Friday, July 31, 2009

Blogging in Ghana: the Paradox of the Returnee --(2)

I think I owe my readers an apology for leading them up a wild goose chase with my title. So allow me to be clearer.

A couple of posts ago, fellow ghanablogging.com member Esi Cleland guest-blogged about how to avoid disappointment when you move to Ghana, and I did same on her blog about the expectation of electricity.

I believe the reason why these issues came up at all was because a lot of the time, when you return home, expectation does not match reality. Let's just say it's inversely proportional to it! When you're a blogger-returnee, you want to write about...Ghana, but you cannot help but make comparisons with where you came from. It is not that it defines you by choice; after a while, it defines you--full stop. So it is that Esi will make comparisons with Ghana and the US; Abby about the her other places she's lived and Ghana; me with Belgium.

Therein lies the paradox--that the comparison between the two cultures we were priviledged to experience defines the kind of blogging we do.

Still, all is not lost, and far be it for me to speak for any of my two lovely fellow ghanabloggers, but it seems to be a perpetual --if you will--stream of consciousness that runs through the kind of blogging we do about Ghana.

I did offer yesterday more quotations about life in Ghana, so let me just return to five more posts before the days goes out. I just quickly want to take you back to 2005 when I started this blog. I was travelling up and down the Winneba-Cape Coast road very regularly, and here are some of the more "profound" posts I made about those journies (and then some!):

1.

77 Degrees of Separation and a Funeral
Another errant goat. Another Sunday…with a twist: rain, sunshine, and a funeral service.

Isn’t it funny how apparently prosaic things (like the death of a very old man who happened to be a pope) can connect us in so many arcane ways. Don’t get me wrong—I am no Catholic, but after Sunday, I felt like being an Anglican.

Like a scene right out of the Vatican, a portly, bespectacled priest—with a heart full of wit and humour—sang on us yesterday morning as we attended the funeral service (part three of three) of a three-day mourning service for my maternal grandmother’s cousin. He talked about sanitation (sachet water being dumped everywhere); the Kyoto Protocol and why the Americans didn’t want to sign it, because might is right; men and their big toys (read: big cars); keeping peace at home (as the grass always looks and seems greener on the other side); and…appropriately, Noah and the environment.

Noah was a reference to Noah’s ark and the great tsunami that afflicted the Indonesian region on 26 December, 2004, when most Christians were just opening, or had opened, their Christmas presents. It was a poignant sermon replete with humour that just wanted me to go back to this guy’s Church.

Seeing as I am fierce Protestant/Methodist—thanks to my late grandmother—I think it would cause a bit of a storm. But, hey, seeing the fright written over people’s faces over the election of Pope Benedict the XI, I wonder whether people aren’t thinking whether they should do a volte-face on their faith.

But that’s only me.
from: http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2005/04/77-degrees-of-separation-and-funeral.html



2. The next entry was more of a reflective one looking at why I LOVE my Accra, against the backdrop of the-then newly-contructed Tetteh-Quarshie interchange:


Of Reflections, Ruminations and Redness...in Accra
Accra this time is so breath-takingly beautiful. I stole some time away during lunch break to go give a relative something in the Airport residential area. I haven't been down there in a long time. I was taken aback, en route, by the gorgeous breeze and the scorching sun that lent a paradoxical contrast to the usual scorching African weather. Okay, Ghanaian, as I am not too au fait with other African countries.

On a serious note, it was another sight to behold. As I stood outside the gate waiting to be opened inside the house, I glanced at the street, and the view was very verdant. There was a scattering of red, strangely enough, all over. Note that this particular suburb of Accra is particularly verdant, or green, anyway. At this time of year, it's even more so, and very, very plush.

There was a tree with red leaves that looked much like this one here: and all I could do was stare at it like a mad-man as I tried to process the contrast of the colours of the cars (yes, there was a red car passing, too) plying that route, along with the smoothness of the tarred road, set against the backdrop of the clear, blue sky and the buildings in the surrounding area.

