Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Bad things Happen to Good People

Two weeks ago, I watched "I'm in love with a Church Girl", starring Jeff "Ja Rule" Atkins and Adrienne Bailon.

Based on a real life situation, it is the story of former drug dealer Miles Montego, whose past deeds and friends, present travail and an uncertain future all get in the way of his love for Vanessa, who is a born again girl from a staunch Christian family.

A profound moment in the movie above is when Miles, having lost his mother, had his friends arrested, and a freak accident that puts Vanessa in a comma, loudly wonders why all these trials and tribulations are coming his way.
Especially just when he has decided to set things right in his life.

As I write this, one of my best friends is quite unwell. She has been battling both mental and physical ailments for over a decade now, thanks to a most undeserved assault on her person, her innocence and her soul at the delicate age of nine.

I have for long wondered why this had to happen to her, of all people. My affection for her aside, she is such a lovely and pleasant person who in my considered opinion doesn't deserve any of this.

But then again, life is filled with disturbing cases where those who do despicable wrongs seem to get away with it while innocent people get to burden seemingly insurmountable odds and endure untold suffering.
Poetic justice, it seems, only happens in literary works.

But would it be prudent to believe that even the bad that happens in life is for the greater good?
Evil never wins in his books, says Dean Koontz. He invariably provides hope and light in the course of his stories, inasmuch as many of the novels are horror and suspense thrillers. Light does triumph in the end.

The story of Job in the Bible is one enduring example of how bad seemed to overpower good.
And no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that life is at times cruel

Why not me?

A few years before he passed on, the acclaimed author Chinua Achebe spoke to the BBC's Veronique Edwards. By this time, he was wheelchair bound following a road accident that left him largely paralyzed.

She asked what he felt about that incident, if he was resentful. His was an answer I find very, very inspiring:

When you feel that bad things should not happen to you, do you have someone in mind who does deserve the misfortune and suffering?

Wider shoulders, not a lighter load

While eulogizing Joe Biden's son Beau, US President Barack Obama shared a profound insight about how best to handle the heavy burdens on our shoulders. He said:

Without love, life can be cold and it can be cruel. Sometimes cruelty is deliberate –- the action of bullies or bigots, or the inaction of those indifferent to another’s pain. But often, cruelty is simply born of life, a matter of fate or God’s will, beyond our mortal powers to comprehend. To suffer such faceless, seemingly random cruelty can harden the softest hearts, or shrink the sturdiest. It can make one mean, or bitter, or full of self-pity. Or, to paraphrase an old proverb, it can make you beg for a lighter burden.

But if you’re strong enough, it can also make you ask God for broader shoulders; shoulders broad enough to bear not only your own burdens, but the burdens of others; shoulders broad enough to shield those who need shelter the most.

In view of the aforementioned, I am reminded that bad things happen to good people so that we who are in a position of advantage can stand in the gap for them, lend a hand, actually empathize and make their day better or their load lighter.

In other words, so that we can be strong for the weak, share with those who lack and make their fight our fight.

Is there a reason for pain?

In his poem 'On Pain', Khalil Gibran outlines the role of pain in helping us better understand ourselves. Through pain, we can appreciate the times and seasons in our lives when things may either be bad or good.

Here it is:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

For me, painful moments are a reminder of better days both past and anticipated. It reminds me to always make the most of what I currently have given that others are not as fortunate, and that even I won't always have it all downhill.

For that reason, I cannot afford to not make hay while the sun shines.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we find a very appropriate way to dealt with times both good and bad.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.
- Ecclesiastes 7:14.

What do you think?

PS: For you FGN. Your best days are ahead of you. All of this is for a reason. A good one I believe. It sure hurts and it isn't easy. But it is worth it.

* * *

Every single time I think about what it takes to make some things what they are meant to be, I quickly realize that it is the struggle that makes a butterfly strong enough to fly after it emerges from the pupa.
Some things have to be broken for the good within to be revealed. For us too, some of the difficulties in life, even when not deserved, has a reason. HEre's Mary J Blige featuring Jay Sean in 'Each Tear'

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Know what You Mean to other People

Relationships are seldom, if ever, mutual. And hard as it is to accept this reality, it all starts with what you are to other people. What you think you are to others, and what they know you are to them, are two different things.

More than a decade ago when I was in college, I made a rare, albeit serious attempt at dating. CM was her name, and this was a relationship I hoped would be enduring, even lifelong... sorry, I digress.

During one of our numerous conversations, and in a moment I consider among the most profound in my dealings with CM, she looked at me straight in the eyes and asked, "Peter, what am I to you?"

Luckily, this was not during a 'fight'. But I did not answer immediately, given my penchant for reading between the lines. It took a moment to digest the all-important question.

I then gave her my candid answer.
(Sorry, you ain't CM and my answer is beyond the scope of this post... hehe).

Looking back, I now realize that is the one question I always ask myself in all my dealings with other people. And it has saved me from a lot of trouble.
Be it professional or informal relationships, taking time to actually find out what my place is in the hearts and minds of whoever I am interacting with is a priceless realization.

