Wednesday, 26 April 2017

“El Sol sale para todos,” “the sun shines for everyone.”

Grace Abaho Sr

We cannot live lives of other people but we can be authentically ourselves by the lives that give us a definition of hope, a look beyond the abyss we might be into, a way through our messy lives and a path to the bright side of life. Often the unfortunate part, we are blinded into the thoughts of repetitively thinking that somewhat, rock bottom is our place to stay, that as long as nobody lifts us up, we are never going to make it through: that is a lie, rock bottom is not a conclusion, it is a foundation. Yes, you may need someone but the first person you need for self-liberation is you. At times your help, even the one you expect so much, so soon, may take so long to come through, or even never. Once you pick your stead, tell your story, this is what this article is about— that a Paradox is also a way of being that’s key to wholeness, which does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus once said, “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship,” let me be your friend herein.

There are so many times when I reflect on what I longed to be as a child and who I am today, where I am, honestly; sometimes, it is frail but one profound truth remains: I found myself and I can give a part of me that is good, at any rate. There is no god-send picture of myself that I will present, or have ever presented; it is a message straight out of my heart: the explanation is creativity embedded in artistry. Yes, the common traits that people across all creative fields seem to have in common are an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.

“…I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk. And among these people, if they are faithful to their own calling, to their own vocation, and to their own message from God, communication on the deepest level is possible. And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech and beyond concept.”The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

Healthy reminder is: things do not always work out so well, of course. History is full of tragically failed visions of possibility, and the more profound the vision, the more likely we are to fall short of achieving it. But even here, Merton has a word of hope for us, a paradoxical word, of course:

“…do not depend on the hope of results. …you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”

In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.

Our masochistic impulse for self-criticism, he argues, arises from the fact that ambivalence is the basic condition of our lives. In a passage that builds on his memorable prior reflections on the paradox of why frustration is necessary for satisfaction in romance, Phillips considers Freud’s ideological legacy:

In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings.


Love and hate — a too simple, or too familiar, vocabulary, and so never quite the right names for what we might want to say — are the common source, the elemental feelings with which we apprehend the world; and they are interdependent in the sense that you can’t have one without the other, and that they mutually inform each other. The way we hate people depends on the way we love them, and vice versa. And given that these contradictory feelings are our ‘common source’ they enter into everything we do. They are the medium in which we do everything. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.

We may not be able to imagine a life in which we don’t spend a large amount of our time criticizing ourselves and others; but we should keep in mind the self-love that is always in play.If we give in to fears that come with lowest of the lows, it is so often very easy to assume that those who “have it all” are okay but beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression. 

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice—the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish—becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice—from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs—has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.
 “In the course of studying learned helplessness in humans, Seligman found that it tends to be associated with certain ways of thinking about events that form what he termed a person’s "explanatory style."  The three major components of explanatory style associated with learned helplessness are permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization
Permanence refers to the belief that negative events and/or their causes are permanent, even when evidence, logic, and past experience indicate that they are probably temporary ("Amy hates me and will never be my friend again" vs. "Amy is angry with me today"; "I’ll never be good at math"). 
Pervasiveness refers to the tendency to generalize so that negative features of one situation are thought to extend to others as well ("I’m stupid" vs. "I failed a math test" or "nobody likes me" vs. "Janet didn’t invite me to her party"). 
Personalization, the third component of explanatory style, refers to whether one tends to attribute negative events to one’s own flaws or to outside circumstances or other people. While it is important to take responsibility for one’s mistakes, persons suffering from learned helplessness tend to blame themselves for everything, a tendency associated with low self-esteem and depression. The other elements of explanatory style–permanence and pervasiveness–can be used as gauges to assess whether the degree of self-blame over a particular event or situation is realistic and appropriate.
The last word: Expressing emotion when you’ve gone through extreme pain is not weakness. It is humanity. For every man that willfully shares a story, or an insight, be thankful—even if it makes you mad in the heat of the moment, just think about it, hopefully you will something—always.

