Sunday, February 19, 2017

Guya

My mother's mother passed away on Valentine's Day 2017.

She was the family matriarch, her husband having died even before I was born.

Her ten children, my mother, uncles and aunts, are a close-knit group, each a purposeful self-driven individual. They learnt important life skills from their strict parents, who achieved great exploits in their days, and became respected members of society in their own right through sheer hard work.

We her grandchildren have largely been raised by her children in the same manner. A strong emphasis on hard work, discipline and spiritual life pervades the larger extended family as well, but grandma's particular flavor of it was distinct and unmistakable. She ran her household with a firm resolve and a gentle demeanor.

As her years wound to a close I began to see her more, but not often enough to become a regular. She seized every opportunity to advice and exhort me. Told me once or twice to find a good girl and get married early, in her direct simple way utterly devoid of ill will or harshness. If grandma had something she meant to say, she said it effectively.

I was pained to see her weakened by drugs while she was hospitalized. Never had it occurred to us that grandma, an ever-present rock, a strong lady, would be so vulnerable. But I am consoled by the fact that she ended her days surrounded by loved ones who had benefitted from her motherly love and care.

I will count myself blessed if I get a wife like grandma was to grandpa. My children will be blessed if they have a mother just like grandma. Knowing my mother, I pray that my children live to see and experience the blessing that they will call grandma. Because mum is grandma's daughter indeed. Even little sister, named after grandma, is mum's daughter indeed.

I thank GOD that I got to know grandma. I am honored to be able to trace my roots to her. May her legacy of wisdom and love transmit to all her generations, is my prayer. May I be a conduit of her principles to my children, and they to their children, is my prayer.

Goodbye mama.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sidetrack Detection made Simple

When the going gets smooth, that's how you know you've lost your way.

The day you feel you've made it and can now sit down to eat drink and make merry, that is the day your life loses purpose, the day you deserve to die.

Every day has got enough trouble in it.

The right path, the one you should be on, is never an easy breezy downhill coast. It's hard and steep, but that's why you get better. It strengthens you.

Iron sharpens iron. With more success comes aptitude for greater challenges. That is the essence of growth.

Enjoy the growth itself. Seek the pain it brings.

All other amusements are dishonorable distractions at best.

Friday, January 27, 2017

More rambling

The heading says it all. Turn back ye chickenhearted.

In childhood I had lofty dreams of grandeur which evolved in time into delusions. But as the madness relaxes its grip on my mind, I have found that going through life as an ordinary guy on the street is surprisingly bearable. The secret is to like oneself, and to stop competing with others, to let go of the past and its dead dreams and live the present fully in the direction of the future you want for yourself.

Oh no now I sound like one of thise snake oil salesmen peddling "inspirational" literature.

Minding my own business, I find I have a great deal to mind, and just enough trouble along with it. It looks ordinary to an outsider looking in, but that outsider oughtta go mind their own business too.

What am I even saying exactly. Somebody paraphrase.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It gets better

This one life you get, it will never be perfect in this life.

If you wait for it to be perfect so that you can be happy, you will never be happy.

Problems will always be there.

So be happy anyway.

You won't be happy very long; still, seize those fleeting moments of happiness with both hands, hug them tight and set them free.

Solve today's problem so that tomorrow's problem finds you ready.

It will be a slightly better problem than today's. Bigger. Faster. Stronger.

It is already standing in line, ringside, as you pussyfoot around today's problem. If you continue to delay today's battle because of your stranglehold on yesterday's trophy, both problems, today's and tomorrow's, will tag-team you mercilessly when the referee's back is turned. A combo move, and then all that will remain is for your limp leg to be bent at the knee for the now-alert referee to tap the three-count on your knocked-out sorry ass.

So just be happy: it (the problem) gets better. Your solutions are your life, improving with the problem or stagnating with it. A valiant death is better than a shameful surrender, therefore fight today's problem with courage, and be happy.

As long as you are fighting, your problem is really your friend disguised as your enemy. The minute you stop fighting your problem, it takes its own hype seriously.

Be happy. Solve the problem. It gets better!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A great heap of 'Ben Hur' spoilers

Having watched both versions of Ben Hur, I hereby opine.

Spoilers ahead, be warned. Seriously, if you have not watched both versions, go away. You do not qualify to read this article.

For the rest of us, we the elders, we will be both thrilled and also a bit saddened by the remake.

Whereas the first movie was not as much of a visual feast, its strength was in the depth of the characters and their development through the plot. The actors carried the story, and the screenplay had a rustic charm to it.