Scenes like these make me so in love with the city, because if my experience in Brussels when I was seriously working in the Belgian capital (2000-2004) is anything to go by, rarely was there a time to appreciate such greenery, as most of it was in the outskirts.

In Accra--my city--the greenery is not too far away, and it enhances the city all the more.

Speaking of which, another infrastructure set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky is the newly-built Tetteh-Quarshie interchange that has been the bane to many a driver, given the contorted manner -- some would say meandering -- of the roads. The Spintex roundabout -- not considered by the African Development Bank in the disbursement (as far as reports go) -- has been, yet again, the bane of the average driver that plies that route to go to Teshie-Nungua, Regimanuel Estates, Manetville, Spintex, and Tema.

from:http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2005/04/of-reflections-ruminations-and.html


3. This entry provides an insight into some of the frustrations I received from the goats that, erm, ply the road!


Kill Speed before Billy Goat Does!
I cannot for the life of me understand the penchant that goats have for crossing roads when you're cruising at circa 100km/h.

Yesterday, on my way back from Mankessim, TWICE-not once-a goat tried to cross PK. The first had to be the funniest...

There we were, with PK crusing around a respectable speed of 80km/h, when this goat, oh so casually, decides to cross the road. We were approaching Kasoa then, so the speed had been reduced considerably, but still.

With its hips swinging, its legs doing the bop--much like Afro-Americans hooked up in gang-life ascribe to--twisting its whole body like it was trying to chat up a babe, it tried to cross the road.

As we came closer, it **very quickly** crossed the road.

That's more like it, I thought.

The second was almost dangerous, cos this time, t here was no wooing on the goat's part, it just wanted to cross the road. When PK revved the engine, it reversed. Thankfully, there was no car from the opposite direction.
Our visceral response, apart from sucking our teeth in collective defiance, was to proclaim:

"These goats are so DARNED stoo-pid!"

Or something of sorts in vernacular...

Something that really got my GOAT -- no pun intended (I'm sure!!) -- yesterday was the conduct of a driver coming into the capital transporting a huge number of people (supposedly, the huge bus must be a big give-away!)with STC, or State Transport Company...

from:http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2005/04/kill-speed-before-billy-goat-does.html


4. This entry highlights my day and the evening I spent attending no less than a jazz outing:


Sporting a Grassy, & Kebab-Filled Evening--Is this Accra?
Even though the place was more populated by white people (some US accents, a lot of German ones), the place began filling up with more black people. I couldn’t figure out whether they were all Ghanaian ones, but I must admit that there were a few very good-looking women (black) who were SO well-manicured they had to come from suburbia-land. I shrugged. I didn’t really care much for trying to even chat them up.

Plus the fact that my bum was not a very presentable state given my trousers—hell, there was lights out when we got home from Makola. So no time to re-iron my trousers;-) Let alone any *electricity* to iron them;-)

Seriously, though, I didn’t much care for chatting up, especially because I am now very much into G, but it did make me realize how VERY easy once a guy goes to a public function alone (though this was hardly a function!), he can be driven to distraction. G couldn’t make it regrettably, but I made sure I had a GOOD time.

Jazz, for whatever anyone can make of it is one seriously different type of music altogether. It isn’t just about instruments being played anyhow. Or about syncopated rhythms either. {Yes, I do remember my GCSE Music!!! // syncopated-- adj : stressing a normally weak beat}

It’s more about what music can come, or express itself through your soul, as it were. There was something Jimmy Beckley said to me whilst he was getting a drink, and having Malcolm X’s picture look down at him. He said that jazz is about expressing "yourself through music—not just about making any noise, which is all too-tempting".

He was suggesting that with Jazz you have to know the code—as it were—and be ready to break it. That’s the mark of the REAL jazzman – not one who engages in a cacophanic whim of drums-cum-saxophone-cum-bass guitar all rocking away in their syncopated ways.

