Thursday, July 28, 2011

R.I.P. Grandma

"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see." 

Transition Elevation

On Thursday, July 21 at 1830hrs, my grandma passed on.
She lived for almost a century, and what a life it was! I do thank God that she died of old age, not disease or any other agonizing and painful condition.
We laid her to rest yesterday.

I won't eulogize her on this blog, but will just share Mary Elizabeth Frye's Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep poem and some photos of her resting place.
This poem is featured in Desperate Housewives s04ep10, where Karen McCluskey and Lynette Scavo scatter Ida Greenberg's ashes on a baseball field.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.


Fare thee well grandma. God be with you till we meet again [lyrics].

More pics



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Act Now. Let's Feed Fellow Kenyans

Transcending Religious, Ideological, and National difference 
When Karen Armstrong won the 2008 TED Prize, she made a wish: she sought help in creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion.

Here's Karen at TED making her wish:

Following is the Charter for Compassion video on YouTube.

You can watch other TED videos on compassion here.

Beyond Compassion 
In view of the foregoing, it is incumbent upon us all to help fellow Kenyans who are dying of starvation.

At a time when the situation is already desperate for the unfortunate ones who have nothing to eat, we need to be more than compassionate. We need to act.
Thanks to the Kenya Red Cross, Ahmed Salim, and the rest of us who can at least spare a meal to feed another starving human being, we shall collectively save lives. Thereafter, we can tell these people about feeding themselves.

Following is Ahmed Salim's message, as published by Jacque on Wamathai's blog:

Jambo Kenya,

I woke up this morning with this guilt that we are ONE Nation and ONE people who would like to stand and speak ONE language of PEACE LOVE AND UNITY.

How can this happen when our own people in this country are suffering????

I do take up the initiative to have at least KENYANS ON TWITTER show their support and love by Sacrificing A Meal to help someone somewhere in this country.

My Target is to Have 10,000 KENYANS raise at least 250/= each and thus 2.5 Million shillings to FEED KENYA.

With the help of Kenya Red Cross - you can send your donations via MPESA

PAY BILL - 10,000


AMOUNT - (minimum 250/=)

AND you will have sacrificed a meal to Feed Kenya – Lets do this Kenya.

My Name is Ahmed Salim and I am A Kenyan @ahmedsalims

TUKO PAMOJA!!!! #SacrificeAMeal

You can now donate via Airtel Money, pay to nickname “REDCROSS” reference “FeedKE


Guys, let's do the needful. There is a reason why you and I are not the starving ones at this moment.
Join us and help feed our starving brothers and sisters with this #FeedKE initiative.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Find What's Lost. Stop Looking.

Yesterday, I was on phone with someone amazing. We got talking about many things, and at some point during that conversation, I thought about the satisfaction of finding what has all along been lost.

There's this post about chasing happiness where we concluded that it's more important to get on with life, doing what is required of us, and purposing to add value both in our lives and those of others instead of engaging in an elusive pursuit of "happiness".

Worthless Pursuits
Otherwise, we may end up like dogs chasing their tails...

However, it is interesting to note that many, if not all things, are found only when we stop looking.

Happiness, Satisfaction & Fulfillment
In this priceless Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness document that I keep referencing in my posts, we are urged to
abandon a foolish quest for the ephemeral rewards of happiness, wealth and power, [and thereby] begin to look for our true calling on earth...
Furthermore, there is a very clear difference between happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment. Happiness may be transient, satisfaction may be seasonal, but fulfillment is enduring.

Stop Looking 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings (Library of America)An understanding of what can and does get found when we stop looking invariably obviates the need to actively seek short-time pleasures that ultimately cost us in the long run.

We need to reorder our priorities, delay gratification, set long term objectives and engage in worthwhile, enduring pursuits that will end in fulfillment.
Regardless of how long it may take, we finally find whatever we seek. Sometimes, in other people... as Longfellow did:
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, July 18, 2011

Righting Wrongs and Taking A Different Road

Late last year, I fell out with both a close friend and neighbor. Looking back, whatever occasioned our disagreement in such an intense manner now looks trivial, even shameful.

This month, we reconciled and as of yesterday, we are like the best of friends with a renewed friendship, lots of respect and selfless kindness. It is my hope that we infinitely remain that way.

Making Amends

In January 2009, I watched an episode of CSI where a guy lost his life after he tried to make amends. In the episode 'Killer' (CSI s6e14), Karl Cooper, upon his release from prison after serving seven years for robbery, kills the guy who ratted him out. Ironically, it is this victim who had actually contacted Karl, since he was '12 stepping'. An attempt to make amends sadly cost him his life.

Thinking about the aforementioned episode, I wrote a Facebook Note in February 2009, in which I explored the following two steps:

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Apparently, making amends can also be self harming, as Karl's victim came to find out.
With that in mind, I am usually torn between whether or not to make some amends that have been pending for a while... My excuse being that those who crafted step 9 forgot to include "injure us" as a result of seeking to make amends.

