Going Back To The Fundamentals

December6

One day I woke up in the morning after a night in my bed and I found myself smack in the middle of a forest. As I reluctantly dragged myself from the bedding, I dimly thought to myself that on earlier occasions, I had felt a little lost and the feeling soon got numbed out by the busyness of that day and was forgotten: but never before had I been so sure that I was completely lost. I got ready for work and as I walked the short distance to the office, I once again saw the distant hills on the horizon and wondered what would happen if I just walk on past the office and aimed for those hills. What lay beyond them? Would I find that which I seemed to have lost? Would the hills be the compass that would guide me to where I was supposed to be? And as those thoughts went through my head, I was already in the office and ready to start yet another day that would seemingly not be different from the one before, or the one that would come after that. One day could be interchanged with the other and I wouldn’t tell the difference. Whereas this monotony had worked before to get me through the day, this time I was acutely aware; like a boil that suddenly breaks out after months of paining just under the skin.

My mind told me that when I was younger, I knew what the right path was.

As a young boy, I could not wait for the next day because I was excited by the turn of events in the next chapter of the novel I was reading. That morning, the only book that I would read talked about how to get rich and be successful.

As a young boy, I would look forward to the next morning because the class test results would be released and I knew I had done well. That morning, learning something new was such a drag and each attempt would have ended up half done.

As a young boy, I would look forward to the holidays because I would meet and catch up with relatives I had not seen in a long time. That morning, holidays were a drag because they would force me to spend time with relatives I no longer enjoyed being with for all the fights and acrimony.

As a young boy, I looked forward to the weekly market day because my Mother would inevitably bring home some exotic fruits that we would scramble for with my siblings. That morning, I could walk into any shop and buy anything I wanted and it would just end up being more clutter in my house.

As a young boy, I had a sense of direction into the future; I had Primary school to finish and then Secondary school and then University; all these stages of my life were ahead of me and they required my commitment. That morning, I could not see myself living like this anymore…there simply was no point.

As a young boy, I liked Sunday School and read the family Bible every evening before sleeping; the stories in the old Testament inspired me with the knowledge that good always triumphed over evil and the New Testament enabled me to take stock of my thoughts, words and actions and the value that they had in the life that I lived. That morning, anyone and everything was expendable; simply put, the end would have justified any means.

Somewhere between being the young boy and becoming a grown up man, I seemed to have diverted from my path and wandered into the bush. When did that happen? The place that I found myself in was lonely and terrifying. All the obligations and the responsibilities that came with being an adult seemed overwhelming, and there didn’t seem to be anyone to guide me from going wrong. All the people who used to tell me what to do now assumed that from the looks of things, I already knew what I was doing; in any case, I was an adult, right? And even when I did alright, I did not have anyone to encourage me and give me a pat on the back; and for those that did, I could not even be sure that they weren’t hiding a knife in the palm of their hand. The friends that I used to know and who we used to swap young life stories with were no better than me; they too were up to the neck engrossed in charting out their paths in the adult wilderness to pay much attention to anything else.

And on that morning, it felt like I had wandered further; from the bush, and now I was deep in the forest. It felt like the classic ‘got to the top of the ladder and realize that it is leaning on the wrong wall’ scenario. So I told myself that I would need to retrace my steps from where I was and back to the path that used to make sense to me. For as it seemed at that time, my job, my social life, my health, my habits did not seem to align with any of the values that I held dear. That is what made every day seem intolerable. I could not remember the last time that I was excited about anything; all the things that used to give joy were now too many and too common. The people that used to bring joy were either too far away or aloof. I could not recognize the sound that I made when I attempted to laugh and smiling had become such a strange ritual that it felt like it would crack my face. Even the trees looked plastic.

So one day I asked my older brother, “What did I want to be when I was growing up?” He laughed out loud and said, “A bus driver”. That statement made me feel bad because I could not possibly start thinking that retracing my steps to becoming a bus driver was what I needed. I would have hoped for him to say a doctor, or a pilot or some other career that would pose a new and magnificent challenge and that would have indicated that I was ambitious from the start. But, a bus driver?

Despite not having been pleased with that answer, I noted it and always remember it.