Why do we love oranges?

I still recall the day when Pinky Ghelani challenged her listeners to reflect why we love oranges. That was many years ago on her show 'The Fuse' on 98.4 Capital FM.

Pinky then proceeded to explain that almost every person who loves an orange does so because of what one can get from it. Specifically, the nutrients and the taste. It has nothing to do with how colorful oranges look, or how perfectly round they may be.

And this reminds me of Jesus's 'barren tree' parable in Luke 13:6-9.

Is the Juice worth the Squeeze?

It seems I'm on a roll with these fruity metaphors. But not to worry.

For interactions that are one-sided, where genuine affection is unrequited, good people have every reason to walk away. Letting go and moving on is in fact the most apt thing to do, only that it should not happen sans reflection. This ensures that there is no haste, and enough time is first spent appreciating all that has been and learning from whatever failed to work well or as expected.

A fearless and searching moral inventory is therefore recommended every once in a while, to forestall the risk of being used by others, or passing across the wrong message. A common problem that faces exceedingly good people is their good deeds being misconstrued as being desperate, clingy or needy. And of course being taken for granted, only to be missed when the well runs dry.

Every time you feel like you're in a situation where the other party is not living up to what is expected of them - be it a friend, love interest, business partner, client, colleague at work or school, etc - be courageous enough to do an objective and candid cost-benefit analysis with a view to setting things right.

I must admit that I do walk away from people the moment I realize what they take me to be is something that adds no value, is inappropriate or at great cost to me and my person.

For the record, a cost-benefit analysis is not a walk in the park, especially in situations where one has invested emotionally. But it is always worth it.

I end this post with something I once heard on 103.9 Family FM a long time ago. It is about what an ordinary man is to those around him.

To his dog, he is like a god, and the provider of all things nice (read meat, bones and macaroni). To his wife, he is Mr Money. To his teenage daughter, he is an overbearing tyrant who just can't let her be. To his boss, he is a good employee, but one who can be better. To his MP, he is just another vote.

You get the drift...

Finally, the key question is, what exactly are you to those around you and those whose lives you touch? And more important, are you to them what you think you are?

* * *

It does take two to tango. And I bet giving as good as one gets is for the most part, a core component of mutual interaction.
That said, how about meeting halfway?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Seeing Only what We Want to See, or Not See.

Two years ago, I wrote this post about how we see things as we are and not as they are.

Today, we revisit this issue, thanks to a discussion I had this morning with one of my closest friends.

We See, but do not Notice/Perceive

It all started with the usual early morning pleasantries, and then this forward on WhatsApp.

I request you to read this message before you delete.

After reading this message I made a full research (NIV & NLT) about this information. Really this is a shocking information to me and I like to pass it on to  you.

Please read, research and decide. If God is speaking to you, please forward to your friends and family members.
Kindly use KJV or NKJV.

Quite alarming & devastating - pls read this: "If you own a New International Version (NIV) Bible
Did you know that it was written by Zondervan and
they are OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the The Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.
NIV has removed 64,575 words from the bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few...
NIV has also removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our phones. Try and find these scriptures under NIV on your phone right now if you don't believe me:
Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14
Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46
Luke 17:36, 23:17 John 5:4
Acts 8:37

You will not believe your eyes.
If you continue reading the NIV after this, then truly you are blinded by Satan, or just don't care.


Refuse to be blinded by Satan, and do not act like you just don't care. Let's not forget what the Lord Jesus said in John 10:10 (King James Version‬)


If you must use the NIV, BUY and KEEP AN EARLIER VERSION OF the BIBLE. A Hard Copy cannot be updated. All these changes occur when they ask you to update the app. On your phone or laptop etc. Buy and KEEP EARLIER VERSIONS AND STORE THEM.

There is a crusade geared towards altering the Bible.

For the record, I often ignore such sensational forwards, and I would have done the same with this one but decided to check it out.
I already read some hidden agenda, thanks to this:

I'm sure you know that NIV was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.

We shall come to the Zondervan/Harper Collins twist in a bit...

Is Matthew 17:21 missing in the NIV Bible?

My Bible is the Devotional Study Bible, NIV Version. On the phone, I use the YouVersion Bible app. Following are my findings about the alleged omission of Matthew 17:21 and Matthew 18:11. You can try locate the others as outlined above.

At the end of Matthew 17:20 is superscript "b"
At the bottom of the page, is the following:

b20 Some manuscripts you. 21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.

That aside, this is is how Matthew 17:21 on the phone Bible app looks like.

ASV version:

 NIV version:

Now notice the small grey box with three dots after "impossible for you" at the end of verse 20.
When I did the same for Matthew 18:11, this is what happens...
Clicking on the grey box with the 3 dots reveals the following at Matthew 18:10:

And when you go to Luke 19:10, you see the verse that in other editions, is Matthew 18:11.

And this is how Matthew 18:10 looks like on the hard cover NIV Bible.

