Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Evidence of Absence

Today's post will be both brief and to the point... because less is more.
;-)

"The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are."
- Niccolo Machiavelli.



In a recent post, I highlighted some of my own life lessons as I celebrated my 33rd birthday. Accordingly, one of the most profound things I've come to learn in adulthood, and what alludes many, is to always listen to what others are not saying.

In essence, things are rarely what they seem to be. Interestingly, a person's true character is best revealed at a time of crisis. This is the time people are without the luxury of making appearances or being pretentious.
What is more interesting is that we still miss this because we often are preoccupied with only that which we seek, and in so doing, we disregard all else that is openly available while we remain blinded by what we've singularly focused on.

At this point, it is worth noting that most things in life are best and most easily found only when we stop looking.

In sum, the best way to understand most things is to overcome our default fixation with the obvious. Listen to what is not being said. Perceive in the mind much more than what the eye sees. Ask why not, don't just stop at why. Read between the lines.

Finally, I've come to realize that one very good way of understanding oneself is to carefully consider what one is not, what one cannot be and ultimately, what one cannot willingly let oneself be.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ruminations: Knowing You Have Lived

This afternoon, I attended the burial of a man who taught me in various upper primary school classes back in the 90s. He passed on late last week ( Saturday, August 10, 2013).
In my adulthood, I met and spoke with him only once, but my interactions with him have had an enduring impact in my life.
Today's post on The Walkabout is in Mr. Geoffrey Ndungu's memory.



"I'll tell you something,
It's not hard to die when you know you have lived, and I did.
Oh, how I lived."
- Edie Britt (Desperate Housewives s05e19)

The above words from Desperate Housewives opened this post about Living in 2010.

Eli Scruggs

First off, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and LOST remain my top favorite TV Shows, thanks to the thought-provoking life issues they are predicated on and consequently address.

The reason I mention Eli is that life is inundated with people in our lives who in retrospect, shape our opinions and change our perceptions. This they often do unwittingly, while going about their business and carrying out their duties.

Eli is a man who the Desperate Housewives audience meets only once, but we learn how deeply he affected the lives of Wysteria Lane residents.

Looking Back

When I was in Primary School, many of us thought that Mr Ndungu was fussy and unnecessarily strict. In adulthood however, one realizes that this was necessary to instill discipline and a culture of hard work in our young lives.

Through him, I learnt that hard work actually pays. At one point, it literally paid since he gave me a cash reward for getting an A in Maths (KCPE), the subject he taught us. I recall his good knowledge of the Bible, especially the book of Proverbs because every now and then, he would quote from it to emphasize many of his points.

He passionately hated those who steal or otherwise reap what others have sown. He repeatedly extolled the value of hard work, and has continually exuded it in his life.
The biggest lesson I have learnt from his life is that one has to be principled, and actually take personal responsibility. Most importantly, having the confidence to follow my heart, even when it leads me off the well worn path. I'm therefore able to effortlessly look well to each and every day.

The only time I met him while not his student is one evening after sunset at a fuelling station in Zambezi. The PSV I was in has developed mechanical problems and we were effectively stranded. As he fueled his car, Mr Ndungu recognized me and beckoned. Following pleasantries, he offered me a lift and on the way home, we discussed many things.

It was during the sunset years of the KANU government and his advise was that gone are the times when the government was dependable. It was now necessary, he said, for every person to actually get things done if any goals are to be achieved. He reminded me that as a young, educated and highly intelligent person, I have all the advantages that accorded me a head-start towards success.

On success however, he told me money was not everything, and many who have engaged in a mindless rush towards riches have only ended up frustrated, since greed for material things makes people miss out on the more important stuff in life.

He also told me that I need to always focus and not compare myself with others, since every person's life journey is as unique as that person. I remember the last thing he said as I reached my destination was that I should focus and not waste my life living another person's life. He finally wished me well in my studies, as I was then in campus.
Thanks to him and other men of his ilk, I have never let the noise of other people's opinions drown my inner voice.