This morning when I think about it, I realize that when we are young, we look at life with eyes that enable us to make decisions that are in line with the things that matter most to us. The reason is because we are yet to be tainted by the cynicsm to the different facets of life that develops as people grow older. When I look at my desire to become a bus driver in the 1970s, and when I look at the idea from the eyes of the boy that I used to be, something changes in my current perception. I realize that having known a bus driver, I admired the responsibility that the bus driver had; being in charge of the lives of complete strangers and making sure that you take them safely to their destinies. In my mind, a driver was a disciplined worker who woke up early in the morning and kept good time, a knowledgeable person who got to interact with different characters in his day to day and hence was able to have a firsthand look at the form that life takes for different individuals. A driver’s life was filled with the adventures of visiting new places as well as the thrills of the journey. And being that the bus was the biggest vehicle of them all, the job was also good for the ego. Given my limited knowledge in careers the only person who would have been very responsible, wise in the ways of the world and in the ways of human beings and who would have fun, adventure and prestige in their place of work was a bus driver.

That day when my brother said “A bus driver”, I thought about the perception that we have about what a career should mean these days; prestige, fame and fortune. And with the sneer and disdain with which we look at the ‘noble’ careers, what would then happen to the teachers and the nurses and the policemen and the truck drivers that inspired the children of the 70s? You can see that many of them are very demoralized.

When you look at the person that you wanted to be when you were young, can you find the high and noble inspirations that you had for yourself? If you need a path through which to retrace your steps, this is as good a point as any to take you back to the essential you.

Also, whatever your child might tell you they want to be when they grow up, can you extract the values that are going to keep your boy or girl in the right path for the rest of their lives? Can you go ahead and encourage them rather than scold them for choosing a career that does not conform to what you think is best for them? It just might be that even before they are born, children know exactly what they want in life and how to get there best…of course with a little guidance from us.

Exposing The Goliath

December5

Everybody has that problem that my friends and I refer to as ‘The Goliath’. We call it The Goliath because it is the one challenge that seemingly defies all efforts to overcome. Looking at The Goliath, one sees a constant struggle that dates back many years and that which they cannot predict will go on for how much longer. But despite all that, there is till the deep desire to overcome The Goliath.

The Bible talks about a titanic battle that pitted the Israelites against the Philistines, many years before Christ was born. In this battle, Goliath is a legendary warrior of mighty proportions and extraordinary fighting techniques. Some considered him a giant. In the powerful command of Goliath, the Philistine army was the most devastating to any opposing force that stood against it. So much was the confidence that Goliath projected that the whole Israelite army became meek as lambs in his presence. Goliath would stand in front of the Philistine army and dare any Israelite warrior to challenge him to a fight.

It was in the midst of one of these taunting episodes that a young shepherd boy named David arrived at the battlefield to check on his brothers that were drafted in the army. He heard about Goliath’s reputation, and was appalled at his spite and vitrole, and what it was doing to his brothers and their comrades in the army. It was then that he volunteered to challenge Goliath on behalf of the Israelite army. David’s dare to Goliath was ridiculous to the point of being laughable. Here was a naïve boy with nil battleground experience, and whose only credential were his apparent foolhardiness against a giant of a carrier warrior with years of experience and arrogance born out of numerous spectacular successes. David’s body could not even hold the weight of the battle armor!

And so it is with these insurmountable odds that David’s triumph over Goliath is exalted again and again by his admirers. For it only took a primitive sling to catapult the rock that hit Goliath right in the middle of the forehead, killing him instantly. And in that instant, the battle was won.

I always picture what it would have been like in that battleground on that day. When the Philistines realized that their hero was dead, they all took off with the whole Israelites army in triumphant pursuit. What is most interesting to note is that the defeat of a single Goliath caused every single warrior of the Philistine army to flee. On the other hand, the defeat of a single Goliath caused every single warrior in the Israelite army to be rejuvenated with strength and courage.

There is a similarity of this story and that of the problem we call The Goliath. Everyone who faces The Goliath always feels like it is this one problem that has put obstacles on all the paths of opportunity in their lives. Every single one of us has been in a place where they feel that if they could only be able to figure out this one problem, then everything else would work out. The reason is because when faced with The Goliath, it is as if the world comes to a halt and the pain that the problem causes is the only thing they can feel. It is usually so intense that one is helpless even when they know what needs to be done to overcome The Goliath. This helplessness causes distress, hopelessness and even shame. In the face of The Goliath, one feels paralyzed and all their good faculties seem frozen in more or less the same way that the Israelite army and every single warrior in it were.

So, my friends and I usually talk about what it would be like to slay The Goliath. Not only would all the smaller fears and worries take flight like the Philistines did, but one’s positive resources would be mobilized and become focused on what needed to have been done a long time ago. With the slaying of The Goliath, one can laugh at his or her fears and they will run away in terror. Why? Because that person would have finally confronted their greatest fear and won. The fact that most people are embarrassed to talk about The Goliath only gives it more fuel to gloat and taunt. Why? Because as long as we are embarrassed by our problems, we cannot actively mobilize the resources required to overcome them. With all the money and time and emotional and opportunity costs that The Goliath has claimed from you over all these years, the solution might just be as simply as a small boy with a sling and a rock from the ground.

