Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reflection or Ranting

A few days ago, as I was enjoying my Sunday evening, a friend of mine, of whom I had not heard from for a sum of years, called suddenly. He had called to inform me, after exchanging the normal pleasantries and hellos, that a mutual friend of ours had passed away the evening before. Now I would very much like to say that his passing had a profound impact on me and that I was greatly saddened by his departure but the truth is that this is not the first time that Death has laid claim on one of my acquaintances nor, I strongly suspect, will it be the last. Indeed, since the age of 16 or so scarcely a year goes by without me receiving news that someone I know is no more. I have no idea whether this is the national norm, or could be attested to the fact that I know many people, or simply because it is plain bad luck to know me. All I know is that whenever this happens, I pause to take a look around me and ask myself a question with three simple words, “Am I happy?” (And no, you idiot, I am not asking myself whether or not I am happy that someone has died!)

This question however, begs another. “What is being happy?” The Buddhists, for instance, insist that true happiness is the act of living in service to all creatures without the need for physical comforts, or in other words, being both spiritually and mentally prosperous. This I am definitely not ready for. On the other hand, there are those for whom being happy is simply making bunches of money and splurging it all on fine food, fine wine (or copious amounts of cheap spirits), and fine women, which in retrospect, I find rather pathetic. Then, there are those who spend their whole lives in the search for recognition and fame, which is totally absurd in my book. I mean, who cares what someone of whom you have no knowledge of thinks of you in some indefinite time during the future. Ridiculous! Wondering about the prices of anchovies in Nigeria would be time better spent.

In the end, I suppose being happy is about leading life the way you would want to. Something much easier said than done. First of all, there are all these rules that we have to contend with. Wear only white socks to school! Eat with only your right hand! (I’m a lefty) Act your age and be mediocre with the rest of us filthy masses! Walk proudly, shoulder up, back straight, right to the edge of the cliff and jump off if everyone else does the same!

Granted, there are some rules that make at least some modicum of sense. Thou shall not kill. Wait a moment, we forgot that one every time somebody drops a bomb on a baby and we turn a blind eye. Thou shall not steal. The newspapers in the lobby are not free… Thou shall not lie. Ladies, what’s your age again?

Then, there are all these expectations. Your parents expect such and such. Your teachers/lecturers expect such and such. Society expects such and such. When was the last time someone asked what YOU expected? But no(oo), you’re the youth so you don’t get to decide how to live your life. If left to you, the whole world would be in jeopardy. For example, you might decide to drop an atomic bomb on somebody’s head. Oops, sorry, we did that already. Leave millions to die of hunger? Nope, we seem to have done that as well. Crash the economy and create widespread panic? Hmm... Aha! Allow alien invaders to conquer us and enslave all of humanity. Yes, if left to you that is exactly what will happen. Believe us, we know better.

Is it just me or has it occurred to anyone else that the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket using the fast lane? There’s widespread famine, a war going on in someone’s or everyone’s backyard at the same time, and the economic forecast is looking grim. This is of course on top of your everyday, typical, world ending type disasters such as the thinning ozone layer and rising sea levels but hey, look at the bright side, soon you’ll be able to take a swim AND get a suntan at the same time just by stepping outside your house. Isn’t life just grand?

Then again, let’s not look at the rest of the world. We’ll just concentrate on home sweet home. After all, everything that I have just said just happens on TV and to other people anyway, so why bother? I mean, it’s not like those who are graduating at the end of this semester won’t be getting cushy jobs and live the rest of their lives in total bliss, right? Guess again, with the economy being what it is, chances are that you won’t be getting a job real soon unless you’re either connected or some kind of whiz kid.

Our leaders, you ask? Boy, don’t get me started on our leaders. Okay fine, you got me started. I don’t know about you, but seeing as the main factor when we were deciding who our next leader was going to be was whether or not that guy slept (I am being extremely polite here) with some other guy doesn’t exactly fill me with a whole lot of confidence for our supreme leadership.

There’s more. Anyone seen the headlines recently? Apparently, some female MP was caught with her pants (along with everything else) down. The reaction? The usual hullabaloo about her being unfit for leadership duties on the basis of her being immoral and so on and so forth. Look, first of all, some of the pictures were taken when she was asleep and ogling at pictures of naked women who are asleep is rather sick if you ask me. Second of all, the pictures were taken within the sanctity of either her own home or a hotel room, which are in both cases, private and not for mass consumption. Thirdly, I don’t know who is being the bigger elephant-behind. The elephant-behind who took the pictures in the first place and showed it to everyone, or the elephant behind who is using pictures that were privately taken from an unconfirmed source as proof of leadership ability. Fourth, check your history books, our leaders have done worse and gotten away with it. Hell, Clinton even got some in the oval office and still managed to do a better job than George. Fifth and finally, I’d be downright flattered if someone thought me attractive enough to take nude pictures of and vanity, as they say, gets the best of us so let’s just give it a rest.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the question of happiness, more specifically, “Am I happy?” There could be only one answer for me, as it should also be for you, which is yes. Despite it all, despite the future prospect of being jobless and destitute, despite facing the danger of possibly drowning (fabulously tanned) in my own front yard as a result of the rising seas, despite having elephant-behinds as “betters”, I still answer yes, I am deliriously happy. My reason? Simple, I have the greatest gift of all, life. And with life comes endless possibility.

Note: The author has managed to dodge national voting three times in a row and is currently unaffiliated with any political faction and will continue as such for the foreseeable future.