The latest epic cuts away at the melodrama and emphasises action. It is an easier movie to follow for this generation, but we elders will delight in its brusque pace and varied, vivid drama.

My main grievance with it was an opportunity the remake opted out of in their editing of the plot. Granted the remake vividly portrays the perils of galley slavery and of the circus and of army life and of preaching the gospel. Pretty convincing. But they had the master of the galley die, rather than be saved by Ben Hur (who else) and subsequently adopting him and taking part in a victorious Roman triumph through the streets of Rome. A grand procession. They pulled it off regally in the first movie. But the second does away with that whole arc of the story, that landmark scene, simply striking it off the plot as if it never happened and dunking a key character in the Sea never to resurface. Government please reestablish finishing schools for the public good. Bypassing a Roman triumph, huh. "Nothing to see here, let's go on with the story," huh. Who does that? All the enemies of art, literature, poetry and film could not have conjured up a more sinister design.

Alright that part with Pontius Pilate marching his army into Jerusalem adds a ton of clarity, with the armored Roman ranks chanting and singing rude songs as they went, and the locals angrily staring from the safety of their roofs, none willing to acknowledge the invading foreign occupier with more than a quiet, hateful stare, that was tense. And that hothead Zealot with a bow and arrow (in the second) was a forceful character, possessed with his mission, a bigger threat to Pontius Pilate's life than a few loose roofing tiles simply obeying the laws of gravity (in the first). That procession had an entirely different attitude, however, to a Roman triumph, the emperor's lavish party for the Roman army and people.

A plus, the character of Jesus plays a more prominent role in the second film's events and the Biblical records being woven together poignantly. At the end of the movie, Jesus is the hero. That's a major plus in my opinion.

Also, the character depicted by the wife of Ben Hur portrays the ideal Christian wife.

But who do you know who blatantly ignores a chance to recreate and depict a Roman triumph? Did the film budget really call for such brutality?

But I recommend the movie. Both versions. Try stay awake through the first before you lose your mind chasing the second, and if you succeed in this marathon challenge, lunch will be on me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

No Leave No Problem

I spent all my leave days early in the year on a series of missions with the youth choir, in which choir I feature marginally. I've attended very few practice sessions and performed on stage with them even fewer times. They should regard me more as a groupie than a bona fide member. We went on two trips to Coast, specifically Watamu and Kilifi, and one to Eldoret. The Eldoret trip was my favorite of the year.

Travelling home in August for the annual Campmeeting Week accounted for another long absence from work, 10 days that time. At that event I sang three of my own compositions to thin crowds which did not appreciate the English. Also, Stage Fright is real, people. One does not simply wake up one day and sing alone to the public without prior experience, even if one must start somewhere. As far as feedback went, at least nobody complained. All the compliments came from family and friends, so those were swallowed with the requisite pinch of salt.

And I met Lynette with the brown eyes at the Camp Meeting.

But I digress. By the time December came around, all my leave days were exhausted, and so was I. As colleagues rushed to fill leave forms I sat lugubriously yearning for even one day I could say I regretted taking so the man could see about refunding it, but there was none to be found. So I resolved to use the too-short long weekend to legally journey home and back, losing a full day en route, rather than risking madness by staying in Nairobi alone and unloved. I ran off to the village.

Got home, slept like a baby.

In church the next morning the congregation sang like subdued frogs condemned to a lifetime of horrible slavery. Funny thing, the choir, which is drawn from the croaking congregation, sang splendidly. Where were these angelic voices when our ears were bleeding? And later we had foot washing and holy communion.

And then I had Lynette all to myself for the rest of the afternoon.

Late evening, mum and I sped off to my maternal grandmother's home, where all her grandchildren were congregating on Christmas eve. Maybe twenty of us this year excluding no-shows. The usual awkward greeting of uncles and aunties, enthusiasic flaming of cousins and squeezing of ribcages of younger cousins proceeded. A heavy feast for supper. Sleep.

A heavy breakfast the next morning had me telling anyone who cared to listen that I had eaten my equivalent weekly ration in just two sittings. They gave me pitying looks.

A pastor popped up at eleven a.m. to address the gathered lot under a tree; we are Adventist like that: even our family gatherings feature prayers and spiritual pep talks for the flagging soul. Good talk he gave. I laughed and reflected and took pictures.

The heavy lunch which followed fuelled our late afternoon tour of neighbouring homesteads where even more far fetched extended family could be found. People whose names I do not know, but am supposed to, recited to me all my insider nicknames and hobbies of childhood. That was awkward. Some of them wanted to talk but I was in deep introvert Listening Only Mode. Social Gear was far from me as usual and if they continued addressing me they would find the undercurrent of my introspection dragging them to uncharted depths. Fortunately there were many of us, shortly the spotlight moved off me.

