Wonders of Nature
A True Story
on Dec 10, 2020
Let me tell you a little secret about myself: I love nature and meditating on its wonders. I can stop to take in the beauty of a flowing river, of the sun setting in the western horizon or of a lone bird flying high up in the sky. As a result of my appreciation of nature, I tend to like those friends who put images of nature on their social media profile pics as opposed to the latest models of cars, shoes or airplanes.
So much do I love nature that I have memorized motivational quotes that draw inspiration from the marvels of nature. Motivational quotes like "A river cuts through rock, not because of its power but because of its persistence", "A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings", and "The tree that bears the most fruits gets stoned the most."
Yes, I love nature and meditating on its wonders. And because I am a nature-lover, let me today share with you, my dear reader, some four wonders of nature that have awe-struck me. Ony four.
The first are the gases oxygen and hydrogen. Those two gases are highly flammable. Oxygen gas, as every high school student knows, is needed for combustion. Hydrogen gas was at one time used in hot air balloons but was quickly abandoned after one devastating accident during which a hydrogen-filled hot air balloon burst into flames. And you know what? When you combine those two highly flammable gases oxygen and hydrogen, you form water which extinguishes fire. Isn't that a wonder?
The second wonder of nature are the elements sodium and chlorine. Both elements are extremely poisonous. Sodium is a very reactive element; if you were to put it into your mouth, it would react explosively with the saliva and cause wounds. Chlorine gas is equally harmful; it was used in the First World War by Germans to kill enemy soldiers. And you know what again? When you combine those two harmful elements sodium and chlorine, you form sodium chloride (table salt) which we add to food everyday to improve its taste. Isn't that another wonder?
The third wonder of nature is the human body. I have come to be amazed by the wonderful construction of the human body and the workings of its various parts - how, for instance, the body heals itself from an injury. Only God can create such a miracle-working machine as the human body. A skilled artist can make a likeness of a human body from a rock or wax, but to make the sculpture breathe, grow and think creatively - that is beyond the scope of human ability.
The last wonder of nature that I will share with you today is the human brain. It is said that the human brain is made up of over 100 billion neurons. What's more, every single one of those neurons can connect with other neurons in more than 100 trillion different ways - that's more than the number of atoms in the entire universe! Basically, that means the human brain is capable of storing all the knowledge that has ever existed.
When I first came across that fact (that the human brain's neurons can connect in more ways than there are atoms in the universe) in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, I doubted its veracity. It's not until I read about that fact again this year in Tony Buzan's Age-Proof Your Brain that I came to believe it. There is no way those two respected authors could be wrong.
Just think about of the number of atoms in your body (and you have billions of them), then the number of atoms in the whole earth, then those in the sun and other planets, then those in all the billions of stars in our galaxy, and then those in all the billions of galaxies that are in the universe - and all those atoms don't amount to the number of ways that the neurons in your brain can connect. Isn't that another wonder for shizzle?
My dear reader, you have a very powerful tool in between your ears: your brain, that is. I urge you to use it well. Don't intoxicate it with drugs and excessive alcohol. Instead nurture it not only with water and healthy food but also with knowledge - broad, deep knowledge. That's all I am saying.
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn which is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.
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Tragedy in a Swimming Pool
A True Story
on Dec 5, 2020
During our time at Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education, all first-formers were required to attend swimming lessons on weekend afternoons right from their first weeks in the school. The swimming lessons were compulsory and any first-former who dared miss them risked being fixed for "working party", a severe Starehe punishment in which culprits were forced to work shirtless for three hours on a Saturday afternoon.
As was the case with most first-formers, I never got into trouble for missing the swimming lessons because I loved swimming - an experience I had never had before I joined Starehe. I still remember how elated I felt the first weekend afternoon I stepped into the swimming pool. It having been a hot afternoon, my fellow first-formers were equally jubilant as we bobbed up and down in the waters of the shallow end of the swimming pool.
After my Form One year came to an end in November 2002, I ceased swimming over weekend afternoons. From Form 2 onwards, I only swam during some PE lessons. And I do recall when I was in Form 3, my deskmate Martin Wamoni, who was a better swimmer than me, was fond of torturing me at the swimming pool by forcefully submerging my head under water. On running out of breath, I would try to loosen myself from his firm grip, and when I didn't succeed in doing so, I would feel like screaming for help. Martin seemed to get a special kick out of seeing me gasp for air as he gripped my head.
Of course I ceased swimming on weekend afternoons after I finished Form One so as to give first-formers of subsequent years a chance to also learn swimming. And I am sure they too enjoyed being in the pool on weekend afternoons, especially when the sun was blazing down from a clear blue sky.
One Sunday afternoon in 2004 when I was in Form 3, the usually fun-filled first-formers' swimming session took on a nightmare quality when it was discovered the following morning that a first-former had drowned in the pool and died. News of the boy's death spread around the school like bushfire, and at break time that Monday morning, scores of students were milling on the corridors of a building next to the pool, having a look at the dead boy. I also joined the students. And from the second floor of that building, I saw with my two naked eyes the body of the boy, lifeless and floating on the deep end of the pool.
Dr. Griffin, the then director of the school, was also at the scene that Monday break time. When he saw us milling on the corridors of the first and second floors of the neighbouring building, he was angry at us. With his commanding, sonorous voice, he instructed us to come down from the building. I don't know why he got mad with us; maybe he feared we might fall from the building as we viewed the boy's lifeless body. Or maybe he was just stressed by the tragic death of the boy.
When our class convened after that break time for a Geography lesson, our teacher - a likeable lady called Miss Mwangi - asked us to imagine how the boy's parents would react on hearing their son had drowned in a swimming pool. She really felt for the boy's parents.
I can't remember what I made of the boy's tragic death. All I know is that I wasn't saddened by his death since I didn't know him personally. I am however sure his classmates must have dearly missed him as they stared at his deserted desk on that fateful day.
Soon after we convened for the Geography lesson, I complained to my deskmate Martin Wamoni that he could cause me to also die in the swimming pool if he continued submerging my head forcefully under water during PE lessons. Though I was damn serious while telling Martin so, he took my comments lightly.
Looking back on the events of that day, I am sure Dr. Griffin, as the head of the school, must have had a difficult time breaking the news of the boy's death to his family. Maybe that's why he had looked stressed during the break time of that day when he saw us milling on the first and second floors of the building bordering the swimming pool.
Questions were raised on what could have led to the boy's death and investigations were carried out. Were the swimming pool attendants and supervisors negligent in their duties? Did the boy's house captain notice he was missing on the night of that Sunday he drowned? There was a suggestion that the boy could have hidden somewhere near the pool, waited till the swimming session was over and the pool's gates closed, and then dived into the swimming pool to have fun all by himself.
I wasn't curious enough to find out what the investigations came to. But I do recall hearing through the grapevine in Starehe that the boy's family was contemplating suing the school for his tragic and untimely death. I don't think the family sued the school because the issue died down as my years in Starehe wore on.
Also, I can't remember what Dr. Griffin told us when we gathered for evening assembly that day. The little I recall from that assembly is us singing the wonderful, old hymn "Abide With Me" which says in its last verse that "...In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!" The hymn was specifically chosen to mourn the boy's death. And it was my immediate elder brother Paddy, who was also in Starehe at that time, who accompanied us on the piano as we sang the hymn - a befitting hymn for the mood of the day in which we had learnt a Form 1 brother had left us for the hereafter.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on tragedy in a swimming pool, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Thinking About Death". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.