Ian Blyth

I have a few recollections that made an impression on my life because of my connection with the Philosophy Department. I write them randomly as they spring to mind. 
We used to go round to Daantjie's house on a Sunday evening after our church services and share coffee together. On one particular night we had finished our discussions and were about to leave when he told the story of the people watching his house. As soon as all the lights of the house were extinguished there was a car that started up its engine across the road and drove off. It was obviously the special branch aka the security police who were watching to see who went in and who left the house. It was something that must have been on Daantjie's mind every evening; yet it did not seem to have an effect on the person he was. Although I do not remember any of the specific topics we discussed, I do remember that we discussed a wide range of ideas; and the discussions were frank and stimulating. The warmth of the welcome was always appreciated. I think that these evenings together with the person he was have had a lasting effect on me and the way I think about issues. He was such a gentle thoughtful man. 
Another discussion I remember must have been during one of the tutorials we shared. I was his only student in my final year of philosophy, and we talked about his responsibilities as a father. It has also stuck with me since then and I have repeated it often: because he married late in life, he was concerned that he was going to be paying for his children long after he had retired. Unfortunately he did not get to that point in his life. 
I also remember looking at one of his talks that he was to give. I was particularly struck by the neatness of his handwriting and that there were no mistakes crossed out and corrected. He had a most clear ability to put his ideas down as if he had thought about them for a long time and only then could write them down. 
On one of my scripts (if I remember correctly, it was like a mid-year examination) for which I had not prepared because it was (I thought) not important he had written down the mark followed by TPYM. When he was asked what it meant he said: To Please Your Mother. I did not let that happen again. 
On one of the occasions when he was giving a speech at a Theological Students' final dinner he used as the subject of his speech the story of Rip van Winkle. This too has remained with me for many years and I have often thought about the importance of not letting daily events pass us by because we were fast asleep and did not realise they were happening around us. 
At the end of my first year of Philosophy, Daantjie came into the lecture in his gown and with his lecture notes in the file that he always carried with him into the lecture and asked the question: What was the purpose of Philosophy? A few answers were given until one of the students said "It is a pleasurable pursuit for those who are interested in it." I remember the student's name, Daniel Jacquet, not that it is important. There was a ripple of laughter. With that Daantjie closed his file, turned to the door and left the room. That was the last some people would see of him because they did not have to continue to Philosophy 2. 
Daantjie and his wife were two people who had the most lasting effect on me as a young student and I will never forget the man. His integrity, his gentleness and his intellectual ability to think clearly were examples that I hope have become part of the way in which I conduct myself. I was honoured to have studied under him and only sorry that I did not make more effort during the years I studied under his guidance. I sometimes pick up my copy of his The Ethics of Illegal Action with the introduction by Ian Bunting and reflect on his ideas because of the clarity of the thinking contained in it. I know that he carried the burden of Apartheid heavily on his shoulders and that he did his best to put across his ideas to those of us who were privileged to listen to him. I am sure that his not being arrested for whatever reason (and I have no idea as to why) weighed on his mind. Despite the people in his department who were arrested during the years I was at Rhodes, he continued to uphold his integrity and Christian witness. I will say that I have not been humbled by many people I have met during my life, but Daantjie was a person in whose presence I felt humble. I will always be grateful for what I learned from him as a person, although as a young person at the time I struggled to understand philosophy because of my technical background and lack of philosophical stimulation. I think that much of who I am and the way I preach today still reflects something of what I learned from my time with him. He always had the courage to speak the truth. We sometimes discussed the issue of 'half-truths' and the effect they had on others. 
I hope this helps. If I see or hear what others say I might remember more. I must say I have felt a tinge of sadness amongst the nostalgia as I have written this, because South African history could have been different had some people in power listened to him during his lifetime.

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