Little things, Musings

Give and take? Receive and give

Benjamin Enekhai started a blog some years ago and he called it ‘Cogito ergo sum’. I think therefore I am. I got an invite to the blog and I was bemused with the name. Descartes had coined that phrase in latin before latin was left to only the Catholic church. And Benjamin has always been a latin freak [at least for my almost non – existent level of latin].

I think therefore I am. A going from the subjective to the objective, from one’s reason to the tangible world. It’s what we call rationalism today. And we are the products – all of us! because we are children of our time. Don’t we try to fit reality to our own way of thinking? Look around you; see and appreciate the widespread individualism. I think – it’s I, me, myself. I’m not only in the centre. I’m the centre!

So Java, aren’t you exaggerating? I am. Each one bears the individualism in varying degrees. I know and I live with many people who are more selfless than individualistic. Or who are at least trying to be. My friend Benjamin belongs to that category. That’s why I was bemused. And I told him so – ‘I know you, my bro. And I think this title is not the best for a blog owned by you’.  He accepted. The blog was renamed – Nemo dat quod non habet. No one [can] gives what he doesn’t have. That phrase stuck with me – so simple yet so profound. Active voice, present tense; easy to remember. I can’t give what I don’t have. Neither can you. It’s that straightforward.

But I want to. I want to give time, an open ear, joy, hope, peace, smiles, encouragement, understanding, faith, Christ. The spiritual intangible goods are harder to give. It’s a paradox. They don’t diminish by being given; yet we rarely find them given.

Let’s go back to cogito. I think, therefore I am. I’ve tried it before. We’re a self – sufficient bunch right? Add to that a strong choleric temperament and you have me. I’ve tried it before. I’ll do this by myself – when she come in, I’ll smile at her. I’ll not nag him. I’ll try to see things from her point of view. I’ll share her joy instead of being envious [the bad envy eh!]. I’ve tried and I have failed.

Existentially speaking, cogito ergo sum didn’t take me far. Until I met Cogitor. I found it in a theology manual. Cogitor ergo sum. Passive voice, present tense. I am thought of; therefore I am. It thrusts me back to objectivity. I am not the centre. I don’t have to do everything. I also have to receive. I have received my being, my existence from something, from someone outside of me. I can receive time, an open ear, etc., from someone, from others. And then I’ll have.  Then I can give. Better still, if I’m open to constantly receive, I can also constantly give out of my overflow.  Without this, nemo dat quod non habet. You can’t give what you don’t have.

 

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ART, Little things, Pixpers

Transformation

I once heard that no one eats with their mouth

Children eat with their eyes;

Young people with their stomach

Adults with their head.

WARNING;  mouthwatering presentation. Risk of hunger afterwards.

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Okay so, where are these pictures from? Most of them were made by me in collaboration with others. It was such a delight last summer to learn to transform the usual fruits and vegetables into such lovelies.

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Little things, Musings

DRINKS AND THE SOUND OF MUSIC

My first contact with the sound of music was thanks to Mrs. Togonu – Bickersteth, the vice principal of my Federal College. That day, without previous warning – at least to the students – the academic staff had gone on strike and we were bereft of classes. To help us take advantage of that free time, the vice principal invited all the girls to the school hall to see the musical. I had to leave with other day students half way through. This was in 2001.

Over the years, I have seen clips of it on TV, listened to my friends sing some of the songs, sang doe, a deer, a female deer in music class at school; but I never got to see the movie from start to finish. Until recently. With the birthday of Amanda.

Amanda, my friend from Hong Kong, wanted a big birthday bash. So we went all out for it. A good homemade buffet, thanks to the Administration of my residence, a make-shift bar with a proper bar tender to boot and a movie! From the dining room, we went, cock – tails in hand, to the sitting room, to see the sound of music. At last! I’ve always considered it a beautiful story and a great movie; sitting through it now didn’t diminish my high regard for it.

At the Bar

Yesterday, I put down the book behind the musical. It’s called the story of the Von Trapp family singers. The musical is only a taste of the icing. Maria von Trapp, the novice turned wife and mother, recounts in a very wonderful way the family’s trip cum flight to the USA and the fight they had to put up to live a dignified life in their new country. It’s an extraordinary book that tells the ordinary life of a family of 12. The episodes that shine out are few in number. But neither are there any dull moment.

Maria writes of the hard work, their joys, their rehearsals, their different singing tours, their faith in God, etc. Along the way, there are many who cross their path and many of these stay on as part of the family. There are the various friends who welcome this new group of immigrants – yes because Baron Von Trapp was just one more Austrian immigrant – and help them with their first tottering steps in making a life for themselves in the States.

