Monday, 28 September 2020

Thought Picnic: Leaving them to grudging and numbing

Refusing the obvious

Denial is probably the desire to live a different reality. Presented with the obvious, we find a delusionary diversion in thought and in deed to create an existence of the utmost deception in the hope that circumstances might just align.

There is the occasion where one exhibits reluctance with grudging acceptance, then another is engaged in persistence with numbing insistence, either way, none can alter the course of events as life and its decisions are primarily that of the principal regardless of expectations or prayers.

Defusing the devious

That one was offered the option of a village girl was quite amusing even as it was deftly declined, there is a city boy to whom one is betrothed, many traditions sacrificed to realities that have more relevance for heart and mind.

It is with warmth though that when in conversation with the dean after the Eucharist yesterday, the mention of marriage was embraced with easy accommodation of all genders not presupposing anything and welcoming of the response given. He is marrying him and whoever is in denial cannot be helped beyond facing the truth of what life really is.

 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XVIII

New arrivals as potential vectors

It was only two weekends ago on a Saturday just into the second kilometre of my 7-kilometre walk to the banks of the River Mersey ensconced by the Chorlton Water Park and Sale Water Park that I saw arrivals to the student halls of the Manchester Metropolitan University. Young men and women brought over by their parents to begin a new phase in their lives.

Then, I wondered about how my city was changing as if we had now found a cosy arrangement with the pandemic where life could somewhat return to normal. Life did return to a kind of normalcy for the freshers’ week, for each time I went out for a walk there were crowds and groups, hardly social distancing, revelling into the night, it was concerning.

Neither here nor there

Then at the beginning of the week, the government began backpedalling on the lifting of restrictions, their urging that we return to our offices was less so, we were now to work from home as much as possible, the whole saga was becoming more comedic and tragic than how the Grand Old Duke of York marshalled his men up and down the hill till they were stuck in the middle, being neither up nor down. At least they were receiving clear directions even if the purpose was unclear.

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On a personal level, health is wealth, to a country in the times of a pandemic, public health is national wealth. The latter cannot precede the former. The bungling administration of Boris Johnson who when he resigned as Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet suggested there was a failure of statecraft, in his case, there is a total lack of imagination.

Believing in human ingenuity

Without assuring public health, the national wealth will suffer and all efforts to protect the economy would be exorbitant and consequently fruitless.

We have to believe in human ingenuity that when all things are equal with public health, regardless of how the economy has been battered, it can be revived. History has shown how war has damaged economies and the end of the war ushered in growth and productivity through some pain, but the trajectory is always upwards.

The failure to address the public health emergency with competence and strategy has left us in the throes of a second wave that would be more damaging than the first and possibly leave the economy in a more sickened state than if things were properly dealt with in the first instance.

A student life halted

The students that returned to campus life have somehow met up with the Coronavirus with 127 of them testing positive with COVID-19 leading to the self-isolation of about 1,700 students in Cambridge Hall and Birley Campus, just within 2 kilometres of my residence.

Their self-isolation is to prevent them from spreading it in the community and further down the line, if this is not contained, there is a likelihood that students will not be allowed to return home for Christmas, just to prevent community contact spreading. [BBC News: Covid outbreak: Manchester Metropolitan University students in lockdown]

Can’t blame the students

From another perspective, the students have been short-changed and scammed, universities opened to justify their tuition fees, the hostels opened to keep the landlords afloat through their justifiably collecting rent. Now, they are stuck in their rooms, they can neither attend classes nor return home. It was a catastrophe in the making for which the government would shift the blame to the victims of this pandemic, the students in this case and the public in the general surge in infections nationally.

Whereas, it is without a doubt that the UK government is totally responsible for the mishandling of this pandemic and that is why we have the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Europe. We cannot spin that any other way than say it with conviction as the incontrovertible truth.

Everyone for themselves and for all

On our streets, one thing is evident, the virus is invisible, it is pervasive, it is spreading and the need to maintain social distancing, wear masks, avoid gatherings, wash hands and so on remains a matter of personal safety and self-preservation. There is no telling where in this city of three large universities there are other pockets of infection. Within the week of opening primary and secondary schools, 15 schools were shut with the pupils asked to self-quarantine.

My other concern is how from outside the UK, other countries might be watching things go awry and so place us on a restricted list of travel as both a destination and place of origin. It is obvious that Boris Johnson and his big tent of circus clowns will never get to grips with this pandemic, we as individuals must save ourselves.

 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

When I had the murderous cancer of denial

When I was in denial

Amongst the many other things, I find to do, this September week usually starting from the 20th day of the month and on to the end does provide a time of reflection in many ways. Writing about the 20th, I remember it as the day I got an HIV positive result confirmed from the week before in 2002.

