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Learning

I believe one of our primary abilities as human beings is to learn. We evolved into what we are by learning and adapting to our environment. Yet we still make a lot of the same mistakes and take life lessons we have gathered over time for granted. I therefore want to mark the end of the academic year by chronicling in each paragraph of this post, a few lessons I believe I have learnt in this time. And hopefully in time I can reflect on the significance these lessons have had and If I have in fact ‘learnt’.

Deciding which university to go to was a big deal for me (as it is for a lot of people), especially as I had already experienced the effect of being thrown prematurely Into a sub standard west african university for a year, and flunked out hopelessly. I bounced back remarkably in the following two years and was in a unique position to pick between three of the top ten world universities. I had all but made my mind up that going to a university with more black people will be more of a priority than going to one that is widely considered as the best university in the world by most reputable rankings. My interview changed my outlook completely. I found myself feeling completely at home. I met in one day, some of the most impressive students I’ve seen in my life. Then I started to realise how lucky I was to get an offer and be considered good enough to compete with these people. It was a challenge I couldn’t refuse, and completely trumped any issues I had with race and all the stories I had heard or read about. And as I expected, race has been almost a non issue.

I have never found it easy to be myself around people, and over time developed an arrogance that judges whether people are worthy enough to know the real me, which I believe to be a defense mechanism against not getting hurt. I didn’t realise how much of a disadvantage it was  until someone told me point blank ‘you will never be happy if you don’t let people in’. This type of brutal honesty usually has 3 stages with me, the obvious shock, then the anger that comes from someone assuming to know me, and finally rejecting or accepting that it may have some credence. Over time, it sunk in and as regards to myself, the statement has proven to be mostly accurate.

As someone who has more or less always been at the top of their class at every stage of their lives, represented their country in academic competitions, and won a few, I had come to believe that I had somehow earned that privilege, and if others do the same amount of work that I do, they can too. I believe this to be false as I have seen people grasp the most complex mathematical and physics problems in minutes, and use them in real life applications as though they had studied it for years. Of course our brains are our only experience of a mind that we’ll ever be privy to. As usual my mind dealt with this reality in 3 stages, the denial came first, trying to do what they do how they do it, then I was envious of these incredible learning abilities, and finally I have learnt to accept that just performing to my best was enough, and by doing that, I can do some things that other people will struggle trying to do at my level. I want to believe this is true for most people.

The last of my teenage years have been eventful to say the least, and these are just a few that I surprisingly have been able to remember even through a hangover from celebrating. And as I sit at my desk blogging this early morning and reflect an eventful night while listening to the light snores coming from my bed, I can only imagine the future being bright.

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Do you Know?

I spent a few minutes thinking about what I was going to write about today, didn’t plan to do it this often but I was encouraged by the traffic and response I got after only 2 days. I finally decided that a generally mediocre piece on human behaviour will have to do(and trust me it was bad).

Suddenly I received a notification on a youtube message and when I opened it I finally knew how christians felt when they think they had a divine intervention. Therefore most of my material today is from a spam youtube email, the subject was of course the title of my post(I’m not advocating plagiarism but if there was ever an exception, it’s this).

It went as follows:

My dear friend, I’m very sorry for disturbing you, but I have to ask you an important question…

Do you know that when you die, you will have to spend your eternity in HEAVEN or in HELL ?

There is no other place you can go… Please, think about this…

Where do you want to go ? Have you ever thought about this ?

I am telling you all these things because I love you and I care about you, please think about your Eternity and please do not go into hell, where the devil and his fallen angels will receive their everlasting punishment…

Please, think about Heaven, the place where you will be happy for eternity, forever !

The way to heaven is through JESUS CHRIST alone !
Jesus Christ is the ONLY way, He is the truth and the life !

Don’t believe those who say that everyone goes to heaven… Those are only lies, please be careful !

We are all sinners (Lust, Hate, Lie, Theft), we have broken the commandments of God and we all deserve to be judged.

Jesus Christ – God Himself, came into this world and He paid our disobedience by dying on the cross for us, for our sins, and through His shed blood our sins are forgiven and we can live in victory.

Pray to Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness, Forsake your sins, Believe in Jesus Christ, Start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, keep a relationship with Jesus Christ until the end, and you will be saved.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter who you are, Turn to Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

I wish you all the best.

 
Now picking on this would be easier than shooting fish in a barrel, so I ended up replacing the words,  God/Jesus, heaven and hell with Hugh Hefner, The Playboy mansion and the octomom’s house, respectively(please do try it). So at least I was able to draw some humour from it to quench the sadness of the realisation that I once endorsed this message.
This video cracked me up, gets really hilarious around 5 minutes in.
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What It Takes

I have been very privileged(or so I’m told) to be where I am today considering where I came from. Everybody loves a success story but most don’t quite understand what It takes to get there. Words like persistence, hard work and determination are thrown about so people draw inspiration from these stories. They might understand the meaning of these words for a week, a month, or even a year but to have these qualities for the most part of a lifetime is alien to most people from my experience.

Of course there are the rare occurrences of success that I would equate to winning the lottery, but most of us have to sacrifice something  for it. The sacrifices we are willing to make sometimes ultimately define who we become. And when we feel that our passion that carried us for so long is diminishing, we replace that with work ethic that we either try to see it through with the belief that It will return, or move on.

