The Case for Contentment

pt. 1

Morning had just broken that Tuesday. I balled my right hand as I wiped the crust from my eyes like a little child, made my bed, and headed downstairs. It was quiet, as mornings usually are in our house. This quietness gave me the chance to savour the sight of the rising sun, which had not yet risen in full strength and so was merciful.

I finished morning prayer, as I usually did, to learn a little more about this Word made flesh who entered my life and changed it completely. My feet swiftly left the couch and my toes curled together when they came in contact with the cold floor, as I tiptoed my way to the bathroom. In true millennial fashion, my phone came along.

I was seated when I read the message. This message whose kind I had never received before. I let out the sort of laughter that signified a disbelieving surprise. I read it again just to be sure that I had seen what I had seen.

He said he would go straight to the point. He said he would like me to be his sugar baby. He said no sexual relationship or nudity would be involved. He said we could negotiate weekly allowances. He said he was sorry if his message “pissed me off.”

I said I was not interested. I said I was not interested. I said I was not interested.

He asked what he could do to impress me. I said, “Here’s the thing: I am completely content with my life. My reasons for entering a relationship with a person has never been and will never be material. So, to answer your question, there is nothing you can do to impress me.”

He said that he was looking for a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage.

pt. 2

My friend would be moving to a new city in a few days and so we thought we would hang out and catch up before the move. We met at a coffee shop downtown where the overlapping chatter and laughter, the saxophonist playing on the Row, and tourists and Islanders documenting their memories made the space come alive. I drank an iced tea sans ice and watched as my recyclable straw slowly mopped up my tea.

After the “how are yous” came our conversations which ranged from our generation’s capacity for a revolution to the place of the sacred in modern life to my conceptualization of the Western world (excluding Europe due to its history, which is distinct from the Americas although connected) to social media in the age of climate change.

Tuesday’s proposition also came up. After reading the message, he determined that the writer was a swindler whose intent was to defraud me, and said that it was good that I responded in the in which manner I responded.

pt. 3

First came the pride in myself about how I responded. Then came the annoyance. How else was I to respond? I simply did what I was raised to do.

Contentment is not complacency. Contentment is not mediocrity. Contentment is not settling for less. Contentment is not being satisfied with being average. Contentment is not thinking that the keys to a better life lie in the hands of another.

Contentment is seeing the distance between where we are and where we want to be and being joyful as we make our way there. Contentment is doing what we can today and letting Him handle what we cannot. Contentment is longing for more while being constrained by the certainty that we will get more and be more in time. Contentment is a defence.

Contentment is the guardian that ensures that we do not taint and tarnish our dignity before we arrive at the inevitable mountaintop.

Rethinking Life, Death, and Legacy

We do not think about death enough.

We are surrounded by death each day and yet, the concept and reality of death is foreign to us. It is almost as though in completing the routines of our daily lives, we forget our mortality. Our species relies on the death of other species to sustain life. Before we arrange a beautiful bouquet, flowers must die. Before we roast corn for barbecues on warm summer nights, maize must be taken from its life source. Before a grain of wheat multiplies, it must first fall to the ground and die.

Death. It is all around us but so often forgotten.

Death. It is sure to come for every one.

People sleep and never wake and the world moves on. Perhaps what prevents us from talking about death is our apprehension about what comes after. Perhaps we think that by not dwelling too much on the life after, we can evade it. How innocent and yet so misguided a thought.

What comes after has two dimensions: eternity and legacy.

Eternity is timelessness. It is eternal recompense. It is infinite multiples of however many years we spend in the here and now. It is home. It is the home we get to choose. It is our final destination.

Legacy is the castle our values here on earth has built. Legacy is what comes to mind when our names are called in our absence. Legacy is the voice that speaks long after we go silent. Legacy is the reverence or regret our children remember us by. Legacy is either the man who built his house on sand or the one who built his house on the rock. The waves arose and the wind blew hard against both houses, but only one was left standing.

Life has true meaning when considered in the inescapable reality of death. Both eternity and legacy matter too much to live without truth, beauty, and goodness. All three of which can only be found- in their fullness- in Him.

Maybe we should engage life with the recognition that it is a gift for which we must give an account. Maybe as we engage with others in this race, we should look up and look at the big picture; a giant mosaic of intentions, assumptions, and regrets. Maybe we can then live at peace with ourselves and with others.

Better to go to a house of mourning than one of mirth.

The fragility of life is, in many ways, like a sunset. It lingers, blessing the sky with its warmth and colours. Then all of a sudden, the light fades and darkness falls.

Written in loving memory of Prof. Iheanyi Achumba, Mrs Rayné Platell-Kenny, and all who have gone before. Kachifo, unu di anyi n’obi.

Performing Intellectualism

Thick coral beads with swirls of cream strung together and resting securely hung on his neck. The news had come on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) channel, and there he was, ready to share and defend his take. This man had succeeded in amusing and annoying the whole country in equal measure, but it appeared he did not know.

That evening, “News Time,” as my mother called it, had come. It started at six and ended at eleven o’clock every day. My parents, steadfast timekeepers of News Time, ensured no one missed this portion of our schedule and half-expected our chorus of helpless objection. Come dry, dusty harmattans or refreshing rainy seasons; we were faithful. Nigeria was celebrating its Democracy Day and he, a former member of the House of Representatives, lawyer, and holder of two master’s degrees said:

“A celebration of democracy or a depreciable apotheosis of a haemorrhaging plutocracy, cascading into a mobocracy with all the ossifying proclivities of a kakistocracy? With our democracy enveloped in a paraplegic crinkum-crankum, we must all rise up to bring to focal triceps and biceps, Nigeria’s pluto-mobo-kakistocracy… certainly not democracy!”

