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Feature Article of Thursday, 30 August 2012

Columnist: Nyarko, Kingsley

My Life And My Purpose

As humans, we are created to occupy a unique and an enviable position on God’s planet to fulfill specific assignments. We are created not only to observe and witness creation, but most importantly to contribute positively to society. The lives we live must be therefore geared progressively towards the environment within which we abode. We need to ensure that our actions and inactions always inure to the collective good of our societies. We need to affect our societies positively so that current and successive generations benefit from our enduring legacies.

According to Martin Luther King Jnr., “the quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important.” We are remembered not by the number of years we live, but by the impact we make in contributing to the transformation of our societies. We remember great leaders and influential people in our country such as J. B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, K.A. Busia, Kwegyir Aggrey, Ephraim Amo, etc. not by the length of their lives, but by the value of their lives. These individuals didn’t live for themselves; in fact, the transformation, development and progress of the country were their major preoccupation.

The essence of life therefore must not be on what we have been able to accomplish for ourselves as isolated individuals, but rather the impact that we are able to make, especially in the lives of others and the society within which we live. Persons who are satisfied in life are those who understand the benefits of advancing the cause of others, especially the weak, frail, and vulnerable. Life is not worth living, except it is positively and constructively lived in the lives of others. The road of our life must be connected to the life of others.

Ladies and gentlemen, satisfaction in life must not be measured or evaluated only on the platform of personal achievements and self-aggrandizements, but also on our contribution to the life of others. I think this is the very essence of religion. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and other influential religions in the world preach this worldview of life. If our lives are defined by putting Jesus first (God), others second, and ourselves last, the world, I promise will experience less evil, crime, destructions, confusion, mayhem, among others. The world has suffered, and it is still suffering from the above ills as a result of humans’ insatiable appetite for greed and parochial interests. When our lives are meaningfully connected to others, then we will most likely be nearing a world where equity overcomes inequity and justice overcomes injustice.

My life and your life must be pivoted around the acronym, JOY: Jesus first, others second, and yourself, last. It sounds difficult, but the inherent satisfaction is worth more than precious stones. According to Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This philosophical statement connotes that inherent in every meaningful and satisfying life is a certain inclination called purpose. There should be a purpose that defines our perspective of life. That is why I think that life and purpose are inseparable: we live for something, we live for a reason; we live because of a purpose we have to fulfill. This is summed up in the words of J. M. Barrie, “the life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

As youth and young adults, our purpose as Ghanaians is very crucial and salient in shaping the destiny of our dear nation. We live, as our ancestors fought for, to make the nation a better place. A nation that is sovereign, independent, and resource-sufficient. This is because we are a significant facet in determining the development and progress of the country. As we live these noble dreams of our forefathers, we will be contributing towards the nation’s success. We should one day come to the point echoed by Isaac Newton, “I could see farther because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”

Let me use this opportunity to ask you a simple question, what is your purpose in life? What is your purpose for Ghana? I am sure most of you gathered here want to achieve great heights in your chosen careers such as becoming great teachers, excellent medical practitioners, noble lawyers, sincere politicians, etc., but all these should be done within the context of building the nation. We have to think of how our individual and collective contributions could strengthen the fortunes of the country to produce an enabling environment for posterity to thrive on.

As much as I salute the organizers for coming up with this programme, especially as we are preparing for a very significant and tension-induced election due five months away, I must, however state in unequivocal terms that this programme of promoting peace as the elections are approaching is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to forestall or hinder violence in the country. We will be deluding ourselves if that is our trajectory of thinking. We need to do the right things at all times.

In achieving our goals and purpose in this great land of ours, instead of allowing emotions to inform us about our pattern of progress, we have to take conscious and pragmatic steps to realize those goals. Civil society must for all intents and purposes, ensure that our freedoms as well as the peace we need to enjoy those freedoms are not impaired. The unity and peace of the nation is the collective responsibility of all of us. Since peace is not like mushrooms that grow overnight, we need to work to ensure its realization. The question then is how do we promote an atmosphere of peace in order to realize our diverse purposes as we sojourn in this temporal world? Let us consider the following points:

First, our leaders must consciously ensure that we live together in unity as one people. The peace of the nation need not be disturbed via elections alone: inter-ethnic tensions, inter-religious bigotry, and tribalism are obvious triggers that can, at any given point destabilize our country. The recent communal violence in the Volta region and some regions in the country was not occasioned during elections; obviously, we have experienced avoidable violence, clashes, and mayhems during elections in the country. For us to continue to live within an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, we need to be proactive as a people, and ensure that the unity of the country is not sacrificed on the altar of division, malice, arrogance, and hatred.

Second, our leaders, especially those in authority, educators, religious leaders, and other stakeholders must imbibe in the citizenry, especially children and youth the need to appreciate our diverse and distinct individual cultures. We need to preach unity in diversity; we need to preach that we are one people with different distinct cultures, values, norms, political persuasions, and economic philosophies. But these different orientations or perspectives are necessary in order for us to realize our common destiny.

For us to realize our dreams as a nation, we need to promote and appreciate diversity. We should orient our minds to the statement by James Madison that "the diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government." According to Malcolm S. Forbes, "diversity is the art of thinking independently together."

As citizens we need to ensure that our government, politicians, academics, religious and traditional leaders do their best in promoting and forging diversity, and not division among the citizenry. Let us promote diversity in our country; let us agree to disagree without being disagreeable. That is our core duty and purpose as citizens; and the beauty and essence of multi-party democracy. According to Kingsley Nyarko, “Progress is conceived on ideas and delivered via diversity, and not insult and intimidation.”

The essence of diversity in promoting progress lies in the fact that the moment a group decides to follow the same line of thought at all material times, that group therefore comes short of creativity, innovation, and progress. As we learn to accept the different viewpoints of others, we are not only creating avenues for peace, but more importantly providing opportunities for progress and development. In this convoluted world, following the status quo undermines progress; therefore nations that are able to make socio-economic progress are those that create the platform for dissenting views. As we bring our diverse opinions to bear on issues that confront us, our ability to finding answers to those issues becomes greater.

Finally, we need to demystify politics and explain to the citizenry that it is impossible for all humans to think alike. We can’t belong to the same group; we can’t belong to the same religion; we can’t belong to the same church; we can’t belong to the same mosque; we can’t belong to the same political party. In fact, we don’t like the same food or marry base on similar criteria: this is the beauty of diversity

In concluding, our purpose as youth must be geared towards the understanding that we stand a greater chance to gain, and thus move our dear country forward when we respect and appreciate each other irrespective of our backgrounds and also foster unity in the country.”Let us do our best in burying our biases and prejudices, and recognize and utilize the potentials of each other; anything short of that will derail our purpose. Let us again not forget that unity in diversity is the strength of progress and development. We stand when united, but perish when divided” (Nyarko, 2009). God bless Ghana!!

Source: Kingsley Nyarko, Psychologist, Accra (kingsleynyarko73@yahoo.com) This speech was delivered at the Global Harvest Movement Peace Conference held at Tema New Town on 14/7/12

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