the best things in life arent things

Growing up I thought life sucked. I was a smart kid closely nurtured by two able parents. The extended family was always present. Maua Town in Meru County was a complete set of a sub-set of communities. A community was either based on trade (Miraa being the gold mine), Politics (no one messed with Njuri Ncheke), or Religious affiliation (Christians and the few Somali Muslims had a mutual respect for each other). Mine was a staunch Christian community. Closely-knit and very strict on morals. The pastors and church elders provided able leadership. Grown ups were the role models. The children were required to respect adults and were answerable to the neighbors’ or friends’ parents as well.  Sundays were a real Sabbath. They began with Sunday school in the morning then hanging out at either of the other kids’ place after church and you’d find your way home once darkness kicked.

sunday school

My buddy Kimathi (Kim) and I were a 2-man army and we made it our job to make our childhood rock. We engaged in communal football matches, mchongowano, Sunday school stuff, and still beefed up with boys from ‘the other squad’ whenever the need arose. Chobo Ua was not for the faint hearted. The playlist consisted of Emachichi, Kiande, Roughtone, Henry Mutuko and a bit of Don Moen. Within no time we hit puberty and our habits and interactions advanced. It began with learning the urban slang. Sheng was such a cool way to communicate! Then from watching early cartoon shows like Sesame Street to watching football matches in entertainment spots feeling all grown up. From playing ‘banno’ with other kids and getting whooped by our moms because of dirt to playing pool in not-so-community-approved places. Sometimes we crossed some set boundaries and some people started pointing fingers. We did not care much though. We were beginning to get noticed. We were discovering the world and also ‘getting discovered’ in the process. We discovered and supported Arsenal. We discovered music with more catchy beats and ‘real bars’. Our playlist changed to Esir, Nameless, Juakali and Professa. Then 2 Pac, Biggy and Jay-Z. There was an actual world out there that was unexperienced. We discovered that the world offered much more than we had grown up seeing.

Then ‘growing up’ happened, and it was time to be granted freedom away from the nest. I thought life was about to get beautiful!

freedom

Wrong. I had just been released into the REAL world. The real school, The School of Hardknocks. I was about to learn crucial lessons through discouragements, disappointments, heart wrenching heartbreaks, wrong choices, outright mistakes, painful losses, masked ‘frienemies’, and the list goes on.  This is what constitutes pain. I guess the street phrase for this is “Life Happens”. Without it, boys won’t be men, the weak won’t get strong, and the strong won’t realize that they are strong. Worthwhile victory doesn’t come without a price to pay – just like you cannot bake a cake without breaking a few eggs. I have learnt to soldier through adversity instead of wishing it away. I say this confidently because I have loved and lost and won and cried myself to the person I am today – way better than the person I was yesterday.

Trials make you better while they make you sick – Lecrae

On the other hand, I have experienced extreme joys, wow adventures, breath-taking moments, been to amazing places, and met some really great people. Life in Nairobi’s Eastlands has taught me that the world can be a jungle and that just like in the wild, you’ve got to stay alert or else. You snooze, you lose. There is an upside to every downside. I believe there is a reason why God created “the other version” to everything: male and female, light and darkness, water bodies and dry land, David and Goliath. Likewise, there is always a head for every tail and a positive for every negative. Its all about the seasons: a time to win and a time to lose. Time to laugh and time to cry. Time to celebrate and time to mourn. A time to gather, and a time to scatter. Time to initiate and time to terminate. In life there has to be ups and downs. That is called being alive.

ups and downs

I have learnt that learning is a lifetime process that ought to be taken a day at a time. However, some of the life teachings I’ve received in my 20s are the basis to understanding myself and my place in this world. Back then I figured that by this age I would be much happier because I imagined having a few degrees, a six-figure salary, a souped up ride, and a drop-dead-diva for a trophy wife. Now I know better: The best things in life are free – like quite walks in the park, watching the sunset, sharing in love, seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing you put it there, the list is endless. The best things are unseen. They are felt.

Even now I get discouraged
Wonder if they take it all back
Will I still keep the courage

I refuse to be a role model
I set goals, take control, drink out my own bottles

I make mistakes but learn from every one
And when it’s said and done
I bet this brother be a better one

If I upset you don’t stress never forget
That God isn’t finished with me yet

-2 Pac

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Do You Love Your Job?