The Jazz group—Café du Sport—a German-based group were FANTASTIC.

from:http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2005/05/sporting-grassy-kebab-filled-evening.html


5. In this last entry for the day, I write a looooooooooooooooong post in which I touch on how my paternal grandfather, E.K.Bensah I, First Member of Parliament for Agona and Minister for Works and Housing during the First Republic opened the Tema motorway, with pieces about the A&C shopping mall, and why I love Accra:


Why I Love Accra--Genesis
Being in Ghana, it is sometimes easy to forget that our next-door neighboursare not so at peace as this country appears to be. It was, for example, hard to believe that, as reported in the Daily Graphic of Friday 22 July, the so-called refugees from Sudan and elsewhere attacked our so-called "Ussher Fort", which is, um, named after the well-known R&B singer;-)

Naughty.

Ofcourse it isn't:-)

Point is: these putative, or so-called, refugees saw fit to attack the policemen, and break their mobile phones. Bad mistake -- anywhere!-- to attack policemen--let alone in Ghana!

In any event, the situation turned quite nasty, with newsmen and others callling fro police reinforcements.

This--in Ghana!

Ofcourse, that's a pretty naive taking of the whole thing; social unrest in a developing country is no indicator of the countr'y political climate. We live in a democracy--or so we are told by all and sundry--so a little discontent here and there, as long as it's well-managed by police, does little to disturb the prevalent peace in the country.

from:http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2005/07/why-i-love-accra-genesis.html


Over the next couple of weeks, I will be interspersing regular postings with some of the "best" entries over 4.5 yrs of blogging after 5 yrs back home.

God bless Ghana! God bless a United Africa!;-))

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blogging in Ghana: the Paradox of the Returnee --( 1)

Blogging, generally, is like a candle in the wind: it waxes and wanes in the most unexpected manner, and like the sea, it ebbs and flows in quality and consistency.

Blogigng is also rather solipsistic in the sense that it represents a microcosm of one's personal world, and is refracted through the lens of the gargantuan blogosphere.

When you find yourself at a milestone--like I have done--it can be embarassingly self-centred. My last post gave a teaser for where I'm coming from, so bear with me for a while.

It is now no secret that my formative years were spent outside my home country of Ghana. SUffice-to-say, coming back home with the family was a blessing as we all arrived safely, even if the folks came a month after I did, and our dog a few weeks before them.

Back home, I felt the only way I could track my life--not that it was a necessity, but a desire--was through blogging. It seemed to be the best way of seeing how far I have grown--or not--and evolved. Since February 2005, when I started this blog, I think I have managed to do the tracking, though not in the way I would have wanted. Still, over 250 posts is no mean feat!

To kind of celebrate five years to the day since I took the picture in the inset (that sees me taking the picture in the Accra-bound KLM plane toilet), I am going to try and pick some of what I consider my "best" entries during the five years I have been back home after toching down from Schiphol on 31 July, 2004.


1. I have travelled to Tunis for a work-sponsored/UN-sponsored trip. It would pave the way for my plunge into matters of the information society:


"As I arrived into the town centre (rue de Marseillaise) near the Hotel Oscar, you could have sworn you were approaching Paris. I swear, man.

This is a gorgeous city. It certainly is not reminiscent of Africa, which in many ways is a shame. What happened to the dusty roads?

The security detail (men taking turns in the lobby and outside with their inimitable earpiece) treats you like royalty and you are sure that you will come to no harm."


2. I witessed the eclipse in Ghana in 2006, video-captured it from television, and blogged about it:


Sporting the special eclipse shades, which many believed not to be that special, most of us wanted to witness the phenomenal experience of seeing outside get dark between 8.30 anad 9.30am in the morning...