That is why we need to expose and confront The Goliath. It has never been as tough as it looks or as we tell ourselves it is.

Working On Our Constitution

December3

Have you ever heard about ‘Self Image’?

Here is a definition from Wikipedia

“A person’s self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, gender, I.Q. score, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others. A simple definition of a person’s self-image is their answer to the question “What do you believe people think about you?”.

Self-image may consist of three types:

– Self-image resulting from how the individual sees himself or herself.
– Self-image resulting from how others see the individual.
– Self-image resulting from how the individual perceives others see him or her.

These three types may or may not be an accurate representation of the person. All, some or none of them may be true.”

The self image is our center of reference for who we are. As a result, all our thoughts, feelings and actions are derived from what we see when we consider our self image. A healthy self image will always make the person THINK that he is healthy, FEEL healthy, and ACT healthy. On the other hand a defective self image will always make the person THINK that he is defective, FEEL defective, and ACT like he is defective. Self image is so powerful that we will defy all contrary opinion or circumstances in order to PROVE THE SELF IMAGE RIGHT.

As we all know, the mind makes us as easily as it could break us. You see, the self image is purely a mental construction. The self image reflects what we have come to believe about ourselves based on what we were told and taught; usually at a very young age. This would mean that the self image might just be the work of a small child who took whatever data was available and created a blueprint of the kind of person they are going to be for the rest of their lives. If the little kid decided that he does not like darkness, or he does not like bugs, or that he is unattractive, does that mean that the adult who knows better should forever be imprisoned in this narrow view of himself?

I do not think so. And that is why I feel that regardless of what happened to us when we were incapable of making important decisions for ourselves, it would be good time for us to consider the things that we now know and change. In this country, we talk about the old constitution and how it had outlived its usefulness to the point of being retrogressive. As a result, we overhauled it and created a new constitution that was more in line with the present reality in our country. What was more important is that in doing so, we were creating a new set of rules that would guide us into the future; hence it is the road map to our aspirations.

If your outdated self image is like the old constitution, then you need to sit with yourself and create a new self image that will guide you for the remaining part of your life. Change your constitution!

And do not be fooled by all the glamour that you see being flaunted around. It does not always mean that when one surrounds himself with showy and expensive things, then they have a healthy self image. It just might be that they are window dressing as they seek to fool others or attempt to derive their value from those external things. At the end of the day, everybody has to look inside and contemplate what they see.

When your self image and its internal environment are neither lesser nor greater than the physical life that you live on a day to day, then you will be at peace. For that is when you know that you have reconciled all the different people that are in you to become one. You are whole.

There is a book called “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz that talks in details about the Self image and how it can be used to work for you.

The Simon Makonde Story

November27

Many people want to believe that they are unique and that each one of them is of a kind. But that is as far as it goes. The reason is because when one is called upon to become different and to bring out their uniqueness, then they become afraid and would rather be like everybody else that they know. And that is why – despite our denial – we all want to have the same things that everybody else has. And looking at one life compared to all the others, the only difference is the slight change in the shade of color that has been chosen to paint the picture of reality that the individuals in a certain group have created for themselves.

I suppose it starts with school where all the youngsters are required to dress in the same uniforms, learn the same lessons and have the same daily routine. If school is effective in teaching – and it is – the one thing that it teaches is that we should all be the same in all ways. And even after completing school, job employment communicates the same lessons as well. Other than tiny subtle differences that are mostly based on employee rank, everyone should be the same at the work place; dress code, work ethics and routines.

In one of the books that was read by some of us in our Primary School days, there was the story of a character called Simon Makonde.

Simon-Makonde

In my opinion, the Simon Makonde Story signifies the important milestones that mark the life of an ordinary human being.

Monday: Being born
Tuesday: Creating an identity
Wednesday: Socialization and procreation
Thursday: Health and well-being
Friday: Care and restoration
Saturday: Letting go
Sunday: Legacy

But on the flip-side, it might be seen as a story that symbolizes the grind that human beings are fated to experience as a life. And when you look at it, you will agree with me that to some degree, we are all bound to a Simon Makonde kind of life. But that would be expected because as I said, we often become petrified when we think that we might become different from other people. This is probably our survival instincts at work since we have grown up with the belief that anyone who looks or acts different is a rebel. And as for rebels in our carefully cultivated conservative society, life is often considered to be less honorable and harder than most’s. In any case, it does not always end up well for the rebel, for if he or she decides to put in more effort, they are labeled as ‘mad’.

