The Solution: Memories, Dreams, Synchronicities

The Solution: Memories, Dreams, Synchronicities

Wealth has always been an important symbol to me. And, to be clear, by “wealth” I don’t mean some nebulous expression of “abundance” in my life. I have often find myself smiling ironically when hearing evangelical preachers telling their congregation that Jesus wants “abundance” for them. No, I don’t mean “abundance”, I mean simply, financial wealth. Like Floyd Money Mayweather, it’s the greenbacks that impress me. I’m not dissing those other good things, like health, longevity, and procreation -albeit that these are themselves now of questionable virtue within our current paradigm. It’s just not the way wealth is symbolised for me. In this respect I’m a simple, even, primitive, man. I didn’t grow up dirt poor. I suffer the unforgivable sin of being born into the bourgeoisie. That said, my father and his brothers did. One of the many stories my dad told me that stuck with me, was how when they first arrived in South Africa, his father got him and his older brother George to box outside of their café in Mint Road, Fordsburg.[1]This impromptu display of pugilism done to attract customers to the shop.

An overt status symbol for my father and his brothers was carrying cash on them. A little less so for my father who wasn’t quite as obvious or possibly as flush in this respect. In part this was because both of my father’s brothers were gamblers, and the currency was always cash.  It wasn’t just that though, cash itself had a significant symbolic status. I vividly recall my uncles, when we were at my grandmother’s house in Mayfair, pulling out a wad of cash. This was usually done on some pretext like sending one of us to the corner café to go and buy a can of Coca Cola or a chocolate.[2] And although they would only be giving me or one of my cousins a small single bill, this would be peeled off an impressive – if you’re impressed by that sort of thing, which I was, wad of high denomination notes.

Somewhat synchronistically[3], I had occasion to go and buy a takeaway cappuccino at my local grocer yesterday, not an infrequent event of late with the regular co-incidence of loadshedding[4] and morning coffee time. Whilst I was wating in the queue a Muslim man standing at the counter took out a wad of notes to peel off a note to tip the barista. Both the presence of the strap or wad, and the way he did it, reminded me a lot of my father and his brothers. Notwithstanding my earlier characterisation of primitivity with respect to this practice and habit, there was something quite genteel in the way he did this. A kind of old-school gentleman who has becoming increasingly rare. There was in a certain sense a gentleness and subtle powerfulness in the act. It wasn’t just the wad of cash he was carrying, which of course is also an increasingly rare sight in a country where poverty and violent crime is endemic. It was his demeanour. His aura. Seeing him provoked an almost visceral sense and memory of my uncles and the kind of masculinity I was in awe of as young boy.

My father and his family were born in a village in the North of Lebanon called Sebhel. The people of Sebhel, whilst many things, some of them even good things, were not particularly affluent. In the early part of the 20th century a rumour got around in Lebanon that the streets in South Africa, and of course particularly the streets of Johannesburg, were paved with gold.[5] The Sebhelenis[6] decided to put their money together and buy a ship’s passage for one of them to sail to South Africa. The idea being that once he arrived here, he would soon make enough money to bring more of them over and so they would gain a foothold in this new land of opportunity.[7]

The story goes, or so it had  been told to me many times as a boy, that the Sebheleni in question, the proverbial prodigal son, having reached Durban harbour was in the process of disembarking the ship. As he walked down the stairs from the ship it so happened that the man walking slightly ahead of him accidentally and seemingly without realising it dropped some cash on the ground. The Sebheleni coming across this cash on the ground was unfazed, seeing as he had been told the streets in South Africa “were paved with gold.” Anyway, upon seeing it, he thought he may as well pick it up and initiate the wealth accumulation plan he had been sent here for. However, or so the story goes, as he bent down to pick up the cash, he waivered thinking to himself, I’ll start work tomorrow!

This story became a myth that was retold many times by members of my father’s family and other Sebhelenis. Thinking about it now, the moral of the story, is, I guess, open to interpretation. The wry and laconic fashion in which it was told to me at the time suggested that it was being told ironically. At least such was my understanding. The meaning and intention of which is slightly lost through reduction to any principle, being something like: the Sebhelenis were although as ambitious as the next guy, incorrigibly lazy. Simultaneously the telling of the story was an oblique admonishment of laziness and an injunction to seize the day, as it were.

