Seeking First To Understand
A True Story
on Mar 26, 2021
There is an interesting story that we learnt in primary school. As the story goes, the mice of a certain place held a general meeting to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy: the cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last, a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would solve the case of the cat.
"You will all agree," said the young mouse, "that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the cat. By this means, we will always know when she is about, and easily retire to our hidings when she is in the neighborhood."
The proposal by the young mouse was met with a general applause. The mice clapped and cheered joyously until an old mouse got up and said, "That is all very well, but who is to bell the cat?" The mice suddenly became quiet; they looked at one another and none of them spoke.
When I re-read that story a few years ago, I thought it contained praiseworthy wisdom. It teaches us to think through issues deeply before opening our mouths. It also teaches us to seek first to understand before airing our views. And as I reflected on the wisdom of that story today, I remembered some people who have offered me advice without taking into consideration other issues that matter.
Like there is this friend of mine called Benedict [not his real name] who took an interest in my life when I began writing stories as a hobby in 2012. One time in 2014 when I informed Benedict that I couldn't view a video he had sent to me due to my lack of reliable internet access, he quickly instructed me to leave my rural home and relocate to a city. At the time, he was a student at a renowned university in America.
Benedict instructed me to relocate to a city without pondering on how jobs are hard to find in the cities of Africa. He also seemed unaware that living in the city comes with it such challenges as traffic jams and urban crime that can be stressful. And he didn't bother to inquire why I prefer staying in a rural setting where communing with nature stimulates my creative thinking. What a shallow-thinker Benedict was!
Then there is this teacher I met at a school in Nairobi where I taught Music in 2015. Let me call him Mr. Nungunungu to hide his identity. Once when I told Mr. Nungunungu that I was still living with my parents, he started lecturing me on what I should do with my life. I will never forget the morning I entered his office to ask for something, only for him to command me to stop playing the piano and find means of living alone.
By commanding me to stop playing the piano, Mr. Nungunungu must have been another shallow thinker. Why am I saying so? Because he didn't seem to understand how I love playing the piano and how music beautifies our lives. He also seemed not to know how some musicians have made a fortune by following their passion of playing a music instrument.
And then recently, a former schoolmate of mine at Starehe Boys' Centre who I shall call Jonathan [not his real name] phoned me at night and engaged me in a lengthy conversation in which he did much of the talking. Jonathan proceeded to tell me that he was disappointed with me that I didn't acquire a university degree. He was disappointed because he had a high opinion of me during our time in Starehe. So he ordered me to go back to university and get a degree. And because he thinks I am a good writer, he asked me to pursue a Law degree.
Jonathan ordered me to enroll in a university without thinking about who would pay my tuition fees and other expenses that come with being a student; expenses such as food and accommodation costs. He also didn't bother to find out whether I am ready to adjust to the life of being a university student; I am not, and so are my parents. My focus now is on developing my talents in music and writing.
To be honest, I felt offended by Jonathan for giving me unsolicited advice that I head back to university. Not that I am proud or thin-skinned. It's just that I don't appreciate it these days when someone instructs me on what I ought to do with my life as if I don't have a brain of my own. For heaven's sake, I am no longer a child; I am thirty-three!
The pieces of advice I have received from people like Benedict, Jonathan and Mr. Nungunungu have made me realize that this world is full of shallow-thinkers. And if we are not careful to deepen our understanding and listen to our inner voice, we might end up being misled by the random opinions of others. Like the old mouse in the story I have narrated above, let us strive to think through things deeply before making our decisions. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on seeking first to understand, you might also enjoy another one I wrote some time back on "Lessons I Learnt From Books". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Insights From The Bible
A True Story
on Mar 21, 2021
A few years ago, I went through some reviews of the Bible on Goodreads - a social networking site for book lovers. Some of the reviewers gave the Bible a 5-star rating and extolled it as a wonderful source of wisdom. But others condemned the Bible using unprintable language and gave it a 1-star rating. That some people find the Bible valuable and others see it as useless does not surprise me any more because I have discovered that's how people are.
My dear reader, if you think you are going to be liked by everyone and become the most popular figure that ever lived, you are deluding yourself. Like the Bible, you will be liked by some and loathed by others. As one ancient sage said, "Some will love thee; some will hate thee." Or to borrow the words of my friend Rocky Mbithi, some will pray for you and some will prey on you.