There are two very interesting things to making amends:
I. Whenever you make amends, a very big weight is lifted off your shoulders. While it's especially hard for some people to make amends, eating humble pie, stooping low and being bold enough to accept wrongs were committed and acknowledge the need for closure is all it takes. And it may surprise you that those you once wronged actually have no ill feelings at all.

II. It's worth noting that making amends may not always turn out well. Like our victim in CSI, those you once wronged may be quite unwilling to forgive and let go. Some may even see this as an opportunity to revenge and/or punish you. But take heart. The apostle Paul talks about maintaining a clear conscience. Once you do your part, God will handle the rest. "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" - Acts 24:16 (KJV).

My friends, I now urge you to go out and make amends. Remember that colleague you back-stabbed the other day? Or that guy you still owe money? What about that childhood friend you lost courtesy of a few careless words? And do you have any issues between you and God that are still unattended?
Take the bold step number 8. But be careful, and ensure your decision is informed by the (somewhat incomplete) insurance that step 9 accords you before you go making any amends.

All in all, purpose to secure a clear conscience before both God and men. That is what matters after all. Regardless of how it turns out.

A Different Road
Upon effecting such far reaching change in life,  it is necessary to ensure that offenses are not repeated. There must be a complete deviation in lifestyle, habits and anything else that led to the mistakes that needed to be corrected.

At this point, one needs to take a different road. For the simple reason that you might end up being too slow while attempting to run ahead.
Only then does sustained and meaningful change happen. When we humbly and sincerely right wrongs.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Sixth Sense

My mind is all on the Tablet computer that I need to get myself before this year is over. It is without a doubt the ASUS eee Pad Transformer.

I have however seen demos of the awesomeness of the Tablet experience when Pranav Mistry demonstrated the interaction of our physical world with the digital world. This was already happenning in 2009, thanks to the MIT Media Lab.
Have a look at the following TED Talks:

Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology

Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense

What do you think of the above demos?

Have a lovely weekend good people.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everything Happens for a Reason

Every once in a while, something happens in life that makes you question all logical arguments and reasoning to support it. You suddenly feel like you can somewhat understand whatever Job [in the Bible] felt while he endured all his suffering. Yet you question it all, wondering why it had to happen to you.

I have previously written several LOST inspired posts on this blog, which are invariably profound. Before proceeding, you may want to read the 'Everything Happens for a Reason' post, where we explored the meaning of destiny in terms of both fate and purpose.

Consider the following LOST video [from Exodus, the season 1 finale] and [part of] the dialogue that follows it:

JACK: Look, I need for you — I need for you to explain to me what the hell’s going on inside your head, John. I need to know why you believe that that thing wasn’t gonna-

LOCKE: I believe that I was being tested.

JACK: Tested?

LOCKE: Yeah, tested.

LOCKE: I think that’s why you and I don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes, Jack — because you’re a man of science.

JACK: Yeah, and what does that make you?

LOCKE: Me, well, I’m a man of faith. Do you really think all this is an accident — that we, a group of strangers survived, many of us with just superficial injuries? Do you think we crashed on this place by coincidence — especially, this place? We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason.

Can Lightning Strike Twice?
Many people contend that it cannot. I however beg to differ.

Writing this particular post is highly emotional for me, because it tells the story of a close friend who has undergone what I can only refer to as double jeopardy. Please note that I do not mean that dual jeopardy in law, which is in itself bad enough and therefore protected by Fifth Amendment Rights thanks to Miranda precedents.

It so happened that this friend successfully completed his University education in 2008 and got a good job, and proceeded to enroll for a Masters degree in a related field.
One day in 2009, he accompanied his friends for a hike at the Ngong Hills. At around 6pm, a group of his friends were attacked by muggers, and as he tried to help, his left eye was pierced with a dagger. He subsequently lost that eye.

The Second Hit
Just a few weeks ago, he and his dad were driving at night when spikes placed on the road resulted in a flat tire. Stopping to change it, the highway robbers responsible attacked them. This incident left both of them with head injuries, mostly superficial.
Unfortunately for my friend, his right eye was cut at the time and he has lost it as well. He is now physically blind, thanks to thugs who prefer to injure others in their attempt to reap where they do not bother to sow.

What to Do
I find it really hard to understand why he's had to lose his eyes when he needs them the most, why only his eyes sustained serious injury in both incidents, why this has happened in a space of only two years.... and so many other questions.
I however find solace in the knowledge that Hellen Keller was able to live in a silent, dark and lonely world since she could not see, hear or speak. All this has happened for a reason, and my friend will find his place in his new world. I believe that God will open his eyes to a means of perception quite unlike our own, which may even prove to be more beneficial for our friend.

The following TED Talk is proof enough that breakthroughs exist to unlock those who are locked in. I have no doubt that all is not lost for my friend.

In view of the foregoing, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to realize that everything, whether good or otherwise, happens for a reason.
Even more important, whenever you feel like you're going through a lot in life, always know that others already have done so, and that makes you able to overcome your odds whatever they be and however unique you think they are.

