Your Vantage Point…..

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Your Vantage Point

It is in the nature of human beings to emulate, and most of the values we uphold to this day are those that have been passed down from generation to generation. The rather amusing thing about this ability is that more often than nought, we have not applied ourselves to understanding and so in most cases, there is an application without the due diligence that is obtained from a personal comprehension. The same applies to our spiritual tenets, we take for granted what are actually blessings because we have not taken the pains to develop a personal relationship with The One who blesses and so just like little kids playing on the beaches, we are content with the splashing of the waves when we stand to get a better experience by swimming.

One African proverb that readily comes to heart is this, ‘Parables (idioms, proverbs) are the sauce with which words are eaten!’ The question that so easily comes to the fore is can words be eaten on their own? And would the experience of eating words with the appropriate sauce be more satisfying than if the words were just eaten alone? In almost every cuisine known to man, there will always be some form of sauce (gravy, soup etc) accompanying the main dish that will ensure the exercise of feasting will not just be a dreary one, soon to be forgotten. “Bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold, bean porridge in the pot three days old. Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot three days old!” This age long nursery rhyme so succinctly categorizes man and the differences that make us unique individuals however the truth is that our idiosyncrasies are usually a function of where we stand, contextually.

One phrase that can be quite bewildering is something that I picked up during the early stages of working in the corporate world; ‘The reward for hardwork is more work.” What is the motivation or idea that drives individuals to come up with such phrases? The word ‘reward’ as I know it tends to the positive, just like the word ‘penalty’ tilts to the negative and recalling the basic economics I was forced to learn, Abraham Harold Maslow was the prominent American psychologist best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A theory of psychological health predicated on fulfiling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self actualization. I have since learned that ‘self’ is not the best parameter for evaluating achievements because man naturally is inordinately selfish. And so when you realize that work is defined by whether you classify it as a want-to or a have-to then the reward of more work is definitely suited for the former.

Growing up, I can still remember the day that in a fit of rage, I told someone (cannot remember who) that the person was useless. Fortunately, my mother was privy to the incidence and in the ways that only mothers can, she made me understand that as long as God created, then there must be a use. It almost borders on utter recklessness and abject insolence to tag someone created by God as useless, that is like engaging God in a debate on the depth of His Wisdom and Power. Suffice me to say that after the lesson of never succumbing to the urge to call another living human useless was very firmly passed across, I would have blended very well with a herd of zebras if I were to run bare-assed. Since then, I believe that urge was effectively dealt with and I do not think I have ever called someone useless since then. The truth is that we are all placed in positions and locations either to learn or to teach however the onus of tagging ourselves as useful or useless is strictly ours alone.

Most times, the frustration that we allow to pile on ourselves is not so much as a variable beyond our control, it is rather our inability to see the teachable point of the moment we find ourselves in. Whether it is in the stillness of the night, or the rowdiness of the hospital room, or the unrelenting waves of help sought by another, there is something we can take away from that moment. It could be the irascible nature that surges to the surface when we get cut off in traffic or the sheer ‘audacity’ of not being acknowledged for the role we played in helping another achieve their goal – regardless of what the cause is, we can influence the effect as long as we realize that a vantage point is determined by what we choose to learn and pass on. It is not about the keenness of our eyesight that makes our location a vantage point, it is the inherent and often untapped ability to take a step back, breathe and look again. “The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexander K. Trenton 

Just a few years before I took to writing, a friend of mine who used to blog back then used to affectionately refer to me as her muse. I saw it as a complement and still do even though Hodeejah has stopped blogging however now I know that in every moment of every day, there is something to motivate you to keep pressing on. We are inadvertently constrained by our human limitations but that does not, in any way, restrain us from giving our best each time we are opportuned to be called upon. The privilege of being called upon is not a testimony to your skill or prowess in a particular field, it is rather another opportunity to divest ourselves of the plaudits (their reasons unknown) of our fellow sojourners and show in word and deed that we are social beings. True strength is not an individual index, it is the sum total of the distinctive nature of our diversity when we come together pleasantly, bound by the same goals and objectives. True strength lies in associating ourselves with individuals who are unafraid to love and be loved, unafraid to correct and be corrected and are unafraid to stand back to back with you even in the face of overwhelming odds. That is your vantage point if you choose to acknowledge and wholeheartedly accept that there is a role that only you can play in those circumstances.

As the hours usher in another new day, I am still learning that the path that lies ahead of me may not be what I was once used to, despite that, it is my decision to make each point I find myself at, a vantage one. Borrowing a leaf from the tale of the seven blind men of Bombay as they each described the elephant from their own perspective, let us remember that we may be adroit at what we do but when we refuse to pay attention to the input from another then we mockingly and woefully proclaim ‘my lifestyle is how I deem it to be based on the whimsical cravings of my insatiable self’. For some reason, when you truly apply yourself to a task with all your heart and strength (remembering that our actions should be directed towards pleasing God not man), the succcess of that task definitely transcends the literary definition of success.

In order to succeed at every point and location we find ourselves, it will be relatively comfortable to realize that losing is actually a lesson in winning because until we conquer our fear of failing, then success might not amount to more than the wishes of a child. Our inability to take in life’s lessons is not usually about where we stand but our self-imposed constraint to not look around and see. Even in brokenness, there is beauty!

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

In my armour….

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Full Armor

Every armor has a weakness, so choose where you place your trust

There are mountains high enough to prevent you from seeing the hope in the future. There are valleys so low that they completely drain you of the will to push on. We are all sojourners on this earth and just like everyone of us is distinct so are the trials, triumphs and testimonies that we each get to face in the seasons of our lives. It’s not about bemoaning the lack (anyone can do that), it’s truly about recognizing the lack and responding appropriately to filling it. Today, with temperatures still climbing and a heart still beating, I am once again reminded of the transient nature of life and what we choose to call priorities. Jousting is so often associated with the medieval times that the essence in modern times is completely overlooked. A warrior is one skilled in the art of warfare and more often than nought, his skills are required in battles that are not always of his choosing.

