Thursday, December 31, 2009

Curtain falls on 2009. Welcoming 2010 sans Fear, Regret and Guilt

Lynette Scavo: Hey! Mary-Alice, are you okay?
Mary Alice Young: Yes, thank you. I'm fine.
Lynette: No, you're not. I can tell. Please, tell me what's wrong. Let me save you.
Mary Alice: You can't.
Lynette: Why not?
Mary Alice: Sweety, we can't prevent what we can't predict!
Lynette: Isn't there anything I could do?
Mary Alice: Yes. You can enjoy this beautiful day. We get so few of them.


- Desperate Housewives (season 3 episode 07)


Looking Back

This is the last day of 2009.

364 days have passed since we ushered in the new year on January 01, 2009. It's now time to look back, take stock and get ready for 2010.

2009 Highlights... or Otherwise

Do not be burdened by guilt, worry or fear


It is true that 2009 had many highlights in our individual and collective lives. In all honesty however, we must have done several things in the year that we are not very proud of. Additionally, several other things never went our way. Even the best laid plans sometimes fail.

Some of our 2010 resolutions may actually be inspired by, and predicated on guilt, regret, missed opportunities and worry.

Inspiring Music

Previously on The Walkabout, we have dealt with these on our inspiring music sections:
If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these

- Jewel (Hands)

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right

... I’m in repair
I’m not together but I’m getting there

- John Mayer (In Repair)

From the Prince of Peace album, Carolyn Arends talks of someone who regrets that he did not "seize the day".
Well I know a man  who's been doin' some thinkin'
He's as bitter and cold as the whisky he's drinkin'
He's talkin' bout fear  'bout chances not traken
If you listen to him you can hear his heart  breakin'
He says "One day youra boy  The next day you're dead
I wish way back when someone had said...

- Carolyn Arends (Seize the Day)

The Way Ahead

The best way to look at the year that ends today is as an opportunity to learn and grow. And even if you missed the mark here and there, use the same as a stepping stone on your way to better days.

It is worth noting that things don't usually go wrong. Things usually start wrong.
Starting on the right track is a key way of ensuring things work out well in 2010. The first day of the year presents a perfect opportunity to get it right from the start.

For what it's worth, do not be held back by regret and guilt. As Mary Alice Young told Lynette Scavo in Desperate Housewives (season 3 episode 07), you cannot prevent what you cannot predict.

Deal with Regret



God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. Now is the time to seize the opportunities, effect the requisite changes, and make the most of every opportunity.

Let us all face the future with confidence in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Freedom Writers: Writing for Change

Last weekend, I decided to sit back and watch movies.

Freedom Writers is one of the movies I watched. I find this movie very profound, because it is an amazing story of strength, courage and achievement in the face of adversity.



The Freedom Writers Diary

Based on the non-fiction book: "The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them", this is a story that really edifies and inspires change.

Set in Long Beach California, Erin Gruwell's (Hilary Swank) passion to become a teacher is soon challenged by a group of Black, Latino, and Asian gangbangers who hate her even more than each other.

Mrs. G. is different among the other teachers in this inner city public school because she has the crazy idea that these kids can learn at a high level and learn to develop relationships with each other. Her deep passion for these students end up costing her her marriage.

But she never gave up on her students, nor on her desire to effect positive change. She held on and stayed strong.

Following is the Freedom Writers official trailer:







Changed Lives

The students were vividly reminded through books, testimony and tours, of the Holocaust.

The real beauty of the movie is the fact that Erin's students lives have changed. Their perspective in life, their opportunities, their world has changed - because they chose to see things differently.

I very strongly recommend that you watch this movie, it might just change your life, for better.

Happy Holidays my friends!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Inevitable Change: Renewed Strength, Focus and Hope

The first episode of the fourth season of Grey's Anatomy is titled 'A Change is Gonna Come'. Following is an excerpt of the episode transcript:
"In the practice of medicine, change is inevitable. New surgical techniques are created, procedures are updated, levels of expertise increase.
Innovation is everything. Nothing remains the same for long. We either adapt to change...or we get left behind........"

CHANGE IS EVERYTHING

change

The above words got me thinking.
Yeah, it's true that we get inspired and hopeful whenever we envision change. We even get motivated when we encounter new people and situations that effect change and thereby enhance our lives.

But what about that transition period? That period of waiting as change happens? What keeps us going at the time?

