Monday, 16 October 2017

#Raw—Seeing the year through the ‘lens of a Camera.'




“Through Photography I learn to appreciate life as it is right now, instead of wishing better days ahead. I am so thankful for the way my camera offers me gentle reminders to have patience, slow down, and enjoy life’s moments as they happen.”

I write from a lens of truth. In the words of Lao Tzu, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power,” –there is no in-between, successful people don’t grow by accident, they grow by design.The road of truth-telling is not an easy one for many but I will still be here to smack you awake. Most of the pieces I have written through the years intersect with real life—life as it is, not as we think it should be or wish it was—this one is going to be reflective, about 2017. This year has been tough. It has at times beaten my ingrained discipline of fidelity to resilience (sometimes I have logged out of hope). I have learned though; that resilience isn’t an end in itself—it is surely a muscle one can always reach and pick the strength to carry on—that’s life for you and I .I am tired. Tired of having to keep problematic people in my circle, just for breathing. Keeping people who in their convoluted mind think that just because they area round, I am privileged.I am going to put it cut and dry, playing a fool doesn’t mean I am naïve. This might not sit well on your nose but I am out of fucks to give, let’s shake the honest nest.

Consider these words from Justice Scalia: “Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for Courage to endure the scorn of the sophiscated world…Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophiscated world.” 
           
We all have friends—make friends in life—but what is the hardest thing is keeping the true kindred spirit of friendship (call it personhood and human decency , as I often love to say).Friendship is so watered down to materialism; to deception, to go-getting and to keeping up appearances—real friendship has dwindled down to nothingness. For people like me, that truly look for and hope for the best in people( not double standards and wearing facets), people like me that trust not because of naivety but rather in belief in the goodness of people often get terribly hurt. It is at times timely to have songs like Look what you made me do (by Taylor Swift) on the iPod or as favorite on your playlist. Sometimes, society has treated us so bad and so hypocritically that you don’t know who to share your fears with, hopes and plans anymore: that is what this year has taught me more than anything.

 Being the honest person, I have had a lot of trouble with people who keep up appearances albeit I have sometimes with the benefit of the doubt been played the ugly card over and over again—yes, I have lived a lie through another—at times from the same person( people).I have not just felt like drawing the curtain on these souls; I have been buried in anger, disappointment and the ultimate feeling of betrayal—you sure know what I am talking about if you have ever been let down, lied to and taken a fool by people you least expect to treat you like shit (some of them respectable  and others common place vultures) .

It was Aristotle who noted expansively on friendship: Not a few things about friendship are matters of debate. Some define it as the kind of likeness and say like people are friends, whence come the sayings ‘like to like’, ‘birds of a feather flock together’, and so on; others on a contrary say ‘two of a trade never agree’. On this very question they inquire for deeper and more physical causes, Euripides saying that ‘parched earth loves the rain, and stately heaven when filled with rain loves to fall to earth’, and Heraclitus that ‘it is what opposes that helps’ and ‘from different tones comes the fairest tune’ and ‘all things are produced through strife’; while Empedocles, as well as others, expresses the opposite view like aims at like. The physical problems we may have alone (for they do not belong to the present inquiry); let us examine those which are human and involve character and feeling e.g whether friendship can arise between two people or people cannot be friends if they are wicked , and whether there is one species of friendship or more than one. 

There is more than one way to reach out to someone who is struggling but one thing stands out—let us remember not to ask anything of someone who is drowning. Have you been wretched out that you feel everything is conspiring against you? Well, pain is an invaluable thing (ironically true)—‘Richard Rohr says, ‘The only things strong enough to break our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is. Fortunately, life will lead us to the edge of our own resources through such events. We must be led to an experience or situation that we cannot fix or control or understand. That’s where faith begins.’
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It seems that it’s only when our former ways of understanding , coping with , and controlling our own lives break down—through loss, crisis, failure, upheaval, or pain—that we are open enough to receive new life.
-If we experience this enough times and recognize the pattern, we begin to be less afraid of it and may learn to embrace it. On our best days, we may be able to look at the storm clouds gathering in the distance and say, ‘bring it. Let the storm come because I like what it made me last time.”