I began to feel an itch to go back home. So I went home by myself, leaving mother dearest in the tender care of her own mother and siblings. For half the trip I had to hang precariously at the open door of a speeding, overloaded fourteen seater minivan. Because transport in the festive season is a hassle. One takes what one gets. I had to connect using another bus for the secind half of the journey, and for a moment it seemed there was no public transport, but providentially a hired bus came along, filled with Legio Maria adherents who gladly accepted my fare.

So I got home by nightfall, had the house all to myself. My kind of retreat. Listened to music, probably opined something on Facebook, slept.

Morning. Woke up super late. Lynette also showed up. We chatted and ate and stared at one another's smiles. Time flew, we parted at four p.m. as I dashed for the next bus to Nairobi.

No hanging off an open door this time, thank heavens.

And now I'm back to work having spent many man hours narrating these events. Let me stop now and look busy even though my heart is very far away.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Storming the front

I won't be fooling anyone
when I walk up to you
looking into your eyes
and declare with a big chest
"I want you,"
damn what you think,
and then I'll stand there.
Waiting.
Quiet.

The ground won't swallow me.
The sky won't fall.
Everybody will hear.
Everyone will know
the ball's in your court.

Nobody will be fooled
that I'm not scared
of losing you forever
on an impulsive gamble.
But
Suffer no more this circus
interminable small talk
occasional compliment
unspoken desires
weather updates
stolen glances
limp hugs
Child's play

But let the witness be
that I came hard after you
Like a predator in ambush
Hungry
ferocious
Tenacious
But you resisted stiffly
defending your honor
zealously
A ruckus was raised
A sore contest
A fight to the death.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pearl

You entered my world and made it your own
You knew the melody of the song in my heart
You lit up the shadows my fear couldn't face
You brought a bright aspect to my lugubrious outlook

Pearl was here

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two weddings

I was at a wedding ceremony.

The pastor prayed, preached for an hour, prayed, dictated the vows to the couple, prayed, had them sign the legal certificate, prayed and went on his way to prayers elsewhere. We who remained ate and listened to saccharine speeches wishing the couple all the best, meanwhile we caught up with old friends. Then we all departed.

The next day I arrived late to another wedding. Its format must have been much like the first, but I walked in while a choir was singing. Next item on the agenda was the signing of the certificate. The pastor spent a hood deal of time lightheartedly casting doubt on the groom's potential for steadfastness while in the same vein greatly exaggerating the bride's loyalty and virtue. While he was joking, he carried on for such a duration that I got tired. What kind of precedent is that to set for a marriage? Right on the wedding day, setting up the wife as prefect over the husband, with authority to henpeck him in good times or bad. But he was joking, right. Fortunately it was over eventually and everyone soon trooped off to a reception at a different venue halfway across town.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dark Night of the Soul

The killjoy tone of this blog probably drove all readers away by now. It remains desolate, my haunted hall in which to face my inner demons, in the snatches of relative calm when I am not fighting or fleeing.

Many monsters inhabit the uncharted depths of the mind. In the absence of distractions, in solitude, the surface of the mind is penetrated, but sight sees only far enough to predict "more darkness ahead."

When your life is in a dark phase, like mine has been for many years, you do what it takes, you keep going, pushing on the best you can, until you are out of the valley of the shadow of death.

Life sometimes throws you its spare change in its careless haste to bombard you with lemons. An old flame reaches out, a good guitar solo, a beautiful girl's smile, a ray of sunshine through the clouds on a cloudy day. You treasure these trinkets dearly, they are gone too fast.

The void, the black empty chasm in which my heart is suspended, an unfeeling vacuum, it engulfs everything eventually.

Company provides less than fleeting escape. It is a chance encounter with a similarly afflicted soul, also rootless, suspended in the void, driven by forces of gravity and of propulsion beyond sight or control; you just happen to cross paths.

With a little luck you might exchange cordial noises to momentarily drown out the void's oppressive silence, to occupy each other's minds with irrelevant distractions, because the void is mind-bogglingly vast, and all of it aches in both your chests, and we in mercy turn blind eyes at others' voids, because what can we do anyway?

Will we recite canned motivational lines, for the void to swallow whole the minute we find ourselves alone again? No. Crack a joke. Laugh. It won't echo back. Float away on your lugubrious way.

Or maybe reach out, grasp and hold onto the other? Perhaps they grasp and hold as well? Have one another at least?

Is it less of a void when many are in it? Or do voids combine forces, confounding the efforts of those who would assemble armies against them?