I found my answer in a song I first listened to ten years ago - 'Until My Change Comes' by Commissioned. It's from the album 'Times and Seasons', which was released in the year 2000.

Consider the following:
UNTIL MY CHANGE COMES
By Commissioned

It's been a long time coming
But a change is gonna come
When the dark clouds pass away
Feel the warmness of the sun
I know that You love me, oh yeah,
I know that you care
I can't wait to be by Your side
In the middle of the air.

CHORUS
Until my change comes
Here's what I'll do
Renew my strength
Keep holding on
I'll wait on You.

(REPEAT)

It ain't gonna be easy
But I'll be strong. Some say if You
Really cared um,
It's wouldn't take so long for You to
Return for me
If with You is where I ought to be
But I'm gonna believe until that day
I will.... until...

CHORUS

BRIDGE

Gotta wait gotta wait on you
That's what I'm gonna do
I'm gonna stand still
I just wanna be in your will
Just like David and Goliath
I gotta encourage my soul, yeah
Said I'm gonna stand still
Until um...

CHORUS * CHORUS * CHORUS

So back to the Grey's Anatomy transcript...
"Change. we don't like it, we fear it.
But we can't stop it from coming.
We either adapt to change, or we get left behind.
It hurts to grow. Anybody who tells you it doesn't is lying.
But here's the truth. sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And sometimes...oh, sometimes change is good.
Sometimes change is...everything."

Have a lovely, fruitful and blessed week ahead!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chasing Happiness: Why not Wait and Let Happiness Follow You?

Power Up

It's interesting how we rediscover some things.

I have previously shared some stories I used to listen to on Family FM's (now Radio 316) 'Power Up', in both my [now defunct] Facebook Notes and past blog posts on The Walkabout.



Fable


 A dog chasing its own Tail

The other day, I was reading the Sunday Nation and in Mutahi Ngunyi's article, I saw the full text of yet another story that was once shared on Power Up. It is from a fable by C. L. James.

Following is 'Chasing Happiness' for you. Be edified:
CHASING HAPPINESS

An old dog saw a puppy chasing its tail and asked, “why are you chasing your tail?” The young puppy replied, “I have mastered philosophy; I have solved the problems of the universe which no dog before me has solved; I have learnt that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall be happy.”

The old and seasoned dog stared at the little puppy and responded, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe in my weak ways and I have formed some opinions.

I have realized that happiness is a fine thing for a dog. And that happiness is in my tail. However, I have also noticed that when I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business as usual, it follows me.”

 And the chase goes on...

Precious Illusions

So, are you still chasing happiness?
Chances are, it'll still elude you just as the tail eluded the puppy.
Now is the time to get on with life, doing what is required of us, and purposing to add value both in our lives and those of others.

Only then will happiness follow us. It surely will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's Fire on the Mountain, and Nobody seems to be On the Run

"Step by step, heart to heart, left right left
We all fall down like toy soldiers
Bit by bit, torn apart, we never win
But the battle wages on for toy soldiers."

- Eminem (Like Toy Soldiers)




[caption id="attachment_471" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Fire on the Mountain: A Time of Crisis"]Fire on the Mountain: A Time of Crisis[/caption]

A Time of Crisis


Reading news articles yesterday, I realized just how many things need our urgent attention.


World leaders are currently meeting in Denmark for the Copenhagen Climate Summit and bombings in Baghdad left at least 127 people dead. Even the rich and famous are not having such a good time, given that Tiger Woods is still not out of the woods yet.


Locally, I was appalled by the news that somewhere in Narok, in the Rift Valley, a man was found with enough military arsenal to power a police station for over a year. And just when House Speaker Kenneth Marende was praising China for hanging criminals and therefore ending impunity, it was being reported that Kenya is a major producer and exporter of pornography, especially to China. The Daily Nation has published an article detailing how young children are hooked to pornography. In an editorial, everyone is being urged to help save our children from greedy porn peddlers.


So what can we do?


Faced with the above and innumerable other crises, we need to rise up and upon realizing that many things have gone pretty wrong, get down to sorting the mess out.


In his Inauguration address, US President Barack Obama spoke words I can never forget, words that are both challenging and inspirational. He said:




...when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.


...in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter...



Fire on the Mountain








Many musicians have tried to highlight the social ills that bedevil our society, and the following song by Asa is so profound, that upon keenly listening to the words, you might wonder where you've been as many bad things happened all around you.


