Happiness Through The Hour-Glass

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If you had asked me what happiness meant a decade ago, my answer would have read: it’s finally coming home to good food and a warm bed. You see, I was in a boarding school that availed me only the basic luxuries—as basic as they could get. When I posed the same question to a group of friends, answers differed with each person defining happiness as best he could, given the prevailing circumstances of their lives.

I used to think this was a one-definition-fits-all thing; that you could tell people what should give them lasting happiness, and that the sum of one’s feeling would be their dreams, both short and long-term, fulfilled. I may have been wrong.

It explains why a person living in luxury would consider suicide when they can afford everything they ever wanted. Why a mother would kill her own baby if children are God’s gift to man. Why certain people suffer spousal abuse, if the call to marriage is the highest union that two people can find. Why privileged children run away from home, when there are less privileged that would die to have just a bit of their part. Or why some go into crime even when provided for by the State. The paradox is that people want happiness but do not understand why their desires, now fulfilled, leave them feeling hollow still.

The much I’ve come to know is that our personal and collective definition of happiness changes the longer the sands pass though the hour-glass. It was Heraclitus who said that no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man. If human character was subject to time and experience, one’s perception of happiness is also subject to the same prevailing influence.

It brings some perspective into this ever elusive definition. In fact I am willing to bet that if I threw open the same question, obvious as the answer(s) may seem, it will take some thoughts to offer one that pleases you.

So I asked myself again: what does happiness mean to me?

Over time it has been so many things, but the passage of time has helped to refine my perception. The more sand has escaped from the hour-glass of my life, the clearer I see through it. Whereas happiness used to mean getting as much as I could within the shortest possible interval; now it is knowing that happiness is not in achievement itself, but in the journey between how soon I want it and when I eventually get it.

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Intricate

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It took staring at a leafless tree for days and struggling to still my hands from reaching for a camera to come to this; to realize how monotonous life is when we allow it. Wake up. Eat. Work. Sleep. And perhaps pull out our cameras and take a shot ever so often. It’s not difficult to see how one can remain absolutely clueless about the world and the delicate beauty it harbors.

Few days ago I conversed with a friend. We talked about the special things that make us tick—mine were books and photography—and then about joy, sadness and emotions. At the time I felt what it could be like to exist in a space without experiencing it. It’s a lot like catching a nice view and jumping in just in time to take a picture, before the moment passes. That is the power of photography: the ability to freeze time, as good as elemental power can get for us, until you take a closer look at your picture and a whole new wonder explodes—like that Dragonfly. I always thought it ordinary till I took note of the light play on its wings.

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”  Psalm 139:15

I think of humans like that, artistically formed. We are the wonders of creation with our diverse characters and emotions. There are seasons to life, every emotion carefully woven in the fabric of time. Our feelings of joy and sadness are each a part of who we are, so that we are a bit more appreciative of the moments in our lives. To know that our highs and lows are not just symbols of our strengths and failures; they are also testament to the intricacy of the human soul. It’s great to know that we are alike and yet so different, and it will always be a wonder plying one road to discover the depths of a single being; to move past this monotony and experience life, not exist in it.

I learned a good photographer is one able to tell a story with a picture and infuse his essence into the frame. I’m not that kind of hobbyist yet, but I hope to get there someday. Likewise I believe this also forms the basis of our humanity: our ability to see past the visible darkness and confidently step into the lives of others. I’m not that kind of human either, but hope to find the courage someday to hear your stories.

Reconstructing Yesterday

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It’s another season of resolutions. I love resolutions; I love that January  can be a marker, a month we set aside to take stock of our yesterdays and make better plans for our tomorrows.

A year ago I decided to take time to know my God better. It could have won the award for the shortest new year resolution list ever, but the effect of that single decision still ripples today. I’ve since learned it’s not how much you intend to achieve in a year that matters, but the quality of that achievement.

Just before the remodeling of our house commenced my dad and I talked about wisdom. The ease with which we make decisions based on current trends, and what’s acceptable today, but years after we are done reveling in the attention, we see the folly of our past choices and spend money and energy to correct the damages.

I sit in my bedroom and stare at the fresh cracks in my ceiling board. There are giant stones on my corridor and the parents have since relocated to another bedroom in the east wing of the house. Our living room is in terrible condition. The aluminum roofing sheets are totally gone and every morning I am jolted out of sleep by the slap of mallet on concrete above my head. There’s no telling when the ceiling boards will finally give way and cave in on me. The entire experience is frustrating. Yet there are nights when I stumble my way through the corridor to the living room, look overhead and have a perfect view of stars twinkling in the night sky. And I think that perhaps the remodeling process isn’t so bad after all.

