What IF…

In the uncertainty of the privacy of our thoughts. What if our thoughts were made public?

In the uncertainty of the privacy of our social media life. What if our social media lives were made public?

In the uncertainty of the privacy of the things that go on in our hearts. What if the things that go on in our hearts were made public?

In the uncertainty of the privacy of our gadgets (iPad, iPhone, etc.). What if the contents of our gadgets were made public?

Uncertainty confuses us further. 

Our lives are a mess. My life is a mess. Whose life is not a mess? 

There is no certainty of a private life. In our pursuit of high-profile and public lives, can never be totally convinced that what I am doing it will remain in the privacy of my space. People seem to have eyes everywhere. There are cameras everywhere. There’s also Google Earth. As I am typing away I can never be sure that there isn’t someone watching.  Even when I walk the street, some enthusiastically speak to me and the temptation of basking in their enthusiasm is high. They laugh with me, some chit chat here and there. Walking away from them I can’t help but feel chuffed by my popularity.

In my last article, I shared how I love conversing with strangers. I actually think I spend more time speaking to strangers than speaking to my own friends and my loved ones. Sometimes I think that a stranger is much safer because they will not judge me based on what they know about me. They will not compare my conversation with my value system. All they see is me now. And their perceptions of me will be based on this one interaction with me. You won’t believe it, but sometimes, that for me is better than meeting someone who will evaluate my speech, my jokes, and the way I look because they know me.

This mess we are in is a mess created by the pressure we have put ourselves in. We preach and say “out of a mess comes a message.” Can my mess be just my mess? Am I allowed to live with an intent to be “the message” and just live my life as “my life” that when I get to heaven my report will be I lived a life not pressurized by the standards set for me by those who thought they knew who I am. I am son before the public figure I have become. I am father and husband before I am a public figure. Actually, I am who God says I am. My standard from now on is to allow this my mess to unfold, whilst I continue to live the life set for me.

Have you ever been a public figure who wanted to be private?

Sometimes I wish someone had actually told me that being a public figure puts you in the spotlight. In as much as your followers get drunk in excitement and benefit from your being a public figure, but it literally drives the self of that public figure to a place of oblivion? They no longer are their self but have become a people’s person measured by the standards of the public. Think about the time when the cheering has died down and you are alone with your thoughts, you realize that the orgy of publicity is like a drug, you enjoy it whilst it’s still in your system. If someone had told me about this, I wouldn’t have wanted to be a public figure. I hear this all the time. Public figures need private and down time.

This one time.

This one time. Can I be allowed to be the person without a title? Can I walk the streets without the requirement to be strong for others? Can I be strong for me by being weak without feeling that being weak is wrong? When you see me walk the streets, please call me by my name. For once can I be the boy my mother gave birth to, the one who was allowed to make mistakes only to be cautioned and not judged for the mistakes. Though my mother expected and knew I was going to become the dream and the vision she had, she never put pressure on me, she allowed me to grow. Now that I’m all grown, am I not allowed to grow to maturity. Am I am not allowed to make mistakes that push me to the place where I become? People expect me to just become. In the places where I hope to be understood, I am totally misunderstood.

What IF… for once I was allowed to be weak.


The Power of “Sawubona”…”Unjani”

This is a John Hain picture sourced from https://pixabay.com/en/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009195/

In my language you greet someone by saying “Sawubona” which means “hi” and the person responds “Yebo” loosely translated “yes or you have my attention” you continue to ask  “Unjani” loosely translated “how are you” and the response most of the time is “Siyaphila/Ngiyaphila” translated “I am well.” From here the person takes the liberty to stretch the conversation by deliberately exploring and sharing how they feeling . In short greetings in my language are not mechanical or robotic, but they lead by default to a conversation. I have always found this amazing because I love conversations, I can converse with a stranger without even considering that it’s the first time I meet the person. This is just who I am. If I take the opportunity to greet I want to converse.