Saturday, 22 April 2017


Every time I see Besigye smiling, I smile
Every time I hear he is well, I pray for better days
Every time he is tortured, I stand out to his plight
Every time he is jailed, I see the hypocrisy of the jailer
Every time he has a court appearance, I wait for the next lie they have against him
Every day that passes, I don't get it:
Why is a man the Museveni government claims lost the election; so popular than the one they foist on us?

When will justice be served?
Shall the president of the people continue to be harrased?
All these questions I don't have immediate as answers,
But I know: it takes us, the people.
Don't demonize us.
Don't torture us.

Don't take our Patience for stupidity.
Don't think its okay to suffer at your expensive.
The Museveni government,do you copy?
                                                 -Grace Abaho Sr.  ©For Dr.Besigye

Now about Museveni’s slew of lies,they can go on and on if I were to begin. I will singularly deal with one lie he told in the 80’s: ‘the problem of Africa is leaders who hinge to power”—(PS: remember, you can never get a second chance at making a first impression).This, about leaders that Museveni said is both true and false—it is true that actually they are a problem and a lie because he told it to take advantage of the people. Sadly the lie saw him to power, that’s how he won the war with just 27 men. And today, Museveni calls these people rats, mad men and all the other names you can imagine that are horrible.

You tell me: who said Africa has a problem of leaders who hinge to power? (see Museveni),who has refused to go?(see Museveni),who lied and has lied and lied?(see Museveni),who is thwarting the will of the people and is defiling the constitution right, left and center(see Museveni). Basically, that’s the erosion of civil liberties.

I can’t be party to that sort of moral silence that shortchanges both our rights and our future:it has to be common sense logic against Museveni’s trickery and concealment. The rule of the law is not rhetoric; it is the very fibre that binds a society together. Government’s core mission should be to protect the right to life and liberty of all the people but the current administration has decided to willfully allow some to blatantly ignore the laws to suit their political agenda making itself derelict in its duty to protect its citizens. Are you going to keep watching and let this happen? If you do, that’s your fault, we need to know defiance is an option for those who have been abused again and again—it has to be us against them. When the water starts boiling, it is foolish to turn off the heat. Advocacy beyond this line can feel like pale tea to those who have lived their whole lives below it but that’s all you have, your call

As I wrote earlier, if you and I shake the honest nest, Museveni is a very toxic leader, the direct opposite of Dr. Besigye: A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create conditions under which other people must live and move and theirbeing, conditions that can neither be eliminating or shadowy as hell. A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her own self, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good. Political leaders, parents, clergy have potential to cast as much shadow as they do light. Refusing to face the dark side of leadership makes them abuse more likely. All too often leaders ‘do not even know they’re making a choice, let alone how to reflect on the choice of choosing’

Claremont graduate professor Jean Lipman_Bluman uses the term toxic leaders to describe those who engage in destructive behaviors and those who engage in dysfunctional charateristics .At the same time; derailed leaders act vs. the interests of the subordinates and the organization; they bully, manipulate, deceive and harass followers; they may be stealing from the organization, engaging in fraudulent activities and doing less than expected. Constructive leaders, on the other hand, care about subordinates and help the organization achieve its goals while using its resources.Havard professor Barbara Kellerman believes that limiting leadership solely to good leadership ignores the reality that a great too many leaders engage in destructive behaviors. Overlooking that fact, Kellerman says, undermines our attempts to promote good leadership not by ignoring bad leadership, nor by presuming that it is immutable, but rather by attacking it as we would a disease that’s always pernicious and sometimes deadly”
The former President of the United States Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘the government should fear its citizens’ .Our government, on the contrary, laughs at us. It raises enormous hand and says, ‘go to hell’. It isn’t even trying to pretend anymore—what I would hope, what I would call for is a peaceful yet drastic change in how we function as citizens. We should be utterly unforgiving of corruption and entrenched injustice and we should make government officials guilty of such indiscretions pay dearly for it. The renowned Ai Wei Wei eloquently warns us that, “If you don’t act; the danger becomes stronger”., this has been proven a thousand times every day of our lives: things are not getting any better, it’s crazy when people instead cheer on steady regress as steady progress, a very scary situation to be bystanders to.