Laughter erupted in the living room.

This was the only suitable response to what we had just heard. Question after question, he employed what I could only describe as gigantic grammar in response. Despite being impressed by his ability to weave together convoluted tongue-twisters, in our hearts, we did not respect him.

Having been immersed in an academic environment for the last five years, and suspecting that I will inhabit this space for longer, I have grown tired of witnessing performative intellectualism. It is an act that has grown stale. I am fatigued by sentences easily deflated with the simple prick of a pin, and consider performing intellectualism an affront to the gift of speech and self-expression. Before I become guilty of that which I accuse others, let me explain. Performing intellectualism is exercising one’s intelligence or speech solely for the purpose of impressing or pleasing listeners.

I am exhausted by those who cook up fancy, fluffy, and washed-out sentences to fill the silence.

Silence is fine. Speak that which is truthful and meaningful and say nothing when you cannot.

When we do not know, we should admit it instead of chasing down and laying hold of an answer by all means possible. Maybe the point of education is that we ask more questions; which is a function of thinking deeply, thoroughly, and honestly. Relying on deep-sounding concoctions to impress robs us all of the chance to engage with the subject matter and one another meaningfully.

My hope is that educators arrest these performances using four words:

“What do you mean?”

I think the ultimate test of knowledge is the ability to speak simply and coherently of what we claim to understand. What do we gain by trying to sound important when we already are? We are important simply because He made us. That is enough.

2018: A Review

I think it is appropriate to share my review of the past year three weeks into the new one. In 2018, I had a vision board that carried on from the last year. I made it for the final year of my bachelor’s, really, and did not give too much thought to what would happen after.

On the first day of the last year, I sat and wrote what I expected and would work to happen. I wanted to be stretched in 2018 and stretched I was. Disappointment and surprise stretched my heart. Funnily, the surprises made up for the disappointments. Through walking with God, I have learnt that what the enemy means for evil, God delights in confounding hell and turning it around for good.

Towards the end of the year, my walk with God was rejuvenated. It was like a volcano spat fire into the coal embers of my heart. He taught me about giving. The most memorable lesson was that when I felt the inclination to hold back, I was to give even more.

I learnt, more tangibly, the way through which God speaks to me. In 2018, I saw God honour the words I spoke. I felt Him renew my thirst for wanting to be in right standing with Him. My heart found rest in Matthew 6 v 33.

It seems like all I’ve mentioned so far has been about my faith and for those who are not familiar, I’m grateful that you made it through. Truthfully, my faith is the epicentre of my life. 2018 saw me flesh out Butterfly Dreams some more. 2018 saw me take my health more seriously.

2018 was a year of purposeful alliances. If there was any relationship that felt forced, I let it go. I learnt in a real way that it was essential to assess relationships and that some friends are better from afar. I discovered that my perfectionism affected how much I enjoyed moments for what they were. I learnt that waiting for situations to perfectly align before acting was a waste of time.

I learnt that instead of reacting to the brokenness of others with anger, I could give them to God. I learnt to wish others good in spite of the way their faults hurt me.

2018 was the year of challenging yet rewarding conversations. 2018 was the year of miracles for my family and friends. 2018 was the year when even disappointments evolved into blessings.

2019 will only be better, I am sure. Even surer am I that everything good will come.

Turning a New Leaf

Here I am, curled up in the corner alone, having entered the new year. When I looked around me in church after praying and dancing in worship, people were hugging each other, shouting “congratulations!”. There seemed to be a collective persuasion that 2019 was going to be a good year.

The weeks leading into this year were filled with inspirational dissatisfaction. I do not remember what prayer I prayed for Him to do as He has done.

November 5.

That was the day I deleted my social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Gone. He, very likely, reached into my heart and rewired something.

I became disillusioned, out of the blue, with social media. I had grown tired of the brand of activism that did not translate to tangible change. I was tired of people maintaining one persona online and another in real life.

I was tired of how politics of a certain kind was finding its way into sports, entertainment, business, and education. I was tired of the fact that at a time when the talk of tolerance was loudest, there was unbelievable hostility to opposing views that resembled traditional ideas.

I was tired of scrolling endlessly. Newsfeeds were bottomless, and the refresh button aggravated the problem. I was tired of commenting and connecting with strangers while neglecting my own people by whom I was surrounded.

I was tired of thinking that because I saw a witty caption and a crisp photo, I knew how my friends were doing. I was tired of wasting my time by my own hand. I was tired of the faux outrage and outrage on-demand I found on those platforms.

Truthfully, I was embarrassed by the person I had become. I had now become a person who would run to social media to announce that I won an award or that I liked how the sun shone today.

I was ashamed that a criterion for who I followed or followed back was the aesthetic appeal of a photograph born out of filters. I was ashamed that my attention span was shrinking and that talking to my family on the phone involved scrolling through Instagram simultaneously.

I was ashamed of the expectation I placed on an image I edited to perfection, and of my disappointment when it did not perform well. I was tired of glamour without substance.

All of these factors culminated in the decision to delete my accounts. And my thoughts have never been more lucid.

I am able to connect more deeply and intentionally with my family, my friends, myself, and my Father. I have remembered my first loves of books and music.

The thing about a bubble is that no one realises it is a bubble until it bursts.

So, if you did not post on social media for one day or one year, who would notice and ask after you?

Cheers to the new year and to turning a new leaf.