LIFE IS IN PHASES

The beautiful thing about life is that it is in phases. And phases pass.

I was looking at some of my pictures, and pictures with people, and I was just moved…..asking myself how I made it through some of those phases, reminiscing the experiences and feelings that each of those pictures reminded me of and wondering at the realisation that all I have now of those past moments is PICTURES, and whatever other intangibles I acquired during the phases.

It also made me appreciate the value of pictures. They are a wonderful way to preserve and relive memories. Keep taking them, and those selfies too. *wink*. Memories that one should keep in touch with to appreciate the transiency of this life and its various moments.

Someone has said that you never know the value of a moment until it becomes past.

I am blessed with having vivid memories of past events and experiences, yet pictures make it all the more real and moving for me.

An overall effect from the reminiscing is the self-encouragement that comes from it. You realise again that the present phase you are in now is a passing one (already)….especially when it is one you wish to move on quickly from.  You are encouraged that it will soon be past again like the pictures of the past you are staring at.

Life is in phases. This phase will pass again, and another will come. Don’t just keep waiting for the next without really living.

Enjoy yourself in the midst of it all, and don’t lose hope.

That which you are looking forward to will soon come to pass again.

DS

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MY CLIPPER

Once upon a time, I used to have a clipper. A personal clipper that I took to the barber’s shop each time I needed to have a haircut or shave. My way of preventing the transmission of infections that could come from sharps….but that’s by the way.

After a while that I had been using the clipper, especially when I changed barbers, I noticed that I was always having a hard time under the clipper each time I visited the barber’s shop.

I would wince and withdraw my head in pain as the clipper is used on me. My clipper. I marveled at the “genius” of my former barber…..as I compared the ease and painlessness of having my hair cut by him…with the same clipper, my clipper.

I would complain about how good barbers are scarce…..because of how having a haircut/shave had become associated with pain for me. “These barbers don’t just know how to handle the clipper”, I complained.

I remember when I even lamented to one of the barbers about how poor he was at the art of cutting hair and shaving. He replied that he didn’t have any problems with other customers….and that people even respected his skills. I had marks on my face by the time I left his shop. Marks from the clipper, by his hand. As if I fought a lion. Well, I never visited his shop again.

This experience continued for some months until I reached one barber, after I had tried quite a number of them, and he made the observation that the teeth of my clipper had become blunt and bad.

That’s when I discovered that I had been my own problem all these months and yet blamed every other person for it.

Hmmmm.

If only. If only I had known from the outset. All the blame would have been unnecessary. All the come-and-go tribal marks. All the pain. From my own clipper.

This happens in reality too.

We blame others for a problem when we are really the problem. We conclude hastily that every other person is the problem, not us. We can even go to the extent of punishing others for our own faults, without knowing, of course.

We judge others without judging ourselves. A statement I once came across says we are good judges of the faults of others but better lawyers of our own faults. We are good at passing verdicts on what others do and better at defending our own part in the issue.

The great teacher, Jesus, once said, “First remove the log of wood in your own eye before you try to remove the speck in the other person’s eye”. Maybe after you’ve removed the log…you’ll find that there was even no speck in the eye you were staring at.

image

A lesson to learn and re-learn.

Don’t be quick to judge. You might be the culprit in your own court.

DS

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SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS/Stories from boarding school Pt.10

In school, I was adventurous in a lot of aspects but when it came to girls, relationships and “toasting”, I was “cool, calm and collected”. Not because I really was cool, calm and collected but because I didn’t have “liver”.

As a teenage boy, definitely, there were girls I was “tripping” for, but it was like only boys knew I existed. When I look back, it was like I could only see the girls but they couldn’t see me, especially the ones that I would have wanted to even at least notice me.

In our school, we had an area between the dining hall and the gate of the girls’ hostel that we called LA, short for “Lovers’ Avenue”. It was here that guys and girls “blocked”. All manner of perfume and body sprays would be in the air. It would be dark except for the moonlight most times. When I first got to Idoani, I found it quite funny to discover that some seniors used to brush their lips, in addition to their teeth, before going for their LA dates. I tried to brush my lips a few times too but got tired of it. Nobody to “toast”.

There was one time like that. I had a crush on one of these girls. All I could do was fantasize that she was mine….but to brace up and approach her, I just couldn’t find it in me to do. Oh….how I really praise the guys who, back then, had their way with girls. I wished I had their super-powers.

So, one day, I came up with a crazy plan. I would compose a “love letter” and go and drop it in the class locker of my crush. I cannot clearly remember which class we were then. Maybe JSS3 or SSS1.