As the time of the eclipse grew closer and closer, jubilation was written over ALL our faces. THIS is what living is all about, no? After all, the statistics indicate that few people (around 1/10) ever get to witness an eclipse. So to have witnessed an eclipse a second time (the first being in Belgium in the late nineties--11 August, 1999) is a blessing of epic proportions;-)


3. I commented extensively on the World Cupthat was held in Germany:


The commentators suggested they gave Brazilians a run for their money. At times, Ghana managed to penetrate – and dominate – the Brazilian defence, albeit wastefully. But that’s okay.

Had it been any other team other than my own, I would have rooted for Brazil. But that’s okay, too.

Despite the unnecessary chutzpah of non-pundits like myself of the game over a possible win against Brazil, I think deep down, most believed it would be tough facing a team that not only played a bit like us, but possessed a more skilful technique, associated with an unrivalled experience.

In my final analysis, I reckon the failure of Ghana in beating the Brazilians, whilst that prospect was a non-starter for many observers, was a good wake-up call to a creeping complacency that surrounds any debutante of a global game like the World Cup that advances to the degree the Black Stars advanced.

Failure reminds us that success is a process, and the process, by way of the African Cup of Nations, which Ghana will host in 2008, may just be what the country needs to remind itself that our debutante performance could be a lot, lot better.




Not to burden you too much, my next entry will bring you more of some of the entries about life in Ghana that might have eluded you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Curious Case of Kojo Media (aka the Ghanaian Media) & Why I Blog


For the past month, I have been acting as ICT/Telecommunications judge on the 14th Ghana Journalist Association(GJA) Media Awards. They are scheduled to be launched on Saturday 15th August. [ http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/entertainment/artikel.php?ID=163101]

Next week is exactly five years since I arrived back home from Belgium to the job I am in. In my personal opinion, I believe the media has gotten worse over this period. There are quite a number of professionals that are doing well as journalists; sadly the charlattans outweigh the professionals!

The practice of journalism is in a very sorry state--despite the astronomical rise of the private press (yes, you could say that our press is free! (even too liberal at times!!) ), what with papers aligning themselves to political parties. Though that is nothing new, it went o the increase, especially in the second term of the NPP.

Papers like "The Statesman"; "The Ghanaian Observer"; and "The Daily Guide" are three mainstream papers that toe the NPP line. They toed it in the last few months of the NPP, and continue to do so, with often-times bombastic headlines that should alert our National Media Commission, which is itself as toothless as a dodo...

It is now possible for anyone to create two columns on a sheet of paper, and label those papers that are pro- and anti-goverment. The situation with journalism has become that dire and polarised. Party-affiliation is no secret as in the UK, where the Telegraph and Daily Mail are usually in support of the Conservatives, but at least the British press is capable of scoops like that of the parliamentary expenses which exposed BOTH the incumbent Labour and Tories.

In Ghana, any kind of scoop like that would have exposed only ONE party!

The biggest change, in my view, has been the rise of private papers, but many of them have only deepend the polarisation that already exists.

I do believe that a free press is important for Ghana, but free press without regulation (I understand that the National Media Commission is being re-constituted to have teeth as it was woefully under-staffed, and has experienced conflicts with the National Communications Authority that claims to be only technical-savvy) is no free press, but a cauldron of over-zealous (pseudo-)journalists who have hijacked the true journalism in the country.

The Ghana Institute of Journalism is 60 years old this August, and is acknowledged as being one of the premier institutions in the country that Dr.Kwame Nkrumah established to train and TEACH journalists from all over Africa. This sorry state 60 years later is beyond sad, but a horrible legacy to our forefathers who had a vision of the institite churning out QUALITY African journalists. Instead, GIJ has become a conduit to churn out journalists who chase after "soli", or solidarity money to have stories published. This is also another worrying trend that is being dealt with slowly and surely.

At work, we always have a budget for "soli" to have stories published; it usually is to cover transport as the media houses are not interested in catering sufficiently for their employees. Little wonder soli becomes the order of the day. Without it, publication in the dailies is rare. That IS a reality.

