Sunday, 14 June 2009

Okumephunaism: A Critical Analysis Of My Philosophy of Life

I come from a philosophically dysfunctional family where my parents are to the extremes in their philosophies about life. While my dad is a very hard and unrepentant conservative my mum on the other hand is a very soft and evangelical liberal.

My dad is named Nwabueze while my mum is named Ngozichukwuka. Both are conflicting characters philosophically and psychologically. Psychologically my dad is highly extroverted while my mum is an introvert to the core and up till today am still wondering how they managed to live together as man and wife. They are opposite of each other and the first law of science is that opposites do not usually attract. They are always in conflict. But then, the ability of my parents to live together all these years as one is a miracle am yet to comprehend. They have been married for over 40 years now.

To put this picture in perspective I would need to throw more light into their characters. My parents are Roman Catholics and my father in particular nurtured the ambition to be either a priest or religious but that ambition was never achieved. He therefore settled down as one of the most vibrant and active lay Roman Catholics in my community. His Catholicism belongs to the school that does not believe that a priest can ever make a mistake and therefore religious activities are taken seriously in the house and it must be according to the Roman Catholic tradition.

Daily rosary and Sunday mass are obligatory and in actual fact since I knew my father he has never ever missed his rosary for a day and this is not a joke. I am not quite sure if my mum says hers often. He goes to morning mass daily and even now he is getting old, he manages to keep it up despite his constant sickness due to old age. Anything Roman Catholicism is never allowed to be criticised within his household. No abortion for whatever reason. No homosexuality or bisexualism for any reason. No missing of mass or daily rosary and litany of other rules he made for us to follow. He is more than a Moses. Moses gave only Ten Commandments. My father gave nearly a thousand.

Despite my dad’s level of education and literacy, he opposes all these not because he has done critical study of them to know why some people are gay or bisexual or why abortion should be allowed in certain cases. He cannot condone any of them simply because the Pope and the Roman Catholic theology say it should not be tolerated and that is the end of the story. My mum on the hand is the opposite. Though she is more educated compared to my dad, my mum has always been of the opinion that the world is not only dynamic but also fast moving and therefore we must move on with it. She believes strongly in globalisation and is of the opinion that for us to live and fit in, within the society we must always review our philosophy to conform to the modern world.

She does not see the need for daily rosary when people are tired and could easily cancel it when my dad is not around. Sunday mass to her should not be obligatory because she does not believe in going there simply because we should. She strongly believes that God is omnipresent and therefore could be talked to anywhere including the kitchen, the playground and the toilet and in fact everywhere. On the issue of abortion she has always maintained that children are blessing to the family but unlike my dad, she is of the opinion that a child that come in rare circumstances including one that could endanger mother’s health should be aborted unless the mother decides to go instead of the child.

On the issue of homosexuality and bisexualism, my mum once told me that even though she does not like that, she is not going to judge or condemn anybody. Her defence is that God has a purpose for all his creatures on earth. On a particular occasion she asked me the benefit of living with a woman you are not happy with when you can live with a man you love with all your heart. Sex education is a taboo as far as my dad is concerned. My mum taught me everything including what is called masturbation. I was actually surprised when she told me it is very normal. I nearly reported her to the Archbishop.

This is just a little picture of what my parents look like. My father is a good representation of faith while my mother represents reason. They do not have many things in common but one thing to the best of my knowledge they have in common up till today is that they are perfectionist. My parents are not only neat when it comes to homemaking and dressing, they are simply perfect in their choice of clothing that at one time to my greatest delight my parents especially my mum was declared the neatest woman in the whole area. That was when we were still leaving in Emejulu Lane Onitsha, Nigeria.

My mum in particular is something else when it comes to perfection. She knows where everything is in the house and can easily notice when they are no more there. Everything and I mean everything is neat, ordered and where they are supposed to be. The cooking though may not be like a monarchical dinner, is however very classical and neat. Our flat is always very neat and my friends always like to sneak in and take advantage of the cosy atmosphere.

It is against this back drop that I wish to use this medium to enunciate what my philosophy of life is all about. People ask me about this often. They want to know my stand on issues because according to them, I tend to be very confusing sometimes. But one thing is very certain about me and that fact is that am not confused or confusing. I am very much in control and aware of what I believe in. I am neither a hard conservative like my dad or a soft liberal like my mum. I think am something in-between. Let us begin from here.

Psychologically, I am a moderate extrovert, more of a sanguine, less of a phlegmatic and a perfectionist. In enneagram I belong to the number One which is an extreme perfectionist and frankly speaking I am. I am a highly principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic individual. I am a hardcore perfectionist to the extent that books in my library are arranged in every order available including size, date of purchase, language, colour and many other criteria. I am very instinctive. My refrigerator is fabulously neat while my room lacks virtually any trace of dust. The rug is hovered often and usually when people come and go especially when they come in with their shoes or slippers. The first things that is done in the morning is to lay the bed and the whole room must be perfect whenever am leaving the room otherwise I will not leave with a rest of mind.