I would go on to share the story as a bit of self-depreciating mythology many times as an adult, not only with my children but also with friends. I told them this lest they fell victim to some type of normative idealisation of my character. [8]

Armed with this bit of history, without which the story I want to share with you would not make sense, I would like to share a dream, insight, and synchronicity, that happened to me a few months ago.[9]

The incident I want to relate to you, happened on the flight back from King Shaka International Airport, in KwaZulu Natal, to Cape Town, where I live. I was flying back home with my two teenage sons, Ruarc and Teague, from a diving trip in Aliwal Shoal.

After the diving we spent a few days on the Durban North Coast. One morning for brunch we drove to the iconic Oyster Box, to go and try their scones. The drive there, only a few minutes from where we were staying, took us past another well-known hotel in the area, The Beverly Hills. For some reason as I drove past it, I found my myself wondering, with no small amount of amazement and respect, at what the late great Sol Kerzner had achieved. Sol Kerzner, for those who don’t know him, was a visionary businessman and hotelier. Among his many achievements, his early career included erecting a few of the more iconic hotels in Durban, including The Beverly Hills.[10]

I found myself wondering about what type of vision such an individual possessed. Maybe to some degree it’s my own ineptitude in dealing with things of the world, but I was and remain in awe of someone who can imagine a resort such as Sun City or The Atlantis before it exits. Not only imagine it mind you but to have such an incredible conviction in what he sees that he is able to raise the necessary backing and then drive the project to build it. I wondered about the nature of such visionary individuals and what separates them from the rest of us. What is this thing we call genius and how exactly does it operate. I then asked myself an interesting question, well I thought it was interesting anyway: I asked myself, if I had that visionary capacity how exactly would I navigate a path forward in my own business and vocation.

Now, in case you’re wondering, this is not the sort of thing I usually spend my days thinking about. My thoughts or my unconscious, which, after all is the etymology of our thoughts, is typically concerned with more pragmatic matters. I’m not sure why or where these thoughts came from, possibly they were triggered by the sense of nostalgia of being in Umhlanga.[11]

This was a very popular holiday destination when I was a child. I have a treasured memory of staying at the Oyster Box as a very young child. Sitting at my own table, at a different section of the hotel, away from parents and being looked after by a Zulu man working as a waiter at the restaurant there. A man who, as I recall, treated me with an incredible kindness. It is one of those memories and encounters that one has a young child with an adult that are formative and that stay with you into adulthood and in some sense constitute who you become.

Anyway, please forgive my slight sentimental digression, I return to the story.

Either that night or the next I had a vivid dream.

In the dream I encountered a Portuguese father and son, who were builders. I encountered them on a property belonging to my business partner A. And, before meeting the builders, I was chatting to a lifelong friend of mine D. This father and son team were literal giants. They must have stood well over 6 foot 6 inches tall (close to 2 meters in the metric system). I broke off my conversation with D to go and speak to the father and son pair. They told me they were building contractors and had a contract with Southern Sun to build a two-thousand-unit hotel complex.  I was very impressed by this and realised these were serious men and they had my immediate respect. My business partner A was also seemingly impressed, albeit for different reasons. She was in the process of doing various developments on her own property, the one all of this was taking place on. She wanted to ask this builder – the father, for some advice on her own building project.

The builder responded to A and spoke to me as well in effect, by saying he had no idea about the practical aspects of building. He was not himself a builder – and by this I understood him to mean he was neither an actual builder or a site foreman. Rather, he told us, he was a trouble shooter and deal maker at an executive level. He only dealt with the parties involved at the highest level.[12] I wasn’t surprised at hearing this, as he had that kind of presence and charisma about him.

I then watched the father and son use an outdoor shower, which they did, before leaving. The son morphed in the dream into a much younger child, difficult to say of what age exactly, as he was almost not quite human but a kind of Tokoloshe [13] character.

When I returned to resume my earlier conversation with D, I found that he had left, no doubt disgruntled at my sudden absence and having broken off our earlier conversation. I accepted this and even in the dream had the sense it was time for me to extend my vision and focus onto some greater vista than currently occupied my mind and time.

End of dream.