Notice the "a" superscript at the end of verse 10?
Looking at the footnotes at the bottom of the page, we find the "missing" Matthew 18:11 verse included. See below:

All said and done, you be the judge if the NIV Bible no longer has some verses.

The Zondervan Corporation, Harper Collins Situation

Back to the original forwarded message above, we learn that The Zondervan Corporation is owned by Harper Collins. This is true, as reported here and here.

The company was bought by HarperCollins, a division of News Corp, in 1988, and is the company's principal Christian book publishing division. Scott Macdonald was appointed President and CEO in May 2011.

This change of hands together with other acquisitions by Harper Collins was widely discussed in Christian circles, and Zondervan Corporation through spokeswoman Tara Powers did find it necessary to issue a statement that said in part,

"This does not present an ethical dilemma for Zondervan as we will continue to operate with autonomy as we always have...

“While we are obviously aware of the matter at hand, it does not distract or detract from our work at hand and we will continue to pursue our mission and operate as we have for the past 80 years."

My argument in regard to who owns Zondervan Corporation will comprise two important facts:

[1] We have choice

Harper Collins does have its reasons for acquiring these Christian publishers. I do not hold their brief and so wouldn't delve into the why and why not. That is not my business. Both Zondervan and Harper Collins got into negotiations and made choices and business decisions that work for them.

Should I feel that I no longer like my NIV Bible because of Harper Collins and whatever else this company publishes, then I have ever right to exercise choice and stop using their products (e.g. the NIV Bible). Nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head

There are so many versions of the Bible readily available, and we are all free to  read whatever version we feel is genuinely unadulterated.

[2] We are all not the same

The fact that I do not like what gays do does not give me any right to stop them from publishing their books. They have an equal right to read whatever rocks their boat, the same way I have every right to read my Bible or any other book that I would like to.

In the course of my discourse with my friend, I pointed out that Adolf Hitler's Mien Kampf is one of the most disturbing and hate-filled books I have ever read. It however remains in circulation despite it's controversial content. The reason is simple: Hitler had every right to publish that book, and whoever opts to read it also has an equal right to do so.

We are different people with varying tastes. It is for this reason that some are Muslims, others are atheists while others are agnostic.
That I don't like what some person else is, believes, says, reads or does should in no way be a reason to consider them foolish, lacking in common sense or lost.

We should all learn to appreciate that it is our differences that unite us. We do not have to like a lot of the things that we do not agree with. But we have a duty to respect and accommodate people, situations, views, things and opinions that differ from our own.

Finally, the last comment on this blog post takes us right back to the forward upon which this post is based.
Take time and read the 17 comments above fati's comment. Then you be the judge.

* * *

There's this song by Nicole C Mullen, about how different we can be and yet still be the same. Here is a live performance video, but the sound is quite bad and so I'll embed the following, titled White, Black, Tan.
The song has a very interesting introduction. Check it out and enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Sound of Silence

"It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers [and sisters].
The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them….
Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers [and sisters] for what they are, not for what they say."

- Thomas Merton.

Every once in a while, those close to and in touch with me experience something that greatly baffles them.

I simply disappear for days or weeks. No calls, sms, chats... etc.
I then suddenly materialize, seemingly from ether.

In this post, I'll try to explain why this is, and even more important, why I have come to embrace and now have absolutely no problem with this most uncommon of happenings.
I do realize it is necessary. At least to me, as weird as you may find it.


That I still live alone is not an accident. It is deliberate.
You see, I learnt from an earlier time to make the most of time alone. And no, I have never been incarcerated.Some of my other reasons are beyond the scope of this post. But here is a hint.

Back in High School, I revelled in solitude. I would often go to the classrooms during weekends, not to read the prescribed stuff (Math, English, Chemistry etc) but novels and other random reads such as this book I chanced upon in the school library. It is still a top favorite.

Reading thus became the one thing I totally loved to do, and still is.

The same thing continued in college, where I became even more averse to crowds. The JKUAT library, plus my room were hideouts I spent hours reading Psychology books, history books and other random titles.

In my Senior years, the Microsoft Encarta was an amazing companion on my desktop.

Being alone often means loneliness to many people. The two are not to be mistaken. According to May Sarton:

Loneliness is the poverty of self,
Solitude is the richness of self.

To me, solitude is that time you can be with truly authentic company - yourself.


It is only in silence that you get to hear things really well. As a writer, there are times when it becomes necessary to switch off the radio and work in silence. All I get to hear is the natural sounds of birds chirping outside.

Writing is a very personal affair, and given that it demands a lot of reading, time spent alone and in silence creates a most conducive environment for the two engagements.

Silence is also necessary when one wants to reflect and simply listen to what can only be heard sans external distractions.

Wherefore art thou, Pete?

Back to the crux of this post... why do I disappear every once in a while?

The honest answer is that it just happens. I get to this point where I need to be with myself again. So I switch off the phone, disconnect from social networks and retreat to my den to enjoy my own company.

