We will be squarely in the year-end holiday season by the time you read this. So, I take this opportunity to wish you a blessed, refreshing and truly joyous break. For those who celebrate the Nativity or Noel, I say “Merry Christmas”!
Do, please, make a conscious and brave effort to keep that belittling “X” from the name and concept of your festival. Keep it as “Christ-mas”, a spiritual occasion, as possible. To my believer friends, my constant advice is that we should discard the quibbles over literal calendar dates and qualms about the origins of the celebrations.
I, for example, focus on the wonder of birth, the birth of a child by a simple woman. I ponder, for example, how such a birth can fundamentally radicalise the destiny of humankind.
The birth may be that of Nduku, Kipkemboi, Othieno or Nabwire, which occurred last night. Or it may be that of Gandhi, the Mahatma, Florence Nightingale, the Nurse, Muhammad, the Messenger, Jesus the Christ or one of the two Martin Luthers, the German one or King, the African-American one.
Who can tell how those little babies of last night will change the world? Who could have told how those once little babes of yesteryears, and now of the names that we pronounce with fear and trembling, would affect their times and all the times to come? That, for me is the wonder of the nativity, which is just a sophisticated Latinism for childbirth.
Miracle of life
Whether every birth should be an occasion for celebration, I cannot say. But I would not stop my sisters from raising a joyful ngemi at any recurrence of this never-ending miracle of life.
I would also urge you to extend the celebration of childbirth to a celebration of all life, with all its wonders and its potentials. Paradoxically, that need for the celebration of life is greater in times like the present one than in other, more tranquil and sedate, ones.
In the case of 2020, for example, one may justifiably wonder whether there is anything worth celebrating in it. My answer is an emphatic, “Yes, there is a lot to celebrate in 2020.” First and foremost, for you and for me, is the fact that we are here, alive, well and in good health. These are matters which we perhaps tend to take for granted most of the time.
Now, in the face of the numerous and shocking bereavements across our entire social fabric, including the departure of many who were nearest and dearest to us, we cannot take our lives and our health for granted.
These are wonders to be gratefully celebrated. Equally importantly in the gloom of this pandemic year, we have to celebrate the courage, devotion and love of our doctors, our nurses and all our healthcare givers, who continue to minister to us, many of them to the humbling point of, literally, laying down their lives for us.
On a livelier note, we celebrate and rejoice with all those who survive with us and continue to serve and take care of us. Strangely but deservedly, one medical practitioner who represents the best level-headed approach to healthcare in the midst of a medical crisis is the American Anthony Fauci. I will not elaborate on how this affable medic has survived the double-headed monster of Covid-19 and intransigent and ignorant interference.
I would, however, like to share with you a simple recipe for a positive celebration of this season and an optimistic entry into the New Year.
This is a deliberate concentration on the wonderful things that have happened to you in the recent past, and the events, whether local or international that have inspired you and boosted your faith in human goodness.
Health and rights
Of such events in my case, for example, I may mention two. First, I was strongly impressed by the decision of the Scottish authorities recently that all women of menstruating age will have free access to all their requirements, such as sanitary pads and tampons. Scotland, which was my temporary home in 1971-72, is part of the devolved United Kingdom of Great Britain.
But, under its redoubtable leader, Ms Nicola Sturgeon, it has a lot of autonomy over its domestic affairs, as may be seen in that landmark decision about women’s health and rights. But why should this not be a standard expectation and practice all over the world?
Is our victimisation of women, our endless debates about schoolgirls being given pads, due to our indifference to women’s reproductive rights or to the abysmal ignorance and even prudishness of men about the whole subject? This reminds me of the candid revelations by our sister, Janet Mbugua, in her book, First Time, which all of us men should read and heed.
My second wonder event was the wildlife lovers’ response to the tall order of the giraffes marooned in Lake Baringo. It was inspiring following Afiwa being rafted to safety, although I must confess I am yet to learn the details of how the rest of her relatives fared.
I was also left with the question that has nagged me throughout the year, despite the many “experts’” attempts to answer it.
What exactly caused all our lakes, especially the Rift Valley ones, to flood beyond all memorable limits, and not to subside. Was it what we are doing, what we are not doing or what we are not doing right?
Of my most recent joys, I can only mention this professional one. I was gratified to note that our beloved UoN is celebrating its Golden Jubilee.
A virtual session by the Department of Literature, with most of my closest friends, colleagues and acquaintances, melted my heart.
It brought home to me how intimately I have been, and remain, involved with this beautiful, complex and infinitely challenging community. There, we certainly have cause to celebrate.
Let us all, likewise, pick out our blessings, count them and proceed to celebrate and be grateful for them. Have a blessed and joyous Season.