Posted: July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

Alien Citizen

Do you love your job? Are you doing what you love? Are you pursuing your passion? If you have answered “yes” to all the three questions, then good for you. You are one of the lucky ones.

The harsh reality of life is that we don’t always get what we want, and we don’t always want what we get. Stories of people stuck in dead-end and un-fulfilling jobs are numerous. They are almost the rule, rather than the exception. But what if “loving your job” was never the point? I mean, yes, it is good to love what you do. It is preferable and pleasurable and there is nothing wrong with that. But is that the point of work?

God created us and commissioned us to steward His planet. He gifted us differently so we could all play our part in beautifying this kaleidoscope that is our home. “Fill the…

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thorn_in_the_flesh

If today was elections day and I was some republic, votes would probably qualify me as the least qualified person to lead the nation to the Promised Land.  My portfolio wouldn’t back me up much and a background check on my past would probably be my downfall. If history was anything to go by, I wouldn’t be the most effective commander in chief! If “me” was a corporation headed by myself, I highly doubt I would even make it to the Securities Exchange for investors to own a piece of me. The B.O.Gs would probably show me the door due to endless mismanagement and abuse of office. If I was a PC I would be that virus causing it dismal performance.

I would harbor zero bad intentions though. I would love myself too much to push myself down the drain, yet too insufficient to lead myself to glory. Blame it on the “forbidden fruits”!

I have discovered that I just could be my own’s worst enemy!

Not because I’m really “bad” – nor am I really good. I am trying my best to run the race well aiming for the prize. Well, at least the spirit is willing, but then the flesh is too damn weak! – Get it?

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.                                                                                                                                                                                     – 2 Cor 2:7, New International Version –

In an ideal world, my best treasure would be the know-how, ability, and will to keep me away from myself. And they say that you should “nurture and embrace the glorious mess that you are”!  Too bad. I am afraid that my best attempts at exactly that are leading to disastrous results. I am too insufficient to adequately nurture my “glorious” mess since my free-spirited nature aims at achieving freedom of the mind and body – mostly in not-so-“glorious” means. The natural and authentic me has nil regard to what really matters such as humanity, spirituality, eternity – matters of the spirit and the soul, you know?

Everything that is bad for me feels so good. All I’m saying is, I have a way of embracing bad habits that make me happy. I’m the type to take flu medication as I deliberately get rained on at the roof on a freezing night. Just to say I F’in did it! … You know the kind that sell their therapist crack? Yes.

Sometimes I get so carried away in feeling good that I get blinded to doing good. I know I am not alone in this. We all have ‘that thing inside us’ that cheers us up into screwing up while enjoying every minute of the thrill. I know this because I am human, and I am talking about humans. As long as you are flesh and blood, you are born with that “thing”.

That thing, right there, is The Thorn in The Flesh.

thorn

But then again, thorns are here to stay. No amount of discipline, morals, ethics, safety, righteousness, or praying will ever rid you of the pricks.  The thorn is inevitable. There are thorns in all aspects of life – whether good or bad. There is no escaping the damn thorn! Even roses have thorns!

thorn in rose

By now I am smart enough to know that I am stupid.

I may be cautious enough to guard myself over whatever else, just not the thorn. I may have the best of love and ambition for me, but the thorns are here to remind me that I am just a man. That I may wish the best for me, but wouldn’t get the best for me. That I am mortal. That I am dangerous on my own. Very dangerous.

I guess I need the Savior to manage the thorns on my behalf.

Runnin’ from the truth, full of 40 Proof
Half-naked looks, lies that I only wanted more of
Knew in my heart I was opposed to you
Knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do                                                                                                              Made in your image but I was more like a menace                                                                                                             – Lecrae –

grace

 

make a life

At some point, you entertained the idea that you were born to do something significant. But then high school happened. Or college. And your parents talked you into becoming a lawyer instead of a dancer. Or an uncle convinced you that med school was a smarter move than an art school.

And here’s the worst part: you believed them.

When “real life” began, you gave up, but called it “growing up” instead, and abandoned the dream altogether.

But even then, you knew you were wrong. No matter how noisy the world got, no matter how busy you became, regardless of the amount of money you made, there would always be a calling deep inside you.

Everywhere around us, we can find excuses for why people aren’t pursuing meaningful work. Most of us, if we’re honest, feel stuck with the hands that we’ve been dealt in life and are secretly wondering if we’re missing out.