Be edified:




FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
By Asa

CHORUS
There is fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
Oh there is fire on the mountain top
And no one is a-running

VERSE 1
I wake up in the morning
Tell you what I see on my TV screen
I see the blood of an innocent child
And everybody's watching

Now am looking out my window
And what do I see
I see an army of a soldier man
marching across the street

Hey Mr soldier man
Tomorrow is the day you go to war
But you are fighting for another man's cause
And you don't even know him

What did he say to make you so blind
To your conscience and reason
Could it be love for your country
Or for the gun you use in killing

REPEAT CHORUS

Hey Mr Lover man
Can I get a chance to talk to you
Cause you are fooling with a dead man's corpse
And you don't know what you do

So you say you have a lover
And you love her like no other
So you buy her a diamond
That someone has died on
Don't you think there's something wrong with this

Tell me who's responsible
For what we teach our children
Is it the internet
Or the stars on television
Why oh why
Why oh why oh

So little Lucy turns sixteen
And like the movie she's been seeing
She has a lover in her daddy
She can't tell nobody
Till she makes the evening news

REPEAT CHORUS

On day the river will over flow
And there'll be no where for us to go
And we will run, run
Wishing we had put out the fire

REPEAT CHORUS (till fade)



The above lyrics and artist names are copyrighted to Asa. They appear  here for educational and personal use only.


So, are you still not bothered?


Ponder the above lyrics to Fire on the Mountain, and honestly ask yourself if you are among the many who remain unconcerned, those who choose not to be bothered by whatever ills are happening all around us.


If we each do a little more, we all do a lot more. The time is now to do the needful.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Managing Stereotypes: The Danger of a Single Story




[caption id="attachment_467" align="aligncenter" width="357" caption="Misquided presumptions and stereotypes"]Misquided presumptions and stereotypes[/caption]

With every passing day, we get to meet new people. Hopefully, we learn new things too.

Lately, I've had a chance to make new friends, people that I believe will leave some mark on the pages of my life. And some of the marks will be indelible, for that is the way it is sometimes.

Jonathan Haidt on Objectivity

In March this year, I wrote about Jonathan Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis, which I learnt about after watching him on TED where he shared invaluable insights on moral psychology. He had the following to say about objectivity:
“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”
- Sent-ts’an

Chapter 8 of The Happiness Hypothesis dwells on the felicity of virtue. You can download this chapter free on the book's web site.

The Danger of a Single Story

A few weeks ago, I downloaded and watched Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk about bigotry and stereotypes. Aptly titled 'The Danger of a Single Story', this thought-provoking talk highlights the myopia that drives bigots and informs stereotypes.

Following is the video:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Objectivity rocks!

Chimamanda's last words in her talk are a challenge that I in turn pass along to you. Ponder the following words:
"When we reject the single story, when we realize that there was never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise."

Let us purpose to see others through open-minded, objective eyes. Only then can we see them for who and what they truly are. Only then do we get to see the bigger picture... the bigger picture that is invariably beautiful.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Laws of Simplicity

Less is More

Simplicity is a vital aspect of life that is often overlooked. Many believe that complex means more, and therefore better. The truth is quite to the contrary.

In design, simplicity is a key component of a rich user experience and robust function. This has been further explored at Complit Design. Less is more in design, and therefore better.

A Simple Life. A Life most Uncommon

The complexities of daily living make it hard for us to imagine living a simple life. There's simply so much to consider, so much to attend to and so much that is expected of us.

With all this in mind, we seldom have time to even notice and appreciate the simple things in life that matter the most.

The Laws of Simplicity




[caption id="attachment_461" align="aligncenter" width="201" caption="The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda"]The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda[/caption]



John Maeda is a renowned graphic designer, artist and computer scientist at the MIT Media Lab.

He also co-directs the radical SIMPLICITY initiative which seeks to re-examine ways of breaking free from the complexity of today's technology and redefine the way users relate to the technology in their daily lives.

He wrote The Laws of Simplicity in 2005/6. The book details the following 10 Laws:


  1. REDUCE
    The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

  2. ORGANIZE
    Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

  3. TIME
    Savings in time feel like simplicity.

  4. LEARN
    Knowledge makes everything simpler.

  5. DIFFERENCES
    Simplicity and complexity need each other.

  6. CONTEXT
    What lies in the periphery of simplicity is denitely not peripheral.

  7. EMOTION
    More emotions are better than less.

  8. TRUST
    In simplicity we trust.

  9. FAILURE
    Some things can never be made simple.

  10. THE ONE
    Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.



You can read about the 10 laws at the Laws of Simplicity web site.