In my recent article –the sanity I get writing—I write, ‘the world needs men and women of courage, resilient souls; grace-filled brothers and sisters: a universe of personhood and human decency. Sometimes the most disturbing question isn’t whether I am doing enough to please the world but rather, whether I am doing extra-ordinary things. ‘I want to emphasize today that as a writer; a truth-teller, nothing overjoys me if someone is lifted because of my work, whether it brings an extra penny to my pocket or not. 

At she writes, I am in agreement with what they say about how much readership feels enough, that–‘Maybe most of us, satisfaction doesn’t stem from numbers at all. But if not, what does keep us going? How do we measure success?  For some of us, what matters is the quality of our readers. Panelist Chad Simpson, for example, aspires to “a small but devoted cult following.” For Kellie, too, it is not how many readers but the depth of connection that counts. “Who is my ideal reader?” she asked. “It’s the reader who finds my work compelling.” The readers who sustain us are those who let us know they understand what we have written, who show that they are moved by our works, who take our ideas to new places of their own. Even if these readers are small in number, they are large in impact.”

There is a beautiful friend of mine, Vera. We meet a few months ago ‘on the internet’, a few days ago; she wrote something about me that moved me. Yes I have had praise from very many people across the globe but I will talk about in particular, for purposes of this article. She wrote, ‘I met a friend. On here. He has a name-Grace Abaho. He is a native of an Eastern Country—Uganda. He can be described with many adjectives and adverbs even without meeting him yet- honest. Ambitious. Great Writer. He Writes. And more.’ She goes on to say, ‘Thank you, Grace Abaho (He Writes); I appreciate who you are and your distinct voice in the affairs of your nation and humanity.’

For this special soul up there (Vera), I don’t know how to express the gratitude I have for her being a point of light. I am glad I met her and if the future permits, I want to have a human moment with her: ‘human moments require energy. Often, that’s what makes them easy to avoid. The human moment may be seen as yet another tax on our overextended lives. But a human moment doesn’t have to be emotionally draining or personally revealing. In fact, the human moment can be risk, businesslike, and brief. A five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment. To make the human moment work, you have to set aside what you are doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from the laptop, abandon your daydream, and of course focus on the person you are with. Usually when you do that, the other person will feel the energy and respond in kind. Together, you quickly create a force field of exceptional power.” We both haven’t met but we have had a virtual human moment, at least she calls me and gives me attention when I am feeling lowly-for that I am thankful.

On my sister’s birthday earlier on 30th September, while telling my resilience story through hers, I wrote about hope being a function of struggle as I was agreement on being. I wrote, ‘hope is not an emotion. Hope is a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam. Which is different from this pattern of having faith in our children, which means telling them that everything they do is wonderful and shielding them as long as we can. But girl we know this, don’t we, this desire to create a beautiful world for the people we love? ” 

In a world where wealth and not wisdom is the most desired quality; where the top is rotten so you have to be rotten to get to the top. Where money generates the largest within us, those who speak about self-development that is not financially relevant are deemed unpractical. It is easy for those who wake up to realize there is something wrong with this world. The alarm has gone off in their soul to go and ask questions. In a world where the church rocks the cradle, when as many children ask adults questions, they are told to shut up or that they need more faith, the facts are not relevant. If they do not want to go to “hell” they need to keep quiet. This message is all that some need however there are those questions inside them that will not remain silent.

In one of my favorite works of C. S. Lewis (Weight of Glory), he writes about the inner ring, and he warns; ‘Of all passions, the passion for the inner ring is more skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things. Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humor or learning or wit or any of those things that can be really enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in”. And that is a pleasure that cannot last. The momentary part of being part of the world, or the cliché is never worth the compromise. It only leads to a loss of integrity and an endless search for acceptance.’