Enneagrammatically the One's attention goes to appreciating the excellence and elegance in anything such as a shape, musical score, a piece of art or a speech; to noticing and correcting errors; to identifying and adhering to standards of perfection in thought, feeling and behaviour; to acting according to what is right or wrong; and to judging and criticizing oneself and others. The defensive coping strategy at the root of Type One's makeup is based on the internalization of a critical and judgmental parental voice. This voice is designed to call attention to and correct one's behaviour before it becomes punishable. Major traits of Ones include a strong internal critic, a tendency to criticize or judge others, a concern with ethics and correct behaviour and adherence to rules and standards. Ones also tend to be perfectionists and idealists. In terms of strengths, Ones are typically reliable, analytical and moral. They often demonstrate integrity, adherence to a set of values and a desire to improve things for the good of all. Challenges for Ones include dealing with their own anger, managing their perfectionism, and being overly critical of self and others.

I am also a Sanguine and because some schools of thought are of the opinion that one cannot fall exclusively within one personality, I have no doubt I am a combination of Sanguine and Phlegmatic. Sanguines generally are light-hearted, fun-loving, a man of the people, loves to entertain, spontaneous, possesses leadership abilities and very confident. However Sanguines could be arrogant, cocky and indulgent. They can be day-dreamy and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable fashion. Phlegmatics on the other hand are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality often inhibits enthusiasm in others. They could be lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Like the sanguine personality, the phlegmatic has many friends. However the phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate; these characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable friend.

In actual fact what brought about this writing is that my cousin asked me couple of days ago if am ever going to marry. Why he asked that question was because of the level of order, adherence, neatness and perfection he saw in the arrangement of things in my room and I sincerely hope that this write-up would answer that question. One time in college I quarrelled with one of my best friends because he dirtied my notebook and I had to buy a new one and recopy the whole thing. It is basically because of this that I would prefer buying my own books and photocopying library books instead of borrowing them. Even to lend my books to people is like a scary movie because am always afraid they would dirty it. As One, I think am not far from suffering from an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Well the answer to his question is that I will marry but whoever am going to marry has to learn to conform though I would not want to force the person to be like me. We will have to try and bond just like my parents bonded despite their oppositeness.

This is exactly what I am psychologically. Philosophically it is a different ball game altogether. I have read a lot of books in my life. I started using my personal money to buy books when I was as young as eight and from that day up till today it has been a non-stop buying and reading to the extent that I do not only have a large library but have also read almost everything worth reading in the literary world. I am a fast reader and can read between 250 and 300 words per minute. I can read for about 11 hours especially when am facing an examination otherwise six especially when am reading for fun.

Being an avid reader and having read a lot, a lot of people and writers have consequently come a long way in shaping my philosophy about life. Some of these people and writers include Mahatma Ghandi, Elie Wiesel, Ben Carson, Ola Rotimi, Edith Cavell, Barack Obama, Franz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Abraham Lincoln, Isaiah the Prophet, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Paul the Apostle and numerous others. The aforementioned seriously shaped and moulded my philosophy of life. My firm belief in the principle of dialogue and non-violence is a doctrine I borrowed from Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jnr while that of patriotism was shaped by Edith Cavell. The love, tolerance, accommodation and respect for others is borrowed from Abraham Lincoln and St. Paul the Apostle while the need for peaceful co-existence, universal brotherhood and solidarity is from Elie Wiesel, Martin Luther King Jnr, Isaiah the prophet and St. Francis of Assisi.

My mum introduced me to Abraham Lincoln and I could still remember very well a book that she bought from the market for wrapping stuffs only to notice that it contained a letter of Abraham Lincoln to his son’s teacher. She gave me the book and asked me to read the letter aloud. I fell in love with that letter. Here is the reproduction of the letter.

He will have to learn, I know,
that all men are not just,
all men are not true.
But teach him also that
for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician,
there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him for every enemy there is a
friend.

Steer him away from envy
if you can,
teach him the secret of
quiet laughter.

Let him learn early that
the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books.
But also give him quiet time
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside.

In the school teach him
it is far honourable to fail
than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith
in his own ideas,
even if everyone tells him
they are wrong.
Teach him to be gentle
with gentle people,
and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son
the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on the band wagon.
Teach him to listen to all men.
But teach him also to filter
all he hears on a screen of truth,
and take only the good
that comes through.

Teach him if you can,
how to laugh when he is sad.
Teach him there is no shame in tears.
Teach him to scoff at cynics
and to beware of too much sweetness.
Teach him to sell his brawn
and brain to the highest bidders
but never to put a price-tag
on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears
to a howling mob
and to stand and fight
if he thinks he's right.
Treat him gently,
but do not cuddle him,
because only the test
of fire makes fine steel.

Let him have the courage
to be impatient.
Let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always
to have sublime faith in himself,
because then he will have
sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order,
but see what you can do.
He is such a fine fellow,
my son!

My philosophy of life is therefore hinged upon patriotism to the land of my birth Nigeria and that of my domicile the United Kingdom or wherever I see myself at any point in time. However that is never enough! I must have no hatred or bitterness for no one because I strongly believe that pain no matter how painful it is can be healed while hatred can be turned to love and division into unity. Human race can and will be one.