But still again, this is expected since it is consistent with our education; whenever someone tried to be different in school, they were punished. If one does not conform at their place of work, they risk losing a job. In a place where everyone goes through the same school education, then the enforcement of the ‘sameness’ principle would be easy, and much so at the individual level. Meaning that one becomes their own police on how similar they are supposed to be relative to everyone else.

Hence the great consternation with which the older people are looking at the youngsters who seem to be breaking all the rules and making up their own as they go along. Being different is now more common than it ever was, and the rate at which these changes are taking place in the lives of young ones leaves people in their early 30s suddenly feeling very old. What makes the situation tricky is that unlike what most people were taught, doing things differently is now paying off – big time. Whereas going to the office 8 to 5 and being a loyal employee and doing what you were hired to do with great dedication guaranteed a steady movement up the gravy ladder, it now doesn’t. Whereas a university degree used to guarantee employment to such an extent that not having a college education was the surest way to career and hence financial oblivion; that no longer holds true. Now it seems like these youngsters are coming up with a single bright idea in a day and they become millionaires overnight.

Hardly out of their teens, they are flaunting fortunes that took their fathers half their lives of careful and strategic planning to achieve. What makes it worse for the older generation is that these youngsters are not bound by golden words such as ‘thrift’ and ‘saving’ and ‘investment’, that were passed on in whispers only to the deserving aspirants to wealth by the already qualifies haughty affluents. Our fathers used to tell us, “Work hard in school and get a university degree, then you will get a good job and be like so and so…” So and so would be an aging company executive who has diligently put together his Simon Makonde life complete with a mild case of gout to show for his financial abundance. If you told today’s youngster to aspire to become such an individual, they would laugh and refer to the guy as ‘analogue’. Though they might not tell you in the face, they would also think that you are also too ‘analogue’ and probably add a mental “nkt” for more dramatic ‘digital’ effect.

So now we are in the days of creativity. Creativity is about showcasing individuality.This automatically qualifies everyone as a ‘creative’ – even without trying. The youngsters know about this and they are constantly on the move, gobbling up other people’s creativity as they sample the latest technologies and exchange ideas in various social fora. And from this curiosity, they are able to spawn even more creativity that benefits others. This makes this era quite exciting to live in for anyone who takes a moment to appreciate the changes. It is also rather confusing for anyone who by accident or by design finds themselves on the ‘analogue’ side of the spectrum.

The very thought that we are being left behind has triggered many a frantic ‘digital’ efforts by numerous older folks; from creating Facebook accounts and becoming a well meaning nuisance to youngsters who only want to be friends reluctantly, to spending small fortunes on handheld gadgets that make one look like a Biblical Noah wearing Nike sneakers. This is not wrong. But I think that for us to get a grasp of what this is all about, we probably need to take a peek at the Simon Makonde page of the book that the youngsters are reading these days; in other words, what are the significant milestones that are valued in their lives? But then again, at the rate at which values are currently being embraced and discarded, I doubt it would be possible to have a ‘one life fits all’ any more.

Each one of us yearns to be different and add his or her own unique drop of water to the ocean of creativity. This means that in almost every sphere of our lives no one was ever really meant to have a Simon Makonde kind of life. This is something that we know because we feel it deep inside of ourselves. And so in this area, could it be that we have more to learn from the kids than from any other person?

Learn, Unlearn, Relearn & Teach.

November25

I suppose that we might trace many of the issues that we have today to the education that we received as youngsters. You remember that in school, the surest way of getting affirmation that you are on the right track in life was when one performed well. Being number one in class was interpreted to mean that you were the ‘best’ in that class. Being number two meant that you were the ‘second best’, and so on.

At the end of the term, children in the first three positions were rewarded with gifts and congratulated in front of all the other children, teachers and parents. The child with the worst scores was ridiculed by teachers and students alike. In a bid to motivate them to ‘work harder’ or to ‘wake up’ or ‘pull up their socks’, they were paraded at the school assembly as the ‘worst’ in their class. Being that they were often bigger in size because of repeating the class, or they looked unusual in one way or another because of ignored infirmities – mental or otherwise – they provided comic relief to the rest of the school. And of course the teachers would ambush them by asking them to stand up and answer questions that they know the poor student would never answer. The bright student would then be asked the same question, would answer with relish, making the other student appear even dumber. And in all likelihood, this mistreatment would spill over to the child’s home, where the parents and siblings; the closest family, would mercilessly continue from where the school left off. These students were often given extra chores while being informed that to them, studying would be a waste of time. One was also bound to be made fun of. In my family, we would refer to being the last in class as ‘holding on to the tail’. We found this term extremely hilarious and would use it with glee; especially when the ‘holder of the tail’, was within earshot.

