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Opinions of Sunday, 10 July 2011

Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel

A Child Once Again

ORAL VILLAGE IDEAS
BY

DANIEL APPIAH-ADJEI

A Child Once Again

The growth of man and other living things is very mysterious and only the maker of things, His Majesty, the Almighty God can understand. The ultimate desire of the creature is to grow and enjoy life better. We dream of a good future, thinking that what is ahead of us is always better than what we possess or where we are now. “If I grow up, I shall become a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a farmer and so on and so forth”, little do we remember that, like a river from its source flowing into another river, or into the sea has something precious to lose. And what is this precious thing?

Identity

The lost of any property on earth could be gotten back with time. We have heard of many stories about people who lost treasures through theft, fire, flood, and through many other means but after some time, boast with pride that, what they have lost, they have received plentifully and in abundance. We all remember the biblical story of Job, who lost everything and got everything back in ten folds due to his patience and love for God. One thing we should not forget is that, God with His merciful insights knew that, there is something more important, more crucial and worthy of maintaining and therefore warned the devil not to touch it. And that was his (Job’s) soul (life). If the devil had taken the life of Job, that would have ended the story. Job would have lost his identity. As human beings advance in years, we are gradually flowing into a system where our identity would be no more. And how do we journey to this system. It is still mysterious, don’t you think?

Ups and Downs

When the river is flowing into another river or into the sea, the course is not as easy as that. It meanders, it climbs hills, it descends mountains, it narrows at a point and broadens at another point, it is polluted and sometimes blocked by fish eaters and irrigators. But these things never stop the desire of the river to move ahead.

In our lives as humans, we also go through many setbacks and interferences yet our desire is to grow and move forward and where are we heading to? One of the greatest poems I have enjoyed in my career as an academic is The Call of the River Nun by a Nigerian Poet and Playwright, Gabriel Okara. According to him, the mortal course of the river to the sea is inevitable and the sea bird is calling the river to enter the sea. To test your mind, what is the sea bird? What does it symbolize? If the sea bird is to a river joining the sea and thence losing its identity, what name would you give to the agent which will call a human being to also lose his or her identity?

The Beauty of the world

My grandfather, Nana Frimpong from Atwima Gyekye once told me not to mention the word ‘beautiful’ whenever I meet two people especially if they are women. According to him, “Beauty is an experience, not a label. In ordinary conversation, when we say someone is beautiful, we imply that someone else is ugly. Beware of labels because they prevent us from experiencing reality directly. Sensory data reaching our brains are not supposed to be filtered by prejudices.

He continued; “Appiah, Narrow-mindedness distorts perception and hinders the joyful experience of life. The moment we drop all labels, we stop seeing the world as we imagined it to be, and start experiencing it as it really is: beautiful." I took a close look at him and questioned ‘Nana, could you throw more light onto your ideas?’ ‘Yes, I can”. With his strong voice which did not commensurate with his weak body he continued. “The subject is philosophical; yet, it has practical implications. Since most of us are not accustomed to sitting quietly and reflecting on life, a philosophical piece can be a bit difficult to grasp at the first encounter. So, I welcome this opportunity to restate my ideas differently. Each repetition should make the message easier to understand. I congratulate you for this question. You see, most people just abandon ideas they fail to understand. It takes a wise and courageous person to question unfamiliar ideas. My grandchild, Make good use of the life you have and thank God for it, every day, anywhere, anytime”. You see, that old man had a lot of philosophical ideas. I wish he had not died at all. To tell someone he/she is beautiful is to tell them they are human, for everyone is beautiful likewise the world is beautiful. But not everyone can see this simple fact. It is not only my grandfather who knew this; others have said the same thing. For example, Confucius (circa 551-478 BCE) reportedly said, "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) expressed it this way, "Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it." And Jeffrey C. Keene II wrote, "All life is beautiful. All humans are beautiful. Only behavior makes one ugly." And if you ask me what kind of behaviour makes one ugly? Well, judging others and calling them ugly is an example of ugly behaviour.