Bedecked in full armor, mounted on a war horse, he faces foes on all sides and even as it is still employed in today’s battles, he must find a chink in the protective gear of his foe. Ironically, it’s the same approach that his foes take, because they know without the slightest doubt, finding and exploiting that chink could very well be the determining factor in what separates the victor from the vanquished. In a bid to ameliorate or possibly eliminate completely any chances of being bested, so much effort is put into protecting that chink because every armour has one. However as we channel all our efforts into staying safe, we fail to realize that victory is not obtained by being safe but by recognizing our vulnerabilities and making them be an expression of our humanity.

I had the pleasure of meeting a friend and his daughter, both from The Republic of Congo, as she had come to spend the summer holidays with him. Yes, another victim of a broken relationship but besides that what else can be seen? I saw a beautiful young lady, probably irreparably scarred but still aware enough to pause her farewell to me and utter these words, “thank you Daddy!”. Just those three words said in that unpretentious sincerity you can always find in a child, made me quietly acquiesce to myself that there’s so much to be thankful for and yet so little of thanking that we do. Prior to her uttering those words, I saw a little girl hurting from her inability to understand what she was going through. Why she had to have both parents in different parts of the world? Why did she have just a little time to spend with loved ones before she returned back to commence a new session of school. In the course of interacting with her, I could discern the resentment because I too have been through similar circumstances. Not just as a child but also as a father, and without allowing Nyela to focus so much on what she was ‘losing’, I made her realize how much her father loved her. That was what birthed those three words, “thank you Daddy!” and as she emerged from my truck, there was a spring to her step and a lightness in her voice. That transformation took place in the space of 7minutes 42seconds, just because she allowed herself to listen to me and appreciate the beauty of the moment.

I tell people, as often as I can, without coming across as a kibitzer that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but an evidence of our humanity. When we spend so much time hiding our ‘weakness’ from others, we inadvertently fail to realize the primary reason for our existence – to love another just as much as we love ourselves. Proding and prising apart, searching for the chink in another’s armour is time that could be better spent in standing with another and facing the odds we all must face. It is not an expression of wisdom when we hurl ourselves headlong into battles that could be avoided, instead of forming positive alliances with the soul next door with the objective of running this race and finishing well. A recurring question I always have to deal with when I’m privileged to meet someone who has never heard of dystonia before is “How do you cope with it?” Honestly, because of how often I’m asked, I’m pretty sure that if I were suddenly roused from sleep, my answer would still be the same. I do not cope with it, I’m too focused on making each new day count for something better that it’s only the incessant twinges of pain that remind me of this unending battle with dystonia.

I’ve learned that focusing on helping someone else is more fruitful than reeling out a litany of how my body feels. If I cannot change it, why bother complaining about it, because the sad reality is there’s already enough sadness in the world. You have to make a choice between seeing if your own worries will lighten the already overburdened lives around you or trying to alleviate the present pain and sorrow around you. Pushing your pains and worries to the back burner so that you can make room to assist another person who has just been severely knocked off his horse. Yes, we need to guard ourselves but when guarding yourself overshadows the ability to help another, then I would recommend a rethink in strategy. No army is only made up of one warrior, no team of one ever exists however there is so much strength in the unity of diversity. Wisdom, in my opinion, is realizing that a battle is raging on around us and yet we concentrate on building a chain of lives through love, kindness and hope. That collective armor is what will stand true when charge upon charge by our foes hit our ranks.

There is nothing built by man that in indestructible however that which is built by God is. So the choice in where you decide to put your trust in, is entirely up to you. Today, I may not have the resources to give to one in need but what I have is a shoulder to lean on, ears attentive to listen and company for a little while as you journey on. Diversity is what transforms a chaotic puzzle into a beautiful picture and regardless of how impenetrable you think you are, you will need someone else when your storms hit. And so whilst I am committed to burnishing my armor, I am also keen to recognize that not only can I not stand alone, I am here to be a support to someone else. Sometimes, a simple walk in the park holds much more value than a space trip to Mars. The battle is not to the strong, neither is the race to the swift, it is God’s mercies that will ultimately prevail. And if we are recipients of such an awesome gift, why should it be only about you. I reckon, each day, that every blessing I receive is something that can be shared and so with that realization firmly impressed upon my heart, I will always find the courage to press on. Each new day, an amazing gift by itself, is yet another opportunity to stand alongside fellow sojourners and warriors so that together we can beat the odds.

As I remember the victories of today, I am certainly convinced that love, hope and faith are indispensable companions for me. It will never be about how high a stack of corpses you left in your path, rather it will be about how much inspiration you have shared on your path. I may not be able to bring to completion that dream of yours but I most definitely can ensure that the moments we shared will never be forgotten. Life will always be a catalogue of events and as we sail through life’s turbulent waves, some of those memories are the nuggets of indestructible hope that will keep us going. I have always believed that a life devoid of hope is a life that is desperately in need of some love and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful a rocky path can become when there are lilies growing by it, but those lilies have to be planted first. It is not always about how grand your gesture of magnanimity is, instead it is about how sincere in well doing you are. It is often in the intricate tiny stitches of a woven garment that you find the greatest amounts of love. No matter how fortified you think you have made your armor, someday you most definitely have to get out of it. The question then would be, ‘What awaits you when you have shed your armor? Friends by your side or a gathering mass of individuals who don’t care about what you know.’

Remember, ‘The destiny of man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees’ – T.H White

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת שלו לזרוח עלינו

Adios!