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Looking back at 2017 through a 'camera lens'

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.’

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


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