Thursday, 20 April 2017


Photo Credit
The Question of who messed up in the relationship always finds a very quick accusing finger; it is the person telling the story of a heartbreak that ultimately has the answer: suggesting the other party screwed up everything. This is both true and false, for the most part; it is the accusing finger that really messed up stuff. We should get used to taking the blame, we should unlearn looking for someone to blame, and we ought to learn to love: loving is learned, it is mastered, and it is a repetitive cycle of working very hard to be better lovers.

I think it takes a long time to find an article that resonates well on love. When I find one, I wish every one of us that aims at being a better love reads it, because love is the most important and strongest force on earth. We want beautiful pure adulterated love but we are so lazy to make an effort to earn it, we forget love needs some effort, some refute that but here’s the reality especially when everything goes ripe over the bend: these were our choices, every step of the way, and that state which we’ve found ourselves falling in and out of is not real love. Real love is an act of will. A decision. A conscious activity. It is something you do and live. Love is chosen, and if it is protected and nurtured, it grows. Love is sacrifice. Love is effort. Love is everything St. Paul describes in First Corinthians, and especially in Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.” Love is dying to the self. Love is many things, and none of them happen by accident.

We are poor lovers because we have been taught to love the wrong way, we have been taught the wrong verbs and adjectives to spell the word love: we are poor receptors and givers of love. Sugarcoating love doesn’t cut, it makes love more vulnerable: love is a journey full of tidal waves. It can be tough, ugly and it can be smooth. I love to look at love like a Poem, and this analogy often brings me to what Gwendolyn Brooks gave to her students as a piece of advice, In writing your poem, tell the truth as you know it. Tell your truth. Don’t try to sugar it up. Don’t force your poem to be nice or proper or normal or happy if it does not want to be. Remember that poetry is life distilled and that life is not always nice or proper or normal or happy or smooth or even-edged.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017


There are people in our lives who discourage us from pursuing our dreams, often because they have given up on theirs. Ironically, you have to smack them awake by becoming a ray of hope to them as you move on with yours. People need to see the forest through the trees. Don’t confuse motion with progress. A 'rocking' horse keeps moving but doesn’t make any progress. Age brings losses and perspective, I guess, today when laid eyes on this, I saw only blessings. After all these years, I am sane enough to notice that none of us is perfect; 'we trust our instincts as we fight our daily fights, some we win, some we don’t-but some we will only know in time. But we live each night and day hopeful that  today's sacrifices have worth it—that our instincts haven't led us astray, we do our best because this journey is worth our best—dare to be.

In his book, Man's Search for meaning, Viktor Frankaal writes: everything can be taken from a man but one,the last of human freedoms, to choose one's way in any given set of circumstances. Basically, at my youthful age, I think I have lived through enough challenges, hopelessness  and deceit from this cruel world to know those are some of the most beautiful words I have read, although they are from the story about an incarceration camp experience, the profound truth is:we all go through hell.This might sound like a merely convenient – and sentimental – thing to say. But it is soberly true and the proof lies in an area we know very well: literature. Novels are stories of other people that we don’t mind hearing; because they are also, at their best, stories that teach us about ourselves. The reason why so-called great writers are interesting to listen to (even when they talk about themselves) is that they have mastered the trick of teasing out from their experiences what is Universally Relevant from what is Locally Specific.

We have been taught to fear, to feel we are not enough, to succumb to the whims of society and lose our voice in this world: that’s not what you ought to do, you were not sent here to be just a follower, lead too. Be meek, all the time, but don’t be a rag for someone, have your seat, bring your ideas to the table, make someone listen, that’s why you were sent here in this world, not be a slave to someone else’s hostility but to be you, to be a voice on your own and if you can, for someone who shares your plight: that’s the essence of being.

