On a Roll

Wednesday 19 October 2011: 5 years 1 month on … Advantage ED

This morning, I heard an AlgoaFM Morning Show listener say on air that “life is too short for single-ply toilet paper”!

I repeated the “quote” later on my own show as the “thought of the week”. For me the quote sums up what we have been talking about on Ed is in wED over the last eighteen months. We should not be satisfied with the standard grade, the mediocre, the basics, the simple of life but should constantly be striving for higher grade and for excellence.

Later, at Bluewaters Café, Kobus and Isaac came to chat and drink coffee with me. We were discussing travelling in the world and the opportunities that travel offers. One could remain in Port Elizabeth for one’s entire life (single-ply living) or could explore this magnificent world of ours (multi-ply living). One could travel to Cape Town non-stop or stop along the way and experience the beauty of our wonderful Earth. The choice is ours as we travel through life.

The more I thought of this profound quote, the more I realised that life has so many similarities to a toilet roll!

In South Africa, we call it toilet paper. The English talk about pottie paper. The Americans refer to it as toilet tissue. Yes, we can call life as it is or, like the Americans, address it euphemistically.


The shape of the roll is the circle of life. It spins around on its holder as our world rotates on its axis, and as we sometimes spin around in circles as we traverse through life. All the time, it gets shorter and shorter.

Sometimes life is smooth and pleasurable – sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes we live for long periods at a time and everything goes well as it was planned and expected to do. But occasionally, when we least anticipate it, the paper snaps in the wrong place, just like we snap when we least expect it, and life snaps when everything was seemingly going so smoothly. At times, it hangs on a thread.

Like the Circle of Life, the roll begins and it ends. It starts off enveloped in a cacoon: in life, the cacoon of the womb and in the case of the tissue, the cacoon of the wrapping paper – normally the separation from that cacoon is easy and occasionally it is complicated, tears apart and begins with great difficulty.

As we choose our tissue, we choose our way of life – single ply or multi-ply. It could be simple, or more elaborate. We choose the texture and the colour:  just plain white or vibrant pastels. We can make it as exciting or as boring as we choose. It’s our choice!

Life has its length so accurately measured in equal units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years. It’s just like the length of the roll which is so carefully measured in equal squares. But just how long is a toilet roll; how long will it last – does anyone know, except the One who made it in the first place?

In truth, when it begins, we just don’t know how long it will last – it’s seemingly never-ending. But then, it does finish; sometimes with a word of warning and sometimes no notice at all.

Whichever way it comes to an end, it leaves us devastated. Normally, there’s unfinished business.

However, the truth and the reality is that there IS a next one to replace the one that has expired. But the majority of the expired disappear into the sands of time with no trace of having achieved anything of value.

Whilst each one has fulfilled a vital role in life; few, if any – the exceptional – will be remembered in death.

After all, that’s the Circle of Life … and the Circle of Toilet Tissue … they come and go.


And, oh yes – sometimes, like to the tissue, life gets the whole hand – the High Five – and sometimes it gets … just the finger! Once again, it’s our choice.