So that evening, I, by myself, with my “destiny” in my hands, took a walk from the hostel to the classroom blocks, and tried to identify her locker. I kept searching but suddenly became confused which locker was hers.

Well, *I cannot categorically tell you one (reason) now*, whether it was because I wasn’t sure which locker was hers, or whether because I still lacked the courage to do this thing, all I can say is that I still didn’t drop the letter. I went back to the hostel depressed. I think I tore the letter on my way to the hostel after reading it one last time.

It is very funny to me now.

Next gist.

One of the qualities that formed in me from boarding school was learning to be independent, realising that everyone is for himself.

I remember the school farm.

There was one session (likely the JSS3 year) when we were given portions on the school farm as part of practical work credit requirements for our Agricultural Science class. By the way, I hated Agric Sci. then; so many things to cram from the voluminous notes: Advantages & Disadvantages.

The portions were strips of land, measuring 20 metres in length and maybe about a foot, or more, in width. Side by side were our portions. We were to prepare the land for planting. Maize planting. The preparation of the land was the whole nine yards. Clearing, Ploughing, Making heaps and every other necessary activity. And then the planting.

I had never been given such a task in my life. I was like, “How will it happen?” I watched as some guys skillfully took on the task, clearing and uprooting grass and stumps, like they knew what they were doing and the kind of work wasn’t strange to them.

I think we had a deadline of maybe a week or two. I eventually got around to my portion. At the end of the day, I was proud of what I did. Even if my heaps/ridges weren’t as impressive as those of some other students, I was still impressed with myself.

It was an experience worth keeping memory of.

Lastly, for now, in our JSS3 NECO exams, in the Fine Art paper, there was a question like this: ‘Draw one of the sandals you have on your feet.’

Ah…ah… What kind of question is this.

I looked around me. Because we were arranged alphabetically then, according to our surnames, I wrote my exams with the S-Z surnamed students around me. So I looked around me and saw people had put their sandals on the table in front of them drawing like professionals.

“This is serious!!”, I thought to myself “Is this how I am going to fail Fine Art?!” It was an afternoon paper. I think I was sweating, with a slight headache. I felt stranded. I foolishly asked a guy to my left whose surname starts with U to help me draw. He didn’t even answer me. He just looked at me and kept on with his work. Arrgghh…!

You know the worst part? Hmm. I didn’t even have sandals on! I think I wore bathroom slippers to the exam hall that afternoon…or something like that. Seeing that I had no one else but myself, I started to draw from my imagination…and I drew a beautiful imaginary sandal…but I still had a P(Pass) in that subject. The only subject I had a P in, in JSCE.

Story-Story.

DS

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SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE

There is a concept I’ve been actively, but informally, studying for sometime now through past examples and everyday experience. It’s what Robert Greene calls “social intelligence”.

In my understanding, it means being aware & conscious of what people want and making a bit of an effort to satisfy those little, sometimes seemingly vain, longings when you can afford to and still get what you want in the process.

People will always be people. There is nothing anybody can do about that. Whether you are able to see it or not, there are dynamics that play out in relationships, among people and in society; such dynamics being driven by people’s sentiments, expectations and their culture.

Have you ever seen a situation where someone, who seems to have brilliant ideas, is always resisted? Or, maybe you have personally been misunderstood even though you had good intentions. Or, in trying to ‘be yourself’, you inadvertently offended some person(s)’ sensibilities. Or when you feel you are doing others good and yet they hate you for it.

Funny, isn’t it? Yeah. Funny, but it can also be frustrating for the person who experiences the rejection, attacks and persecution that defies the logic he thinks should be in place (instead) for appreciating his ideas.

This is what makes the case for the relevance of social intelligence.

I discovered that certain things we overlook and ignore in our relationships and interaction with others may actually be the oil that keeps such lubricated. When we wonder why there seems to be so much friction (which cannot be logically explained) in our interaction with others, it could simply be the disregard of a simple courtesy or need. Sometimes, you may even have to do things you consider as irrelevant. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to realise that this has wide application: family, work, politics .etc

You know, sometimes, you wonder why there was so much provocation by a simple slip-up from you. Look more closely into how you have related.

For those willing to experiment, you would be surprised at how quickly the mood of a relationship could transform with a little change in your attitude to constantly address that ‘little thing’ you have always assumed was not important and yet could afford to do without any real or virtual loss on your part.

From henceforth, pay attention to what makes people happy, what makes them tick. Some people just want basic respect, yet you say “But, we are friends!” Friends are people too. Some want attention. Some, non-interference. Some, gratitude. Some, a little care. Some don’t like to be made to feel ignorant or to feel less.

