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Tenets

Sudden Death

Posted on 3 min read

“You and I hear of sudden deaths and yet we imagine we shall not die suddenly.” – C.H. Spurgeon.

Death by Many Names

There are many euphemisms for death:

To pass away, pass on, lose one’s life, breathe one’s last, meet one’s end, meet one’s death, lay down one’s life, go the way of all flesh, go to one’s last resting place, go to meet one’s maker, cross the great divide, slip away, depart this life, give up the ghost, kick the bucket, croak, buy it, turn up one’s toes, cash in one’s chips, bite the big one, check out, buy the farm, blink for an exceptionally long period…..

Death by Fear of Death

It is ironical that we live life as if death is too far away, yet it is the most certain thing that we are sure will come to us; just a matter of time. It could be tomorrow, or 67 years from tomorrow, but death is more certain than taxes.

And the fear of death paralysis. Although young people may not be worried about dying a slow painful death due to multiple organ failure at the age of 97 years, they are very conscious of the fact that they can die any moment in a way that they may not anticipate.

It could be a terrorist attack, a blood clot, a road accident, a violent robbery or even an attack by wild animals. I have seen great people meet their sudden deaths in such incidences. My college classmate was stabbed to death. Two high school classmates have died in the hands of Al Shabaab.  A primary schoolmate dies in an air crash. A close friend in campus perished through a road accident while another dear friend suffered a blood clot and was gone in a short time. I have heard of somebody who was stung to death by bees.

Why we Fear Sudden Death

Even non sudden death is not amusing. If someone dies at 102 years, we still mourn them and feel the emptiness that comes with it if we were close to them. But a sudden death has zero warnings and hits harder.

We are afraid of what will become of our families. We are worried about how the death will occur. We are afraid of so many things. I do not think anybody gets worried about what they will miss once they are gone, but just the emptiness and nothingness of being no more.

As human beings, we are usually not ready for death.

We are also afraid of death because we rarely see death in life. A few years ago, life expectancy was very short and anybody who lived to be 40 years old had witnessed so many deaths. It is estimated that the life expectancy was around 30 years in the year 1800. Today, modern medicine and other factors have made death rare.

Now that You will eventually Die…

You need to make sense of the life that you are living so that when death comes, you will be set. Ask yourself these questions, because tomorrow it might be you.

  1. What’s your origin? Understanding how we got here will help us put our life in a way that is consistent with our origin. Were you created by a divine being? Are you a product of random thoughtless gathering of atoms? Are you a former goat that got a second chance in life?
  2. The meaning of life. Where do you derive this from? What’s your purpose here on earth? Are you here do accomplish something, or simply existing with no objective? Do toys, education and money you acquire in life all work together towards a certain end.
  3. What informs your moral values? Is evil, stealing, murder, corruption and all vices acceptable, or there is a fixed code of conduct that we must adhere to?
  4. What is your destiny? When you die, will something follow after that, or you will rot and that will mark a cold end, brutal end?

A thousand Deaths

As Shakespeare said, ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.’ Be brave and ask yourself those questions.

P.S

Do you think chicken have a fear of sudden death?

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Why Air-crash Accident Investigations Take Long and What We can Learn from Them

Posted on 2 min read

Flying is one of the safest modes of transport today, and it is not by chance that it is so. It is a result of years of research and learning, majorly through simulations and very good engineering, but also through learning from mistakes that are made.

During the infant age of flying, many lives were lost as engineers and pilots experimented with various models of aircraft. But even when people think they have figured out all that can go wrong, something still goes wrong once in a while and commercial airliner crashes. The results are usually fatal.

Why do aircraft accident investigations take a very long time? The answer lies in how the investigations are done, and the objectives behind the investigations. Whenever a plane crashes, various stakeholders gather together to try and establish the cause of the crash and how it could have ben prevented. The main objective is not to point fingers and blame somebody, but to establish facts that can help prevent similar accidents in future.

Some of the changes that have resulted as a result of airplane crash investigations include Cockpit Resource Management, smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers in lavatories and cargo-holds, wind-shear detectors, transponders and flame-retardant materials.

What are the impacts of these investigations?

The most direct impact is that flying continues to get safer year after year. Various factors that could lead to accidents are eliminated including petty things like how a pilot and a copilot relate while on duty.

What if we approached life problems from a perspective of helping humanity get better instead of crucifying those on the wrong? We would end up better people because we can help humanity improve and thrive.

