Saturday, 22 August 2009

GOODLIFE: Born 10, get one cow

THE cow looked very nice indeed. It was nice and fat and its black coat gleamed as though it had been painstakingly and lovingly groomed.

I wanted to know why the cow was a little shorter than most I’d seen and I got told that it was a ‘local cow’, not the Fulani cow. I guess anyone into cows probably understands the difference.
There was this group of ten people gaily dressed in ‘aso-ebi’ around the cow. I peered at the picture, trying to see if I could recognise anyone it.
I did recognise a few of the people as being members of one family but I wasn’t too sure who the others were. I also couldn’t quite decide what was happening in the photo so I asked her.
‘What’s happening here?’
‘Oh, that picture was taken when the family did the ‘Ibo-Ezi’ ceremony for my mother,’ she responded.
I stared blankly at her waiting for her to continue.
‘Oh, ok, there’s this ceremony our people have for any woman that has successfully had and raised 10 or more children. All the children are presented to the woman’s family and a cow is given to her family in appreciation.’
I quickly glanced at the photo in my hand again and looked back at her. She was nodding at my unspoken question and trying not to laugh at the expression on my face. She finally got herself under control and continued.
‘Yes, those are my brothers and sisters and yes, there are ten of us and finally yes, we are all from one mother.’ Then as she couldn’t hold it in any longer she burst into laughter.
‘Why are you laughing?’ I wanted to know. ‘Are you serious? You have 10 or more children and then and only then does the society see it fit to ‘thank’ you for your contributions to the family? What if you really wanted to have 10 children but died giving birth to the ninth child?’
‘Eh, no cow be dat now. The honour is for the living.’
I was silently for a while.
‘These days very few people have four children not to talk of ten so what is going to happen to that traditional ceremony?
Do you think your people could perhaps adjust the number of children the woman should have before she can be presented with a cow to say four or even five?’
‘Hmm, I don’t see that happening.’
‘Well, in that case the tradition will die then.’
‘Naturally, but our men will have to find other ways to show appreciation for their wives. A few have already started the new tradition of ‘born two get one jeep’, you know!’
‘But seriously, how times have changed. I bet in those days the ceremony was a relatively common one. And I bet a lot of women tried their best to get to the magic number ten. Anyway, ‘born two get one jeep’ seems a fair enough bargain don’t you think? One thing I can’t help but wonder is how many other traditions will die sooner or later.’

Loving your job
LOOKING for a job is like wooing a lady; getting a job with a lofty paycheck, the right location, great staff and all is not an easy task. Sometime later, the honeymoon with the job is over and the dream job becomes stressful and may not offer the desired satisfaction. In today’s eco-climate, many workers are made to work at optimum levels as this is the age of mini-projects, some are forced to work overtime due to cutbacks and insufficient staff coupled with pressure from bosses. This is why most workers are stressed at work and even complain of disaffection with their work.
Extreme stress levels lead to a condition known as job burnout which occurs as a result of cumulative stress at work and leads to exhaustion in all areas of life. This is common among those who are faced with demand for high work output, monotony of duties, little or no incentives and also uncooperative staff. Five signs of job burn-out include being irritated and snappy, waking up in the morning as tired as ever, not having time for family and personal life, not yielding any form of control over the direction of your job and worst still, dreading Monday mornings.
Most working class and business people spend almost 12 hours everyday at work, preparing and in transit to our workplaces. This shows that whatever work we do forms an integral part of our life. If the work you do is something being endured rather than being enjoyed, you will end up enduring your life in the long run.
Mayo Clinic experts deduce that whatever work being done could be viewed triagonally either as a job, a career or a calling. The difference between these three perspectives is that while a job offers only financial rewards, a career gives room for advancement, a calling focuses on fulfilment. Whatever perspective you have evaluates the level of the amount of satisfaction derived from the work you are currently doing at present.
Satisfaction at work leads to a stable emotional health indirectly. It does not depend on the type of work being done. One has to learn how to cope with the challenges that work brings. If you are bored, unbalanced, under pressure or even fed-up with your job or work, it is advisable you switch to another? No! Take care of yourself first!
At work, prioritise your duties, break down large or cumbersome projects to small sizes and carry them out one after the other. If you can, delegate duties. Learn not to be over-committed to work, that is do not marry your job.
Make your work interesting, no one would do that for you! How about putting additional touches (fragrance, flowers or beautiful pieces of art) to your office for ease or comfort and make good use of break periods listening to music. Finally, never neglect your health, eat well, sleep well and above all, live well.

Native courtesies and modern society

WHEN my grandmother died, one of the beautiful memories we had of her was how she reacted if you finished eating without saying ‘Thank ma’.

