Newsflash: great kudos to Europe for just having passed exemplary laws to help protect social media users!)


As for taking sides, I am not interested in seeing that the “West wins”. I am interested in seeing that we all mature as a human family with a common destiny. Family is family for they are connected with each other and operate primarily on the basis of a flow of feeling. Feelings are the oil that lubricates our relations, shapes our ethics and give meaning to our voices. (Feeling is what I “spread” through my music and will keep doing until I die.) Time and again it has been proven that humans get along pretty well once they share feelings. We are no angles, yet we are not inherently broken either.


It is most natural and desirable that there is relative harmony amongst all peoples, that there is a steady flow of well integrated feelings. But this does not come cheap. Life needs a frame. Flow needs boundaries. Feelings need protection. It is trauma that compresses feeling and turn healthy people into cold and heartless survivors. And if that compression of the heart and nervous system does not thaw and regain its bounce, such people can eventually turn into monsters. All evil has a story behind it.


The trouble with civilization, therefore, are those powerful actors who act without feeling. And all those who follow and enable them.


It is, in other words, power without feeling that has traumatized us over all these many civilized years. For humanity to finally heal and mature, we need protection from even more trauma and abuse. We need the necessary stability to restore connection. We need sufficient safety within which we can become vulnerable to each other.


In the current stage of our broken development, democracy is what provides for the relative freedom to pursue our healing and maturity. We need to keep building and developing this system and its understanding of sociality. Not only do we need more countries to become democratic, we also need the world order itself to become more democratic. And not the least, we need business to become more democratic. The internal autocratic structure and the feeling-deficit of the mighty tech and multi-national corporations are the worms in many a seeming good apple, the worm that can keep turning healthy countries into dysfunctional ones, corrupting them at their core.


Ultimately, we need to transform democracy itself into an organic frame that is understood as a facilitator of healthy and flowing communication, commune-ication that is in turn based on healthy and flowing feelings, whether those are feelings of love or feelings of hate, as Solomon implicated.


For we can love the harmonious things as much as we want, if we do not have the backbone to hate what dissociates us, and act on it, the whole human world will eventually reach its premature end.


It requires wisdom indeed, to know when to love and when to hate (in other words, when to draw close and when to take distance) and how to ensure that these two poles within our hearts do not drift too far from each other.


It is in this spirit that we wish you all, a love that knows its boundaries, a love not possessive nor overwhelming, and a hate that, even if strong, is not typically closed and destructive, but remains open and ultimately constructive.


Francois (and Joke and Mira)


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"broken earth" by HA!Man (2017)






Upcoming  | Retreats | New Release Teasers | Touring Schedule





Near Hartebeespoortdam (Gauteng)

HA!Man back in Silkaatsnek
Fri 13 May 2022

Jannie and Margaret knows how to host. Beautiful bushveld property.

intro and info

Centurion (Gauteng)

Wholesome Sounds at Sunset
Sun 15 May 2022

At Soul Oasis - a special place with a special outdoor space for me to fly about

intro and info

Houghton (Jhb, Gauteng)

The HA! at Foxwood Theatre
Sat 21 May 2022

It would be a priviledge to play at Foxwood!

intro and info



full listing ..


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Groot Marico (2 hrs west from Gauteng)

Fearless Flow: Do Nothing - just Play!
Fri 19 to Thu 24 August 2022

Spontaneous Creativity Retreat in collaboration with mindfulness expert, Anton Krueger, at the beautifully secluded Tara Rokpa Centre

full introduction and booking options on the Centre web site

The Crags (near Plettenberg Bay, Southern Cape)

HA!Retreat at Wild Spirit Lodge
Thu 6 to Sun 9 Oct 2022

situated on the magnificent Garden Route, this transformative venue is the ideal setting for an immersion in spontaneous creativity - a repeat from last year!

full introduction, programme and booking options


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New Release Teasers


creations with an aesthetic bent


running with a marimba from Rwanda

recording (05:12) | by HA!Man | 26 April 2022

she calls it a hand

unwittingly, it is much more than that

drawing | by Mira le Roux | 25 April 2022

the colour of swimming

the rainbow is a flowing thing

water colour paint | by Joke Debaere | 12 April 2022

a theme park in Korea

opulence and pure fantasy at night time

slide show (74 images) | by HA!Man | 3 April 2022 from 21 June 2012

issue-driven and food-for-thought creations

babies without bodies

the screaming screens that rule our day

hand written essay | by HA!Man | 25 April 2022

Guilt and Innocence - the robbery of childhood

there is such a thing as too much love

essay (1597 words) | by HA!Man | 17 April 2022

arduous healing

the secret sounds of soul

recording (19mins) | by HA!Man | 24 March 2022

creations drawing from daily life, on the road and stage

the silent beginning

each time i perform, i am born naked

essay (1529 words) | by HA!Man | 18 April 2022

'n Stellenboschse tydstap

hoe kyk 'n mens na mooi berge met donkerbrille?

gedig (156 woorde) | deur HA!Man | 9 April 2022

Hitch-Hiking Years (6)
Journey to Zambia

lessons in my own smallness

series-essay (3056 words) | by HA!Man | 31 March 2022


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Touring Schedule



6-21 May: Central SA and Gauteng Tour
19-25 August: Groot Marico Retreat
30 August-18 September: Mpumalanga, K Natal, Eastern Cape
6-9 October: Wild Spirit Retreat
11 October-20 November: N Cape, Gauteng, West & South Cape
20-30 September: Season Tour, W & S Cape





25 May-19 June: Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland
1-17 July: Belgium, Netherlands
26 July-5 August: Belgium, Netherlands





14 October-19 December: USA & Canada



April: South Korea


detailed schedule ..


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HA!MAN (Francois le Roux)  spontaneous performer in partnership with Joke Debaere


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