We are because are


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Has it not occurred to you? The world is a reel tape constantly unspooling before us and here we are. Under unabated pressure to constantly perform. With each passing moon we have to reinvent ourselves to survive or suffer extinction. It’s just how it’s set up; you snooze you lose.

Once I was told, “As an artist you are only as good as your last piece.” On a scale of bitter truths, that statement is a gall of truth. It is a remark transcending the realm of art, touching on all aspects of human life. Regardless of your occupation, doesn’t matter if you are a vagabond, you have to earn your spot daily to keep the wolf from the door. I’ll tell you what. In 2004, Jackson Makini aka Prezzo had the biggest song in East Africa. You must recall the refrain, ‘Mafans mi nawapenda woote!’ By then, Prezzo was obviously the unassailable King of contemporary music in Kenya. Today, I doubt that assertion holds water, there are newbies in the game and they’ll probably be others as time elapses.

With that in mind, two things come to the fore. First, human usefulness is pegged on remaining relevant. The rooster crows every morning to wake the village up. Despite doing so on previous occasions, it’s still required to crow each morning to maintain it’s relevance as the bona fide village alarm clock. Failure to which, it might just make for a good barbeque or dinner as chicken broth. Hence it keeps crowing everyday at daybreak not only to live but to sustain the company of a brood of hens. Continuously making love to it’s harem as a typical cock would do. For those who submit to Christianity, the Bible in Matthew 7:19 says, “Every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” If you are lazy, it’s time you rued your existence because the onus of living is being potent. At least that’s what God says. In a nutshell, produce or perish.

Secondly, going by Prezzo’s illustration, life is entirely seasonal and therefore in perpetual flux. Change is the only constant. Wisdom dictates that you contend with that fact, whether you ndekni or kithni. In other words, the world will do as it may whether you shake or shrivel without regard for your feelings. Just as winter transitions to spring without consulting any of us but we duly oblige by embracing the new beginning. For purposes of longevity, it is more than imperative for us to keep evolving.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

While in pursuit of these pearls of ideals; of being resourceful and adaptable, I have taken issue with what it has turned us to.

Look, people have always flirted with the idea of invincibility and permanence. It’s probably why we have children to shove our last names down their throats – in a quest to outlive ourselves even in our absence. Or the import of men putting up statues of themselves at City Squares to serve as mementos that are admired over centuries by subsequent generations. Why do we name roads, schools, amphitheatres and the likes after people who are long carcasses. Why do we writers, write ? Is it not an attempt at forging immortality. So that we may live twice – in our God-given lifetimes and in the hearts of readers who will reincarnate us after we are gagged by the smothering grave.

The problem is we forget. We forget that we are limited. Well, except Eliud Kipchoge but not even him can do a marathon under an hour. Much to our chagrin, a lot of what we covet is unattainable. It’s akin to chasing the wind. Jesus Christ must be the most famous celebrity in humanity’s history and not even half of China has heard of Him. If for all His fame Christ is yet to conquer the world, what are your odds at becoming a permanent fixture beyond your earthly presence? In truth, we may not be remembered beyond 100 years but we trifle ourselves with trying to secure the uncertain. We forget to savour the present which in essence is all we can vouch for. The greed to possess the unseen has altered our sense of humanness. Before, Kings would quantify their wealth and influence through; gold, territories annexed, descendants and slaves who pledged fealty to them.

Today, we are no different. Likes, followers and one’s aptness at accumulating money carries the day. Though futile, we still want to be demigods like our forefathers. Indeed, history is repetitive. In this light, we have failed miserably at recognizing that we are people first not; a rank, caste, class, title or a bank account balance but people.

Nope, I beg to object, “an artist is not as good as his last piece.” Rather, an artist is as good as an artist can be, solely because he is an artist. His dignity is tied to him as an artist not to his talent. Jackson Makini will remain Prezzo, period. Prezzo should still be Prezzo even without ‘mafans mi nawapenda woote!’

Let us let the rooster live notwithstanding it’s ability to crow every morning because being a rooster is an end to itself. I hope you realize that we are not merely tools of production but people. And our value should never be hinged on how much we can or cannot do. Simply put, we should not have to produce or perish but rather, live and let live. We can coexist, matters less if people are lazy or otherwise industrious. We are because we are. Not because of our skin texture, our social media following or where we live. We are just because we are, man.

Lately, I have been taking stock about my life and this is an epiphany I’m sharing here. I am blessed with the bounty of health, a house and a full belly before going to sleep every night. But somehow, I still manage to be unhappy and discontent. Well, I must be a sage because it’s a jigsaw I have solved. It’s a dissatisfaction fed by this idea of being a productive vessel first before being a man. That I am nothing without my potential. And as a result, have to keep proving myself to secure a worthy place among the human race. It’s a path I have trodden and it’s a hamster wheel with no end – achieving contentment in such a system is impossible. I am not what I deliver. I am who I am.

As we speak people are obsessively referring to themselves as ‘brands’. Positioning themselves as commodities and being human coming in last as a footnote. I read somewhere that, “we will be the first generation to be regarded as consumers and not citizens.” Soon, if not now people’s commercial viability will decide who is fit to live and vice versa. We work our tails off to buy stuff we want neglecting what we need. Aye, it’s better to look good on Instagram and cry yourself to sleep. It’s better to have money than to pursue love, passion, peace, virtue and real friendship. It’s better to have paper than to have trees. It’s better to eat fast and die slow.

We men have an infinite appetite for aggrandizement that unfortunately consumes us. It seems innocuous but it’s insidious and it chips away at who we are. It chips away at our well-being because we sacrifice so much at the altar of success and grand achievement.  Take heart brethren, for we are not men of occupations nor cogs in a machine. We are men because we are men.

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