At times, it is a consequence of, and coincidental to those days when I want to have a moment to myself, to have a conversation with me a la Macy Gray.
It is at such times that I do a searching and fearless moral inventory of my life. During this time when reflection is paramount, when rejuvenation is essential, external influences are most undesirable and therefore kept at bay.

The only drawback to all this is that some people, those who really care and relish engaging me, find it insensitive on my part to simply disappear and then suddenly come back... all without explanation.

I have no idea when I will next be drawn to silence and solitude. I can only hope that it doesn't end up consuming me, as a moth is by a flaming light.
Currently, I am happy that these episodes make me a better person. The hardest thing upon my return is explaining to loved ones that my disappearance had nothing to do with them, that it is for the greater good.

It is my hope that this post somewhat explains this uncommon phenomenon.

* * *

It becomes necessary at times to get away from the noise and haste, and actually take time to live. To live a life without all the pressure and distractions that modern society imposes on us.

Taking time to listen to one's heart presents a moment of clarity and an opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate. The sound of silence is the one thing you can never miss!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why do Good People Walk Away?

Altruism is defined as the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. In other words, it is the behaviour of something that benefits another at its own expense.
Altruistic persons stand in harm's way for others. Call it taking one for the team, etc.

We have looked at altruism in the past, on The Walkabout. Today, we seek to find out if altruism in in fact absolutely unconditional.

Naturally, good people are expected to do good to others without expecting anything in return. These are the people who will free their time for you, whereas every person else attends to you in his or her free time.

But why do people stand in the gap for others in the first place?

People will help either because it distresses them to see another person in trouble, or because they actually empathize.
It is worth noting at this point that altruism, and deeds borne out of empathy should not be irrevocably harmful. In other words, while there is always a cost to genuine empathic acts, it should not be fatal, or altogether damaging.

Otherwise, it becomes mindless altruism.

Truly Unconditional?

Is it then possible to continue doing good in perpetuity, or are good things dependent on something?
In the Bible, God is portrayed as eternally loving, with his kindness enduring forever.

For Jehovah is good; his lovingkindness endureth for ever, And his faithfulness unto all generations.
- Psalm 100:5 (ASV)

Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; For his lovingkindness endureth for ever.
- Psalm 136:1 (ASV)

But there is a caveat. You cannot continue doing what you please and expect Him to not do something about it. The following is just one of the things awaiting those who do not live according to the will of God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
- Romans 1: 18-21 (KJV) 

I'll take vengeance on them, punishing them severely in my anger. They'll know that I am the LORD when I take my vengeance on them.
- Ezekiel 25:17 (ISV)

God may be all-knowing and all-good, but He expects something in return.

It's Only Human

Human beings, too, are not far-removed from this. Even the most generous and benevolent among us wish to see some return for extending a helping hand, for investing emotionally or materially in another person's woes and hence saving the day. 
Appreciation is at the top of what is naturally expected of those who are assisted.

As depicted in the top graphic, reciprocity both encourages more good acts and enhances cordiality.

Creating meaning is another thing that any good person would hope for. 
Nobody wants to do meaningless acts, no matter how good they are. No person would be happy to dig up holes, only to fill them with soil even if there is pay attached to the act. A person in such a situation will feel used, as a means to a meaningless and demeaning end.

The Deal Breaker

Human nature is such that people are mostly predisposed to abuse privilege. Many people, after getting what they want, mostly indulge.

A common problem those who set out to help others often experience is the unrealistic demands and a sense of entitlement that quickly develops in those being assisted. At this point, favors are now seen as responsibilities of the part of the giver. Unwarranted demands are placed on those who opted to help out of the kindness of their hearts. To a point where the same needy persons will become vengeful if help is delayed or no longer forthcoming.

When good people are taken advantage of and they do nothing about it, they endure the same thing that happened to a certain Arab in this Aesop's fable:

Faced with such a situation, a good man will say enough is enough and hit the road. No sane person would tolerate the insolence of ungrateful souls whose primacy is in taking advantage, abusing privilege and developing an unnecessary and inappropriate self of entitlement.

In some circumstances, it is always advisable to let go, learn the lesson and move on.

* * *

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to walk . . .

Friday, June 5, 2015

How many People Read my Blog?

Let's love ourselves then we can't fail
To make a better situation
Tomorrow, our seeds will grow
All we need is dedication
- Lauryn Hill.

Just how many people read this blog?
I honestly do not know. And more important, I am not bothered.
I'll tell you why.

A little over a month ago, my friend JMN clicked through to The Walkabout after connecting with me on Facebook. She took hours to read a large number of posts, all of which, she later confided, were worth her while. She even bookmarked this site.

She then asked me if this blog was listed on BAKE or the Kenyan Bloggers Facebook page and Twitter list. "No, it's not," I replied.
She happens to be strongly persuaded that such content should be actively shared and seriously promoted, thanks to its timeless and edifying nature. That this is something everyone needs to read... That my blog should be winning awards!