We wander aimlessly from one job to the next, unsure of what to look for or expect. We daydream and distract ourselves with thoughts of a better life. We visit the theatre and admire actors. We listen to our favorite music and admire the artist’s prowess. We visit the art gallery and get wowed by the art. We see a good sculpture and admire the sculpture’s handiwork. But it ends there. We are just spectators. Sad.

We were told to follow a series of steps.

We were told there was a defined process.

We were told we could be whatever we wanted.

We were lied to.

A job you love brings meaning to your work and life. It does not look like any class you’ve ever taken nor does it necessarily give you an expensive lifestyle. But it just feels right and can be trusted. I think the journey to our purpose is more of an ancient path. It’s the route legendary master craftsmen and carpenters of yester-years took. It does not come on a silver plate but requires perseverance and dedication. It is rewarding. It is a blessing from above.

MOM

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Poetry
Tags:
Hi mom, you’re the best I have.
The narrow escape from the sentence I serve.
The queen of my heart, my love.
You gave more than responsibility. You gave love
You are a true gift from above
If you were a bird you’d be a dove
When I was all big headed,
Rebellious and southwards headed,
You counseled with love, ensured all my pride ended.
Life was so mean I tried and tried but never found what I needed
You sat me down,  told me God was all I ever really needed
I found God and found peace; all I ever needed
Thank you mama!
For directing me to the real papa,
Now I live a life with purpose.
Now I know, material matter don’t matter,
Especially when your soul is tearing up in tatters.
Eternity matters.
I thank God for mothers.
I salute all the responsible Fathers.
Mama gave birth to three of us,
And taught us to love and watch over each other.
I’m not saying she’s better than the others,
But man, she’s better than all the others!
Even in another life I would never,
Trade my mother for any other.

STORY OF MY LIFE

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Poetry
Tags:
I’ve done it all. Fast life and the whisky on the rocks
So learned I attended the school of hard-knocks
Became the stranger that never knocks
Got labeled a rebel by some folks.
Am the rose that grew from the rocks
The monk that grew the dreadlocks
I’ve been served injustice like the colored races
Seen friends turn into strange faces
Learnt patience now I watch good things come in phases
Man I thank the rock of ages,
Coz Just when I was about to lose I dealt a few aces
I would be lying if I said some of this stuff doesn’t get to me
But I also appreciate the lessons these experiences give to me
A fighter is who I be
When I see trouble I don’t flee
Beyond the moment is where I see
Victory is all I see.

Tying my lesso

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

………Someone filmed the whole thing.

Someone else put it online.

Others shared it.

Her humiliation became a hashtag.

What I remember about that night were the sounds. The scraping of the bed being dragged across the floor. The insistent pounding of fists at the door. The thudding of my heart echoing in my ears. The muttering of prayer tumbling out of my mouth in a stream of whispering.

They had come after me.

Earlier that evening the driver of the matatu I was travelling in kicked us out slurring, ‘nimechoka. Tokeni.’ Though we tried to protest, his erratic swerving had left us jittery and we felt we were safer walking than being at the mercy of this drunken driver. So several hundred metres away from Oyugis, we started walking. I was on my way to a funeral and was carrying a huge white box overflowing with flowers, stuffed with the wreaths I had been asked to bring from Kisumu.

The walk is a blur to me, but I…

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live and let live

I have always admired diversity. I like the way in the beginning, God created different versions of the same thing: the way He separated the dry land from the water bodies, day from night, black from white, female from male, and so on. Two extremes, yet of the same thing. He created animals and also created diversity in them. Some wild, others ‘domesticable’ (I know that’s a fake word). Some to fly, walk, crawl, swim. Some fierce, scary, gentle. Some to bite, sting, swallow. Large and small, all colors represented. He did the same with trees and all other living things. Then he created man, and was pleased.

Let’s pause there for a minute.

He created man in his own image, we are told. Hold on: currently, we have 7 billion humans worldwide. None resembling the other. None! We are all unique in our way.

So, what exactly is the image of God?

The human species comes in all versions; white to “colored”, tall to short, thin to thick, liberal to conservative, extroverts to introverts, and so on. No one is exactly like the other, so we have over 7 billion personalities. Yet we are all the same due to one fact: we are human, we are people. We all came from Adam and Eve.

That, dear friends, is called diversity. I think God loves diversity. I think God is not pleased about the way religions fight each other in His name. And to answer the question, I think the “image of God” is not a standard phenomenon. It has to be diverse. We all harbor the image of God in our own ways.

