South Africa is a really interesting country to live in. Consider just some of the facets and aspects that add to the melting pot that is the country. Starting with the socio-economic layers of human drama and engagement, there’s an unemployment rate of just over 35%. Then there’s the poverty layer where South Africa has the biggest (or worst) inequality in income distribution in the world. 27% of the population survive on less than USD 2 dollars per day.
There are an abundance of natural layers to consider but the one that comes to mind is The Cape Floristic Region. It’s the smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world and is an area of extraordinarily high plant species diversity. Table Mountain in Cape Town supports 2,200 species, more than the entire United Kingdom. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then we have the sporting layers like being the reigning and three times Rugby World Cup champions. The area of East London / Mdantsane is widely considered to have produced more boxing world champions than any other comparable geographic area – 20.
Talking of geography nature and rocks, South Deep gold mine in South Africa has the largest gold deposits in the world and the country is among the current top five gold producers. None of this gold would have been accessible if it wasn’t for a catastrophic event that was the single biggest energy release in the earth’s history and the subject of this issue of The Week That Was.
Time to take a break
After working for four and half straight weeks, seven days a week from 05:30 until around 19:00 we decided it was time to take a break. The signs were beginning to show, frayed temperaments, a bit more testiness and scratchiness were starting to become the norm rather then the exception. Drawing on a stroke of inspiration, Chantal thought about the town of Parys, just over an hours drive south west of Johannesburg.
And this was where we found ourselves this past Thursday afternoon for an extended weekend, about 10 km (6 miles) outside Parys at a quaintly named and decked out cottage called the Shallow Pig. Vaguely aware of the environment by virtue of its name — Vredefort Dome — little did we know the depth to which the weekend would impact our perspective on the planet, life and our work.
When catastrophe strikes
We also discovered that we were living in another UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to that catastrophic event described above. 2.2 billion years ago an asteroid the size of Table Mountain, travelling at a speed of around of 30 km per second (18 miles per second) crashed into the area, temporarily making a 40 km (25 mile) deep and 100 km (62 mile) wide dent in the surface. Almost immediately after impact, the crater widened and became shallower as the rock below started to rebound and the walls collapsed eventually causing a 300 km (186 mile) wide crater. The heat generated was intense and vaporised beads of rock were blasted into the atmosphere and rained down 2,500 km (1,553 miles) away, in what became modern day Russia and Scandinavia.
Out of the fire…
The way the landscape melted and fractured caused layers of rock from 25 km (16 miles) deep in the earth to be lifted and exposed given us an unparalleled view into the history and structure of the earth’s crust. Oxygen levels rose and more complex biological forms followed, including human beings. Life on earth would never be the same.
It’s the same with our catastrophic events. Those personal traumas that we carry with us unattended that permanently impact our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We tend to focus on the pain and suffering they cause and how they can make us inhibited and contracted.
But there is something else that is carried within these experiences of personal catastrophe. These are gifts uniquely melded in the pressures and heat of the traumatic event that lay waiting for us to do the work of healing and discovery. We’ve witnessed in our work how, by doing this healing and by building increased emotional fitness, people’s awareness of themselves and others grows. And then how the resolved experiences from the trauma leads them to be more aware, compassionate, caring and loving, to name a few of the transformational shifts.
Perhaps there was something in the air, or the ground or in the strange magnetic fields that can cause compasses to behave weirdly but we came away from the Vredefort Dome weekend with a new perspective and clarity on our work. We gained new insights into what we do, how to language it and perhaps most importantly, how to offer it in a way that makes it even more accessible than it already is.
We all have our own catastrophes, big and small, to attend to and heal from. What unique gifts and gems can you uncover about yourself that can be offered to the world once the fires have cooled and things have settled?
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.
Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.