I fly locally quite frequently and have developed the habit of using the flight time, usually about 2-hours, to enter a state of meditative reflection on one or other issue. I find the conditions of being in the plane with nothing much to do, other than read or think, conducive to entering a meditative space. I don’t think this is uncommon, often travel of any kind, opens up a spirit and register of liminality and quiet. Within which a type of thinking becomes possible, which isn’t available to us whilst in our usual more static mode. I take a few minutes at the commencement of the flight to choose what it is I’ll think about and then focus on that for the duration of the flight.[14]

In this instance, I determined to attempt an interpretation of my dream.  I had the sense it was an important dream, and I should attempt to understand it. I spent the two-hours of the flight, with only one or two interruptions to purchase various items for Ruarc and Teague from the inflight catering service.  I grappled with the dream turning it over and over in my mind and interrogated the symbols and motifs that had appeared in the dream.  I beg the reader here to recognise that I did this without the benefit of my subsequent hindsight evident in this short monograph. The associations were not immediately evident to me and had to be won from a sustained engagement with the unconscious. The story goes that Jung once left a handgun on his nightstand and the following morning upon waking from a dream resolved to either understand the dream or shoot himself. Whilst not quite as dramatic, sensing this dream was important, I resolved not to reach our destination without having understood what it was attempting to communicate.

I won’t unpack all the associations here but will only mention a few of the more germane ones.

The eureka moment of this self-analysis was linking back the Southern Sun reference by the Portuguese builder to my thoughts about Sol Kerzner the day of or a few days before the dream. The Southern Sun Hotels Group having been founded by Sol Kerzner!

Once this keystone of the interpretation was in place the other associations flowed quite easily.

I understood the dream as a an unconscious recapitulation and confirmation of my thoughts about Sol Kerzner as a type of Mana character[15]. A visionary individual capable of great creativity and able to husband his anima and visionary insights such that they became manifest and explicit in the world. And, without intending to be crude, making a billion dollars odd, in the process.

Reflecting further on these symbols, a few more things occurred to me. Sol (Solomon) was also my own father’s name. My father’s name was Solomon Farah, he went by the name “Solly”.

Solomon also being the wisest of the kings of Israel.

So, this reference to Sol Kerzner was a also invoking my own father, and within the Jungian framework, one might say the father archetype or the Self archetype.

This line of thinking was further supported by the realisation that “Sol” translates as “sun” in Portuguese and is the sun in the alchemical and hermetic tradition. The sun is also obviously explicit in the dream’s use of the phrase “Southern Sun”. The sun being the archetypal symbol of the father, of the alchemical gold, the source of light and life and a metaphor for Plato of the “Good”.[16]

“Sol” is also the abbreviation in late 19th century English of “solution” or in alchemy of the Solutio.

So what I understood was that in the my spontaneous musings about Sol Kerzner and the subsequent dream I was hearing the voice of “my father” and the Self archetype. Hearing this voice and understanding it as an invocation to action, to fuller self-realisation. The dream was suggesting the “solution” to me, which I found rather generous, as so often dreams are inclined to present the problem and leave its solution up to you.

I won’t unpack the other associations here as this will make this already lengthy post, wholly unwieldly and also frankly because I feel I have bled sufficiently onto this page for you already! I will say though and trust this is clear from what I have shared that that this insight into the central symbol of the dream, the Sol of the dream as it were, was the key to its understanding.

As we were coming into Cape Town International Airport, I felt a sense of profound satisfaction and a degree of elation at this this very inspiring insight into the dream and the events leading up to it. As we landed and were taxing along the runway a woman sitting directly opposite me in the seat across the aisle from mine dropped her purse or it flipped over somehow, pouring a stream of cash across across the aisle from her seat to mine. For a moment we both sat there looking at each other in some surprise and disbelief as to what had just happened. Then I regained my composure, remembered my manners, and bent down to help her pick up the cash. At the last second, I demurred though, my back was a little stiff and I after all had not dropped this money across the aisle. To hell with it, I’m on holiday, I thought, I’ll start work tomorrow.[17]


Until we speak again,


[1] In Johannesburg.

[2] For them mind you, not us, in case you were wandering.

[3] I conceded the phrase “somewhat synchronistically” is of questionable meaning. I’m not quite certain if by that I intend to denote the idea: could or could not be synchronistic, or the more probable, synchronistic, but not quite in the numinous scarab beetle” class of synchronicity. Let me for the purposes of this essay settle on I intend to alert you to the possible presence of a synchronicity, without making any emphatic claim.

[4] A euphemism adopted locally for the frequent and regular power outages by Eskom, the national power provider.