True, and very right for a reader to think that way. But a writer shouldn't.
Let me explain.

Blogging 'then' and 'now'

You see, I started blogging back in 2006, on WordPress.com. At the time, there was the KBW and Afrigator blog aggregators. Guys actively read blogs, shared links and at the time, Intense Debate meant literally that. Comment Luv was for real. Bloggers wrote often.

Then Facebook and Twitter happened.

I personally experienced a major slump in the number of blogs that were now regularly updated. With so much information coming in on the FB Newsfeed and Twitter TL, our attention spans were severely diminished.

Upon joining the aforementioned social networks, I too started posting less.
Then something much worse happened to web traffic to my blogs. No, the hits or page views or unique visits - whatever you wish to call it - did not reduce.

The real problem was increased bounce rate (a visitor leaving so soon after kanding on a site), which means that less time was now being spent on the site.
Not that the quality of the posts was wanting. In any case, it keeps getting better. It so happened that people no longer read the entire post. They are either perpetually distracted or invariably in a hurry.

You can now see what prompted my firm decision to reconsider my audience.

Blogging is Personal

I therefore started writing for just one person. I stopped obsessing with hits and Google Adsense cheques. I dispensed with the comments. I stopped looking at the backlinks, trackbacks and my Alexa ranking. To this day, I still have Analytics installed on the blog but all I take a look at, and very rarely, is the bounce rate and time spent on the site. Not by many people, but by my intended audience.
All that matters to me now is engagement.

So what or who is my intended audience?

I now write for just one person. You.
You who reads a post in its entirety and ponders it. You may not share it and won't even be able to comment. But you actually take the time to read it all. Most likely, you go ahead and read a suggested/related post. That done, you now look forward to the next post, hoping that it will be soon. 
The single person may even be myself (yeah, I read my own posts a lot, especially past posts).

When I write for one person, I feel like I am having a one-on-one sitdown with you. In this way, the so desirable situation that Alanis Morissette sings about in Utopia is almost realized.

Each day is a new beginning.
Another chance to learn more about ourselves,
And to care more about others.
In sum, that is why I am not hoping to win a blogging award. Because this blog should win your heart instead. I'm not seeking popularity or media mentions. I'd rather The Walkabout earns the attention and trust of just one reader, not fleeting eyeballs and hits. It is for similar reasons that I removed the comments plugin, for I prefer that what you read here prompts you to have a meeting with yourself, a la Macy Gray's "there is a conversation I need to have with me, a moment with myself."
That is why, I do not care that many, many people may not read The Walkabout. Just one engaged reader is enough. Just you.

So go on, and read. The Walkabout is a journey of insight, inspiration and self discovery.
If a single post inspires you, if another post offers some insight, and if that same or other post helps you learn something about yourself or others, then my mission is accomplished.

That, and no more. And it is everything.

* * *

There is this lady who has a voice like no other. But that is not the important thing. It is her words - they have meaning, they make a difference and do add value. Her music is such a joy to listen to. Here is Lauryn Hill in Everything is Everything.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Discovering Our Place in the Lives of Others

"Our lives are not our own.
From womb to womb, we are bound to others. Past and present. 
And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
- Somni 451, Cloud Atlas.

In the recent Angels and Life's Crossroads post, we saw that everything in life happens for a reason. That the people life brings into your life are always meant to help you find a purpose, a purpose that's often greater than yourself.
These human interactions are at times life's way of bringing you Angels to inspire you when you have needs that are to be met, when you are at a crossroads.

Today's post further explores the role we play in the lives of others, and how we can discover our place in the lives of those we get to interact with.

On of the most emotional moments I've seen on TV was in the LOST finale 'afterlife' scene where Jack Shephard met his father Christian. When Jack wonders why they are where they are, Christian explains:

This is a place that you all made together so that you could find one another.
The most important part of your life, was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.

The air-crash survivors in LOST soon realized that they were better off living together and working in teams to deal with the challenges they faced every day they were on the mysterious island.

That situation is always replicated in our lives. Each is born into a family made up of siblings and in most cases, siblings. In some cultures, the extended family comprising grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins remains a part of one's upbringing.

These people often shape one's perceptions and greatly influence how one relates with other people later in life. Should one encounter abuse in his or her formative years, the child remains traumatized and scarred for life. For the fortunate ones who are showered with love, genuine unconditional care and purpose-driven upbringing, they blossom into people who are outgoing and who engage with others in amiable and socially acceptable ways.

For those among us who are entrusted with raising young ones - be it as a parent, uncle, auntie, teacher or care-giver, the onus is upon us to be a positive influence. These kids are quite impressionable during their formative years. This has been shown in this TV commercial that underscores the importance of your influence:

Beyond childhood, we meet people in the schools we attend, we get to meet people in the neighborhoods we live and in our workplaces. These people may share a few things with us such as a class, office or neighborhood, but what has brought them to this day always remains different.