Your fears will manifest if you allow them to be the primary focus that drives you. Be driven by unfettered view of what is possible for your life. Remember that you will attract an equal energy you allow to penetrate inward and radiate outward.Do nOt free yourself then, simply be the self that is free. Embrace the misunderstood “orphan” in the loving arms of awareness. Much of what we do in life is shaped by our values. Some people have the character of perseverance in the face of difficulty, while others give up when the going is tough. People who persevere have grit, they don’t give up when the times are tough, they don’t take shortcuts, they don’t compromise and they see things through to the end. If you can’t master this, going through tough times will be the real life equivalent of an ambition of pulling the sun out of the sky—embrace the darkness—as I wrote earlier

There have been a few times when I have deactivated my social media accounts( especially facebook, for a break from the noises in the background).I do a lot of “pro bono” (for half a decade now, I post free political commentary, play the fair arbiter and all you can think of ) , I share insights and I defend people who instead of being there for me when I am in the ruts, they watch in the selfsame silence as the very ones I can’t call friends—this , I have seen on many occasions—at one point I almost got imprisoned. I learned that I need to give myself space; I started to do troubleshooting on my social media platforms, using the block and unfriend buttons. Interestingly, some will still say that I am censoring them. I just can’t withstand draining myself. I keep my peace and ‘troubleshoot’ when I have to, regardless of who you are. All this I have learned isn’t far removed from reframing your darkside. In retrospect,our goal in this coming year shouldn’t just be about happiness, our goal should be meaningfulness. Instead of picking projects, hobbies and relationships based on how happy they will make us, let’s focus on things that will make our lives more significant and worthwhile.

Finally, as the years go by, my theme into the next months and the New Year will be, “it’s not about all the good you can do—it’s about the bad you can prevent. That’s less inspiring but it’s true.” As I wrote earlier, speak life. I need help at times; just like you and all else—help if you can—the fragrance always stays in the hand that gives. As I wrote on facebook recently, ascribing ones success to individual effort while ignoring all the support from society that made your opportunities possible is first degree conversation narcissism; we all have someone who has pitched in for us—be it your parents, your friends or whoever you are afraid to tell the world. Yes it is a ‘feel-good-thing’ to give yourself all the credit but it is not true that your intelligence, resilience or special tactics have mapped your way; someone always comes through the equation. What I am saying is that “I am because we all are”: Ubuntu. If only we can attune our minds to this thought perspective, maybe the world would be a better place. He chastens who loves well. Blessings

Monday, 18 September 2017

#STAYWOKE—THE SANITY I GET WRITING.




Writing, as is reading, is one of the best remedies I have found accurate to the perils of human frailty. If there is any evidence for anyone whom the two magical twins, writing and reading, have impacted immensely, it is me. I see the light every day I am reading or writing. I crawl out of the darkness. Being a reader, especially a voracious one, is one of the greatest things I have ever given to myself, entwined with one;writing. One raw fact is, if you don’t read, you can’t write: there is no in-between. Walter Kirn put it better, couldn’t agree more with this: “a writer who isn’t writing is asking for trouble.”

I am a stubborn person at times; I don’t “fight small wars” or react [see; respond] to things that are so small, in most of the social media expletives and blogs I have written through the years (even in real life). If one thing, above the all motivates me, it is “the pride in me”. Yes, pride is a motivator, as is written: Prove people wrong. They say it can’t be done? Do it. They tell you it is a waste of time? Waste away. Never let anyone define for you how to be, how to use your time, or what you or anyone is capable of. Turn the naysayer into a competitive guidepost, recasting every doubting Thomas into a secret twisted cheerleader. However, be careful not to cop out into spite: don’t center on them, they are just ammunition. Take their judgment, harness it into your next pride, and ride them past the fools over the hills, and towards a dream. When I thought writing this piece, I told myself one thing, I was going to commit the writer’s chief sin: recommend it as my “babyfor my readers—read on.

The world needs men and women of courage, resilient souls; grace-filled brothers and sisters: a universe of personhood and human decency. Sometimes the most disturbing question isn’t whether I am doing enough to please the world but rather, whether I am doing extra-ordinary things. At times, the extra ordinary isn’t about doing much, it is doing a little but with a purpose of lightening someone’s burden, and in the end that is what is reflected unto the world. Save for the present-day social media melodrama, where “idiots” are making a “change”. In a world where there is hopelessness, the extra-ordinary is giving someone a glimmer of hope—that tomorrow, no matter how blurry it is today, is going to be better. In a world of lack, providence is the real hero. That is extra ordinary stuff, don’t look any further.

