Milestones and Fond Memories: My Happiest Memory

I had just finished my Advanced Level (A-Level) examinations and one of my wishes was to obtain a  government scholarship to pursue journalism at the local university. A previous application had been turned down due to a lack of A-Level qualifications and I was hopeful of a second attempt. Two A-Level principal passes and a subsidiary were the minimum requirements for the government scholarship. The results were due the morning of Monday, October 10, 2022, and the anxiety was high. I had kept myself busy volunteering at the local administrator’s office offering copywriting and transcription services. On the particular morning that the results were due, I had just arrived at the administrator’s office waiting for the secretary to provide me with the day’s tasks. A huge government-registered double-cabin pick-up, a Toyota Tacoma, pulled up in the parking lot overlooking the office that we had occupied.

“Who is that big shot?” I asked the secretary, unable to hold my curiosity any further. Since most Local Administrator’s visitors came riding bicycles or motorcycles, a double cabin Toyota Tacoma looked out of place or meant a big event for the day. “This is the governor,” the secretary replied without taking her eyes off the now-approaching VIP. I glanced at the outline of my reflection from my idle smartphone screen and adjusted my shirt’s collar, in an attempt to impress the Governor, who by then stood in front of the secretary, beside me. “You got a new hand, huh,” my heart skipped as the governor addressed the secretary while looking at me, his baritone voice booming across the office, attracting the administrator who had settled at his back office, who appeared from his office door. The Governor’s gaze remained with me, making me fidget in my seat, wondering at his immense interest in me. I touched the shirt’s collar as if to ensure that it was still in place. 

“What is your specialty?” the Governor asked, looking directly into my eyes. “I just completed my A-Level and I am hoping for a government scholarship for a journalism course at the university,” I replied, trying my best to make a good impression. “You must be one of the people I am looking for,” I wondered why the governor seemed impressed. The local administrator came to my aid, “I will let you have him if you assure me that you are going to have him in that government scholarship.” “Of course,” the Governor replied assuredly. Before I could utter a word, the local Administrator invited the governor and me inside his office where we slumped into the visitors’ seats. He opened one of his desk drawers and handed me an envelope. “These are your A-Level results,” he said as he handed me an envelope. I anxiously tore the envelope and glanced at the results: two principal passes and a subsidiary. I jumped out of my seat with joy as I handed the results to the Governor. I have never been so happy in my life.                


The Place of Talk-Therapy in a Bustling World

Talk therapy

Good stories are rare and when they come by, they are like a fresh breeze on a sunny day along the beach. 

To the layman, Mafia is synonymous with organized crime and evokes the rule of the jungle. However, this perception is likely not to change if you watch the Sopranos.

David Chase’s Sopranos is a good story well told and presents important themes such as cultural identity, family, interpersonal relations, power, and talk therapy.

Chase’s ability to weave talk therapy in a Mafia narrative was ingenious and managed to extricate the story from being perceived as an extension of Mario Puzo’s Godfather.

But what exactly is talk therapy and why would a mafioso need it? That is the point – that no one is ‘strong’ enough to make do without talk (therapy).

It is a fact that human beings are born helpless and dependent. The need to be loved, cared for, and validated – initially from the mother and the immediate family – therefore becomes a primary need and continues throughout a lifetime.

Whereas the layman’s perception is that the Mafioso are to be feared and even eradicated, the Soprano evokes a need to appreciate a culture that has stood the test of time. The fact that the Mafioso are as vulnerable as everyone else is an important insight into the role and power of culture. 

If talk therapy has been important to the ‘ruthless’ Mafioso’s culture, who do you think you are that you can bottle up and still survive?

Talk therapy provides a vent for implosions such as suicides, separation and divorce, loneliness, and other forms of self-harm. It is a continuation of the innate need for love, care, and validation.

Just like a parent’s affirmation is to a child learning to walk, so is a spouse’s affirmation after a day’s toil, or even after a sex round. In other words, talk therapy is for everyone and those that know how to use it can wield much inner power.

The Mafia, for example, is depicted in Soprano as a closed culture with the insiders expected to play by rigid rules that revolve around trust. In return, members benefit from social and economic support.

The closed nature of the Mafioso culture is so sensitive that obtaining talk therapy from an outsider is frowned upon and a weakness sign. So much for the therapy itself, and for the fact that the talking may expose the insiders’ secrets.

The Soprano offers a glimpse at a Mafioso’s embrace of talk therapy and the therapist’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that a client seeks to validate conflicts arising out of a criminal lifestyle.

Are not all human beings struggling with the same? It is easy to avoid confronting the elephant in the room. In other words, it is easy to ignore (or rationalize) the problem in the hope that it will evaporate rather than deal with it.