As regards the online community, Ghana has an online community, with the latest being GHANABLOGGING.com. I have referred to the eponymous site in my SUNDAY WORLD[http://www.sundayworldonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=45&Itemid=61] ("technology" column: (http://twelvedaysintunis.blogspot.com/2009/03/nighmare-on-hp-pavilion-street-1.html), and will continue to do so. As far as I know, that is the most "structured" online community for bloggers blogging in Ghana. I have given a bit of an explanation of its genesis in the link above.

It is difficult to tell how many hits my blog gets a week, to be frank, as I have not been monitoring that much. What I do know is that it is listed in the TOP 100 Blogs about Africa: http://www.bachelorsdegreeonline.com/blog/2009/100-best-blogs-for-learning-about-africa/. The other bloggers in Ghana include GHANACONSCIOUS: http://ghanaconscious.ghanathink.org/blog.

Why I WRITE MY BLOG

:
I like to write--and enjoy writing. Given that I love technology, the advent of blogging meant that I could combine my two interests to create a voice for myself. I have thus far managed to maintain five blogs quite regularly, and see blogs as helping me organise my ideas and thought. My blogs can be found on http://www.ekbensah.net.

The latest that is not there is http://african-union-citizen.blogspot.com, which title is "I am a Proud African Union Citizen".

The blogs that are very different from my ekbensahinghana and accradailyphoto.com are the http://critiquing-regionalism.org and http://twelvedaysintunis.blogspot.com.

The first chronicles ideas and thoughts on comparative global integration, with the latter being more about technology.

When you get no less than the AFP making serious mistakes on Africa as in the case below, then you know percpetions of Africa remain very very poor!:
==========================
from: http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-world/bongos-body-arrives-in-gabon-20090612-c55o.html
"The six-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Gabon is a member, has declared a community mourning period of 30 days. Foreign leaders will continue to arrive in Libreville for Bongo's state funeral."
===========================
1. GABON is in Central Africa
2. ECOWAS has 15 members--and a website: http://www.ecowas.int!

Why the BBC World Service?


I like the World Service because of its plurality, diversity, and quality of English. I am a lexophile, and find that despite the simplicity of the documentaries, I often learn more from the different KINDS of people who are interviewed on the WS. Plus, I miss my BBC Radio Four, and find the WS a great alternative! That it has an African service is great, but I would love to connect with MORE European programmes, such as "Europe Today". A podcast is great, but not enough for me!!

This entry was based on an email exchange with Journalist Adam Westbrook-former Ghana visitor-of-2002 and blogger who took time out of his busy life as a broadcast journalist to ask me some questions which reflect this post

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Accra Publication to Die For: "Consumer Focus"

We've all been there before: walking in town--perhaps a more up-market place like the Accra Mall or some place near Osu Re: and catching sight of a new publication.

Straight away, your heart beats that much faster, thinking "great, new stuff to read!" You take it home, and realise it's replete with mistakes the editor should not have missed, and that it wasn't that great after all.

Suffice-to-say, this rather-new publication falls outside that category.

This is the second time I am picking it up from Accra Mall. This time I took time to read some of the articles. WHat most impressed me was the letters section on pp.36-38. Just an insight for you:

Sorry Barclays, we deserve more!


Re:Stop Cheating us MTN


Bounced Visa on TTB/Stanbic


Shoprite, Quick Service Please!!!



I guess you're getting the picture: perhaps a glimpse of the general complaints the average Ghanaian goes through with banks and major retail outlets!

Still, with each of these, you get the magazine responding with an update that clearly shows they did some investigations for you, and that they actually spoke to the "defaulters" in question. In the case of SHOPRITE, for example, (something I have written about before on this blog), Consumer Focus magazine responds:


In the name of good CS, it would make a great deal of good if a desk/toll free line is dedicated to all those who patronize this shop...