I am not in support of licking people’s feet in the name of social intelligence and going ‘beyond yourself’ to satisfy others. Maybe not everybody can be ‘friends’ anyway. As I have indicated above, things you can afford to do that don’t take anything from you, yet have significant positive impact on how you are perceived and how your relationship fares.

That’s how it is.

DS

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MARRIAGE: MY OWN PERSPECTIVE

When it comes to writing, my usual fear is this, “Do I know what I’m talking about?” This tends to make me keep many thoughts to myself that I could otherwise have expressed in public statements like this.

Though I am still a young unmarried man, and have no direct experience of marriage yet, being a bona fide member of my society, locally and globally, I have come to have a certain understanding and perspective which I have not always had, and which is certainly still open to modification as I continue to grow.

How do I see marriage?

I see marriage as a contract between two responsible and consenting adults; a contract comes with terms and agreements, and ceases to operate when one of the parties chooses to act contrary to the agreements, except order can be reinstituted.

I don’t think everyone is worthy of marriage. Neither do I think marriage is a necessity. I think marriage, as a social institution, requires certain attitudes to work, attitudes that some find very difficult to imbibe.

Also, I don’t think marriage must be absolutely binding. I understand that it has its benefits when marriages stay intact for life…and it is actually more beneficial for marriages to last than for them to be terminated.

However, a lot of ‘couples’ in society who still pose as married are not married anymore in the real sense of what the union is supposed to be.

There are many exceptions that should make the continuity of a marriage of less priority in the given situations.

If not just anybody can be or remain your business partner when it comes to your money matters, why should just anybody be or remain your marital partner when it comes to your life matters?

For instance, for a couple that is supposed to be married and you find the woman being abused and manhandled by the man to the point that her very life is threatened and yet the society encourages such women to remain submitted to such men and remain ‘married’ to them. What kind of thing is that. That is, keeping two people together as ‘married’ is more important than the life of one of them. What if one of them dies at the hand of the other…what happens to the marriage? Is it not only the living that can marry?

Abuse has so many dimensions. It doesn’t have to be physical. Disloyalty, Unfaithfulness, Disrespect, Selfishness, Witchcraft and outright wickedness.

I agree that marriage is a union of humans…which means it won’t be perfect…but then I think there should be a limit to the abuses that can be tolerated in the name of ‘sanctity of marriage’.

It’s just disheartening what men and women alike go through in trying to maintain the ‘social decorum’ of staying in a union that no longer even qualifies as a marriage contract.

There are also cases where people rely on advice from family, relatives, religious leaders and members of same religious bodies and also the use of prayers to change the heart of the partner and the course of the ‘marriage’. Is it really worth it? To make yourself that vulnerable by engaging in ‘spiritual battles’ when the situation requires more pragmatism?

What’s more ironic is that those who are victims of these abuses defend their partners and give them chance after chance to prove the illusion that they have that ‘it’s not their partner’s fault’.

More often than not, signals to an abusive partner and marriage are evident in courtship, but we overlook a lot in the heat of the combustion of emotional chemistry. For most stories of abusive marriages I have heard and read, and had the chance to know about the courtship stage of those unions, I discovered that the signs were always there…but blissfully ignored. Too bad.

In summary, my position is this.

By trying to zealously guard against the ‘desecration’ of the institution of marriage, we have done more harm than good to the institution of marriage and to the society. We have elevated to a horrible and inhumane level the extent of ‘evils’ that should be contained within a ‘marriage’. We have redefined marriage to accommodate things that were not supposed to be heard of in a marriage.

I believe in marriage, but like every other matter, it should be done with wisdom, right from the process of selecting a partner to the experience of being in a marriage union.

I rest my case.

DS

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SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS/Stories from boarding school Pt. 9

Adolescence is a period wherein you are still trying and struggling to form your worldview and self-concept. It is a period of questioning and adventure. That this phase of one’s life usually coincides with secondary school days brings some significance to that period.

One of the challenges I had to struggle with in school was the conflict between boarding school culture, school regulations, religious demands and my conscience.

As a boarder in FGC Idoani, and as you must have seen from this series so far, I lied and flouted school rules; I cooked (using juniors’ metal buckets and dismantled wooden lockers for firewood), I used illegal routes to get out of school, I was deliberately absent from some school activities several times and many more. I enjoyed ‘worldly songs’.