Knowing how useful positive affirmation is to anyone – especially to a child – then you can see how in a class of 20, most of the students might never get a public affirmation simply because they never made it to the top 5 positions. They most probably would spend a school life of being compared with so and so, who they can never measure up to academically. And how would a child rectify the situation where his or her IQ is not as high as the majority of the other children and hence might not quite perform at their level?

Such a demoralized child – and they are the majority – would end up embracing positive affirmation wherever they can find it. If such a child stole and someone congratulated them for that achievement, then they might do it again in order to experience such a priceless feeling all over again. Within a short time, their mind would associate stealing with self esteem. If a young girl was to be praised because of her sexuality or if she was to be congratulated because of agreeing to physical contact with a male, then she would easily find herself seeking affirmation again, using the same avenue.

Children, either by accident or through lack of proper supervision, can stumble into any form of behavior in their young innocence – before their sense of right or wrong is formed. This means that anyone might end up with whichever normal or peculiar behavior that their highly adaptable mind is exposed to in their formative years. It is only later when societal norms start to shape their identity that they realize that their behaviors are not acceptable. But by then their minds are already programmed and there is a possibility that this person will act out these specific tendencies throughout life without understanding why.

This contradiction: that which we seek subconsciously to make us feel good about ourselves is what ends up making us feel bad about ourselves consciously: This confusion is what many people struggle with throughout life.

If the only time when a boy received positive affirmation was when he beat up someone else, then he might grow up into an adult than turns violent towards others when he wants self-assurance. Being that violence is not socially acceptable, that man might live in pain wondering to himself why he cannot control the urge to become physically violent. The one I talked about earlier who got affirmation because they stole something from home, would find themselves stealing later in life. They might wonder about the reason why they are compelled to steal, even when they do not need to, and it would seem like a horrible habit they cannot get rid of. Such would be the pain with the woman labeled as a ‘whore’, or a man referred to as a ‘dog’. And what makes it seem hopeless is the helplessness from the feeling that regardless of how much they might desire to change their behavior and habits, they seem destined to act them out all their lives.

Such programming is not just confined to vice. A child that learnt that they are praised each time they are quiet and timid in school or at home would end feeling like a ‘doormat’ in life and wondering why they can never stand up for themselves or others in the face of injustice. One would seem to feel intimidated and overwhelmed even by the tiniest situation that require some form of confrontation; at home, at work, in public places, at social situations and so on. One would promise themselves that ‘next time’, they will do something about it – until it comes – and they are back to feeling small and insignificant.

I think we can all recognize these things and relate with them in one way or another. So, what to do?

I would say that taking a trip in our minds and going back to the place where we learnt the behaviors that we act out throughout life is a very good starting point. When we see how we came to acquire these habits, then we realize that we most certainly stumbled upon them through no fault of our own. We were small children back then…what did we know? This knowledge would make us realize that we do not do these things because we are ‘bad’ or ‘bewitched’, but simply because we learnt them. This would happen to anybody; and indeed, it has happened to everyone. This would mean that despite what we might sometime feel, we are normal human beings and are struggling with our issues like everybody else is. And simply because ours feel very heavy, might only be because we thought that we were the only ones that carried the burden without asking for help from others. What a relief it would be for us to share! To release all the shame and the guilt and to know that our deepest secrets are no longer as terrible or as important as we thought they were! We just might even laugh out loud! This will start to reverse the damage that the negativity that our actions have caused over many years. We will be on the recovery path and well on our way to being restored and made whole again.

What is more, we would understand the role that education plays in the life of a child; it is more than just getting good grades…it is about building a life.

Let us learn, unlearn, relearn and teach.

Genius

November22

Everyone Is A GeniusOur Education System

The Ghost In The Machine

November18

My dear friend,

It is good to hear from you.

In my response, I would have to just type as the wind blows me, and I start by thinking that it is a coincidence that one of my friends asked me about the time when I lost my virginity. That happened last night, and it came about after a discussion about the books that I am currently reading, one of which is titled ‘Losing my virginity’, by Richard Branson. As you might know, Branson is the founder of the Virgin business group, and the book is his autobiography.