Let's get working to facilitate the rediscovery of wonder. Everything is always impossible until someone does something about it. If not now, then when? And if not me, then who?
We currently have all our abilities for a reason. Do the needful in honoring that reason.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hospitality to Strangers

" Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
- The Bible, Hebrews 13:2 [KJV]

Not for Show 
Last year, I sat down one afternoon for a very informal chat with Kellie. Interestingly, that is the day I got myself an enduring reminder that good isn't good enough.
At one point, we discussed how in thanking God for His undeserved grace to us and fulfilling promises made to the Most High, we should render some selfless service to the less fortunate among us.

We both agreed that the best way to help the disadvantaged in society would be to identify a genuine case, liaise with those under whose care the boy or girl you'd like to sponsor is, and make your contribution quietly without fanfare, publicity and undue media attention.

Benevolent Strangers 
Thinking about Kellie's noble approach to assisting/sponsoring the less fortunate, I am invariably reminded of just how many people have lent a hand in the last three decades I've been alive. I acknowledge and duly appreciate those unseen faces whose money went into reducing, sometimes clearing my High school fees balances. This essentially obviated the need for me to be sent home every now and then.
Even for our tertiary education, Kenyan taxpayers collectively contributed to enable us secure HELB loans. 

Beyond school,  I am fully cognizant of those who have shared their knowledge in books, and online published material so that others can learn. Think about those who collectively build free and open source software. Think about those who anonymously contribute to research institutions and foundations that 
And let us not forget the freedom fighters and genuine activists who sacrifice their time, resources... even lives so that others after them can be free. 

Nameless Friends
Early this week, Njunii and I sought a better understanding of a confusing term: biweekly. It can mean both a semi-weekly or a fortnightly occurrence. I have seen many discussions on Twitter and elsewhere online, involving people who haven't and may never meet in the real world, communally helping one another and coming up with solutions that are of immense benefit to many others. 

Exactly one year ago,  a day after my birthday, I wrote about gratitude, generosity and altruism. These were and still are central to my life whenever I consider the past, present and future.

As I say goodbye to age 30 and embrace 31, my intention is to donate my time as much as possible. The immediate place is a hospital of my choice, where I can dedicate an entire day to go out there and help strangers who are in pain, in anguish, alone... those whose day I can add value to. I shall help in cleaning, in assisting medical staff, or any other duties assigned by those in charge.
Revealing the hospital where I intend to volunteer my time is beyond the scope of this blog post, I need to do this without any publicity whatsoever. 

Where's the Love?
In her song In God's Hands, Nelly Furtado asks the following:
We forgot about love
We forgot about faith
We forgot about trust
We forgot about us

Now our love's floating out the window
Our love's floating out the back door
Our love's floating up in the sky in heaven
Where it began back in God's hands
I leave you  with the following deep words:
The essence of life is planting trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Learning, Sharing, Music and Happiness


Today's post on The Walkabout has been kindly hosted on Kawiria's awesome blog.

It simply touches on things that I hold dear. That is learning, sharing, music and something that Kawi's name exemplifies - happiness. 

Now go right ahead and read the entire post on Kawi's blog.


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Content of Character

The day before last, I was watching the following TED Talk by Alice Dreger.

She explores situations where one's anatomy often determines his/her destiny, and explains how anatomical differences such as sex are not that definite. There's indeed a very fuzzy line between male and female.

Gender Inequalities
Thinking about Alice's talk, and in light of the words of Martin Luther King Jr, I also asked myself why we often let our anatomical differences, particularly gender, determine our fate.
In University, I studied Mechanical Engineering, in a class of 30 students. Only 1 was female. The entire engineering class of over 150 students had less than 10 female students in my year.
Now who is to blame for this disparity?

It should be noted that this post will not blame women for seeking to be empowered when they do not actively seek opportunities. Neither shall I blame men for dominating some fields. In addition, I won't address the societal stereotypes that occasion these unfortunate inequalities. This post is not about the merits, or otherwise, of affirmative action.
It is about how we can shape our character, by providing whatever determines it.

Back to Dr Martin Luther King Jr's words:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 
Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story
King's words remind me of something I read in Dr Ben Carson's Gifted Hands. He wrote that whereas people may be prejudiced because of your race or background, they'll be obliged to accept your services should they be the best.
That was from his experiences as a top-notch black neurosurgeon, in a largely white neighborhood, hospital and country.

Recently in Kenya, the appointees to the Supreme Court in line with the new constitution were rejected because the number of women appointees is not enough. I quickly wondered: Suppose the number of qualified women who actually applied and therefore got appointed exceeded those of men, would we be having these problems?

Making Ourselves Worthwhile 
My point in the above illustrations is simply to highlight the need for us to start actively seeking opportunities, and therefore make it easier, actually inevitable, for others to judge us based on our abilities, knowledge, qualification, merits and character.

To achieve this, we need to believe in ourselves and in our God-given ability to achieve whatever we set our minds on. We need to get rid of stereotypes which cast people from a particular race, gender or region as being better than others in certain aspects. We need to realize that skills are learnt, not innate. Character is also cultivated and nurtured, not inherited.

To be judged by the content of our character, we have to come up with that which constitutes the content of whatever character we desire.


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