As I reflect on the circumstances, it is quite strange that for years I had been taking tests but expressly said I did not want to know the result. How that could have served me any good, I cannot say, but either way, my wishes were respected in both the UK and the Netherlands. Whether that would have been negligent and unethical on the part of the medical personnel, if any of the previous tests proved positive, I cannot tell.

It was another 7 years before that diagnosis began to run its full effects on my physiology, my immune system was completely compromised, and I was now vulnerable and presenting opportunistic infections. That at the end of June, the loudest alarm bells of impeding danger was ignored is still something that bothers me.

When I was foolish

Suffice it to say, I was looking for a miracle, a sudden and spiritual Eureka moment when something I did out of faith or someone renowned of the calling would lay hands on me and I would be miraculously healed. Though, the healing would have been suspect as I had not to that point given myself to essential medical scrutiny first to confirm the conditions manifesting in me, before a confirmatory check proved the fact.

I was looking for a shortcut, absolving myself from any responsibility for my situation and in denial of the seriousness of my condition even as others were beginning to notice the rapid deterioration of my health. It took the better part of 3 months from the 22nd June when I came down with shingles through July and August as fungating tumours formed on the sole of my left foot with associative pain that the only way I could walk on the foot was to have it firmly bandaged up, for me to come to my senses in a way.

When I was persuaded

The process eventually got me visiting my doctor who then expedited referrals to consultants that culminated in my admission to the hospital in the 22nd of September, after which I began to understand what I was facing and the graveness of my situation.

There are many factors that contributed to my reticence, I was wishing and hoping, it would just go away, the real danger was, I could just have died, foolishly, stupidly, ignorantly, and unnecessarily, when there was much medicine could have done to help me.

Those factors, I need to find time to articulate, products of positive and negative influences, incomplete understanding of ideas, principles, doctrine and spiritual matters, religious naivety and the convenience of sticking my head in the sand.

The 18 nights I spent in the hospital 11 years ago are journaled and bookmarked in The Cancer Tales section of My Blog Themes.

 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

It's walking and it's working - II

Getting it done early

Just over a week ago, I decided to start putting in a lunchtime walk exercise to take the burden off trying to meet my 10,000 steps in the evening into the night. At first, I was satisfied with getting about 6,000 steps in, so that whatever I did later filled up the quota easier and the extra was just a boost on my activity.

However, on Sunday morning before church, I had done over 10,000 steps that when the day was over, I was just 231 steps short of 30,000 steps, it should not have taken much more exertion to beat the most steps of 31,687 steps that I set on the 13th of September.

Useful results to celebrate

Four weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that all my exercise was just walking and it was working, I am losing weight which has fallen from 88.2 kg to 80.9 kg today, I am sure the girth around my belly button has reduced too, the prominent and ironically named love handles are literally non-existent and I am breaking other personal records in the process.

Blog - It's walking and it's working

For instance, on Monday and Tuesday, I got my 10,000 steps during my lunchtime walk, then yesterday, I did 7 kilometres in 56’47”, this morning, having walked 11.76 kilometres by the time it was a few minutes past 8:00 AM, the first 7 kilometres were done in 58’33”, until yesterday, I had not been able to fit 7 kilometres into an hour.

The other amazing thing was I also broke the 4,000 steps in 30 minutes barrier, I stepped out at 4081. All this I did in the pouring rain and with much gusto. My goal is to bring my weight below 80 kg, though, I can’t convince Brian of taking it down to 75 kg.

 

Monday, 21 September 2020

I remember, it was in December

Love started intending

I do remember the many times that September brought us back onto the dancefloor as the disc jockey realised that the last few tracks did not inspire any excitement.

It is to the credit of the lively beat that Earth, Wind & Fire’s September still endures 42 years after it was recorded. You can be sure to get the party started with this, not to mention a night a passionate of love.

Besides, the lyrics also, signify a night in which love became the reality between two, the rest was the stuff of sonnets, hearts, hands, nights, skies, the whisperings of tenderness and much else that is implied, that we know goes a long way beyond unrequited teenage infatuation.

For me, it was the 27th night of December, in which I met someone who made my heart glow, it was as if I knew, for in my first message I said, “You’re every dream of a man.” I have been living that dream since.

Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember? [Genius: September – Earth, Wind & Fire]

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Thanks for the day

A day attached to things

The 20th of September when it comes to dates is one that just happens to have offered itself up for association, whether it was 40 years ago when it fell on a Saturday with a housewarming ceremony and birth of a cousin or 18 years ago; a Friday, when that dreary morning I was visited with a medical result that changed my life.