The response that I gave was that I cannot even remember because as we were growing up, there was so much experimentation that was driven by the yet to be understood sexual urge, that everything looks dizzy now. There were the ‘Mom and Dad’ play that we all loved that involved the ‘children’ going to sleep and ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ lying on top of each other in a simulation of sex. There was the random game of ‘Doctor’ that one of my friends really liked. He would be the doctor and his slightly older sister was the patient and the ‘cure’ often involved a sexual act. Other than being a bewildered spectator of my friend’s zeal for his occupation as a ‘doctor’, I do not remember which other role I played. My friend would rarely agree for me to be the ‘doctor’, and I did not really mind since I did not quite understand what was going on; but it seemed these two siblings really enjoyed this game.

I remember one of my girl neighbors who was much young than me leading me into the bush by the hand and asking me to remove my clothes and lie on top of her. I also remember one of my older neighbors taking me into another bush, undressing and showing me her pussy and naming all the parts that constitute it. That is how I came to know that the Kikuyu word for clitoris was ‘Mboco’.

All this is a blur and quite funny to recall. But there is one time that I remember clearly, and that would probably be my first sexual encounter that made a lasting impression. It happened on an afternoon when I was coming from school. I must have been in class 1 or class 2 – about 7 years old. I was walking alone and had taken a path that passed between 2 rows of houses; you know those old style City Council houses in Nairobi? Outside one of the houses was a woman, or maybe she was a big girl. She worked in that house as a maid, and she was seated on a stool until I came along. She stopped me and asked if I wanted some tea. I said yes; we always had porridge without sugar at home, and the prospects of having a cup of tea with sugar were too much to resist. And so I followed her into the house.

When we got in, she led me straight to a bedroom, removed all her clothes and lay on the bed. She then asked me to remove my pants, which I did obediently. It was very embarrassing for me to undress though. The reason is because under my school shorts I was wearing white underpants that were not very clean. Anyway, after undressing, she asked me to move to where she was and lie on top of her. I did not know why she wanted me to do that, and I cannot remember anything else about what followed, other than the fact that I didn’t get any tea. She told me not to tell anyone about it and then set me off to continue on my way home.

Looking back at that incident, I was sexually abused, or raped on that day. However I never did want to look at it in this way since I figured that it would make me feel like a victim. Or maybe it would make me have to deal with that incident, or something else or the other. Every time that I have talked about it, it has been in light tones that would make anyone think that it was more of an adventure than anything else. But the fact is that this incident had a bigger impact that I would have dared to admit.

Just after I finished my high school – at 18 – one of my cousins gave me a ‘man’ tour of the city. In that tour, he took me inside a brothel. In that brothel were tens of women seated outside their rooms on stools. That day, I had sex with a prostitute for the first time in my life. It was also the day that I used a condom for the first time. The excitement of seeing all those women in sexually seductive poses was so great that I felt like my veins would burst from the way that my heart was drumming so hard in my chest. With no lack of the small amount of money required to pay for the ‘service’ and with such a thrill waiting for me each time that I visited the brothel, I was hopelessly hooked. By the time the initial euphoria wore off, and when the guilt and shame would have required me to stop my clandestine visits, I was not able to stop myself. It was completely out of my control.

For many years to follow, I would try any means that I knew of to stop. At the face of this monster that felt like it was eating me alive from inside, my willpower seemed so puny! I prayed until I stopped praying because I concluded that I was in this alone. What made it worse was that I would attempt to drown my guilt and shame in alcohol. This made me lose my confidence and I withdrew further from my family. I did not want to imagine what anyone – especially my Dad – if he knew what was going on would say. For despite the pain and anguish, I seemed to be doing alright; I had a university degree and a well paying job, was making all the right career moves, and was even engaged to get married.

Then one day 10 years ago, I took a long and hard evaluation of my life. I realized that something had to give. I was fed up of living a lie. I decided that I was going to handle this no matter what it would take and how long it would take. The first step would be to stop drinking and I did. Since I ended up in the brothel or woke up with a hooker after a session of drink, I thought that this would be a good place to start. To my horror, stopping to drink did not take away the sexual urges! Next I decided to break off with my fiancée. She was devastated. Even though she never knew the real reason why I broke her heart, I knew in my being that I had done the right thing. I did not wish to have a hidden life from the person who should know me the most. Somehow, it never occurred to me that she might understand if I told her the truth. The question in my mind was,‘Who would?’ I did not imagine that anyone would understand how a well educated, good looking and intelligent guy like me would prefer to have sex with a prostitute, than have a normal relationship with a good girl like everyone else.