I like the way the responses are long enough for you to realise the magazine did its homework to try to address your query.

Endorsed by the Food and Drugs Board, the page is divided thus:

EDITORIAL / FOCUS DIARY / COURTESY PAGE / FDB PAGE / COVER STORY / IRONY PAGE / FRANKLY MY DEAR PAGE

The Hotline is 020.808.55.18; email: consumer_focus AT yahoo.com.

My mission is to contact them and encourage them to set up a blog to maximize their outreach; possibly a FACEBOOK group; maybe a website?

This Accra-based publication NEEDS encouragement; they're doing swell. Let's begin to encourage them today!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Elusive Ghanaian Middle Class

Is there a Ghanaian Middle Class? Each year I get the opportunity to ask myself that question when I see the number of vehicles rise astronomically on the road. Although I do accept that cars do not a class define, a certain number of private vehicles undoubtedly go a long way to confirm that capital is far from dead in this town!

The first time I got the opportunity to write a more coherent entry on this blog was back in 2006, when I looked at it in the context of CITI97.3fm's Salsa Mania.

In 2007, I reprised the question, and wrote a longer post, which found expression in a a three-article series -- shortly after the Accra Mall opened -- looking at the "Westernisation of Accra".

I submitted some of them to ghanaweb. To say the least, I was enlightened by the barrage of negative comments I received, including accusations of naivité to be comparing Ghana to the West.

On Saturday night, after walking Fenix gave vent to creative juices, I decided to re-visit the issue on Facebook. Below are some of the answers I received. Feel free to click on the image to view the conversation in bigger fonts.




What about you? What are your thoughts on the Ghanaian middle class?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama's Visit: A [trenchant] View from Ghana


It was always going to be difficult writing an entry about Obama, when all around me had written theirs, and I was found wanting.

For me, never in the short history of this twenty-first century has so much airtime probably been dedicated to one single person. From the blogs to the regular news—both opinionated and otherwise—everyone has been talking Obama—and whether you like him or not, he is the twenty-first century superstar President of no less than the United States and, who happens to double as a black man.

In the centenary of Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, who advocated and promulgated the concept of the African personality, Obama’s meteoric rise could not have been more poignant. In my view, he has come to represent by becoming not just the 44th president of the US, but the first African-American president: the epitome of the post-modern African personality.

Forget the fact that the Black Man no longer has any excuses for getting where he wants to, and maybe consider this: with Obama, no longer will myopic white anglo saxon protestants and people of that ilk obsessed with the rigid preservation of division -- where blacks go this way and whites the other—be confronted by the distorted reality that Blacks are inferior, and that they cannot also have nuclear families with 2.4 children.

With Obama, no longer will it be cool to skip school, to feign helplessness in the assistance of those less fortunate than you; to pretend that your communities do not matter. With this man, no longer will it be cool to display machismo, disrespect the concerns of the opposite sex, and be polygamous in a marriage. With the "yes, we can"-grandmaster, no longer will it be a uncool for the Black man to be happily married, with a supportive wife by his side, who might also be educated. Nor will it be an issue for his progeny to be "only" girls.

For those of us who have been brought up to feel that having a son makes you great, let it be clear that your greatness does not depend on the sex of your progeny, but what you accomplish in your life.

Do they not say that it is not the degree that makes a man great, but the man that makes the degree?

When I set all this against the backdrop of President Barack Hussein Obama’s visit to Ghana, I cannot help but wonder whether his visit was more spiritual than political.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was not now cool to be a Black man; be happily married with kids that are girls; be highly-educated; be a listener and an engager?

For so long, the West has managed to perpetuate a picture of Africans being polygamous; having loose sexual morals and being uneducated. Despite the fact that many Africans have gone and come back home to improve the lot of their people’s, it has still taken an awfully long time for the rest of the world to cotton on to the fact that an African is also capable of managing his own affairs. To wit: be well-educated and have a good marriage, where the woman is supportive despite being herself a professional.