So-
I have been building a brand for some years now, as a writer: I now have a second reputation, writer; poet and essayist. One raw fact, it is a rugged path I have travelled [still travelling]. Do I at times look at my own report card? Yes, I do that all the time. I keep tracking my growth as a writer, not just on the audience or readership I have, which is evidently there in large numbers here, but rather; how effectively do I put my thoughts across? 

I was reading a fine piece on publishing and found something I wish I had written. Scott hit it outta the park, he writes: “your reasons for writing should transcend fame and wealth as neither are likely from writing alone. Most books you read have been written by writers who pay rent through other means. If you want fame and wealth from writing, be committed to the long term. This takes the pressure of each book, and you will open to learning instead of foolishly trying to hit a grand slam on the first try”. Those are very fine words from      a very articulate article, one of the beautiful things I have read on writing lately. As I type this, I am listening in to this song by Tricia Brock, “What I know, and to what I just wrote above, these words from the song couldn’t go unnoticed: “to hope that keeps saying, carry on.”

Edward Deci, one of the leading researchers on human motivation, says in his classic book, Why We Do What We Do (see Notes): “the researchers found out that if any of the three extrinsic aspirations—for money, fame, or beauty—was very high for an individual relative to three intrinsic aspirations, the individual was more likely to display a poorer mental health. For example, having an unusually strong aspiration was associated with narcissism, anxiety, depression, and a poorer social functioning as rated by a trained clinical psychologist.

In contrast, strong aspirations for any of the intrinsic goals—meaningful relationships, personal growth, and community contributions—were positively associated with well being. People who strongly desired to contribute to their community, for example, had more vitality and higher self-esteem. When people organize their behavior in terms of intrinsic strivings (relative to extrinsic strivings) they seem content—they feel better about who they are and display more of psychological health.”

In Behold Humanity, the truth isn’t far too removed from the raw facts; it’s beautifully written that only a fool would ignore those stellar words of inference. As is written, “Pain and pleasure are not twins or mirror images of each other, at least not as far as their roles in leveraging survival. Somehow, more often than not, it is the pain related signal that steers us away from the impending trouble, both at the moment and in the anticipated future. It is difficult to imagine that individuals and societies governed by the seeking of pleasure, as much or more than the avoidance of pain, can survive at all.”

I am not going to sugarcoat nothing, there are people you don’t need in life (see Becky); people that want to always want to hear the bad news about you, people that instead of empowering you drain you to the bone, even if they have potential or are “rich” and “famous”. These people you don’t need them, they are blood sucking parasites, if all they do is suck it out of you. Society should be and must be about people empowering people, without strings attached. But here is the truth, it has sunk so low that instead of empowerment, it is now about individual rise—someone will just use you to rise, after that you are done. It is not over for you though, there is one raw fact, and no one has ever been noticed that wasn’t doing something they wanted to be recognized for: you have got to get down and do your thing. For me, I have to keep writing.

A lot of beautiful stuff has been written on how to be your own boss and none is removed from ‘getting help if you need it’. I read something  from Adam Grant in the New York Times article I ‘eloped with’ a week ago about networking, and I must say, I would buy him a cup of a coffee for writing very real things in my personal life, he writes: “it’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network”.

The Mathew effect, as Adam Grant writes, ‘from the bible, “For unto every one that hath given, and he shall have abundance”. If you establish a track record of achievements, advantages tend to accumulate. Who you will know tomorrow depends on what you contributed yesterday. Yes, that’s what, as I earlier wrote, the sun shines for everyone.

To write is to commit, to both reading and writing itself—failing at writing is because you are not writing. The magic is, “more than anything, writing is a kind of work. Even if you love it, even if you are brilliant, even if you have amazing ideas, it will require many hours of effort to finish writing an essay or book. You will be giving up other activities to create that time. This trade may simply not be worth it to you. This is fine, as you might realize the problem is simply you like the idea of writing far more than the reality of how much time and effort is required”

In life, once you do/write something inspirational, you may not know who you are empowering but one thing is for certain, a life is being changed somewhere. Personally, most of the cognitive restructuring I have had in my life is centered on one thing, above the all—the power of “yet”—one of the best ways to keep your mind open to new possibilities is to harness the power of “yet”. “Yet” is a very productive and healthy word to add to a sentence when you are describing something that hasn’t happened to you. For example, instead of saying “I haven’t achieved my goal,” you can say “I haven’t achieved my goal yet.” This keeps you honest with the fact that you haven’t achieved something, but that doesn’t mean you won’t achieve it in the future. The past doesn’t dictate the future—and reminding yourself of that can keep you empowered and motivated during tough times.