So, there was something funny I (and a lot of people) used to do then that still makes me laugh. Most of the Sundays, when we attended chapel services, and the altar call was made for those who wanted to be born-again, I would always come out. I was just a sinner and I thought I needed to constantly update my salvation in case rapture took place during the following week…who knows. After sometime, I calmed down. ‘Maybe God understands that Idoani is a special case’, I told myself.

In fact, I remember that when I first resumed into the school in JSS 1, and saw how old-looking some of our seniors were, I just hastily concluded that six years was going to be a long time (going by how people in SSS 3 looked) and that the rapture was likely to have taken place before I got anywhere close to that ultimate class.

Well, I eventually reached SSS 3; it was like a miracle.

Back in the hostel, I think we slept on 5 by 7 mattresses, or so. These mattresses existed in liquid to gaseous states. I say so because they could disappear at any point in time. You would just return to your bunk and find it empty. What a way for the night to start. You either start looking for it…and God help you…because it may have even been taken to a faraway hostel block, intentionally. As in, people go from one block to another to steal mattress so they could sleep on. Or, instead of going to look for your mattress that night, you could steal another person’s mattress. Actually….some stole to sell it off. That serious! If you are lucky, you end up seeing your mattress three days later two blocks away underneath another mattress because the person who stole yours stole two and slept on the two at once. Only him.

Another fate that could befall mattresses was that they could finish. Right. Finish! As soon as the cloth on your mattress has a hole, that’s the end…except you quickly sew it up. The foam inside is material for many day-to-day activities…so we just keep tearing and cutting the foam of the mattress till it is no more. The foam may be used for cleaning shoes/sandals, washing/cleaning plates, setting fire to a dump of refuse or a stack of firewood, eliminating a train of soldier-ants (that have paid us overnight visits to partake of spoils of oily food wrappers/containers) using fire-foams, and so on. I even once smoked foam! Trash.

We kept stuff in the ceilings, broke asbestos, wrote our nicknames/roll calls on asbestos and walls with candle flame.

We lived. It was an experience.

DS

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SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS/Stories from boarding school Pt.8

I’m grateful to God for memories.

I also appreciate the privilege to share them.

I am especially pleased that this series has been received by a wide audience all over the world over the last few weeks.

To have lived in a community as a boarder in FGC Idoani was a unique experience, an unforgettable one.

I still remember the layout and topography of the entire school compound. The hostels, multipurpose hall, new and old girls’ hostels, borehole area, staff quarters, health centre, tuck shop, labs, school field, admin block, school farm and classroom blocks.

I remember the people, school authority, teachers, house masters, sports masters, fellow house members, friends, pals, cooks, .etc

I remember the daily schedule of activities, the student slangs and traditions, the hunger and thirst, the beatings and errands, the adventures, myths and fables, religious experiences, jokes, games, fights and so on.

I remember that after I left Idoani, I wished there had been a video recording of all my 5 years, 8 months life there. Memories so inexhaustible. Moments so numerous.

There was no tribalism nor religious discrimination. No politics. At least from my experience and what I can remember. However, it was still a community of humans. We were not perfect. There was wickedness, greed, selfishness, theft, betrayal, backbiting, hatred, hooliganism, violence, terror, homosexuality, fornication, lying, bullying, rumour mongering, insensitivity, everyone-for-himself survival-of-the-fittest and ridiculing one another.

On the other hand, there was also love, brotherhood, teamwork, cooperation, helping one another, sharing, generosity, friendship, intelligence, creativity, responsibility, dutifulness, hardwork, positive influence, joy & happiness, mourning, growth & edification, maturity, good counsel and great memories.

It was like every human community. There will always be virtues and vices coexisting and we got along well.

I remember some games we played in the hostel. Card games, board games and football games. I liked card games a lot, especially JACKPOT & WHOT.

I remember the tuck shop where we bought stuff. Even some of the things that were contraband in the school prospectus were openly sold there like ‘Sardine’ and ‘Geisha’. A loaf of bread sold for N6. A wrap of groundnut for N2. That tuck shop was one crowded and dark room with benches. Like every human community, there was economic stratification and at our level then, looking back now, the things we used to determine who was poor, middle class and rich are amusing. How consistently you can patronized tuck shop & what you bought was one of them.

Then there were some crazy seniors who could send you from the hostel to go and buy something for them from tuck shop, after giving you N20 and giving you a ‘list of items’ to buy worth N100. Traditionally…you were not expected to protest the discrepancy but just make up from the deficit.

There were several mechanisms juniors used to hide money. Inner small pockets sewn behind the beltline of the trouser, a slit in the belt, pockets of inner shorts, in your socks, inside your shirt .etc. All these trouble because your money can be ‘obtained’ from you.

To be continued.

DS

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