This week I listened to people criticize Josep Guardiola- the manager of Barcelona football club, for deciding to quit after 5 succesful seasons. All I could think of is if only they knew the toll that continuous success takes on an individual, if only they could walk a year in his shoes and feel the weight of expectation on his shoulders that builds after each success they might be less inclined to feel that way.

There comes a time when some of us are at some point of what is going to be a hard long battle to success, And we have to ask ourselves: Is this what we really want? Is it worth it in the end? Can I give any more? I would like to believe both myself and Josep were at this place (all be it on totally different scales). His answers were No and mine are Yes. Once one of those answers changes to a No, then I believe it’s time to move on.

FOR TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN MUCH IS EXPECTED

 - Luke 12:48  (the bible is not all useless)

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Why I Am An Atheist

I grew up in a very straight forward christian home in a West African country. A lot of people may not know this but coming out as atheist in most african countries is not a very good idea. You alienate yourself from your family and pretty much 99 percent of the population.

I remember ‘giving my life to christ’ when I was 4 years old, and at that point I had no doubt in my mind that there was a God and he loved me dearly. I was in sunday school every sunday and won many awards for being the best student. I understand most of the scripture in the bible from the countless sermon I’ve listened to in church, so I think I understand, for the most part, the mentality of a christian.

Now when you grow up believing something that everyone around you does, you have no reason to question it. Especially when it’s something that promises eternal life once you believe and accept. These concepts are of course abstract because it is impossible to measure someone’s true belief (which is a massive loophole that religious leaders exploit when things don’t go according to plan). And you definitely won’t question what you believe when you think you’ve seen or experienced something supernatural.

Something I struggled with even when I fully believed was the way a simple prayer is all a loving God needs to accept you, but when you think about having sex with someone and you risk burning in hell forever (hard to accept from a loving God). But God will always forgive you, so when you think about it you can do anything you want as long as you’re sorry you did it. Who measures how sorry you are? God of course, so it’s a constant psychological battle to know if you even passed the test of forgiveness. Another thing I struggled with was the fact that other people believed in other religions just as strongly as I believed in mine, how is it fair that they were pitched the wrong religion early and should suffer for that eternally.

I’ve seen a lot of supposedly supernatural things from  supposed witch confessions to all her crimes to sick people being healed and exorcism. Why doesn’t this convince me of the existence of the supernatural? Because I can explain them with things that we are sure exist like hallucinations, schizophrenia and con artists. Religious people are sure because they believe their experiences to confirm what they’ve always known to be true.

I personally first started to doubt my faith when I was in a prayer group and this supposedly strong prayer leader prayed for us individually and my friends fell to the ground, when it got to my turn I was so worried about not falling down because it could imply that spiritually there’s something wrong with me. so I fell on purpose. I started to wonder if it was all deep psychological mind games.

Religious books are also factors in play. Take the bible for example, people are told to see this as a guide to life. Yet the violence, sexism and slavery that is portrayed and endorsed is typical of the people who lived in that time not of a timeless God. People who believe have justifications for these conflicting parts of the same book and they counter different arguments with loopholes. The Principal one is: you must have faith. It basically counters all arguments because once you have faith in anything, facts become useless. But counters and loopholes exist throughout the bible, for example,the people who are enlightened enough to know idea of the 7 days it took to build the world, the garden and the talking snake is ridiculous would tell you most of the stories are allegorical. People who don’t endorse the violence would tell you the times are different. Most would tell you the new testament is what christians really follow and the old testament is simply a history lesson. Even the new testament describes homosexuality as satanic, even though it is exhibited in many of God’s (pure and good) animal species. And conveniently it also guards against people like me who question its credibility, so when you talk to a believer and you see a smile come up when you question the bible, It’s because they’ve already been warned about you(I know because I used to have that smile).

I don’t want to go down the elaborate conspiracy route. I think some of the people who wrote these books actually believed most of what they were writing was true but we all know con artists have existed at every point in our history.

Now I’m not going to quote stats because when billions of people believe something, stats are never going to be very helpful. This is how I feel:

Religion makes me unhappy, I feel I could have become a better human being if I didn’t spend most of my childhood not being me but being who I thought God wanted me to be, I feel I was told who to be the same way magazines tell young girls how to look. I tried so hard to live up to this unrealistic sense of perfection. But perfection to me is the complexity of the human mind, the way were all different yet the same. The way 7 billion of us coexist on a spherical mass orbiting another very hot spherical mass in a galaxy which contains several other spherical masses and in a universe that contains several galaxies. The ability to make choices is perfection to me. Yet we have to live up to another person’s standards from 2000 years ago who believed being perfect was obeying a set of rules and dying for his cause( which is very overrated especially when you consider suicide bombers do the same).

When everything is said and done it comes down to proof for me. Why were people 2000 years ago extended this courtesy of seeing someone do so many supernatural acts and then literally ascend to heaven. Anyone who sees that and doesn’t believe would understandably be classified as crazy. It is who I am I cannot believe something without some proof. And if there is a God who made me as I am and refuses to give me what I need to believe, then it begs the very simple but valid question of : Does God make people who he knows are going to be eternally damned? I simply cannot accept this.

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About me

I am starting this blog for purely selfish reasons. I, like a lot of people, want to be heard. And I have been struggling to do that lately. I have recently reached a stage in my life where I find it hard to tell even my closest friends how I feel about different issues because of how they’ll react. This therefore is a perfect medium of expression for me. I hope my views resonate with some people. I also hope to improve my writing as I’ve always admired people with that skill set.

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