While going through the reviews of the Bible on Goodreads, I came across an interesting one which read as follows:
The Bible is a dull, ridiculous collection of nonsense. But when read with the supernatural guidance of its author, it becomes a complete revelation - a word of encouragement, insight, guidance, reassurance and amazing insight into life. With revelation, it becomes completely different ... one that is alive and living and more powerful than anything seen in a Harry Potter movie. That's why it has changed lives, countries and destinies. When read with a relationship with its author, it's definitely a 5-star.When I first read the above review which I have edited for clarity, I at first disagreed with it, but as I read on, I agreed with it. The Bible can sometimes get deadly dull but with more understanding, it can be a marvellous source of wisdom, assurance and encouragement. And its insights can help us lead happier and more fruitful lives.
I have now read the entire NIV Bible, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. And in every book of the Bible, I have found at least one verse that has spoken to me. Recently, I was confident that I could open any book in my Bible without referring to the table of contents. That's until I tried finding where the book of Philemon is.
At first, I thought Philemon was one of the minor prophets. But alas! When I perused through the Old Testament looking for the book of Philemon, I didn't find it. How surprised I was to discover from the table of contents that the book of Philemon is a short epistle in the New Testament! And imagine I had read it and highlighted a few verses in it.
That experience of forgetting the location of the book of Philemon has taught me that there is always something new to learn in the Bible every day, especially when we read from a variety of versions. And it has come to my knowledge that some versions of the Bible are better than others at expressing some verses.
Of all the books in the Bible, I find the book of Revelation to be the most difficult to understand. Even after having read that book in full from two versions, I still don't understand it deeply enough.
Some time in 2018 when I read the book of Revelation, I tried memorizing the names of the seven churches that the author talks about in the first few chapters. But guess what! The only church I managed to recall was Philadelphia. And I recalled that church because there is a city in the United States named Philadelphia where a high school classmate of mine called Wilson Chira pursued his undergraduate degree.
On reading about the seven churches, I realized that Philadelphia was the only good church. The other six churches had some flaws that displeased the author. That must be the reason why the city in the United States was named Philadelphia. And I am thinking that the Christian names that people use today are similarly borrowed from persons in the Bible who were of good character. Such Christian names as John and Mary. I mean, have you ever heard of someone in today's world called Herod or Judas Iscariot?
Some Biblical characters such as Moses, David and Solomon were imperfect. Moses had a terrible temper that made him commit murder; David slept with another man's wife; Solomon was led astray by women. Yet despite their imperfections, they are venerated as heroes of great faith and people still name their children after them. That teaches us that there is nothing wrong with being imperfect. So we ought to embrace our imperfections as part of being human instead of feeling guilty and worthless.
Now, the Bible is full of stories of supernatural miracles such as a snake talking to Eve, the Red Sea parting to allow Israelites to pass through, the sun stopping in times of Joshua, Jesus walking on water and so on and so forth. I am sure those tales of supernatural happenings make some people doubt the veracity of the Bible.
As for me, I deduce from those supernatural miracles in the Bible that I worship a God of wonders - one who wishes to prove in us that He can do something supernatural and divine if we allow Him into our lives. That makes me trust Him with every detail of my life. And I believe God still does miracles these days just as He did in Biblical times. Well, maybe not by stopping the sun but by connecting us to the right people at the right time.
When I read the account of Israelites leaving for the Promised Land as narrated in the first five books of the Bible, I came to wonder how the Israelites could turn away from God in spite of the many miracles He did for them. He parted the Red Sea for them to pass through, gave them manna to satiate their hunger and water to quench their thirst. He guided them with fire at night and with a cloudy pillar during the day. Wasn't it foolish, I thought to myself, for the Israelites to rebel against the same God who met their needs?
Yet when I examined my life, I found out that I have been very much like the Israelites. Despite God meeting my needs and doing some wonders in my life, there have been times I have turned away from Him, rebelled His commands and did something contrary to what the Bible says. I have worried about some things, erupted in anger over minor provocations and told lies in what I have said. Does that sound like you as well?
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update three days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn that 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 hymn.