My point, exactly?

Hating each other on the basis of something as little as opinion is stupid!

In particular, all this gender-based hullabaloo happening in our society today makes me sick to the stomach! With all the First World Problems we have in this century, I think perpetrators of gender-based biases should be locked up and the cell keys thrown far away (into the ocean, maybe) for having misplaced priorities. They are also humans though, we live with them, and we have to accept them.

Let’s engage in a little real talk:

Gender is not a good enough reason to not hire anyone for a job that they’re qualified for in every way. Gender is not a good enough reason for society to decide how anyone should dress, speak, act, or communicate. The difference between acting “open minded” and “conservative” is not decided by genitalia. Each personality is completely different and can identify anywhere on the spectrum from 100% feminine to 100% masculine.

I hate gender-based stereotypes. They make it hard for men to find or feel comfortable with working as nurses, teachers, secretaries, or in bars and restaurants. No all women are bad drivers, mismanage finances, or get overwhelmed at the slightest bit of pressure. It is also unfortunate that women who are victims of sexism are called “bitchy”, or that men are encouraged to sow their wild oats, but women are shamed for any demonstrations of sexuality. The right to equality and respect isn’t dependent on gender, just as it shouldn’t be with any other characteristic.

My Body, My Space.

First of all, let’s agree that every body (yes, kila mwili) is unique. Each has its quirks, weak points, strong points, and finer points. Some bodies have experienced life: medical procedures, accidents, scrapes and bruises, piercings, tattoos, weird haircuts and fashion statements, and so on. Only the owner of a body really understands its journey. So why should anyone be telling anyone what they can or cannot do with their body? Unless you are obligated to nurture one’s moral and general development; say a parent, a religious leader or just someone who really cares, I think it is only fair to focus on your own and let everyone else deal with theirs. Live and Let Live.

However, I do not entirely blame the haters. I think as humans we are inclined to want to ‘accept’ and associate with those who are like us and detest those who are not. I’m not sure why, (I’m not an authority in these matters)but I think we are naturally inclined to ‘not like’ those who do not believe in whatever we believe in. maybe it is a sort of a survival tactic that the body assumes to shield itself from the ‘enemy’? I’m not sure.

I’m sure of one thing, though; we need to develop an orientation toward life that makes existence bearable and maybe allow even the most tenuous social relationships to remain intact. We need to Live and Let Live.

Anecdote of the Jar:

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Poetry, Research
I placed a jar in Tennessee,   
And round it was, upon a hill.   
It made the slovenly wilderness   
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   
The jar was round upon the ground   
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,   
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Anecdote of the Jar is an imagist poem in which Stevens explores the question of the superiority between art and nature: Is nature superior to human creations, or does human creativity surpasses nature in some way? This is an age-old and puzzling question. This poem solves the riddle by recognizing the unique differences between art and nature: art may sometimes be more beautiful than nature but it cannot be as creative as the nature.
The first striking thing about this poem is its title; Anecdote of the Jar. Anecdote suggests a little story that might be funny and most likely to have a moral lesson to it. However, after going through the poem you realize that it is only talking about a jar. This poem starts in the wilderness of Tennessee, where a simple jar is placed. Going by the description of the jar, we get the illusion that this one must be bigger than the average jar. The attention-capturing part is that the Tennessee wilderness seems to be no longer wild since it is ruled by this jar. Since the jar sits on a place of “high ground”, we can conclude that it lies central in the landscape, where it cannot be obscured by a tree, bush, or any living thing in the wild. Thus, the jar sits on a throne. However, it still feels out of place even though it rules Tennessee. It turns out that there are things that only the wilderness, and not the jar, can do; such as growing and breeding.

It is also important to appreciate the first word of the poem, “I”, where the writer says that, “I placed a jar in Tennessee”. After all, the jar did not just place itself in the middle of a hill in Tennessee. It appears that the speaker (the writer of the poem) put it there as a sort of a social experiment. He probably wanted to find out how the jar would affect the wilderness around it. The poem is a sort of an investigation on the line between the man-made and the natural world, and whether it is even necessary to draw such a line in the first place. This query is answered in the final stanza, where we learn that even though the jar may rule over the wilderness, it can never be part of it since it lacks the power to procreate in order to keep it alive for generations.