The insistence on this side of Obama may belie my sub-conscious—for I too aspire to have a good woman by my side who may be in a good job. I have never espoused the idea that a woman has to be kept at home before doing a good job with the children, and I am slowly and surely accepting that not having a son will not kill me.

As someone who greatly aspires to be a father some day, I believe that the significance of Obama as a family man must not go unnoticed. That he can visibly share intimate moments with his wife and children is a reflection of how far the African personality has come. And by extension, the post-modern African personality.


We know the politics already, and it has been discussed to the death. I am proposing that we use his visit as a filter through which we examine the African family, which for too long has been plagued by the absence of an omnipresent father.

His visit is also about giving hope to the youth, and empowering them to push the envelope in as many ways as possible. It is a serious irony that only this year, the AU declared 2009 to be the beginning of a decade that celebrates the youth of Africa.

I do not know about you, but I am hopeful.

We have always had change, but what ultimately we have with Obama is the quietly-confident capacity of the unsung hero towards existential change that is profound and transformative in a way that he can whisper in the shadows...

yes, we can!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What is Success?...and on How to be a Great Human Being

BBC Radio Four's "Thought for the Day" is a great favourite piece of radio of mine from my days in Belgium. A truly inspiration three-four minute segment in the "Today" programme on BBC Radio Four that profoundly puts to shame the length and breadth of our morning radio shows in its quality and diversity, and GREAT interviewing.

Am busy writing an article closely connected to the launch of the UNCTAD report last week that claimed regional integration is great for developing countries, and which I claim I will deliver on Thursday, so blogging is in the back-burner: [David, thanks for your ocncern!!]

Enjoy this piece on success, and how "Our maturity as human beings depends on our capacity to be at ease with ourselves." (from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/documents/t20090707.shtml


Thought for the Day, 7 July 2009



The Rev. Rosemary Lain-Priestley




'Federer takes place in history', 'Roger Federer is the greatest' - the headlines were as epic as the match itself. My favourite few lines of commentary were from the sportswriter at The Times: '(In the past Federer) has created such visions of loveliness that we got all fanciful and called it Art. On Sunday he won by the brilliantly simple tactic of Not Losing'.

Success, it seems, is about talent, flair and focus - and when you're up against the wall, just refusing, ever, to give in.

Reading all this I've been reminded of something I heard recently about the latest parenting technique. The idea is that people should deliberately encourage their children to do things that they are not very good at. Because otherwise, the theory goes, they will grow up with an aversion to doing anything at which they will not shine. They might excel at music, sport, art or science - but they will have lost the ability to have a go at something just because it's fun. And they will measure their own worth solely through the certificates and trophies that grace their walls. They might look like highly successful people but their fear of failure will have denied them many other things life has to offer.

Jesus told a parable about talents which suggests that God does not suffer gladly those who squander the potential of their resources and gifts. If we have a talent we should use it, to the glory of God and humanity. There is another Biblical strand, however, that tells us we are valued and honoured and loved for everything that we are - our weaknesses as well as our strengths, our comic failures as well as our moments of achievement. From Moses who feared his own inability to string a sentence together, to St Peter who failed to reach his own standards, the scriptures are peppered with people who are celebrated as much for their ability to have a go as their questionably heroic status.

Our maturity as human beings depends as much on our capacity to chill and be at ease with ourselves as it does on our ability to win trophies. And maybe this is a truth that even in the heat of the moment with his fifteenth Grand Slam triumph in sight Roger Federer could appreciate. We now know that as the score reached 12 all in the final game he was feeling bad about the pressure through which he was putting his pregnant wife. Asked yesterday: 'What will you do this week to relax?' he spoke about this very exciting time in his life at home and said that he's going to put the tennis racket in the cupboard and support his wife as much as he can. Being a great human being is as much to do with the habit of luxuriating in all of life's gifts, as it is to do with winning.

copyright 2009 BBC

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