Read The Book

Having looked at the excerpt and watched John Maeda's TED Talk about the simple life, The Laws of Simplicity is a book worth reading.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

It is bound to remind you some simple truths that can positively affect both your personal and professional life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blind with your Eyes Wide Open? Then it's time for a Revival.

Dire Straits

Every now and then, we get to a point in life where a complete turnaround is all that can work.

Such a dire situation is often characterized by suffering, loss of faith, hopelessness and enduring guilt.

Grey's Anatomy

The following song by The Soulsavers was featured in an episode of Grey's Anatomy, where Dr Miranda Bailley had to operate on a racist patient who insisted on being attended to by a white doctor.







Revival

soulsavers-revival


Following are the song lyrics. Be edified:

Said gonna be a revival tonight ooh
I wanna see a revival yeah
Gonna be a revival tonight
Lord, let there be a revival yeah

Forgive what I have done
It means my soul's survival, oohh
I need you so,it's sin
Put an end to my suffering oh

Why am I so blind with my eyes wide open? ooh
Trying to get my hands clean in dirty water

I wanna see a revival tonight
Lord, let there be a revival yeah
I need to see a revival tonight oh
Wanna see a revival oohh

Why am I so blind with my eyes wide open? yeah
Now I need someone
Let this dark night be done oh

I need you so,it's sin
Put an end to my suffering
I wanna see a revival tonight
Lord, there needs to be a revival

The above lyrics and artist names are copyrighted to Soulsavers. They appear  here for educational and personal use only.

No need trying to clean your hands in dirty water. It's time for a revival.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beyond Knowledge and Comfort Zones. Going the Extra Mile




[caption id="attachment_449" align="aligncenter" width="337" caption="Comfort Zones diminish our Potential"]Comfort Zones diminish our Potential[/caption]

Real Heroes Go The Extra Mile

Over a decade ago when I was in Form Two, Ezra (my desk-mate) wrote a small list of attributes that make one a Real Hero. One of these things was that a real hero goes the extra mile.

This weekend, I met this lady who at one time, was the housekeeper in a Hall I resided in during my internal attachment at JKUAT. Looking back, we both remembered how she had then gone out of her way and assisted some of my classmates. She did go the extra mile at that time of crisis. We continually acknowledge her kindness, and are invariably indebted.

That extra effort to do something that is not a core part of our duty, something we cannot be compensated for, is what makes some people do extra-ordinary things.

And as we all know, the difference between extraordinary and ordinary is that 'little' extra.

Knowledge and Enlightenment

To know is to be aware. To be aware is good. But we all know that good is the enemy of great.

As mentioned in my earlier (comeback) post, I was inspired by Eric Ng'eno's Facebook Note about Knowledge, Strength, Love and Happiness. Following is an excerpt:
I love knowledge for its irony. It does not enlighten absolutely. It does not define the speed of darkness after mastering light. Knowledge just shifts the grounds and objects of belief. I never stop believing and I never stop doubting, but knowledge enables me to do both well, and to discern more wisely.

Ultimately, knowledge reveals the completeness of of both good and evil, of light and dark, of excellence and mediocrity, and the self fulfilling globe and cycle of the universe. And it leaves me lots of space to fill in with textures, hues, lines, scents and flavors of my election, which gives me identity and personality.

If therefore knowledge fails to reveal the absoluteness of virtues and vices, of values and ideals, if it shows, against my preference, that both good and evil are the reverse and obverse of my desires, interests and ambitions, yet it does not fail to affirm me as a man, a soul, a spirit; divine, magnificent and glorious.

That said, we still realize that good just ain't enough. Knowledge is not an end in itself.

Challenge Convention. Exit the Comfort Zone

Failure to act still remains the biggest threat to our progress. This comes about due to laxity or fearing to fail. For this reason, few ever venture into the unknown. The majority still laze around in their comfort zones.

To make a different in our personal or professional lives, we need to leave our comfort zones. We need to sometimes dare to be different and challenge convention.

Going the extra mile, acting on knowledge gained... these are the hallmarks of risk-taking. Needless to say, the future belongs to the risk-takers.

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