What if we looked at the cause of a road accident beyond the fact that the driver was over speeding, to the requirement by the owners of the vehicles that the driver must do a specific number of trips per day? What if we go beyond and realize that the reason the owners demand a minimum number of trips is because of the many bribes and fees that they have to pay?

The list can go on and on and on.

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It Matters how we Collectively Bring up our Children

Posted on 3 min read

As a young parent, I am entitled to give my opinion on parenting based on the fact that I know very little. I am wallowing in the comfort of blissful ignorance, or what the people who study human minds and behavior call unconscious incompetence. I have not parented long enough to know that the little I know is too little, so I will go ahead and write my mind before I become conscious of my incompetence.

Parenting is a hard task and the stakes are high. Unfortunately, I cannot just visit Coursera and get a diploma in parenting. I have been forced to navigate this task as a untrained parent, and it will be several years before I get a meaningful feedback on my performance. Worse, the end product has a life and a will of its own, so my great efforts might have very little correlation with the output. Nevertheless, I soldier on, knowing that I have been given one shot at it, and I want to always look back and say that I did my best.

It takes a village

Today, 55% of the world population lives in an urban setting, and it is expected to rise to 68% by 2030. This urbanization might make my agemates forget that it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting is not an easy task for one person, and two people can barely go through it without doubting if they made the right decision to have those kids in the first place. However, there is more to parenting than just parents. The society that a child grows up in matters a lot.

Environment Matters

Every person is influenced by the society where they grow, and the society is nothing more than a collection of people. If you grow up in Vietnam, you are likely to find a great delicacy in rats, while if you are Kenyan, you will gracefully starve to death while rats roam around freely. This is a factor of the environment, and it applies to so many areas of life, not just cuisine. That is why Kikuyus remain Kikuyus, the Dutch people remain Dutch people even after several generations, The Japanese remain Japanese and Somalis will always be Somalis.

The biggest environmental factors have a lot to do with culture and conditioning. Bring up a child in a place where they swear and use curse words in every sentence and they will pick up the language. If it is in an environment where every kid rides a bike, they will follow suit. If it is in Iten in Kenya, perhaps they might win a marathon in future.

Is your child growing up in the right environment? Before you ask that, step back and ask what is the right environment.

Remember that even if you teach your children all the right things, you have the society that will teach them the wrong things. This is why you cannot parent in isolation and have to take a stand against the ills and the evils in the society. Politics will influence your children. So will corruption and the constitution

The Environment also Changes…

A society is not static. People who rejected gay practices 50 years ago gladly adopt them today. Poor families become rich, and some stable countries become wrecked. Give your children a true compass in life so that when change come, they will know when to change, and when to stand firm.

Case of Millennials and Gen Z

Parenting methods also change.

That is possibly why we have some character traits that cut across a whole age group. If we have millennials who are very entitled, it means that there is a group of parents who brought up their children teaching them to be entitled. (Which reminds me, this millennial thing is just a regional construct. Where I come from there is neither millennial nor boomer, OK?). If generation Z does not grow up with a terrifying sense of entitlement, it is because the millennial parents are taking action to correct what was wrong with how they were brought up.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this is that I do not know much about parenting. Proverbs advise that even a fool who remains silent might be deemed wise. Let me not write about parenting.

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One Person Can Change alter the Course of History

Posted on 2 min read

In the late 90s, South Africa was facing a HIV/AIDS crisis with almost a quarter of all black South Africans living with the virus. The hope for these people was in affordable ARVs which were never close to being affordable as they cost about $1000 per month. Most people could not afford these drugs and relied on the government to subsidize and make them affordable.

The government of South Africa risked bankrupting its health budget, and thus passed a law allowing the minister of health to override patent laws in a health emergency. This would help them to get cheap, generic AIDS drugs to deal with the crisis.

But shortly after, 39 pharmaceutical companies filed a lawsuit against the government of South Africa. They argued that South Arica was trying to violate their patents. The case would have serious implications for the developing world as far as access to affordable healthcare was concerned. To most people, these were greedy global corporations trying to protect their profits as making to harder for the people who needed the drugs most to acquire them.

In 2001, the 39 companies unanimously dropped the lawsuit. The case was closed.

How did this happen?

The answer lies majorly in one man. Dr Tadataka Yamada had just been appointed the chairman of research and development at Glaxo SmithKline, one of the leading pharmaceuticals. When he learnt about the case, he was horrified, and decided to do something about it.