I gotta write about my song:

“Father, I’m going through some heavy things
It seems like this world ain’t getting any better
The more we try to get closer to You
The farther we run from Your throne……”

These are the starting lyrics of Group 1 crew’s “Forgive Me” megahit. Might be considered old skul by now, but this right here, ladies and gentlemen, is my song right now! King of my playlists; my ringtone; simply the real MVP of all songs. This song right here, man this is the real “music to my ears”. Sometimes when I really wanna talk to God but lack words to present my case, this’s the spokesman that speaks for me. Now, before you wonder what this has to do with anything, let me start by echoing the words of a certain wise man;

Some walks in this life don’t require partners. They require music.

That said, let me also confess one of my very personal recent discoveries: I just might be a social retard. Oops! Yes, am the type to be alone in a crowd. Hanging out leaves me with either of these two options: a) listen a lot, analyze a lot and keep my opinions to myself, or b) speak my mind and ‘expose’ my thoughts and opinions. The latter is what I’d rather do, but it gets me misunderstood bigtime. Well, save for the very few close friends who, by the way, are a gift from heaven. Man, it is like my mind generates the weirdest of thoughts and ideas. The real me mostly harbors what appears to be the most un-relatable of personalities. At least in regard to many people’s worldview.

See, people are very judgmental.  Even sadder is that their judgment is often based on face value. They act all friendly but when you actually keep it real, they get all self-righteous and judge you just because your opinion on something is different than theirs. Petty I know, right?

This is where music comes in. Sometimes, music developed artistically and delivered passionately from the heart communicates better than anyone/thing. “Forgive Me” by the Group 1 crew is one such song. It addresses a situation that many experience, but never talk about. You see sharing about some personal facts and realities with non-understanding audiences is likely to hurt one’s ego and pride and trust me, you don’t want that! This song is like that “accidentally-met” stranger that communicates with me better than a best friend. Take verse 1, for instance.

“……..I’ve spent so many nights wonderin’ when will it end
When will the day come when happiness begins
I’m running the race but it seems too hard to win
I’m sick of mourning my stomach is throwing up in the morning

I’m calling for help and watching it melt away
My heart’s been put on display and put away
In many ways, many times I told myself it was okay
And anger was the price that was paid
While these faded dreams just screamed to bring them home

The burden was too heavy I kept running from the throne
I can’t take it any longer
I can taste my spirit hunger
God please help me get HOME…..”

Bam! Now that’s a verse! I can’t exactly tell whether it is the depth in the lyrics, the great delivery, the unique-styled rap (I admire the ‘art’ of rapping), or my current position in life that sends chills down my spine whenever this song plays, but one thing is certain: This is my song!  Well, let me just admit: this song sort of echoes the voices in my soul. Those that my mouth stays away from. I love songs that make me feel like the artist had me in mind when telling the story.

“….I’ve come to terms that I’m burning both sides of the rope
And I’m hoping that self-control would kick in before I’m choking off……..”

As I walk through the roughest terrain I probably ever experienced (call it the ‘valley of the shadow of death’), this song serves the perfect therapy. It “speaks from the heart”, dismisses denial, looks at the ‘problem’ in the eye, overshadows thoughts of giving in, associates, preaches perseverance, and most importantly, points me to the solution; God. This piece of art is like an invisible partner; one that cares, understands and gives a reasonable solution.

“….And I’m writing this song, for the people who don’t belong
I pray away the pain you feel from all the things that went wrong
Inside a life that’s filled with anger and disappointment
Cause daddy treated you weaker than all of the other kids
It’s annoying and I feel for all of you who wanna give up
You feel stuck I feel the same way Lord help us stay up
You couldn’t pay me to abandon the idea of true hope
That I could make it through this life into a place where there’s no crying
I’m dying to find You with open arms when I go
Knowing You love me and You waiting to give rest to my soul….”

Here’s the thing; Group 1 Crew’s urban and hip-hop sound attempts to touch a world in desperate need of help. Most of us, I must say. Focused on breaking through the stereotypes of Christian hip-hop music, these passionate Latinos that make up Group 1 Crew hope to bring an urban audience closer to God with their smooth style and therapeutic lyrics:

Lord I don’t know what I’m struggling for
There’s go to be more
Than this life I know
But still I’m here fighting to never give up
I find strength in Your love                                                                                                                                                          And You will see me through                                                                                                                                                              -Group 1 Crew-