I don’t have time for things which are not real. I don’t have enough time left. So, I want my life to feel authentic. ~ Theo du Plessis

Stuff everywhere! Bags, clothes, cars, iPads. We love our stuff. And over time, we’ve come to believe that this ‘stuff’ is what defines who we are. But our possessions will never fully satisfy the inmost desires of our soul. They never have. And they are not about to start. In fact, most of the time, it distract us from the very things that bring meaning to our lives.  

Instead, our lives are defined by the choices we make. It is these choices that define our character, our authentic self. So choose wisely. Do not miss out by placing importance on things instead of people. Pursue beauty, hope, love and kindness. Pursue opportunity to improve this world for somebody else.  

Let’s be simply beautiful.   

This film features Theo du Plessis and was filmed in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Learn more about Green Renaissance through our Grateful Changemaker feature.*

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey visit Green Renaissance.

Questions for Reflection

What feelings/thoughts/questions surface for you in viewing Theo’s story?

How does Theo’s story move you?

We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.

*We are transitioning the format of our Grateful Changemakers series in an effort to deepen the ways in which we “celebrate programs and projects that serve as beacons of gratefulness.” Our film series partnership with Green Renaissance represents one such possibility. Stay tuned for more!

Video Transcript

Dr Seuss, this great philosopher…I knew him since my toddlehood years. Dr Seuss said, “Always say what you mean and mean what you say because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter they won’t mind.’

This film is dedicated to Marilyn Baty. For her unconditional love and support.

I don’t have time for things which are not real. I don’t have enough time left. So I want my life to feel authentic. And this is the most important question I ask myself over and over every day…

I test everything, every happening by it…Is it real?  Is it real? Is it real?

Because I prefer to have a real life. It’s my only attempt that I know of. It’s my little space in time upon this planet.

If you want to sweep arrogance out, try poverty. Poverty is the best broom. When my studio was burgled, losing everything I had…the loss of my wealthy lifestyle was the best thing that ever happened to me. I suffered for one day. I postulated. I said all these things which I thought I should say. But I didn’t really feel them. And the next day I had this light feeling, which I still have. I thought, OK well I don’t have to look after all these things then.

It led me to make one of the greatest discoveries about myself. I used to believe, like most people believe, that I am defined by my possessions. But that does not define us at all. And that was my actual Damascus moment.

We get so used to defining what’s our possessions…what’s yours, what’s fenced in, what is mine…that we forget that none of it is actually ours. You don’t have to call a possession yours to have it.

My interaction with animals is a good example. I don’t possess animals yet I am surrounded by their love, their giving. The donkeys come to me and they bring me their softness, their gentleness, their understanding. Have you seen the size of a donkeys ears? You don’t even have to whisper loud…they hear everything, they even hear your thoughts. You can see it in their eyes. You can feel it in their nuzzling, their lips.

They are great teachers to me. All this stuff, they have nothing of it. Yet look at them, they are capable of soothing me. I’ve got all this stuff that is supposedly helping me…but it’s not helping. It’s the moments of reality. And animals call us to that place. They call us to the here and now, the present…which is what it is… it is a gift. The present is a gift.

I made a choice of minimalism… which is definitely not a word designed by minimalists because ‘minimalism’ is just a long word for nothing. I only have things that I really need in order to survive comfortably around people, and that’s mostly clothes. I don’t deal with money much. I build and I clean and I make food gardens. I get paid in kindness and board and keep. And never ever have I struggled for this.

I don’t know if my next host will be in this country, or whether they will be young or old. But what I do know is that it always pans out well because we shape our own worlds. We shape our worlds. We literally shape tomorrow today. We’re not dependent on our circumstances for how we’re feeling. We’re dependent on our choices for how we’re feeling.

My possessions are not going to qualify me as a happy person or not. It absolutely does not define how you feel day by day. It’s only your choices which define you. We can choose who we want to be… we choose it. And so to regress…it’s not progression, it’s regression… to regress into a state of mind where we’re not holding ourselves by what we have but by who we are.

I believe in a force called goodness. I believe in an energy called love. We don’t realize how many good people there are in the world. Most people keep their help silent. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. If you go into a lit room with a box of matches and you open that darkness into the lit room, it makes no difference to the light. However, if I go into a dark room with a box of matches and I strike one match from there, I can see into the corners. Luckily the force of good, of light, is much stronger than the force of darkness.

I think it was Mother Theresa’s business card that said, “The fruit of love is hope. The fruit of hope is service. The fruit of service is love.” It’s a cycle… the one leads to the other. So my advice to everyone around me is to just jump in anywhere.

In South Africa we’ve got this amazing thing called Ubuntu. Ubuntu means something like, “I am me because of others.” It’s an acknowledgement that people cannot exist autonomously. At this point in time there is a huge movement towards community. People are actually paying attention to each other. People are opening their hearts and getting more real. I like that very much, I like that. The chafing and shaping that we allow ourselves to go through and we help others through…that’s the only stuff that means anything. These are things that people consider at their death bed…only real things.

We only exist with a little help from our friends, like the Beatles said.


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About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Green Renaissance, works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think.