"Ajoubiisichattaike (The setting sun cannot be depended on to dry tobacco)"
In the early part of the last century, the neo-Freudian developmental psychologists discovered that humans play back pictures of their lives and will stop at some stages to reflect on what they think they did wrong. As each of us ponders on the meaning of our lives and our achievements, these neo Freudians maintain that having regrets is a part of the developmental process. Some of us wonder what would have happened if we had married one person and not another, if we had left our homeland or what would have been if we had stayed at home. There may be moments when we regret not finishing school, marrying early, marrying late, or not writing that novel we always planned. No matter our situation, having regret is part of the developmental process as we grow older. There is a function of this regret according to many psychologists. Looking back at our lives allow us to make corrections and make meaning out of our experience. Though lost time cannot be re-captured, it is possible to return to what was not properly done and to finish what was left undone. It is true that there are physical changes as we grow old. Besides the obvious graying of the hair or the lack of it, one thing remains constant: our intellect. The Annang people of Nigeria were right to observe that the setting sun loses its intensity to dry, but it does not mean that the loss of intensity is the same as the loss of spirit. For the setting sun despite such loss has its usefulness.
The carpe diem motif found in western literature is not confined to western thinking alone for our Annang forebears knew about the idea that we must seize today and live for today for tomorrow we die. Yet if we become cynical and live for the moment and for today only, we miss what it truly means to be human. The 17th century English Poet Andrew Marvell, like most of his contemporaries, struggled with the meaning of being good in the face of the human condition in his famous poem “To His Coy Mistress”. It goes to show that when we throw up our hands and ask what the point is, we become cynical. In other words, instead of seizing the day (Carpe Diem) knowing that there will come a time when we may no longer be able to do the things we are capable of doing now, we gravitate towards instant gratification. The idea that we must have whatever we want and have it now is at the root of poverty in some cultures some sociologists have argued.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success argues that success has little to do with ability but more to do with three essential elements namely: attitude towards work, cultural legacies and luck. If your attitude towards work is that of slacking off and getting very little done in exchange for payment, then chances are that you would have difficulty succeeding. If your attitude towards work is bad, then you are sabotaging yourself and denying yourself the opportunity to learn. Spiritually, you have to give in order to receive. If your culture presents you with cultural theories that do not push you towards hard work, but instead tells you to believe in irrational thoughts such as witchcraft, then such attitude that says you can get something for nothing, cannot help you to succeed. Finally, though luck may sound as if you get something that you do not deserve, it is more than unmerited grace, for luck favors those who are prepared. It means being at the right place at the right time. Malaise, close mindedness and refusal to be involved and learn do not bring good luck. Those who are prepared, Lucille Ball once noted, are the ones who are favored by good luck. The skin may wrinkle and the hair may gray but when your attitude and soul is in despair that time has passed you by, you lose the benefit of old age instead of participating in its joy. The setting sun may not dry tobacco, but the tobacco is better off being exposed to whatever ray of the sun is present than be kept in a damp and dark room. Whatever your hand is engaged in, our wish for you is in the words of Anna Coghill, the 19th century English Hymn writer: May you give every flying minute something to keep in store.
Adede (Dr.) Ezekiel Ette
For Annang Writers Association (A division of Annang Heritage Preservation Inc.)
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DISCLAIMER: Views expressed here are solely that of the author and do not represent the official position of Annang Heritage Preservation Inc. or any of its affiliate.