He talked to his staff and realized that many opposed the lawsuit. He talked to the board members and persuaded them to back down. He said Glaxo SmithKline should not make life saving drugs, then prevent people accessing them. 

His action set forth a chain of events that led to the lawsuit being dropped, as well as several other changes that saw Glaxo SmithKline being actively involved in campaigning for global health challenges solutions and dedicating more resources towards diseases ravaging the developing and least developed countries.

One person altered the course of history.

What do you need to change at your workplace?

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Kenyans and Locusts Have Something in Common

Posted on 2 min read

Locusts are just grasshoppers. When left on their own, they live a quiet and peaceful life munching on grass. They are barely visible, save for when you walk on grass where they are and they hop around. They threaten no one and do no harm.

But once they come into contact with a crowd of fellow locusts, a form of ‘herd’ mentality kicks in. They alter both their appearance and character. They develop powerful wings and an insatiable hunger, and group together into swarms that can destroy any vegetation that is on their way. They can fly for a distance of 100 km in a day, creating total destruction on their path.

The trigger for this transformation is usually a drought followed by rapid vegetation growth. This is the secret signal that initiates the mutation and exponential reproduction. When this happens, even human beings get scared.

But this behavior is not all that unique. When I think of the Kenyan voters (and non-Kenyans should not dare point fingers), I realize that we are in the same class with the grasshoppers.

Kenyans are full of wisdom. They know exactly what is wrong with the government. They know who is stealing from them. They know who causes unemployment and all the bad things that exist in the country.

All this wisdom lasts until the year of the general elections, where every community decides who they are going to vote for. All of a sudden, the wisdom fizzles out and a herd mentality kicks in. They throw away wisdom and vote for their fellow tribesman who has exploited them for years. Tribes move together like swarms of locusts that devour every good idea that ever existed.

After the election, they go back to their superior wisdom and can tell exactly what is wrong with the government.

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Give Us This Year Our Annual Bread

Posted on 3 min read

Why all this fuss about a New Year? Is it even real?

As Thomas Mann once said, “Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”

Why then should it matter?

Time is a Measure of Change

Time is real, and seasons too. We cannot ignore a factor that affects every aspect of our lives.

Time is not a social construct, even though nature seems not to react to changes in years or decades. Even nature is subject to time.

Time is a measure of change, and thus a new year is measure of change that represents more than 1% of all your life (unless if you live to be more than 100). Some people imagine time to be a long thread on a reel which spins slowly but consistently, or a winch where we are all attached by an imaginary rope and it is always winding up without our consent. Perhaps, spinning faster for women than for men (G.K Chesterton?).

In real sense, even the winch is subject to time. We are all changing, and we need to ensure that we change for the better. Even though we may be wasting away in our bodies, we must ensure that our active faculties are changing for the better. This requires effort.

Whether we make resolutions or not, a new year will come and go. We had better make good use of the year, as we definitely do not have an infinite number of years here on earth.

The Future

If only we knew what the next season in life holds! This could be reason why we wish for time travel now more than ever!

Prophets, seers, oracles, or even their corporate version, the futurists, will try to tell you of what will happen in future. Nevertheless, no matter whom we consult, we cannot get an accurate prediction of the future, and that is why we make resolutions to guide us in the unknown. We have plans, manifestos and roadmaps to ensure that we are moving in a certain direction.

New Year Goals

The world is diverse by design, and our diversity needs to work for our good. We should be united by our purpose in life and how we make sense of the world around us. As we make plans and goals, the most important thing is to ensure that we uphold values that show concern for every person. One will be hoping to make it to grade one, another one to college, another person to graduate, another one to get a job, another one to get a promotion. All these are equally important, and none is superior to another.

As some people make plans on how to make it to the list of top something under something, others will be thinking of some more basic things.

It is said that a healthy man has 1000 dreams, while a sick man has only one. As you make great resolutions, there is someone who only wants to stay alive in the new year. As you plan for great business expansion, there are businesses whose only hope is to stay afloat next year. As you look forward to a promotion at work, there is that one person whose goal is strength to survive a toxic work place until they find the next job. Our dreams are diverse.

With all this diversity, I hope that we shall be considerate of one another. We shall respect both the poor and the rich. We shall work hard to move forward not just as individuals, but as a community and society. Whether we live or die, let it count positively. Whether we have success or failure, let the general outcome be a better society. Let us practice contentment and gratitude, for as long as we have food on our table, clothing on our body, and a shelter on our head, we have more than most people on earth.

Give us this year our annual bread, and forgive us our trespasses.

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