Death


In his commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs spoke of death as a common destination for us all. It is life's change agent, re reckoned.

Watch the above video and take notice of the three life stories that in Steve's opinion, characterize a life well lived viz:
  • Connecting the Dots
  • Love and Loss
  • Death

R.I.P. Mr Geoffrey Ndungu Kanini.
I've no doubt that yours was a life well lived.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Beginning with the End in Mind

In the last post, I recounted what largely occupied my mind after spending most of Saturday with my dear friend K. That post about The Fullness of Time did not capture the full extent of our insightful and thought provoking discourse throughout the day.



As is often the practice, I saved the best for last and today, I am pleased to present part 2 of my ruminations.
In a nutshell, this post comprises thoughts on why we wake up every morning, why we even plan or get anything done at all... essentially, the very qualification of hope.

It should be noted that in this post, I'll liberally use some happenings in my own life to illustrate some of the salient points.

Destiny: Purpose or Fate?

When I resigned from formal employment back in December 2005, I was determined to never return to what I invariably refer to as a rat race where consumerism is unnecessarily glorified. I had and still hold the firm belief that there is more to life than just making money and then spending it all. True, there are different strokes for different folk, and I also appreciate that it is "to each his/her own" in most things in life. As such, what has worked for me may not necessarily work for others.

Looking back, I'm proud that I've been and continue to realize my goals first as a freelancer and now as a creative entrepreneur. All thanks to self employment.

The reason I bring this up is that when I quit my job, I knew that my destiny would be shaped by that very decision. I was however keen to do all the needful to ensure that it'd be a function of purpose, and not fate from then on. I've in the past written about destiny, purpose and fate here.

It is in setting up the goals (some lofty) that I perpetually aspire to achieve that I've find my purpose in life. When I began, I knew where I wanted to end up. I am not there yet and often times are in repair, but knowing where I'm headed makes all the difference. Sometimes, it takes a strong will, a stronger won't or simply knowing what you don't want to become.

All Things are Created Twice

At the aforementioned times, I hadn't come across Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

For example, my modest den is scheduled for some modifications, comprising enlarging my living room and adding an extra floor. Even before I start sourcing for construction materials, I have already seen the resulting structure in my mind time and again. This is well explained in the 2nd Habit: Beginning with the End in Mind together with the following points:
  • All things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.
  • Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
  • If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.

Hope Doesn't Disappoint

With K, we long agonized in trying to draw the line between blatantly assuming that things will definitely go a certain way in line with our desires, or blindingly hoping even when it is clear that the outcome will most likely be different.

In matters of hope, I never fail to quote the following:

Hope is the bridge that connects you to where you want to go,
Faith assures you that the bridge will hold,
Love gives you a reason to cross it.

Thing is, I see no need to hope for obvious things that are in the process of happening, inasmuch as there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.
For me, Hope and Faith often work in concert, as outlined in the Bible:

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
- Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

"And hope does not disappoint us..."
- Romans 5:5 (NIV)

To echo Barack Obama's words on hope:

Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.
Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
In my mind, beginning with the end in mind is what makes one go beyond freshman year in college, graduation with honors being the ultimate goal. It's what makes parents spend huge amounts educating their kids, with no assurance that the kids will not drop out or otherwise not work hard in school.
Beginning with the end in mind is why businesses are started, with the goal of breaking even, returning a profit and ultimately increasing the owner or shareholders' worth. It is what lets an expectant mother love her unborn child, with no way of knowing if the baby will be born at all or even once delivered, end up vexing her a la Kevin.

In sum, life offers no guarantees. There are no assurances that loving people will make them love us back. Only the knowledge that such love is not in vain no matter how it goes is what keeps the love going. By extension, nobody knows what tomorrow holds. The mere hope that the day will be much better if we do something to make it so, is all that matters. After all, of what use would life be if we all knew what is in store for us? Methinks that is the same reason immortality isn't exactly that much appealing.

Not knowing what will happen next is in my mind the best incentive to change things and thereby shape our destiny.

Finally, another photo of the amazingly beautiful place K and I visited as we discussed the above.


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