To the old lady, that was a sign of not being satisfied with the meal. She’d watch your countenance and ask: “Are you satisfied?”
Those were the days when society and culture demanded that you thank your seniors after eating. As a direct consequence of that, when you now withhold that courtesy, it sends a signal. Today the story is different.
Most city children from the same culture don’t bother to greet after a meal (or is it that only the house help is there to be greeted?).
Waiting for signals is by the same token outmoded. The kids simply walk up to mummy (or nanny) and demand for more.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not a lamentation about “the good old days”. I’m just musing about the changing nature of etiquette some of which are good and others, well, not so good.
Still on eating: native courtesy also demands that when you sit down to eat, you invite those around to “come and eat”.
This was the tradition one late PDP chieftain was referring to when he rebuked a non-PDP minister in OBJ’s cabinet that he was only invited to ‘come and chop’.
The underlying point in that rebuke was that an invitee should ‘chop’ with respect and gratitude to the host. Most commentators and columnists went to town on the corruptive undertone of that statement.
This was, of course, legitimate. What was lost on them was the reference to our local eating courtesies in that statement.
You could not be heard criticising the cooking as an invitee in the traditional set-up. You can see the connection between the woes of governance and our traditional world view.

MODERNITY and city life have done away with this beautiful custom too. Now any time it is observed, it is done perfunctorily with a curt ‘join me’.
But if you’re really inviting me to share your lunch, where is the extra chair and cutleries? Is it any surprise that the standard reply is “No, thank you.”?
There’s also a funny angle to this custom whereby instead of an invitation the person pre-empts you with “let me do what you’ve done.”
This funny variant is said to have originated from people from a particular town on the River Niger.
Whether in jest or seriously, it speaks to the competition for dwindling resources which is at the root of most global issues including the war in Iraq, Niger Delta crises and global warming.
Moving away from culinary concerns, native etiquette also frowns at using the left hand to give or receive anything.
Left-handed children are therefore pressurised into converting to the right. It is a shame that no NGO has yet taken up the advocacy for left-handed children. This is one custom we’d be happy to lose.
Who knows whether this is why the society has witnessed a decline in the incidence of natural southpaws unlike Western societies.
Our football is going to be the loser as natural southpaws make deadly left wingers. One of that rare breed was Emma Amuneke. Taiye Taiwo is not doing badly too. For all I care, southpaws should form an association like their albino counterparts. Their natural patron should be the Egbon at Alausa.
Again I remember society’s prudishness on matters of sitting together by the sexes. It is not only Islamic societies that maintain this, only that it is more discreet in non-Muslim cultures.
Trying to place this side-by-side what we see on okada motorcycles these days just scandalizes decency. You have noticed the male-female-male sandwich atop commercial motorcycles. I wonder how a decent girl will agree to take that position unabashedly. Again I wonder whether this is about dwindling resources thrashing decency. Just wondering.

Organising your life
THERE is an order in nature. Hundreds of years ago, a Mathematician discovered a sequence, which he called the Fibonacci sequence.
In the sequence, the next term is the sum of the two previous terms. Here is the Fibonacci sequence. 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89… The sum is (1+1=2, 1+2=3, 3+5=8, 8+15=13…)
Leonardo Da Vinci devised an order out of the seemingly ordinary Fibonacci sequence. It was after Leonardo Da Vinci exhumed corpses and measured the length of each bone, which he discovered that they divide themselves in ratios proportional to the Fibonacci sequence.
1.618 is called the divine order. If you divide any number in the Fibonacci sequence by the number before it, you get 1.618 approximately. Try it. (89/55=55/34=34/21=21/13=1.618).
Your body obeys the divine order. Get a tape rule, the one fashion designers use. Measure the distance from your shoulder to the tip of your longest finger, and divide it by the distance from your elbow joint to the tip of your finger. It will be equal to 1.618, approximately.
Here’s another exercise. Measure the distance from your head to your toe, and divide it by the distance from your navel (belly button) to your toe.
It is approximately equal to 1.618. Leonardo Da Vinci also discovered that our finger bones divide themselves in ratios equal to 1.618.

SUCCESS has an order. It is easy to fail. If you want to be a failure, just decide to do nothing.
Sleep well, watch movies, spend your money anyhow, and live carefree. But success has an order. If you don’t follow the order of success, you can end in disorder.
Ask the youngman who made money through Internet fraud, and ended up broke, and broken.
Success does not happen by magic. Success is the product you get when you follow the process.
If you put a man on top a building, he would probably get his broken, after jumping down because he didn’t climb to the top. A kid has to crawl before she walks. That is the order.
Shortcuts don’t pay. By taking shortcuts, oftentimes, you bypass the order. When a piece in the puzzle is missing, there could be a problem.
That’s why a lot of lottery winners end up broke after few years, because they didn’t learn the ropes.
Every game has a rule. When you ready to play the card of success, you have to follow the rules.
As a life coach, I know that it is important for people to form new habits, to become successful. Sometimes, a client will come and expect that I would solve her problems instantly. I let them know that I don’t use a magic hat. It takes time.
Take small steps. Jan Hayner, a professional organizer who specializes in time management and organizing workflow, said a major part of successful academic organization is motivation.
“It’s not hard, but sometimes people overwhelm themselves by looking at the big picture rather than doing it gradually,” she said.
You can overcome any challenge once it’s broken down into bite-sized chunks. You owe yourself the responsibility to put your life in order today.

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