Monday, July 23, 2018

Trevor Blogs

My surname is Black. It isn't based on Black(smith) like many surnames that are descriptive of what an ancestor did. In this case (so the family legend goes), all the thieves in Scotland were gathered up and kicked out. They were stripped of their clan names and given colours instead - Green, White, Brown, and Black. The colour was based on the nature of their crimes. Black for being a sheep thief. I love how specific that is. My ancestor was a Sheep Thief. Not goats, bread or anything else. Sheep.

My friend Shaun's sheep
(I didn't steal them)

A whole bunch of refugees, criminals, explorers, soldiers, deserters, missionaries, reprobates and saints from all over landed up in South Africa. Then there was me.

Even though it isn't derived from working iron, the nature of one man's activities still defined my family. Ken Robinson (in my favourite TED talk) mentions how 7 of his 8 grandparents lived within a mile of each other. We used to live where we were born, do what our parent of the same gender did, and marry someone from nearby. Our life had a playbook which we followed. Life defined us. Work defined us.

It is a very new world we are living in. in 1820, only 6% of the world didn't live in what we would define today as extreme poverty. Only 12% were literate. None wrote blogs. My life resembles yours far more than it does my ancestors. Becoming Trevor Blogs wouldn't solve it either. The next generation is likely to do jobs we hardly recognise. 

I doubt my ancestor, the Scot who got nabbed stealing a sheep and exiled, chose to do that for a living. He didn't wake up in the morning, make his bed, and set out trying to be the best thief he could be. Gradually we have fought our way out of poverty. We have fought our way out of work defining us.

Yet, increasingly by choice, we still feel compelled to answer the question as a kid, 'what do you want to be?' by the type of work we intend to do.

We are more than the work we do. We are more than the constraints of our ancestors.

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