I have noticed over time the power behind this greeting. See, the moment one responds to a “Sawubona” it’s like they are giving you permission to enter into this sacred place in them, it can either be a dark or a happy place. You get permission to find out how one is doing, and how they are feeling, others call it a window into the person’s space. Hear me well here, I know people have adopted this attitude of minding their own business,  but look at where this has gotten us as a people. Our children live in lonely places that have led some of them to a point of deep depression. Some have become suicidal. What are we missing? We no longer use the power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” Our salutations and greetings are no longer done in an effort to find out how one is doing, they have become something we do because it’s we were told its the right thing to do. Our “Sawubona” has no feeling neither is it concerned with the well-being of the person we are greeting, the pace of life has made us so inhumane.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled “Communication the “Elephant in the Room.” I wrote it in the context of marriage. I still believe that the monstrosity we are afraid to face is communication. The exploratory nature of the Swazi greeting made me think. At some point, I was feeling that it’s invasive in its approach, but this afternoon I concluded that there are some things we can identify early in relating with others if we took the time to use the power of the greeting. Think about it, you live with your children, your spouse, parents etc. you greet them every morning with a typical “Sawubona” and figure it’s enough that you greeted them. Later in the day, you hear they have committed suicide, in that confusion you say “why didn’t they say anything to me.” You become guilty, thinking if I had seen it earlier maybe I could have prevented it. I agree with you, you could have, but you missed the opportunity by avoiding being invasive.

We’ve seen in the news when someone takes a gun and goes on the rampage killing people, we hear those interviewed saying “he was such a quiet person, whatever happened to trigger such hate?” But when you think about it, as communities we are now perpetuating an individualistic mentality where people are taught to mind their own business. An individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization, or emphasis, of the individual over the entire group. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. I am sure you know that this culture is also found in marriages. Where couples push an individualistic modus operandi to the extent that none knows how the other is doing or what they are thinking. I have seen individuals who when asked how their loved one is doing, will only rely on the yebo from their loved one without knowing how one is really doing. See we leave everything to chance, “he was doing fine the last I asked.” 

In my line of work, people come to us when it’s too late, but they live with people. If I may ask you, what are the tell-tell signs that your child is not well? If s/he is normally a lively child when you see them being lethargic and lacking in energy you know there’s something wrong. You don’t ask a child, you just know and you act on it. The same approach really must suffice to our loved ones. You can see when someone is not well, and sometimes you don’t only need to rely on what you see but you can use the power of inquiry, the power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” Your being inquisitive could just save a life. And you could save yourself from speculating and living in suspicion that something is wrong.

I am a fan of collectivist societies, especially in the family setting. Collectivism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the group and its interests. Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Collectivists focus on communal, societal, or national interests in various types of political, economic, and educational systems. In as much as these definitions focus on national level thinking but I think in a family setting we can’t afford to be individualistic, we need a good dose of collectivist thinking. I understand that we want our children to be independent, make informed decisions where life is concerned. I am of the view though that a child brought up in a collectivist family is more likely to revert back to family for support when times are tough. This is just my thinking. I believe a member of a collectivist society is most likely to meet a brother, sister, spouse, cousin etc. and say “Sawubona” and take it a step further to ask “Unjani.” And when they utilize the power of the greeting it is done sincerely and from a safe place in attempt to find out how the other person is doing.

It’s sad that we have had friends and family die a silent and painful deaths without getting a chance to tell someone how they are feeling. Exploring the “Sawubona” … “Unjani”  greeting will make us explore, invade and to be in the faces of people’s lives more especially the ones we love. We might just prevent some of these depressions that have led many to suicide, these isolations that have led our brothers and sisters into mental health facilities. Just maybe your spouse wouldn’t find solace in people outside of the family unit if you explored this power. Help me spread the power of these words, let’s use the power of the greeting “Sawubona” …”Unjani.” 

We can change the world around us. We can be our brother’s keeper. Someone might just be in need of someone to listen and hear them out. Someone might just find a friend in you. The power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” A better world is possible. I am guilty too, I sometime fail to reach out right when I am needed. I have waited to be asked “Unjani” instead of being the first to ask. I am putting it out here, the struggles of self-indulgence and pride have deprived us the opportunity to change the lives of those we love the most and most of all of those who need it the most.

Refer to the link below to read the article: Communication the “Elephant in the Room”