Patriotism to Nigeria is borne out of the fact that it is not only a privilege to be born a Nigerian but a wonderful opportunity to be an Igbo from Nigeria. I am a proud Igbo and Nigerian despite the fact that the latter has not been fair to me the way I wanted her to be. I still love her with all my heart and pray constantly that she grows to be what I want her to be. Nevertheless Nigeria as my country has been good to me at least it gave me the opportunity of a federal education and the opportunity to have my first international work experience within it. It also gave me the opportunity to begin my journalism career there and my first international award in journalism was on the Nigeria police. I am therefore grateful to my beloved country Nigeria and pledge to be faithful, loyal and honest. To serve her with all my strength and to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory with the help of God.

In the same way, patriotism to the United Kingdom is a duty I owe the Queen and this great nation for that privilege and opportunity to live and make my livings here without fear or intimidation. I am very grateful to her and promise to honour her and protect her dignity for this privilege.

I believe strongly in making love not war, preaching peace not hatred, division or bitterness and bearing no malice towards none irrespective of their religion, creed, belief, ethnicity, colour, language or sexual orientation for we are children of the same father with a mandate to heal wounds, unite what has fallen apart and to bring home those who have lost their way.

I decided not to judge people based on their colour, ethnicity, religion, creed, belief or sexual orientation. Nothing is confusing to God. He is aware of what happens down here. I do agree strongly that no one religion is better than the other. They are all the same and simply worship same God according to the dictates of their conscience, geography, culture and way of life. It is never a minus but a plus, which allow us to see and enjoy diversity in worshiping and praising same God. It is against this background that I firmly believe in everybody and equality of human race. I see these diversities in this racial makeup as a great miracle. No race is superior or inferior to the other. We are the same and no one is more important than the other. We are complimentary to each other. Americans got it right, “E Pluribus Unum”.

A straight guy is not superior to a gay guy. A lesbian is no less superior to her straight counterpart while a bisexual is as human as gay or straight. They are all good and wonderful and play vital role in fulfilling the will of God here on earth especially as it concerns diversity. However by this am not suggesting that the ongoing debate over gays, lesbians and bisexuals round the world and in particular my country Nigeria should go away. Each side should be allowed to continue making their case to the public with all vigour, passion and conviction but we must do this without reducing the other party with a differing opinion to a public opprobrium or caricature.

I do not believe in neutrality and silence when people are suffering. I am conscious of the fact that neutrality does not pay and being aware that it does not pay, I have sworn never to keep silent or remain neutral when people are going through a very difficult time or humiliation because it may be my turn tomorrow. Neutrality empowers the oppressor and never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor and never the tormented. I believe we have to take part in a controversy no matter whose Ox is gored especially when it borders on human life, human right and human dignity by speaking out against it. When human lives are endangered and human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sovereignty should come last. Wherever people are being persecuted, imprisoned, humiliated or become a subject of opprobrium as a result of their race, religion, ethnicity, political views or sexual orientation, that place should be the focus of the entire world until that cynical and barbaric behaviour is brought to an end.

My belief is borne out of faith in universal brotherhood of mankind and absolute trust in a supreme being called God. I believe in God. Yes I do and in His only begotten son and our lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin called Mary the wife of Joseph the Carpenter as well as in the truism that there is salvation for all those Christians and non-Christians who worship God according to their culture and the dictates of their conscience. The meaning of this is that I do not believe in the superiority of one religion over the other. I believe in the equality of all religion as well as gender equality in the service of God. If a man can be a priest nothing should prevent a woman from being that too.

Additionally I believe firmly in showing charity to all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right and bearing in mind at all times that above all these the greatest is love. I believe in doing to others what I would want them do unto me. I am not ready to hurt anybody because it hurts to get hurt. I endeavour to be sincere, honest and helpful to all because it pays to be.
I believe on the day of judgement and also believe strongly that God will judge us on how much we loved others as ourselves which is actually the summary of His commandment. I also believe in the principles of dialogue and non-confrontation upon which God will judge between the nations and settle disputes for them so that they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks and learn war no more.

Above and beyond, I have an absolute faith in that new world where wolves will live with the lamb, leopards with the goats, calves and yearlings with the lions; where the cows will feed like the bears while the lions will eat straw like the ox. Then the infants will play near the hole of the cobra with no fear even as they put their hands into the viper’s nest for He has allowed us to joy in Him through our lord Jesus Christ by whom we have now received the atonement.
This is my belief and this is the belief am going to the grave with and would love to have as my epitaph,

“Here Lies The Remains Of Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna
Who Before This Journey Devoted All His Energy To Making Love Not War,
Preaching Peace Not Hatred And Bitterness
And Bearing No Malice Towards None
Irrespective Of Their Religion, Creed, Belief,
Ethnicity, Colour, Language Or Sexual Orientation
As Well As Showing Charity To All
With Firmness In The Right As God Gives Him To See The Right
And Bearing In Mind At All times That Above All These
The Greatest Is Love.
Pray That His Dream Goes On And On
So That His Soul Would Rest In Perfect Peace, Amen”.

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