What Freedom Entails
When I withdrew from classes at JKUAT as well as from church activities back in 2008, I spent most of my time alone hanging around the university and occasionally visiting Thika Town and Nairobi City. When at the university, I would either be in the fields or in the library where I read a number of books including one about the history of Japan and another about the development of the Swahili language. I also read a book that encouraged me to be an avid reader.
A question that might pop up in your mind is: why did I withdraw from classes at the university? Well, I did so partly to acquire freedom. Having studied the first five books of the Bible earlier on that year, I had come to identify with the fate of the Israelites who spent their time in bondage in Egypt as narrated in the Book of Exodus. I felt like I too was in bondage because I was pursuing an engineering course that was turning out to be abstruse for me, couldn't feel at ease with people, was regularly confused and didn't have opportunities to travel as I wished.
To try breaking free from that bondage is what led me to hang around the university doing my own things. I also did visit Nairobi City as I have said, where on one night, I saw prostitutes for the first time in my life at a red-light district in the city known as Koinange Street. The prostitutes, to put it bluntly, were dressed to kill. Even though I did admire their bodies as any straight man should, I am glad I never became one of their customers.
As part of feeling free, I also planned to travel to Magadi, a clean mining town about 112 kilometres from Nairobi City that I had never visited. But I gave up on the plan when I got mixed up on where buses to Magadi Town were boarded.
My search for freedom was put to an end by the university authorities when they caught up with me a few months later. They incarcerated me in a police cell that night they found me. The following day, I was taken to a professor who thought I was mentally ill, so he referred me to a psychiatrist who had me forcefully admitted at Thika Nursing Home.
Earlier on in this decade when I thought of how I was handled that time the university authorities caught up with me, I felt bitter to the point of wanting to sue the university. But coming to think of it today, I am of the opinion that the university authorities took the right action on me by incarcerating me in a police cell and admitting me in a nursing home. Why do I think so? Because back then, I didn't understand what genuine freedom entails.
First, to be free means having enough money to meet our needs. We can't be free if we are living in want. That time in 2008 when I withdrew from classes at JKUAT, I was lucky to have money to sustain me which I had borrowed from Higher Education Loans Board (HELB). I wonder what would have become of me if I ran out of cash while hanging around the university; that's why I am of the opinion that the university authorities took the right action when they caught up with me.
At the moment, I am working on earning money from my writing and music talents. The day I will receive a cheque from earnings of that work will be the time I will feel truly free.
Secondly, to be free means thinking clearly as well as being free from fear, guilt, hatred and jealousy - something I didn't entirely understand ten years ago when I went astray at JKUAT.
And lastly, to be free also entails relating well with our families, work-mates and others around us. That time I stopped attending classes at JKUAT in 2008, it was foolish of me to stay alone and still think I was becoming free. If I could wave the magic wand and roll back the clocks of time to 2008, I would talk to my family, friends and a counsellor about my predicament instead of living alone.
To sum up my points, to be free entails having enough money to meet our needs, thinking clearly, being free from fear, guilt, hatred and jealousy as well as relating well with those around us.
And to be free is the best thing to have on Earth. That's why President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an address to the U.S. Congress in 1941, said "...we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression... The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way... The third is freedom from want... The fourth is freedom from fear."
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What I Do When Happy
My dear reader, which nursery rhymes do you remember from your years in kindergarten? Me, I remember two or three of them, including one which used to go as follows:
If you are happy and you know clap your hands,I am sure you can tell how the other verses used to go like if you are familiar with that nursery rhyme, can you?
If you are happy and you know clap your hands,
If you are happy and you know and you really want to show,
If you are happy and you know clap your hands!
Today, I found myself singing aloud that nursery rhyme. And it then set me thinking about the things I love to do when I am happy: walking, singing aloud, playing the piano, reading a book, reciting poems and passages from memory as well as browsing the dictionary in search of ideas and expressions.
Did I say I love to recite poems and passages from memory? Yes, I do. Like I sometimes recite the following recommendation letter for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space:
Modest; embarrasses when his humour gets a little racy; high degree of intellectual development evident in Yuri; fantastic memory; distinguishes himself from his colleagues by his sharp and far-ranging sense of attention to his surroundings; a well-developed imagination; quick reactions; persevering; prepares himself painstakingly for his activities and training exercises; handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulae with ease as well as excels in higher mathematics; does not feel constrained when he has to defend his point of view if he considers himself right; appears that he understands life better than a lot of his friends.I have come to love that recommendation letter so much that I have committed it to memory. It's one of the passages I love to recite aloud when I am happy, whether alone in my room or out there in the streets walking.
Earlier on this year, I became concerned about what others thought of me when they saw me talking to myself aloud as I usually did when reciting poems and passages. Fearing that they may perceive me as mad or something, I tried to suppress that urge to recite poems and passages from memory when happy. I even reasoned out that President John F. Kennedy, one of my heroes, wouldn't go around talking to himself as I did when happy. You see, when I was a first-year student at JKUAT in 2007, I came to admire a photo of President Kennedy looking calm and composed that was on the cover-page of Theodore White's The Making of the President, a book came across in the university library.
So for several months this year, I suppressed that urge to recite poems and passages from memory.
Guess what! Later on this year, I found myself feeling very happy one afternoon while walking out there in the fields. With the happiness came an urge to recite a passage I had saved in my memory. At first, I fought back that urge but after some time when it became too much, I gave way and started waxing lyrical to myself. Since then, I have come to accept talking to myself as one of the things I love to do when happy.
And coming to think of it, I now don't consider talking to myself as a sign of madness. Maya Angelou, one of my literary heroes, said that if you are always trying to be normal, you'll never know how amazing you can be. Then Isadora Duncan, the great American dancer, once counselled, "You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you." And then H. Jackson Brown Jr., in his inspiring Life's Little Instructions Book, advises, "Be an original. If it means being a little eccentric, so be it."
I have therefore vowed to continue with my eccentric habit of reciting poems and passages when happy. And just so that people don't think I am going mad or something, I will be dressing smartly and keeping my hair well-combed. Adieu!