The 20th of September becomes a placeholder, something to set focus on in the midst of many distractions, like every other day, yet, one that by arrangement heralded a new beginning, by expectation ushered in a new life and by accident revealed a new prospect.

In all, what is means is one new opportunity to give thanks for the house still stands, the lady does thrive, and we are still here as a new year begins the count to the next.

 

Friday, 18 September 2020

Psalm 23 comes alive with new insight

A Psalm in troubled times

Psalm 23 was the recitation of refuge that I woke to say every night probably hundreds of times in my first term of boarding school, haunted by things only I could see and sounds only I could hear. Such was the menace of my disturbance that the first half of my second term was spent as a day student living with my aunt.

Psalm 23 however is like a rare diamond, which when put up to light has a colour too mesmerising for words, a cut by the craftmanship of divine providence, a clarity in message that is individualised in revelation to those who meditate on it and a carat weight of priceless value.

I say this because just under 5 months ago, I received a revelation that came at a time that I needed to understand how the Lord is my shepherd. With it came a calmness in my soul and an assurance that things would turn out right. Soon, I got a new job in the midst of a pandemic and the way it came about was just too amazing to describe.

Blog - The changing texts of religious meditation

New treasures in old mines

As I was engaged in a conversation this evening, I was persuaded to share my new understanding as a word of comfort. We were communicating by text on WhatsApp as I began to write what I thought I was going to share.

What transpired just blew my mind for as I was writing, some new insight came to me that I had never seen before, unveiling to the eyes of my understanding that it was as if I was now sermonising to both myself and the person I was chatting.

A Psalm of David. [KJV]

1.    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2.    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3.    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4.    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5.    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6.    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Doing waters and feeling pastures

There are a number of themes running through these 6 verses, repeated over and over again, whilst each successive verse reinforces the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. I have before indicated that if the Lord is my shepherd, by inference, I would be His sheep and that is why we end up at the green pastures where the sheep can feed and the still waters where the sheep can peacefully drink.

I also find that there is the thread of what the shepherd does as a shepherd and for the sheep and what that does for the sheep and how the sheep feel. There is an anthropomorphic quality to these relationships, but please forgive my amateurish attempt at expounding this text.

Finding the recurring themes

Taking each verse, I address the themes.

1.    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Here, what he does is shepherd and by reason of that, I want for nothing.

2.    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Here, he does lead the sheep beside the still waters, a place of peace and refreshing, as the sheep lays in the verdant pastures they feed to their satisfaction unperturbed.

In King James’ English, the -eth suffix denotes a present continuous tense. So, read maketh and continues to make and leadeth as continues to lead. The job of a shepherd when the sheep are about is never left undone at any time.

3.    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

As he leads the sheep in the right and sure path continuously, for that is what the shepherd does by profession, by duty, and by name. There, you see a form of still waters.

Where he continues to restore the soul bringing comfort, peace and assurance reads like a form of green pastures. An abundance of mental restoration means we are never left exhausted by any situation.

4.    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The still waters might get turbulent or the green pastures might be exhausted after a time of grazing. This would mean the shepherd has to herd the sheep to new green pastures and still waters.

The sheep are always led by the shepherd and the shepherd knows the many green pastures and still waters all around the wilderness to lead the sheep to, to ensure never want for provision of comfort.

Getting to the next green pastures and still waters might include traversing the valley of the shadow of death where dangers lurk from the sheep straying and brought back into the flock with the rod or where predators are warded off with the staff.

The shepherd, ever vigilant is with the sheep and the sheep should fear no danger or accident as the shepherd is there. In our lives, we also traverse difficulty, adversity, trials, tribulations and negative circumstances. The Lord with us will lead us out of it to new triumphs in life.

5.    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Here we are, having gone through the valley of the shadow of death with the sheep, the new green pastures are a table set before us where our enemies can see but never assail us. The new still waters are the anointing of the head, succouring and empowerment with capacity. We can only thrive for we are in a place of joy.

We have become warriors, celebrating victories over situations, circumstances and issues in life.

6.    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Yet, the table is just a place of transition for there is another possible valley of the shadow of death that the shepherd has to herd the sheep to, where the still waters are now goodness and mercy in all the days of our lives and the green pastures of the final destination is dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

At this point, we are no more mere sheep, but people, living and enjoying the blessings of the Lord. Goodness being everything right, good and desirous for wellbeing, health, and a sense of contentment in not wanting for anything. Mercy in that there is no guilt or condemnation, we have been continuously led in the paths of righteousness from verse 3.