The dark side of positive thinking offers to humanity wisdom that is very profound—‘we as humans are dream beings. We can accomplish many dreams in a lifetime, but we won’t be able to achieve them all. More important than the life goals we accomplish before we reach the grave is how we are living right now. With some consciousness and a sense of humor, we can embrace the wholeness of our being and live a life with a soul. Beyond our “concepts” of positive and “negative, there is the beauty, the mystery and the magic of our true being, deserving to be honored and celebrated. It is available for each of us in this very moment’—thoughts and words without deeds will accomplish nothing, which is why I keep writing: the end is not certain, but it is a work in progress.

In all honesty, writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation, the writer cuts himself from all others and confronts his subject alone. He moves into a realm where he has never been before—perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening—thing is; if you write what you yourself sincerely think and fee and are interested in, you will interest other people.

We live in a very frail point in time; more people are more concerned about being famous than they are about doing what is right—even if fame isn’t the end goal. It is very important to note though—you will never be famous—and that’s okay; ‘the most beautiful lives, I have learned are not often the extraordinary ones. They are the ordinary ones lived with dignity.’

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

#UGBLOGWEEK: THE FUTURE IS US—WRITERS AND ARTISTS—READERS




The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts- C. S. Lewis

Image Source: here
Writing is one of the most important things histories and the future looks at—scientists love to argue otherwise but the real truth is that the world rotates a lot around stories—stories shape the narrative of what is and what will be, erasing this truth is erasing the truth about humanity. More often than not, many of my readers ask where I get the courage to write what I write and I honestly tell them, “the truth is a balance of the past and present, if you keep a keen eye on the realities; even the unnerving stories become ‘easy’ to tell”.

If there is anything I have learned through the years, there is one thing that can give you a voice, especially if you are one of the voice-less, writing and art is the way to go. If you put up a piece of work for the world to read, or paint a photo or take a picture, once you share it with the world, you don’t leave your audience the same, someone out there is watching you and they will keep learning from you and you from them—that is not rocket science—visibility is two way. So, if you have some good ideas, don’t hesitate to share them with the world, they could be the wings you have been waiting for to take you next level, or give you a bigger audience: like me

Writing is a process, often times comes with procrastination for many (at times ) but there is no in-between, you either start on the project or let your gift to the world dwindle away; the bad news is you could be sleeping on what the world needs to be a better place. I read somewhere: "sometimes the words will flow freely, fingers nimble across the keyboard, the hours dissolving into one another as the daylight sleeps away….[…..]….there are lots of practical things that a writer can employ to help themselves out of a writing slump, the most obvious and perhaps most helpful suggestion, although it may feel counter-intuitive, is to take a break. It is all  well and good to have a strong work ethic, maybe a target word count each day, or an expectation of how much time you should be in touch with your work-in-progress, but efficient working is more about words produced or the number of hours spent welded to your desk chair".

As I wrote earlier, my mentor C. JoyBell .C, can best tell how and why my audacity of hope is always shinning anew every day of my life: “I have come to accept the feelings of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it.Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you are going, but know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you”.

I often look back at all the bickering and yammering I have been through: the background noise from people who think and thought I am just a ‘little man’ grasping at straws, I sit back and take a good laugh and cry to God to make a way for me.  It’s been tough but I have never for once considered giving in to people’s whims—that’s not who I am, especially when I know I am doing right; looking for people’s approval would be the last thing I need. In life, you have to come to terms with the world and accept the world is full of mean-spirited people: that may never applaud your hard work no matter how hard you try, the best thing to do therefore, just do your thing—your life is yours alone to shape, throwing it in someone else’s hands is the last thing anyone should do, my report card from the university of life has taught me that already. Go out there and be the change you want to see in the world.