Linking us to the wonder

The purpose of sensory data (sounds, sights, aromas, tastes, and the sense of touch) is to act as a bridge, linking us to the wonder, beauty, mystery, and joy of life. But the problem is rather than basking in the richness and grandeur of life, we filter our experiences through the lenses of our opinions, beliefs, and prejudices. For example, instead of welcoming the challenges of the workplace or of family life, we complain that things are not as we would like them to be. Are we ever content about the kind of things that surround us in our villages and towns? Rather than expressing gratitude for what we have, we bemoan what we do not have. We reject a life of excitement and adventure for one of mediocrity and misery.


The African scholar’s dilemma

African scholars are now vigorously researching into our past. What are they looking for, one may ask? It is interesting to note that, they narrate the past by making it look so fascinating and enjoyable life it used to be. In the process, they wish they were children once again but it is too late. We bemoan the kind of life we are experiencing at the moment. But why did we reject what we had in the first place, if we now know it was a blissful life? Is it true that, we all would have loved to be children once again? We are happy with our present life. If we are unhappy that means we are wearing blinders. Those blinders are the labels we stick on everything. It is common knowledge that in Ghana, people including you and me almost always fall into this temptation of wearing blinders. For instance, when you say; “my job is terrible”; you are using a label that prevents you from seeing the opportunity your job presents for your growth. We should beware of labels, for they are easy to put on, but hard to remove. Let me use another scenario; if you tell your friends about your wife…’ Hm my wife is a very difficult woman you will notice that all the time; your friends are going to see her as such with that creative label you have placed on her. We do not appreciate what we have. We neglect them only to sit or stand and declare, “what a mistake, I have committed in life…I wish I had known…” As much as possible, we are not supposed to pretend that everything is beautiful; we're supposed to awaken. Awaken to what? Awaken to the facts. Haven't you heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? So is ugliness. By the "eye of the beholder," we mean the mind's eye or our imagination. You see, ugliness does not exist "out there." It just exists "in here," in our mind. It is an opinion and nothing else.

The Poem

In one of the rooms where students of the University of Ghana were taking their first semester examinations, I noticed how students were entering the room in different moods. Some of them, busily looking around for their index numbers, others walking slowly as if nothing was at stake, others sweating as they entered room, and some seated comfortably waiting for the papers to start work. As one of the invigilators and a former student, I recalled how we were also behaving as such during our school days. I told myself, “I have missed this anxious moment”. Considering how the students began the exams and how they finished happily going out of the examination hall, my creative faculty propounded this short poem on 22nd December, 2010 which I want to share with my readers.

A CHILD ONCE AGAIN

1. All days are equal not so says the Book
Like the flowing river from its source
Returning to source it may pray for
In vanity the hopes would appear

2. When behold I children out
Of their slumber and spraying shout
At corners of their loving homes
A child once again, I wish I were

3. Hand in Hand out they go roaming
Their voices on top flow screaming
Pitched carelessly a speculative role
A child once again, I’m praying

4. Never tired though ever running
Heart intact though ever jumping
Packed emotions toward firing love
A child once again, I profess

5. Childhood remembered, joy lingering
Nostalgic freedom, beaming protection
Inspiring aspirations future brightly brightening
A child once again, I call upon

6. Cracking at tests the brain not the brawn
In the air above searching the answers
Unintentionally, the tip of the writing stick eaten
A child once again, I wish, I were.

7. A child once again, I am praying
A child once again, I profess
A child once again, I call upon
A child once again, I wish I were
If we cease wishing and demanding that life be other than it is, we will find beauty everywhere. "Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish, but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life." So says a wise African Sage.

If I had to summarise everything in just a few words, I would say, everything is beautiful if we love it. And all beauty is, life loving us back. Don’t let us waste what we have to regret later for missing today, forever and ever…
By His Grace, I shall be back.