[5] I always understood this as purely metaphorical description of the affluence of South Africa at the time. I found out only last year that wasn’t just a metaphor, but that certain pavements in Jo’burg City, and Marshalltown in particular, were literary paved with left over gold ore from the gold mines! In the main though I always took and still do that this referred to the possibilities for wealth creation available to all. Well, if not all, because making a living, never mind a buck, if you were a native (read: black) South African during the 20th century was challenging, certainly to everyone else. That said, foreigners in particular, as it so often is, had the capacity to spot and exploit opportunities where the local, at the time predominantly Afrikaans, population missed them. The “Lebs” (Lebanese) were no exception to this rule and were and are an entrepreneurial people.  They weren’t top tier, that would probably have go to the Jews, but they were up there.

[6] The people of Sebhel.

[7] In other words, pretty much the standard emigration/relocation play by poor immigrants. One cannot help but wonder what their appetite may have been for such an undertaking had they the foresight to know how history would unfold in South Africa over the next century. That said at the time of writing this, Lebanon is a failed state and by all accounts on the cusp of anarchy, so I guess whatever inconveniences the Lebs have suffered here caught up in a socio-political drama that wasn’t of their own design, is probably still cheap at the price. Certainly, as entrepreneurs, they came, saw and conquered.  The few evolutionary throwbacks that slipped into the migrating herd aside.

[8] As I trust this story demonstrates I descend from a flawed tribe and assure the reader that this is a very modest story in a panopticon of bad folklore about my family and Sebhel. That said, self-deprecation, to the degree it is a virtue, was and is often on display in my family line. By way of example my late uncle and godfather George spent an inordinate amount of time in the illegal card dens in and around Jo’burg  in the sixties, seventies and eighties, mostly run by the Greeks. “Thank God for the Greeks,” he would often say, “otherwise the Lebs would be the worst nation of earth.”

[9] January 2003, for the record.

[10] Solomon ‘Sol’ Kerzner, KCMG (23 August 1935 – 21 March 2020) was a South African accountant and business magnate. He founded both of South Africa’s largest hotel groups, the Southern Sun Hotel Group and Sun International. He was also the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Kerzner International. Among the local resorts he established was Sun City, which was a ground-breaking resort in the Las Vegas style. He was married to South Africa’s most famous beauty queen and miss World. Anneline Kriel. After he left south Africa he established resorts globally including the opulent and extensive Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

[11] ‘Umhlanga’ is Zulu and means ‘place of the reeds’. a residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

[12] Writing this now, the degree of narcissistic inflation is uncomfortably apparent. I persevere though in the spirt of Joe Rogan’s ethical injunction to my main man Chael Sonnen, to simply and always, tell it like it is. I hope my reader will read this in the spirit of vulnerability with which it is shared. I say I hope that I don’t actually expect it, and if you find yourself critically disposed, well so be it. You do know what they say about critics, don’t you. 😊

[13] A local African version of the Duende, an elemental trickster character.

[14] Rereading this now I realize it sounds a bit like some type of high meditative or mindfulness practice, if you can forgive an unforgivable pun 😊. It’s nothing quite that elevated (Jesus, please forgive me, I can’t stop myself!). Firstly, it does not aways work out. Sometimes I’ll need to abandon the effort and simply pick up something to read, and also to call it “meditative” is questionable. It’s more like directed reverie if there is such a thing.

[15] A Mana archetype describes an individual or character with spiritual charisma, influence, and potency. Typically, someone who is able to powerfully effect their will and exert significant influence through  a charisma, vision, insight and power arising within them. A visionary individual – among others, would be constellating and exhibiting Mana.

[16] “The Good (the sun) provides the very foundation on which all other truth rests. Plato uses the image of the sun to help define the true meaning of the Good. The Good “sheds light” on knowledge so that our minds can see true reality. Without the Good, we would only be able to see with our physical eyes and not the “mind’s eye”. The sun bequeaths its light so that we may see the world around us. If the source of light did not exist we would be in the dark and incapable of learning and understanding the true realities that surround us.”

[17] For the record and in case you’re wondering this actually happened, this isn’t a joke, notwithstanding my tongue in cheek framing at the end.

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Comments (14)

  • Christina Thomas-Fraser Reply

    Thank you. I am grateful you allowed me to take this journey with you. It feels to me, intuitively, that it resonates at a deeper level than I can clearly see right now. Feels like … more to come, more to unfold out of this.
    I, also, am a writer (three books) and am aware it is not easy to write of these different, interweaving dimensions. It’s hard enough even to glimpse them, let alone get ahold of them in any kind of practical way. As I read your article, I felt that I was taken along.
    Thank you.