Maria also demonstrate her understanding and respect for those who saw things differently from the Von Trapp family. I was very impressed by the way she writes about the Austrian Relief Fund; an NGO started by the family in 1947 to send aid back to their ailing nation at the end of World War II. They publicized it during each of their concerts asking their listeners for donations to send to the needy in Austria. Maria mentions that many of the responses were positive; the participants were usually much moved and gave a lot the next day. But there were also negative and even violent responses. In some cities, some in the audience complained that they had come to listen to good music and to relax and not to be burdened with the world’s problem. A very legitimate opinion. But read what Maria writes next

With time, she says, we got to respect those views too and to ask the opinions of the organizers before the concert if we could publicize our Austrian Relief fund and if we could expect a positive response from the audience. From then on, we received only positive feedback from our audience.

They didn’t shy away from their NGO in order to keep up their singing fame. Nor are there any negative comments in return for each of the negative responses they received. They tackle the issue the right way – with dialogue and with a lot of charity and respect for those at the other end of the table. I’m definitely picking up one or two tips from this.

Now the Von Trapp family still have to ‘contend’ with the millions of fans of the sound of music, some of whom visit their Lodge in Vermont, who firmly believe that the reality was exactly as the musical; which it is not, I assure you. The directors of the Sound of Music knew their stuff. They have given us a classic and if I’m writing this blog post after reading the true story, it is thanks to them. Without the musical, the book wouldn’t have called out to me when I first saw it. But life is richer than a two – hour long musical which gives us ‘the end’ after the fifth chapter of a more than twenty – chaptered book.

Have you seen the musical and didn’t even know that the book existed? Well then, it’s not too late. You’ll truly get good value for your money. For those in my shoes who have read the book and seen the musical, I’ll like to hear from you! Am I alone or do you see things the same way?

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Little things

Hangout with dodo

Assina and Java

Hangout – to spend time doing nothing in particular.

I challenge that definition. My hangout was very particular. I spent it dodolising! Assina had invited me to an ‘African’ lunch. Normally, I’m ‘allergic’ to the word African. It brings all the ‘horrors’ of the generalization to my head. Like; I’m going to Africa or There’s an African on the queue, Anyway, I have decided that anyone who still generalizes like this is not updated and it’s up to me to add to their cultural knowledge.

Capture

For eg. – Nigeria vs Italy.

So it’s usually a smile and a

‘Oh really. Which country in Africa?

‘An African? Does she speak English or French? At least if she speak French, that leaves us with 31 out of the 54 countries in Africa.

Back to our lunch o jare. Assina is Congolese and she was going to introduce me to two Congolese friends. So when she said African and added lunch to it, I packed up my fight and left it at home. Let’s eat lunch in peace o. Fight will come later.

Assina Kahamba, Congo JAVA

That’s how I arrived there to find my friend bustling around in the kitchen – heating up the chicken, frying the dodo, making some salad. Oya now, where are the two friends? Friend ni, friends ko. I was transported to the biblical parable where the King’s guests turned down the invitation to the royal wedding for unreasonable reasons.

One friend had just woken up. Eh, we’re in summer and it’s a Saturday. Agreed! The other had forgotten the directions to Assina’s place. It’s alright. Two’s company and three is a crowd sometimes. So we consoled ourselves and sat down to the plate of dodo made for four. And we gisted – about moving our respective countries forward, of Assina’s job in Congo as the Director of Formation in a school in Kinshasa, of the joy of living and of cooking, of eating healthy, of my sister Oge who’s expecting her third baby, of my summer plans, of everything! Did we have a swell time? You tell me!

Dedicated: to the two dear Congolese who couldn’t come. Ope o! Thanks for not showing up. See you some other time.

 

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Little things, Pixpers

Ordinarily great? Yes!

The Church celebrates one of her greatest saints of the 20th century today. He’s St. Josemaria, patron saint of ordinary life. It’s my kind of life, it’s your kind of life too! God, Family, work, friends, parties, moments of solitude…  just name it.

Unfortunately it may, and sometimes it does include war, quarrels, being a refugee, moments of despair, moments when it feels that you just can’t go on, loneliness in the midst of crowds, etc. Even in those circumstances, You are not alone. There God waits for me, for you, to find Him, so that together, the burden can be borne.

St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei

St. Josemaria, Image in San Salvatore Lauro, Rome

St. Josemaria, pray for us so that, like you, we may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of our lives into opportunities to love God and to serve all souls.

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