KAMPALA – Due to obsessions with material things, I refer to some people as the 1-2-3-4 generation! Their main goal in life can be summed up in those figures – one wife, two children, a three-bedroom house and a four-wheel drive! Don’t get me wrong. Material things have a certain utility, but at some point they can possess you. Don’t let your possessions possess you.
When Mahatma Gandhi died, his entire worldly belongings were listed as two rice bowls, one spoon, two pairs of sandals, a copy of the Baghavad Gita (the Hindu Holy Book), a pair of spectacles and a watch. Gandhi had no money. He used money. Money did not use him. Money is not the root of all evil but the love of money is.
This is true of all possessions. If you find one possession that you can’t do without – hasten to give it away. Your very freedom depends on it. We are prisoners of the things we can’t let go of. Listen to the story of how monkeys are caught in India: “Monkey-hunters use a box with an opening at the top, big enough for the monkey to slide its hand in. Inside the box are nuts. The monkey grabs the nuts and now its hand becomes a fist.
“The monkey tries to get its hand out but while the opening is big enough for the hand to slide in, it is too small for the fist to come out. Now the monkey has a choice, either to let go of the nuts and be free forever, or hang onto the nuts and get caught.” Guess what it picks every time? You guessed it. He hangs on to the nuts and gets caught.
We are no different from monkeys. We all hang onto some nuts that keep us from going forward in life. We keep rationalising by saying, “I cannot do this because…” and whatever comes after “because” are the nuts that we are hanging onto, which are holding us back.
True fruits of successful living are not material. They are contentment, joy of usefulness and growth through fulfilment of our talents. Let me now tell you about worry! It is a number one killer. It drains energy. It paralyses. Whether you call it worry or stress, it is the same! John F. Kennedy used to say “After you have done your best, the hell with it.” Worrying has never solved any problem. It is like a rocking chair. It moves you but doesn’t take you anywhere. Prayer, thought and action will solve your problems. Worry will only magnify your problems.
There was once a wise king who got tired of the lamentations of his subjects about the problems they faced. He ordered that all the problems should be placed in one heap in the town square. He then asked each person to pick a problem he thought manageable. After studying the heap carefully each person decided that they are better off dealing with their individual problems rather than exchanging them for another person’s. Everybody has problems. The key is not to let the problems overwhelm you.
Sometimes you will feel the burden of your past. I have one advice: Don’t cling to the past. It is wise to profit by yesterday’s mistakes but it is fatal to hang onto yesterday’s victories. We’re all haunted by our past failures. Sometimes we rest on our laurels. We linger too long at the peaks we’ve conquered. We forget that there are higher peaks to conquer. I say to you that to be satisfied with past successes is to arrest forward motion. Don’t be intimidated by the sons and daughters of the so-called who is who! They strut in borrowed plumage. They may be powered by the accomplishments of their parents.
If you seize every opportunity and work diligently on the tasks at hand you can overtake them. In 326 BC an Athenian General was teased about being the son of a shoemaker by a nobleman’s son. He retorted, “My family history begins with me but yours ends with you”. Don’t miss the grand finale of this series next week.
Nobert Mao is a Ugandan politician and the President of Democratic Party