Much later, I was able to link that first sexual encounter at 7 years with the sexual urges that were gobbling up my youth one craving at a time. Walking into the brothel to find many women seated on stools outside their rooms, all of them beckoning me to go inside with them with promises of a good time that would never be, was just a replay; ghosts recreated by the mind of a grownup from the incident of a sexual abuse of a 7 year old. And it is only through knowledge and understanding that one would be able to make the steps to eventually heal the pain and set themselves free.

I think the reason why I am telling you all this is that I may be able to convey the fact that every effect as a cause. Many of the quagmires that we find ourselves in are as a results of circumstances that happened to us when we did not even have the capacity to understand them. As you stated, you got into masturbation when you were 12 ‘purely by accident’. I believe that everyone gets introduced to their own sexuality by a force that is greater than any one of us. And this force seems to know about these things before we can even comprehend them. And as a result, it is in innocence and with openness that we encounter our initial sexual encounters; whether good or bad. It is through ignorance and lack of knowledge that we find ourselves trapped in places of shame and pain.

When you say, “I did not know what it was until much much later in high school when we were told it was wrong for Christians to do that”, I would assume this is the point where your own sexuality became a problem rather than a blessing that it was meant to be.

Sex is the seed from which each one of us springs. And whatever the seed is, is what the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the fruits, and even the seeds will be. As a result I believe that we need to see the seed in positive ways rather than negative. We need to change our outlook of sex from that of a shameful and sinful act to one that has great potential for making us more human to ourselves and others. Remember, we might not have caused the problem of sexual dysfunction, but we sure enough can find the solution.

So, what did I do? In my mind, I created a spring with the cleanest water that I have ever seen. The water is so clean that I can see the bottom of the pool. I can also see the tiny bubbles as the spring brings forth water from the underground aquifer. I can see tiny fishes and other water creature moving in the bottom of the pool without even stirring any spec of impurity. I know that this water is pure and healthy and revitalizing. I know that it has the power to restore and heal. It is to this pool that I draw water and clean up the disturbing images in my mind. I can draw as much water as I would want and clean my thoughts as much as I need to. And as I clean up, I can feel my mind lose the filth caused by unhealthy thoughts, and I allow the water to restore purity and health and vitality.

My dear friend, everyone – no exceptions – has to confront that ‘force’ that leads us towards sex even before our minds are formed well enough to know what it is. When we confront it, we can ask, “Why did you give me this experience and yet you knew that I was just a kid who didn’t know anything?” The answer might lead you to explore even more – and even lead you to masturbation – which I think is vital as an outlet for sexual tension. And in this regard I wholly agree with your doctor that “orgasm helps with healing”.

Just so you know, I give myself a good jerk off whenever necessary, although of course I prefer a real girl I can make love with.

Have a beautiful day!

The Right Fuel

October10

I am looking outside my window and seeing my neighbors drive out one by one as they go to work. And as I think about that, I also look at the bowl of nuts that I am eating with my cup of tea with honey.

All the cars driving through the gate are clean and look well taken care of. Their engines run smoothly and quietly and I can hardly hear the purr as they throttle down the road after leaving the gate. I am sure that none of them have been fueled at the fuel station located at the nearby Shopping Centre.

A while back, that fuel station used to have a different name and a reputation for selling adulterated fuel. Of course their products were cheaper than the other fuel stations. The common advice was that if you really have to fuel there, make sure it is just enough to get you to the next fuel station, where you are guaranteed to get pure fuel. I am not sure about what the situation is right now, but I hope they improved. I know of several drivers that stalled midway in their journeys on account of the fuel they got from there.

When I think about the care that we take for our cars including the quality of fuel and engine oil and other products that we use, I cannot help but think about our selves. The care that we take on our bodies to make them feel vital includes the cleansing and grooming and the dressing. The quality of food that we take ensures that we have the energy that we need to carry out our day to day tasks effectively and efficiently. The mental stimulation that we receive from intellectual activities such as reading and conversing makes us stay alert and aware of our environment. The spiritual nourishment that we take from scriptures and meditation gives us the peace of mind that wraps up everything together and enables us to have a meaningful living.

There is a guy that I know that would never have thought of fueling his car at any other place except the one at the Shopping Centre despite knowing that their fuel was impure. He was attracted by the cheap prices. In order that we get better fuel – energy – for running our bodies, there is the cost of going to the market and cooking and washing the dishes and so on. We also need to overcome the attraction that the convenience of ready-made greasy and processed foods has on us.

When we think about the value of the things that we do, or own, or gravitate towards, then it is easier to identify what is important and create the intention to move in the right direction. In moving in the right direction, our path is diverted from the old unliked one.

In other words, even more that silver and gold or even being adored by others, taking care of Us in whichever small way that we know is the sure way of having a happier and more fulfilled life.