    March 20, 2023 at 10:04 pm
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you so much Christina. I like your intuition here, which resonates for me. I appreciate what you’ve said about the challenge of articulating these different dimensions of experience. My sense is it is only through doing this that we can give expression to the psyche and the way it acts through and around us. And the act of capturing this in an essay or book is also part of its process of becoming and being born as it were.

      Indeed the synchronicities and story did not end on the publication of the short essay above, and the question I’m wondering about now is whether I should add a footnote or it warrants an full-fledged sequel.

      March 25, 2023 at 10:13 am
  • Helena Reply

    Thank you,Stephen

    March 20, 2023 at 10:28 pm
  • Linda Reply

    Love reading your bleedings onto the page

    March 20, 2023 at 11:18 pm
  • Durelle L Freeman Reply

    I read it with the thought of those of us who are aware when person, places, things, events, dreams, and “the uncanny” which I am about to study (as a student of Freud’s work) all come together to provide meaning and perhaps direction.

    Thanks for sharing. I would like to offer a shorter one:

    Thirteen years ago this spring Raymond, (my recently deceased husband) and I visited this historical site where Lewis & Clark began their expedition. From then on, that story and the surrounding events have held a certain fascination for me.

    Last night, what was seemingly, out of the blue, I dreamed of a young Native American woman who beckoned me to a river (Sacajawea perhaps?) Now rivers are symbolic of many things, and in this dream my greeter was not really offering much of a choice. It was as if she held some mysterious power over me.

    The rivers in the area are running high right now, from rain on top of snow melt. When I woke up, for some reason, maybe synchronistically, my mind went to the memory of our visit to the Ohio River, and subject (wisdom) of launching major expeditions in the Spring. I can’t help but wonder why all these various “memories, dreams, and reflections” rolled in at once, and what She has in store for me!

    March 20, 2023 at 11:47 pm
  • Nicole Esplin Reply

    Interesting correlation with what is going on inside you and the outside world. symbols. the sons father etc. the partner big small them the spilling out of the money from purse.

    March 21, 2023 at 9:32 am
  • Margaret Foley Reply

    Thank you for sharing Stephen, very interesting dream , I’m very drawn to the analogy of the Sun , we would have no light only for the sun ,.

    March 21, 2023 at 9:36 am
  • Pamela Ryan Reply

    Loved this. Refreshingly authentic writing and so so interesting on many levels

    March 21, 2023 at 9:47 am
  • Elza Lorenz Reply

    Embellishment and added layers added significantly to sharing this experience and dream in depth. I engaged in the telling and the Jozie myths and the layer of gold. Thanks for sharing the dream, the father, the sun.

    March 21, 2023 at 10:36 am
  • Jillian Paynter Reply

    You speak and write beautifully. How about doing some podcasts?
    I miss your talks at the National Library. They opened my eyes to a lot of introspection at a critical juncture of my life.
    I can now analyse the significance of my dreams quite well. As James Hollis says, dreams don’t come from nowhere. You can’t make them up.

    March 22, 2023 at 7:07 pm
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Jillian that is very kind of you to say. I am currently offering a series of monthly lectures not entirely dissimilar to what you attended a few years ago at the National Library. I post a link here so you can take a look. I’m very pleased the talks inspired you to look at your dreams and trust it has been rewarding. I believe its Jung who says somewhere it is a great privilege is to get to know ourselves.

      March 25, 2023 at 10:04 am
  • Rosangela Canassa Reply

    Obrigada pelo artigo, vou utilizar num curso que estarei promovendo. Abraços

    March 24, 2023 at 3:24 pm
  • Charlotte Reply

    Dear Stephen
    I often read your writings but do not always leave a comment…
    Your lovely articulation and expert use of semantics is a joy to explore!
    Reading your thoughts is like an adventure and all ways brings me some IN SIGHT! Thank YOU
    Interestingly I am currently sharing in a process that focuses on MONEY – not abundance as you say
    Hard cash … in all its representations – coins – paper – gold – diamonds etc!
    a first for me!
    So the synchronicity of reading this is so significant!
    All the best –

    March 29, 2023 at 1:41 pm
  • evann wilcosky Reply

    Thank you for sharing your dream and i was much interested in your method of analyzing its symbols and your personal references to them. The synchronicity of the woman on the airplane spilling out the richness of her purse was fascinating; the path / connection between herself and you. I wonder that it may contain advice on how to achieve the aims of your dream.

    March 31, 2023 at 8:35 pm

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