There are two things this tells me:
One is that a new year resolution does not necessarily mark the close of a chapter or the beginning of a new one. Like a remodelling project, it can be a moment in time when we choose to retrace our steps and reconstruct.

Two, there will be clutters and times within the year when this new project seems like too much of a burden. It helps to remember why we’ve embarked on that journey in the first place and the quality of life we will have when it’s over.

Whether we are on a course to reconstruct yesterday, remodel, or simply taking more giant steps on the path we’ve been all along, I hope that when it seems like chaos is all there is we remember to look above and see the stars.

Christmas Blues

 

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I woke up today, walked outside and sniffed the air. It was there: Christmas. I could smell it in the cold, dry wind that signaled the beginning of the harmattan. It was there in the dust that twirled in the air; in this incredible heat from an angry sun, ever less often punctuated by rain. Rain in November was crazy– if anyone knows the seasons in Nigeria you know there should be none of that past October. But Lagos is the city cushioned by the Atlantic. We get rain whenever and harmattan only when it wins the battle of seasons. Yet there’s Christmas. I heard my first jingle yesterday: Jingle Bells, odd song to sing without snow or sleighs. But the season transcends international boundaries and brings with it a spirit of oneness. I can pretend the mist outside my window, sneaking in beneath glass panes isn’t trying to dry out the oil on my skin or dissipate the next hour, leaving in its wake chapped lips. I can pretend its snow like all the Christmas movies I’ve seen.

Soon corporate buildings will light up with decorations welcoming clients and customers with some cheer. The shops will advertise hampers filled with regular everyday items, strung together with red and green bows. And yes, I get to close work in a few weeks and run home—home could be the village back East with the rest of the family, sucking on marrows from goat meat pepper soup, or it could be here in Lagos, enjoying the road without traffic congestion and the freshest air you can breathe for a while.

For the first time all the stress and heartache of this year suddenly melts away. The moments of joy I’ve experienced seems like nothing compared to what is coming ahead. I finally get what the Apostle meant when he said leaving behind the past and striving for what’s ahead. There is no certainty what’s ahead, but somehow there is no fear of tomorrow—just hope. Lots of hope and a joy that cannot be explained

It’s amazing what one month can do. If we could take half the cheer of December and distribute to gloomier months—like October or May—there’d be so much left. I think though that December’s cheer lies in the knowledge of the end of a season and hopefully the beginning of a new one. The anticipation of meeting loved ones again. Perhaps the added joy that comes from bringing happiness to others. And there’s Christ—the birth of hope to a world filled with sadness. It’s a good time to remember what the 25th means for Christians all over the world.

Christmas will come whether there is heat, cold or rain. It is ironical though that a season of birth and life will be heralded by another season of dying plants. But who cares? Death hasn’t been more appealing knowing that when it’s past, new life will bloom again. I think it will be nice to forget what day it is for the rest of the month and watch it glide by gracefully.

May your lives be filled with all the cheer December brings.

Saints. Sinners. Standards. Sex.

For some time now I have told my friends how much of a hermit I’ve been. Well today I crawled out of the real-world cave, visited the internet and came upon a post on twitter. Now this post isn’t something new, it’s not even something fresh, but it brought to mind again a certain trend that’s weighed heavily on my heart.

Let’s start with some background information.

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I’ve realised that people like to look for a piece of them in others. Perhaps this is some way our minds build connections– kindred spirits– and makes it easier to bond with others with whom we share similar behavior. For instance, people who consider themselves ‘bad’ (sinners) will likely bond with other people who share an atom of ‘bad’ traits with them. Likewise goody-two-shoes (saints) tend to attach themselves to people who are like them. We’re looking for something identifiable– markers perhaps that assures us we are not among strangers.

There is a twist though; it’s almost a bit of fairytale stuff. Sinners who tend to become attracted to Saints often try to change them. And vice versa. While the latter is queerly acceptable for reasons of making people the best version of themselves if they choose, the same cannot be said for the former.

Now about that trend I talked about earlier, there have been discussions ongoing on forums about women sexuality. For some  reason there seems a consensus that women who aren’t virgins should not deny sex to their boyfriends. There’s also another that women who claim virgins are most likely lying about it. I have some difficulty wrapping my head around this.