When we encounter these people and our paths cross, it is important to realize that what has always worked for us may not work for them. It is true that we are united in our differences. But these differences must be acknowledged and respected. Looks may be deceiving and first impressions may last. But it is important to take a moment and properly understand others before engaging them with the assumption that our way is the right way.

Discovering our place in other people's lives is a great way to also realize our purpose in life and what we have to do to shape our destiny. Given that nobody lives along in this life, the greatest achievements are invariably hinged on the constituents roles many people play towards something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Our lives are wholly dependent on services provided by others, and we always use tangible things that others have made. Such people indirectly make it easier for us to meet our obligations and realize our dreams.

I shall end with the role those who are blessed and fortunate among us should play in the lives of people of less means.
We get to meet people who are unwell, who are going through a rough stretch in life or who are battling untold anguish in life. Some of these people may only need just a smile to lighten their day, genuine care and understanding that it is not irreparably damaging to go through such hard times, the assurance that hard times do come to an end in the fullness of time.

In some cases, they need actual involvement - someone to hold their hand, lend a hand, offer material support, moral support or ultimately make their fight one's fight. They need people who realize that sometimes, those who seem least deserving may be the most in need. They need people to walk with them without ever giving up. They may need someone to take a much-needed and beneficial place in their lives.

Ralph Waldo Emerson who was born today 212 years ago, sums up the purpose of life above. Making a difference in the lives of others is at the core of these timeless words!

 * * *

I was torn between ending with Daniel Powter's 'Bad Day' and the song that I have finally settled on. It beautifully lays down the tenets of friendship and genuine concern.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How being a Victim of the Tall Poppy Syndrome made me a Better Person

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a sob story. If anything, the only person who should be sobbing in shame is anyone who was, or still is, bitter at the genuine accomplishments of others in the stead of celebrating and encouraging them. It sucks!

The Walkabout has always been about insight, inspiration and self discovery.
Today, let us candidly say some not-too-pleasant-to-hear things about ourselves.

First off, we all love to think that we are perfect. We post photos and status updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram whose primacy is to show just how much of a good time we are having compared with others, how awesome our lives are and how infallible our thinking and "considered"  opinions are. Truth be told, social networks are a big, albeit virtual pissing contest where we scamper for attention to show off just how hung we are in a vanity inspired dick-measuring contest.

So, how about we stop brown-nosing for a while, and get to hear some deeply seated concerns that have stayed hidden and largely ignored.. about how society, much as I believe it can change, can almost break someone?
This especially goes out to everyone who knew me in my childhood. It's finally time to shine the spotlight on you and reveal what most of you really were, and some still are.

I've always said that I had a difficult childhood. Growing up, I was a victim of the Tall Poppy Syndrome.
You see, I was born and raised in what I now realize was a dystopic and crapsack neighborhood in Nderu village in Ndeiya Location, Limuru Division. Until very recently, this is a place that was considered backward and underdeveloped. Thanks to the absence of development-inducing infrastructure such as mains electricity, piped water, all weather roads and telecommunications, the inhabitants had become complacent and gotten used to things as they were. Only a few strove for better, which was achieved by either going abroad or moving away to Nairobi.

That said, a key characteristic of any crapsack society is the corruption of inhabitants into perpetuating nastiness against one another. Such a place is not at all kind to idealists, and anyone who acts differently, rises to greatness or escapes the 'social ghetto" is pulled down.

The Tall Poppy Syndrome

This is defined as

a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. This is similar to begrudgery, the resentment or envy of the success of a peer.

In other words,

the Tall Poppy Syndrome is in play when a character or characters act to achieve parity with another character who is presented or perceived as somehow "better" not by improving themselves, but by bringing the other guy down to their level. 

Better than them

Right from the time I joined nursery school in 1986, I was the top student. This went on in Class 1 a year later until 1994 when I sat KCPE. What kept surprising me is that I seldom had to read all that hard to pass examinations. My siblings too, were also top in their respective classes.

You'd be forgiven to think this would result in endless joy every time results were announced and all the top positions were occupied by Mr Njenga's children. Far from it. Fellow classmates, neighbors whose children we invariably defeated in academics and most of our teachers did resent us. At times, quite openly.

I can point out several of the most vexing incidents:

1989, when my class teacher simply refused to give me a Swahili textbook but still expected me to have done her holiday assignment when school reopened. It took the intervention of the Headteacher for her to change her mind.

1996, when another teacher openly told me that I'll not take the University Degree I'd one day get to her house, but would deliver it "kwa Njenga". All because I'd been involved in an altercation with her son. This infuriated the Deputy Headteacher, and a fortnight later, she was compelled to come over to apologize both to me and my father in our house.

1993, the headteacher telling my father she had heard some parents saying how they could slaughter a goat and throw a huge bash were his sons and daughters to fail exams. Thankfully, this never happened.

And I could go on and on, for every year I was in Primary School.