Our Butterfly Effect

October9

Once in a while I come across a phrase that talks about the folly of dwelling in the past. The advice is always that the past is gone and that we should focus on the future.

knowing that I often look at what is behind me, the instinctive reactions is to feel like I am doing the wrong thing and that I should try not to look at the past any more. But I often think about the practicality of a life that ignores the past, and choose to go back into my past often and with deliberate purpose.

One of the reasons that makes me go to my past is because of an article that I read that talked about the “Butterfly Effect”. The Butterfly Effect is a term used to refer to the phenomenal where one small action can cause great reactions that would be considered to be billions of times more than the initial cause. The term Butterfly Effect is derived from the premise that the actions of a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world would cause a tornado to occur in another part of the world.

So what has the Butterfly Effect got to do with the past? We all know that our beliefs and attitudes that shape our day to day living are mainly derived from what we learnt when we were children; especially below the age of 10.

When I went to nursery school in Nairobi, I didn’t speak any Kiswahili. I also remember that I had a wound on my earlobe. I remember being seated on the classroom floor with all the other children during lessons. Then the boy next to me reached out his hand and pinched me on the hurt earlobe! I felt pain and wanted to stand up and report him to the teacher. However, I did not speak any Kiswahili and would not have possibly stated my predicament in Kikuyu for the fear of being laughed at or ridiculed. And so I had to endure the pain of being pinched again and again throughout the lesson. When I got home, I told our house boy about the incident and asked him the right Kiswahili sentence for saying, “This boy is pinching me”. He told me that I should say, “Huyu ananichuna”.

When I found myself on the class floor during the following day’s lesson, I saw the boy stealthily approaching where I was seated. And as he got closer, I racked my mind for the Kiswahili phrase I had been taught by Maina, but I could not recall it! And so once again I was pinched on the wounded earlobe. I do not remember what happened after that second day. What I know is that probably because of that single incident, I was very self-conscious as an adult whenever required to speak up in public.

As you can see, this seemingly laughable experience at Nursery School might as well be a butterfly flapping its wings that would cause great distress throughout life and might even result in many lost opportunities. For in the mind, each time we encounter our fear or phobia it seems as insurmountable and terrifying as an approaching tornado; we don’t quite know whether we will survive it this time round or not.

Using our knowledge of the past, we can locate the point where we acquired a belief or an attitude that we wish to change. Using the tools that we currently have, we can change the way that the experience made us feel at that point in time. For example, I can use my imagination to see what it would have been like had I shouted in Kikuyu “Uyu niarangunya!” If I see the other children laughing and I convince myself that it is cool, then I would even find myself laughing along with them and hence learn how to laugh at myself. If I decide that I want to change that incident, all I would need to do is go back to that day and replay the Kikuyu clip with the children laughing and me laughing at myself, over and over again. Effectively, I would be replacing the memory of self-consciousness and pain with one of self-confidence and humor. For after a while, each time that I look back at that point in my life, I would remember the new memory.

Back to the “Butterfly Effect”; what kind of reaction would the new butterfly flapping its wings create? In the present, I would realize that I am no longer terrified of speaking in public. What would be surprising about it is that I would not only not be afraid, but I would actually enjoy it and even look forward to it. Other than that, each time I look back at the times when I was terrified of speaking in public in the past, I would laugh at myself and wonder, “What?!!” This new attitude would replace the one that I was used to of feeling like a fool each time I thought of what an idiot I must have seemed – all grown up and scared of taking to a few people.

Everybody has that moment in childhood caused by an incident that made them ‘decide’ that they are unwanted, ugly, unworthy, poor, unlovable, stupid, unresourceful, fat, unhealthy or a myriad of other beliefs that are untrue. On that day many years ago, that butterfly flapped its wings and one feels the tornadoes every day since then. Wouldn’t we all be better off changing all that?

And so I say, whether in the past, the present or even the future; find your better self wherever you can find him or her.

The Me of Everyday

November21

I am thinking about the Me of Today and the things that I inherited from the Me of Yesterday.

What if the Me of Yesterday had not washed the dishes from last night’s meal? Then the Me of Today would have woken up to an unsightly sink filled with dirty dishes.

What if the Me of Yesterday had taken too much whisky last evening? Then the Me of Today would have woken up with a hangover that would probably have ruined the whole day.

What if the Me of Yesterday had overlooked to resolve issues that arose during the day by the time he went to sleep? Then the Me of Today would have woken up to a moody morning that would have followed a restless night.

As I go through my day I ask, “What will the Me of Tomorrow inherit from the Me of Today?”

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