Where does a person’s choice to change come in?

When a woman declines sex, what has the state of her vagina got to do with it?

Should a person desirous of leading a different lifestyle after years of living in a moral cesspit be denied?

I  understand that morality for people is subjective, dependent to a large extent on religious doctrines, laws of the state, social influence and intuition, but the drastic decline is troubling. It’s like we’re telling one another, once a sinner always a sinner, refusing to acknowledge that anything good can come out something once terrible.

I believe in change. I believe that people have some inherent goodness awaiting discovery. And I know there exists some who cannot believe in themselves until someone does.

So why won’t we allow those who have been brave enough to cross the threshold from Sinner to Sainthood lead a new life? It’s like praying a person turns around from their ways with an eye shut, while keeping the other open hoping that they’ll slip. It doesn’t add up.

Define your choices,  hold yourself accountable to your standards. And then hold everyone else to it.

What a person chooses becomes their new marker; their new identifier. I do not mean that the past dissolves into nothingness, no. If that happened there’ll be no lessons learnt from our poor choices. But people should be allowed to be. If she says no sex, don’t go wondering why you shouldn’t eat from her honey-pot because some guy who was a product of her erratic behavior ate from it. We need to learn to respect choices. It’s disturbing when a man asks this virginity question…  Seriously again, what has the state of her vagina got to do with anything?!

This is for young women out there because I am one and can write from the shoe that hurts me. Virginity is a good thing. Awesome.  But it’s not everything. Aside keeping yourself for so long, it’s important you know why you have kept yourself for so long:

Is it supposed play as an advantage in the dating pool?

Are you waiting for that special man?

Do you think it’s wrong because God said so?

Define your choices,  hold yourself to your standards. And then hold everyone else to it.

quotes on morality and choice

If you’ve been sexually active and choose to become inactive, then this is your new standard. Ignore whatever silly people out there say. I don’t know if it’s called revirginization, but don’t let anyone make you feel like you have to become less than you’ve chosen simply because it makes you look cool and makes them feel good.  The relationships you keep should edify not cause you to stumble again (Of course same goes for the guys).

In favor of men who are skeptical about the virginity proclamation, it’s difficult to entirely blame them when some women have turned this age-old sign of virtue to a get-out-of-jail card. When a reason becomes old it simply becomes impossible to accept it as valid. Don’t be liars. Virginity is not an free pass. It’s not your key to the world and really it takes just a well placed sex organ to lose it. What should count is your word and choice– after all it is your body and you own exclusive rights to it. Don’t go about allowing people make you defend your decision to deny intimacy.

Pearls should not be given to Pigs because they’ll trample on it, completely ignorant of its worth

To those in search of a morally pristine being, at the very least make certain you’re pristine enough and worthy of them. It’s hypocrisy to want something you’re not desirous of being. A bit of biblical wisdom here, pearls should not be given to Pigs because they’ll trample on it, completely ignorant of its worth. If you’re in search of something more down-to-earth then there are those available too, but allow the people who wish to crossover do so in peace without pressure.

Here is one thing I do believe though: If there is a God in heaven he’ll give to everyone exactly as they deserve.

 

Image: Google Images

When It’s Never Enough

My new friend and I walked down the length of the University’s road in search of an ATM. It’s been less than 30 minutes after feeding on what was no doubt the most decent meal we’ve had in weeks—not decent because we couldn’t find anything to eat all these while, but because we could finally begin to feel the knot in our belly loosen enough to savour the taste of food. We had just written the most important exam of our lives—you could say for now because when the next one comes this will be bumped down to second place. Continue reading

Just A Glass Of Life

As far as taking parental advice goes, I can be a bit of a hot head, like the curious bird eager to see how everything works. I love to tweak and play with things, explore and test, and see life as one giant puzzle. But I am also adept at locating the bandage when burned. Continue reading

Finding The Right Environment

wpid-WP4Phone_20140907122209.jpgFew months ago, I wrote about how mind numbingly dissatisfying I found my job. The pay sucked, the working hours were outrageous and coworkers crazy annoying.  And even though I rather prefered to do something different, I just couldn’t bring myself to quit because somewhere in the recess of my mind– the part that wasn’t plagued by all the displeasures I felt– I knew I was in the right place. I  just didn’t know why it was the right place to be. Continue reading