You may need an anthem to keep you in shape, you may need something to keep you in perspective, all you have to remember is just one thing, to be you: We cannot change the presence of an enemy, but we can change what an enemy means to us: these figures can shift from being devoted, impartial agents of the truth about one’s right to exist to being – more sanely – people who have an opinion, probably only ever a bit right, about something we once did, and never about who we are (that is something only we decide)

Somewhere we learn, the origins of the voice of the inner judge is simple to trace: it is an internalization of the voice of people who were once outside us. We absorb the tones of contempt and indifference or charity and warmth that we will have heard across our formative years. Our heads are cavernous spaces and pretty much all of us have voices echoing within them. Sometimes, a voice is positive and benign, encouraging us to run those final few yards: ‘you’re nearly there, keep going, and keep going’. But more often, the inner voice is not very nice at all. It is defeatist and punitive, panic-ridden and humiliating. It doesn’t represent anything like our best insights or most mature capacities. We find ourselves saying: ‘You disgust me, things always go to shit with someone like you.’

An inner voice was always once an outer voice that we have – imperceptibly – made our own. We’ve absorbed the tone of a kind and gentle caregiver, who liked to laugh indulgently at our foibles and had endearing names for us. Or else the voice of a harassed or angry parent; the menacing threats of an elder sibling keen to put us down; the words of a schoolyard bully or a teacher who seemed impossible to please. 

And certainly we end succumbing to the pressures of this background noise; we forget to do the most important thing for the moment, to recite ourselves a phrase like this one that I have found handy: ‘Kings and philosophers shit and so do ladies’. A helpful reminder that everyone who intimidates us is, at heart, very much like us in their underlying vulnerabilities. And therefore not really so frightening at all.

Like I wrote in the previous article about darkness and light, most people fear the dark, yet they love to read about stories or watch movies of people who rise from the darkest of places. I will say it again, you cannot know light if you don’t know darkness. If you don’t take this for the truth, you confuse light and darkness.

All the time, we are humanly thinking about how good we are and whether, if God came back today, we would go to Heaven: the underlying question is one, am I a good man? The answer most people bring forth is a lie; they are either playing the defensive in a bid to avoid their demons or underrating themselves in a society so wasted out, just to fit in.

Here is the catch, be a warm person. But there’s another – more realistic and more important – vision of what a good man is like that’s (comparatively) been given very much less attention and creative encouragement. This is the very opposite of the cool man, what we call: the warm man.

The warm man does not put out many fires by himself. He hasn’t killed anyone either. He is, instead, very much alive to his own anxiety. He would drop the gun and would tell you quite candidly he had done so. What is distinctive, and admirable, is his relationship to his anxiety. He is aware of it, honest about it, funny with it – and yet not overwhelmed by it.The warm man has a good sense of how demented and fragile we all are. So he goes out of his way to reassure, to be forgiving and to be gentle. He has tried very hard, at times, to get things to work out better for himself but it frequently hasn’t worked. The warm man has known many sorrows: he has done stupid things, he has lost people he loved, he has made daft decisions. His weaknesses have made him immensely generous to others.

When the waiter spills the cocktail, the warm hero laughs (he has spilled a few  himself) and leaves a generous tip if he can. When he forgets someone’s name (which he does quite often) the warm hero is ashamed but frank and says – sincerely – ‘I’m really sorry, and very embarrassed, but it’s slipped my mind… forgive me, help me out…’ . When they’ve messed up at work, the warm person admits it, feels sorry, openly apologizes and explains as best he can what actually went wrong and how he might be put it right in future.The essence of the warm man is vulnerability well-handled; he is conscious of his flaws and failings but uses this knowledge to become interestingly humorous and a rich source of sympathy for the secret troubles of every life he encounters.

Montaigne, the popular essayist  – in the 16th century he wrote candidly about his fears of impotence, his tendency to belch at inopportune moments, and his love for his father; he was filled with self-doubt (his favorite phrase was ‘what do I know?’) and was ashamed of, and yet honest about, his own blunders, laziness and lack of career success.

The Last word: Make a mark, do not leave a scar. I would be the last person to toot my own horn because surely, what i have learned through the years is this universal truth: all of us—every one of us—has the opportunity to serve, even in the midst of personal heartache