Every time I saw Caruso bully Chris in Everybody Hates Chris, or listen to Eric Cartman endlessly call Kyle names and even sing disparaging songs about his family in South Park, I identified with the pain. We often laugh and joke about it, but it is a serious matter to the victims.
I too, was bullied. Never beaten up, but called names, ridiculed and embarrassed by my peers for being different and better. I must say I wasn't always in the right, but there was no justifiable reason to warrant such meanness.

I therefore found solace only at home. Only in the company of my siblings and parents did I feel at peace. I got to dislike people. And got lost in the wonderful world of books where I could be physically present but mentally away in far off places. Looking back, I would have slipped into depression, even lost my mind had I not had the amazing support that I always found at home. And shame on you if you think I was too serious to take a joke from my peers. You simply do not understand.

The result was a socially awkward person who like Finch in American Pie, had to take a dump only at home. Going to school was a necessary evil, and to this day, I remain in favor of home-schooling for kids of a certain age. I still live alone in a place where I seldom encourage visits. And neither do I hang around my neighbors' homes unless it is absolutely necessary that I visit. But not to worry, I am NOT a psychopath.

To this day, I abhor crowds and go to great lengths to avoid public gatherings. School assembly throughout Primary and High School were a great deal of patience, unease and tolerance. Adjournment was always a huge sigh of relief.
I have so far only attended two weddings. One, my mother's in 2000 and the other, my sister's in 2013.

And to a great extent, this is why I spend most of the time alone in my den, reading. I am reserved and only encourage one-on-one interactions. No group excursions, and certainly no group dates. Team sports remain something I cannot stand, both watching and participating. Thankfully, there is Sudoku and Chess...

Care should be taken not to mistake this with having a low self esteem. Far from it. Those who have encountered me soon realize that the opposite in in fact true. For a long time, I always believed I was mostly right. I still tend to think of myself all too highly, bordering on harmful narcissism. At times, my words and mannerisms present me as a person who is full of himself.

I'm yet to realize why some people think looking down on others, despising them and cutting them down to size is of any gain. Despite being enormously wealthy, I am not rich. But never once have I felt bad about someone coming into great fortune. When others exceed me in certain ways (which happens all the time), I never hesitate to be genuinely happy for them, congratulate with a pat on the back as I cheer them on to greater achievement.
I do realize that it is the presence of short people that makes some people tall, that we all need one another. Every single person has a reason to be and a place in this world, just as every species of flora and fauna is necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

Why then, do people find it necessary to cut others down simply because they are different? Because they are better? Is it too hard to realize that we are united in our diversity?

As I grow wiser and get to meet some of the most amazing people in recent times, I am alive to the fact that it is no longer about me. I've had to stop focusing so much on my awesome self, and realize that it is in giving that we receive, that altruism and genuine concern for others can be most rewarding. That it always works for the greater good.

I have not only grown intellectually with time, but emotionally as well. Now willing to listen and take suggestions, I have found that the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don't want to be. For this reason, I have learnt to forgive those who were mean to me and let go of a most imperfect past.

But all is not lost. It never is. And I did come to find most, if not all that I all along sought, only when I stopped looking. I have gradually started making appearances in public places, such as burials in the neighborhood.

In Sum

Social interactions, especially those hinged on an unpleasant past, cannot become perfect. But they can be perfected.

It may not be enough to look back at a difficult past that's inundated with painful memories and unpleasant experiences. It is not enough to wish that things turned out differently. It is definitely not enough to live with regret. Even accepting the sad realities of this life is not enough in itself. It is true that I cannot go back and make a brand-new start. But I can, and already have started, making a brand-new end.
And that is where the perfection starts.

* * *

I've never ended a single post with two YouTube tracks. Today, I get to do that.

The first one illustrates why I've largely retreated to books, inspired by the hypocrisy so well hidden in some societal expectations and its attendant conventional thinking.

The second one simply underscores the realization that all the bad is now gone, that I have forgiven, learnt, let go and moved on. I am no longer defined by my shadow days. If anything, hard times have only made me realize that I am a good man with a good heart...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Angels and Life's Crossroads

'Angels are dispatched from heaven to inspire people who are at a crossroads in their lives.'

First off, this is a comeback post. I haven't posted on The Walkabout since January 2015.
A lot has happened since that time. There has been so much to write about, and it is my hope that I'll be able to distill all the insight, inspiration and self discovery that has been piling up in my Draft Posts. All in all, I'll endeavor to make regular posts.
That in itself, is a good thing.

Another good thing is that we're having an exciting addition on this journey, on this blog. This person has a more inspiring story to tell than I ever could.
I honestly cannot wait to read my friend's first post, and many more for days and years to come.

* * *

Well, I do have a copy of the Devotional Study Bible, NIV version. I read it every once in a while, unlike years past when I spent time with it every single evening. Not that I no longer read the good book, I still do. I just happen to have a more accessible one - the ever present YouVersion Bible on my Android device.

Isaiah is my favorite book, and this is how it is introduced:

This eloquent prophet lived at a time when the nation of Judah could either regain its footing or begin a dangerous slide downwards. Isaiah was uncompromising, and his "telling it as it is" eventually cost him his life. It is believed that King Manasseh had him fastened between two planks of wood and his body was sawed in half.

