On Gossiping & Slandering
There is a wonderful old story I love. It's about Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher who was adored for his breadth and depth of knowledge. As the story goes, a young man went to Socrates one time and animatedly said, "Socrates, I have just heard some news about one of your friends!"
"Hold on a minute!" Socrates replied, "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say through three tests. The first is the test of Truthfulness. Have you made absolutely sure what you are about to tell me is true?"
After thinking for a moment, the young man replied, "I heard the news from someone else, so I am not 100% sure if it's true."
"The second is the test of Goodness," Socrates continued, "Is what you're about to tell me something good?"
"No, actually it's the opposite."
Socrates interrupted the young man, "So what you're going to tell me is neither true nor good?" The young man was slightly embarrassed and shrugged his shoulders.
But Socrates continued, "Hold on! You may still pass because there's one more test left - the test of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be of any use to me?"
"Probably not," the young man answered.
"Well," Socrates concluded, "If you are going to tell me something that's not true, good or useful, then why tell it to me at all?" The young man walked away feeling embarrassed.
I love that story because of the way it clearly brings out how people gossip and slander one another. Personally, I have read and heard negative comments about people I admire. Like one of my heroes was accused of murder, drug-trafficking and siring a child with a prostitute - charges which I think were false because I have come to know the hero as someone who loves people.
And given the way I have read and heard people slander my heroes, I wouldn't be surprised if some folks out there have been saying untrue and unkind words about me. We are living in a fallen world, I tell you.
When I talk of the possibility of people slandering me, I am reminded of one night in 2008 when I was at the university in JKUAT. That night, I struck a conversation with a pregnant lass in the university library. We had a short lively talk after which I offered to escort her to her room of residence. And when I went back to the university library, a friend of mine called Mulinge mischievously inquired from me how I had met the pregnant lass.
During that time I met the pregnant lass, I was hanging around the university without attending classes and communicating home. Some of my classmates were worried about me and wondering what was happening to me. Over the years, I have had a gnawing worry that the classmates who may have seen me escort the pregnant lass might have fanned rumours that I had not been attending classes after being led astray by a young woman who I had impregnated.
But the truth is - I had never met the pregnant lass before that night I befriended her in the university library. And I have never talked to her again since then. I only remember her as Gertrude who impressed me with her candour and friendliness.
We are living in a fallen world for shizzle. A world that is full of gossip and malicious slander that are as a result of idleness, jealousy and hatred. I therefore challenge you, my dear reader, to refrain from gossiping and slandering others. Tell stories that are true, good and useful - like the ones I post in this lovely blog of mine.
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Encounters With Mad Men
In late December 2009 while returning to Nairobi from Murang'a where I had gone to visit my maternal grandmother, I chose to travel in a car that Uncle Gibson Mwangi had hired to carry his family which had also visited Grandma. I sat in the back-seat, and as the car followed the road to Nairobi, we passed through a small town whose name I didn't bother to ask and note. All I remember was Uncle Mwangi saying of it in Kikuyu, "This is the town with the highest number of mad people in East and Central Africa."
If Uncle Gibson was telling the truth, I wonder how my hometown of Kiserian would fair in a ranking of towns with the highest number of mad people because I see quite a number of insane people in Kiserian during my daily walks in the shopping centre. Some roam while talking aloud to themselves. Others spend much of their time scavenging through garbage for something to eat. And all are usually dressed in dirty, greasy and tattered clothes. A few years ago, I saw one drink raw sewage water as some people looked on nonchalantly.
Sometime back while I was in Kiserian one day, I saw a mad running while hitting people along his way. As he approached me, I didn't stay away from his path as others were doing; foolish me! So when the mad man passed near me, he slapped me on my hand and continued running to wherever he was headed. I didn't go after him and retaliate; I just walked on. As they say, don't wrestle with a pig because you will both get dirty but the pig will enjoy the experience.
Another mad man I see in Kiserian is a guy called Faoro. (I guess his real name is Paul; it's just that we pronounce it "Faoro" in Kikuyu.) I have known Faoro ever since I was a small boy. And I recall vividly my immediate elder brother Paddy pointing out to me how fast he walked back in the early '90s.
Another memory I have of Faoro was when he came to Mum's grocery one time and asked me to hand him a bottle of soda. I was about to give him the bottle but Mum strongly asked me not to. Again, that was in the early '90s when I was a small boy.
I still see Faoro every now and then in Kiserian. He always looks confused and absent-minded. There was a time he used to greet me by calling me "Bot", the nickname of my eldest brother Joe Kagigite. So it seems he has an idea of where I come from.
Sometime back, I once saw Faoro react furiously at someone. I didn't find out what had made him that angry; I just remember feeling afraid that he could turn his anger on me, so I was cautious not to pass near him.
These days, Faoro doesn't greet me when we pass by each other. I never bother to talk to him as well. From the way I saw him react furiously at someone sometime back, I feel safer passing him without exchanging a word.
What I find amazing about Faoro is that despite his insanity, he still finds something to eat. For how can you explain that he is still alive this day. Because he is not employable, I wonder where he gets his daily bread from. It seems I worship a God who caters for the needs of birds in the air as well as of mad people like Faoro.
Another amazing fact about Faoro is how he has managed to stay alive to this day ever since I got to know him in the early '90s. I know of several youthful and handsome people of sound mind who died in freak accidents. And there is Faoro, a man people would label as mad, still going strong.
When I was growing up, I heard rumours that Faoro used to be a very bright student in school. And if my memory serves me well, I recollect hearing that he went mad because of reading too much.
But Mum told me sometime back that Faoro's madness was as a result of a curse from his parents. He did something wrong and one or both of his parents cursed him that he would go mad and become a restless wanderer like Cain, the man who was cursed by God for killing his brother Abel as narrated in the Book of Genesis. I don't know if Mum's account of Faoro's madness is true. Suffice it to say that Faoro has been a mad and restless wanderer for as long as I have known him.
By the way, Mum has warned me on several occasions that a parent's curse has dire consequences. I therefore advise all young people out there to live at peace with their parents and to seek parental blessings in all their endeavours. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on encounters with a mad man, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Some Mischievous Acts I Liked". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.