By Abel Merawi
September 10, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- I am going to deviate from the usual line of writing I follow and place my hand on the keyboard to describe the cheerful feeling shared by all during a New Year. It is a time of year that marks a transition, a metamorphosis of the soul. Even the gloomy ones whisper New Year resolutions when no one is watching. It is common to hear and see radio and TV programs talking about a brighter tomorrow, with people calling to announce a better version of themselves for the world to heed. Hope brings light to the dark alleys of our heart. And what better time could there be for hope than a New Year, a time when the cosmos flow in rhythm once again?
As others who grew up in Ethiopia, New Year ignites various memories in all my senses. I can taste the “Doro Wot’ (chicken stew) with uniquely strong pepper. I can smell the aroma of the various foods and even the smell of fresh flowers wafting to the nostrils. All dressed in neat and mostly white attire. It is wonderful to come across smiling faces that fill me with a sense of pride to be Ethiopian. The holiday songs of renowned artists like Tilahun Gessesse and Aster Aweke resonate everywhere, saying welcome to the New Year. Everywhere one looks, Adey Abeba (Bidens Macroptera) seems to be blooming without anyone bothering to plant it. It is a flower symbolizing the renewal of life, which communicates to people, in its own way, that there is still hope for a better life. If a plant that has remained lifeless throughout the year manages to reclaim life, so can we. No matter how miserable and unfortunate our past has been, we still can rejuvenate our life like Adey Abeba.
Hope can be seen as a candle, which can be easily lit or extinguished. Just as candle brings light to a dark room, hope can spark light to a despairing heart. It is common for people to make New Year resolutions, yet it is also common to see people losing heart and abandoning their plans for a better life after the holiday spirit wears out. The problem is not with making plans but with carrying out these plans. There is a parable about a drunkard who made a New Year resolution to stop drinking by going ‘cold-turkey’. Resisting the temptation to drink on holidays and boasting of his plans to relatives of never ever taking even a sip of alcohol, the former drunkard began his journey. Day after day, he passed by the bar he used to frequent with pride and concealed contempt for his former drinking buddies. On the fifth day, he was so proud of the progress he made that he decided to reward himself. He rewarded himself with the thing he loved the most – a bottle of fine alcohol. I think we can all see the irony, and the truth it bears towards all of us. We have planned time and again to change, yet we come back to the same thing with more vigor. Thus, it is vital to acknowledge our shortcomings and make change permanent.
There are plenty of useful ideas forwarded by psychologist regarding change, and I will attempt to highlight the prominent ones. When we talk about change, we are talking about two states of beings: the one we have been hitherto and the one we want to be. The famous psychologist named Rollo May, in ‘Freedom and Destiny,’ states that a person who hits rock bottom is more likely to change because such a person has seen the lowest point and survival depends on only going up. Let us think of that bad habit we want to kick out because it has been our greatest nemesis, and realize that life can be better only by changing it. As Pascal states, habit is our second nature. In other words, we first make our habits and then our habits make us. By becoming the slaves of our own habits, we dedicate our life to serve our habit. Existential philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche distinguish between ‘Being’ and ‘Becoming.’ A thing such as a table that cannot change is a ‘Being’, while a thing like a human being with the potential to change is ‘Becoming.’ Thus, we should realize that we always have the potential to change, as long as we are alive. Otherwise, we turn ourselves into just a ‘Being.’
Let us now proceed from the technical terminologies and see the concepts with their application to real life. We should accept the fact that the ability of human beings to change themselves is not an opinion but a concrete fact. We always rebel in the name of freedom, so I inquire what we mean by freedom. Freedom, in a strict sense, can be seen as the potential to change. We confirm our freedom by realizing this potential. Anyone who feels miserable, who is shackled by one’s own habits, has to change, for we only get the chance to live once. We should not squander out time by shifting the blame on others. The only one who truly cares about your life is you, and the responsibility to live the life you desire entirely rests upon you. The Holocaust survivor psychologist, Victor Frankl, in his work ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ emphasizes that the last of all freedom is the perspective we take on life. The government, the people around you, or the environment can threaten your life. Yet, you have the potential to take a firm stand and find meaning in life. Suffering is part of life, but how you deal with your suffering depends on you. Thus let us stop wallowing in self-pity and become the masters of our life.
If we agree that change is incumbent, each of us has to make a pact to make ourselves, our family, our community, our nation, and our world better. Every common noun in our life involves a part or role we play. When we say a father, a child, a doctor, a president, or any other things, we are also implying that there are responsibilities we must fulfill as part of playing that role. Fathers, remember that the protection and well-being of your child depends on you, and so be the best dad you can be and that your child can be proud of having. Mothers, remember that your children need love and nurturing to become the adult you want them to be. Teachers should become the intellectual guides for children, and students should utilize the privilege of education to transform themselves and their society for the better. The civil servant, including the Prime Minister and anyone holding higher office, should know that the fate of your country and your people depends on you, and you must strive to be the best you can be for your country and for your people. History provides us with the truth that no government, no matter how powerful, can last forever; and the people in power should remember that they will eventually become part of history. They can be remembered either as heroes or as villains – the choice entirely depends on them. Everyone has the power to make a difference in the world by properly playing the role trusted to her or him. As Mahatma Gandhi said, be part of the change that you want to see in the world. Thus, as a New Year resolution, we should promise to be the best versions of ourselves and contribute to the betterment of the world by playing the roles to the fullest of our potential. I now depart by leaving you with this thought and wishing you a happy holiday and a wonderful New Year.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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