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Opinions of Sunday, 17 July 2011

Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel

The Chameleon and the changing steps of Life

ORAL VILLAGE IDEAS

BY

DANIEL APPIAH-ADJEI

The Chameleon and the changing steps of Life

An Ashanti boy, Kwame Ansere was born into a life of adventure. He saw the beauty that surrounded him, felt the dominion of mountain and forestry air that refreshed him, heard the peaceful sounds of quietude emerging from a distance, and sometimes the tasted sound from the colourful bird called Akyem Police chirping on the twig of a tree while the skies moves over his tilted head as he looks up. That playfully tongue in his mouth whenever he spoke, and after lowering the lantern, smelled the fragrance and whispers of nightfall with different sounds of night animals, he slept soundly.
How easy it is to imagine a life of adventure in a forest area such as Abofrem, an ecstatic village near Bibiani a gold mining town in the Western region of Ghana. Yet, life itself is an adventure if we allow it to be. Each moment is another page in an exciting book we call life. Here's how it was described by French poet, historian, and statesman (Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Larmartine, 1790-1869),
"The world is a book and every step turns a new page."

The adventurers
People respond differently when given a good book. Some may accept it, but ignore it. Others may set it aside to read "someday." Still others will read it, but not apply what they have learned. This attitude is comparable to the parable of the sower in the Bible. Then, there are those who are like children, filled with curiosity, always eager to learn and discover. They are the adventurers. They live in the moment and delight in the sounds, feelings, sights, aromas, tastes, sensations, and experiences that engulf them. They love the world. They love life.
Showers from the forest
Sometimes I think that all it takes is a visit to the forest or the shore to reawaken our senses and spirit. If we let go of the cares of the day, we open ourselves to the beauty, wonder, awe, and mystery of life. I remember vividly when, as a young graduate from the University of Ghana, curious of the new world in front of me and how I used to ride in my VW Saloon Car,with the registration number, AK 1720 to a certain village near Nkawie every Saturday afternoon to listen to forest sounds and the singing of traditional songs by nearby women in a distance. They were so refreshing and mind blowing.

The Love for Poetry
These sentiments made me remember my primary school days, when the head teacher of the school, Mr. Opong-Peprah (King Kalala) from Akim Oda taught us a poem by writer, poet, and adventurer, William Henry Davies (1871-1940):
Leisure
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
But before we can experience the grandeur of the present moment, we have to be aware of our past. Most often we tend to fully understand what we were taught in our youthful days only when we re-visit them in our present times. ‘Na true’, no be so?
Awarenass
Writing on awareness, Jerry Fleishman had this to say and this has always been re-echoed by Mr. Kwasi Gyan Apenteng, a veteran journalist who happened to be my colleague at The Cultural Initiatives Support Programme (CISP), "A greater poverty than that caused by lack of money is the poverty of unawareness. Men and women go about the world unaware of the beauty, the goodness, and the glories in it. Their souls are poor. It is better to have a poor pocketbook than to suffer from a poor soul."
Mr, Ansong Manu of blessed memory who was lecturing at the School of Performing, University of Ghana used to tell us ‘If your day isn't brimming over with excitement and pleasure, a good start would be to look for things to be thankful for. Do this often enough and it becomes habitual. And later, you will no longer have to search for life's delights because you will be constantly stumbling over them throughout the day’. In effect, if I could interpret it now, I would say that “if you are tired, change your position”.

A normal day
Are you waiting for a special day to experience life as an adventure? That won't be necessary. A normal day will do, as Mary Jean Iron shows in her prayer, "Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so." I agree with her keeping in mind, the axiom; “missing today forever and ever”
When novelist Howard Spring (1889-1965) was a young boy, he read and remembered the inscription on a sign-board. It read, "I count only the hours that shine." Dear reader, there is no better guarantee of an adventurous life than by making every hour shine and every minute count. Always doing our best is the gateway to a life of adventure.
The Ghanaian cliché
In Ghana, some would argue that far from being exciting, life is boring. They mistakenly believe that boredom is caused by external events or our environment. But boredom is not a result of outside events. It is caused by a decision to do nothing rather than something. Adventurers are engaged with life. They form a partnership with it, making things happen by taking action and delighting in the surprises that life brings our way.
When seen from the right perspective, change, the unknown, and risks are the ingredients of an adventure. But when they are viewed with the wrong attitude, they become fearful and things to avoid. No wonder David Grayson (1870-1946) writes, "Adventure is not outside a man; it is within." After all, it is an attitude we embrace, a choice we make, and a decision we commit to.

A standing Poem
Psychotherapist, researcher, and consultant, Dr. Dawna Markova expressed an attitude worthy of imitating when she wrote, "I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit." How I wished this could become a standing poem for our present and future leaders.
The secret of adventure
One secret of adventuresome living is to embrace life, but not so tightly that we squeeze the adventure out of it. A pianist lets go of the keys immediately after striking them. Similarly, the way to enjoy an adventure is to be willing to let it go. How can life's adventure develop and surprise us unless we release our grip? Let me share this short Poem with you as a form of sober reflections.
THE OLD GARDENER
Count your garden by the flowers,
Never by the leaves that fall.
Count your day by golden hours,
Don't remember clouds at all.
Count your nights by stars, not shadows,
Count your life by smiles, not tears,
And, with joy on every birthday,
Count your age by friends -- not years.
Here's a final thought to serve as a model for the rest of the year; it was written by British social reformer and Theosophist, Annie Besant (1847-1933). "Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle."
By His Grace, I shall be back.