By the time the therapist decides to terminate the therapy, the criminal is strong enough to put up with the bustles of his life. Consequently, the Soprano provides valuable insight on the role of talk therapy in a bustling world.

PS: This article is not an endorsement of the Sopranos


What If? Taking a Spiritual Walk as the Crow flies

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If the lockdowns have not fired your walking instincts, you need a pep talk. Walking is associated with improved mental and physical well-being (Wati, p.37).

During my last birthday, I chose to take a spiritual walk along the village crow’s path. For the entire 20 kilometers (12 miles), the spiritual connection was as effective as it was humbling.

The walking route runs through the motorists on the highway, roadside vendors, store owners, motorbike taxis, farmers in their gardens, sex workers on the prowl, and blue color workers and artisans working or walking to and from work. I probably missed the white color type, but the most profound encounter was with myself.

My tendency to secretly pass judgment on others and exclude myself in the judgments was, as I came to discover, striking.

To the highway motorist – especially those who drove black smoke billowing engines – I passed a judgment on their carbon footprint; to the roadside vendors sitting beside the polluted roads, they should mind their health; to the store owners, it was those polythene packaging bags they released to the environment.

To the farmers, it was the effects of their pesticides on the environment; to the sex workers, it was their morals; and to the artisans and blue color workers, it was the sustainability of their work model. The fact that I did not encounter the white color worker saved them from my judgment. However, what about myself?

To begin with, my athletic shoe, a Nike Air, had a plastic component in the sole. That aside, as a Pentecostal Christian, the walking provided an opportunity to wrestle with my spirituality.

What about the hypocrisy of my transactional relationship with God? It occurred to me, for example, that I had been offering God prayers as a bribe to get his blessings. I had been reading the bible in search of the verse(s) that promised me what I wanted to hear. The way I pick my friends and enemies gives them no chance to appeal.

The walk, on this day of my birth, eventually took the ‘what if’ form. What if the motorists choose to ride efficient machines despite the inconvenience? What if the roadside vendor puts on protective gear against dust?

What if the store owners adopt environmentally friendly packaging? What if farmers adopt organic farming? What if sex workers chose house making? What if artisans joined and took advantage of business information systems for wider markets?

What if I chose to offer my prayers to express my love for God despite the expected blessings? What if I read the bible to know and adopt God’s character? What if I allow people into my circle unconditionally?


A Common Sense Formula for Happiness: A Babble

This article had been intended to be a poem but it ended up being a prescriptive, hard to read, babble.

Although everyone desires happiness only a few are able to be happy. Attempts to study happiness have gained the interest of only a handful of researchers. The seemingly lack of enough research on the subject can be attributed to the nature of happiness, which lacks a universally applicable criterion to be used as a measure. The best way to look at happiness lies in putting a context to it. This is because of the relative nature of happiness. There are a number of fluid and contextual issues that will help us to understand happiness. We look at four of them.

The first contextual issue is social context. People are social beings that are in constant interaction for one reason or the other. The most basic social setting is the family. Outside of the family, we have friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We also have larger social contexts like the groups and organizations we identify with or communities we reside in. Happiness will be achieved if these interactions proceed without hiccups such as conflicts or some sort of misunderstandings. Being a member of a conflicting social setting increases anxiety and reduces the chances of obtaining happiness.

The second contextual issue is your state of mind. The human mind is continuously being bombarded by numerous stimuli. Happiness will be achieved when the ability to select and process incoming stimuli is not hampered in any way. This is easier said but not always easy to achieve. The demands of life may mean that a lot of incoming stimuli may be meaningless, missed or improperly decoded. Also, people have different thresholds for handling stimuli. People with lower thresholds of dealing with incoming stimuli are likely to find it difficult in achieving happiness.

The third contextual issue in understanding happiness is the physical context. Abstract and concrete objects that surround you affect your happiness. Visiting new places and seeing new objects may create memories that may influence happiness. Working in an air-conditioned office, listening to music, reading books and consuming various media will influence your moods which in turn will influence your productivity, and consequently, of your wellbeing. This may lead to happiness.

The fourth contextual issue in understanding happiness is the economic context. This has to do with the ability to obtain what you desire when you desire. In cases where the economic environment is dysfunctional conflicts are likely to occur as people scramble for survival.

Therefore happiness is not an event but a process that involves understanding the environment within which happiness is being looked at. Happiness, consequently, cannot be looked at as an episodic occurrence but as a long term trend. Visiting a sick person, condoling the bereaved, buying lunch to the homeless, taking your partner out for dinner, and all manner of episodic events, may make them happy for a day but may not sustain the happiness. The understanding of this will help families, groups, and organizations to be able to create conducive environments where people can truly be happy.