Truth be told, we often find ourselves at a crossroads. At times, we feel that we have no choice and have to wade through the murky inevitability that Catch-22 situations bring with them.

And before you say that one always has a choice in any given situation, some choices may be as difficult as a Buridan's ass choice or as limiting as a Hobson's Horse option.
All in all, life is inundated with circumstances that call for external input and much needed assistance.

It is during such situations that you get to meet people. People who are in situations where you can actually help. People who have a genuine need that in your heart of hearts, do realize you can help meet.

You look around and quickly realize that there is indeed a method to the madness that life can at times be. That things indeed happen for a reason. And as Esther came to realize many years ago,

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

Earlier in the verse (Esther 4:14) the matter of failing to do the needful is addressed. For Esther, relief and deliverance for the Jews would've come from someplace else but her family would have perished.
Thing is, it is never by accident that you get to meet some people in your life. It is always for a reason.

As always, I am allowed to go back to LOST, which inspired the very first post on The Walkabout.
Here, we meet Jack and Locke expressing varied viewpoints about what possibly brought them all into the mysterious island after Oceanic Flight 815 crashed. It is for a reason and a purpose, says Locke in this video.

All in all, life's happenings are always for a reason. It is upon you to find out how the circumstances you find yourself in, and those with whom you interact, are meant to bring out your purpose and your destiny.
Take time and find out why you're meeting the very people life keeps bringing your way. There is a reason why. And once you find out the reason, be sure to do the needful.

I end with Graham's famous opening lines in the movie Crash:

It's the sense of touch... I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

PS: This one is for you F.G.N.
Thank you.

* * *

Touched by an Angel was a popular show on KTN Kenya some years back. I rarely watched it, but still purpose to someday get the DVD set and experience all these angels.
Meanwhile, in a song I first heard in 1999 on Family FM, one of these angels, Della Reese, already promises to walk with you...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Love, Relationships and Violence

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living wih the results of other people's thinking."

Self Righteousness

When I watched Jonathan Haidt's TED Talk about Morality and Openness to Experience, it became clear to me that being subjective in any decision making is the primary reason we are rarely open minded. In other words, objectivity can only prevail when we do not take sides.

Unfortunately, every one of us thinks they are invariably right. This is why it is very difficult to tell someone that s/he is making the wrong decisions in life.

Abusive Relationships

That said, I remember listening to Jam 316 a while back, hosted by Frederick Njiiri on Family Radio 316. Listeners were calling in to share their views after a lady called in, wondering what to do since her husband beats her up.

When asked if she has shared her predicament with her family or close friends, she said that she hasn't, because she will be embarrassed when others know that she is a victim of domestic violence.

As I listened to divergent opinions from other listeners who called in or shared on the show's Facebook page, I was vexed by two things:

  1. a majority has gradually accepted that physical abuse by one spouse in marriages and relationships is a perfectly normal, natural and ordinary thing.
  2. victims of domestic violence are unable to leave abusive relationships because of kids, stigma and a dependence on the abusive spouse or partner.

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

I find it really hard to understand why people feel that they need other people to complete them. Or why people feel this irresistible urge to get into marriage. When shall we come to realize that other people should only complement, but not complete us?

Granted, I am not married nor in a relationship, those are situations I have opted to stay out of as long as possible for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post.

My question however remains: Are the people we closely relate with really indispensable?

Is it so hard to leave a situation that adversely affects you? Is there a shortage of spouses and partners in life, that I am unaware of? What happened to freedom and choice? Is continually living with some people really worth the trouble?

Self Deprecation

Stephen King, in The Dark Tower, writes
True love, like any other strong and addictive drug, is boring—once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome.
. . except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color of the world seems to deepen and brighten around them. As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners.
And, as is true of any other strong and addicting drug, true first love is dangerous.
His words somewhat explain the irrational behavior that many people exhibit when they are in relationships.

The Idea of True Love

Regardless of one's religious leanings or otherwise, I contend that some definitions hold true universally. In her song My Idea of Heaven, Leigh Nash concludes that being with family is indeed her idea of heaven.

In my mind, families are predicated on relationships. Family should therefore be the last place where one should be harmed - especially relationships and families that we create voluntarily through dating and marriage.

Furthermore, I have always maintained that things don't get bad over time, they start bad.
1 Corinthians 13 provides us with a very good definition of love. Have a look at it and should you be in a situation that falls short of this, my advice is that you should get out of it as soon as possible. It surely isn't worth your while.

* * *

 Every single I come across a media report where someone seriously harmed, or even killed a love interest or spouse, it makes me realize just how worthless some people consider others to be.
To forestall such unfortunate happenings, people, and especially women should realize that violence, in all its forms, has no place in any relationship. Learn to view yourself, and thereby live, according to how you view yourself. Not how he views you. There's no shortage of people who'll treat you with respect elsewhere in the world. Here's Orianthi with According to You.


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