Sunday 19 June 2022

A clear view of the sky in life

A house burnt down

You know what happens when your house burns down? You get a clear view of the sky.” Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Swimming with the sharks (Season 21, Episode 15) [IMDB: Quotes].

I was about to go to bed when the twist in this episode of Law & Order: SVU was so compelling, that I had to see it to the end, and this was after I had put everything I needed in the bedroom and made to turn off the lights in the living room.

The quote above came in the closing stage of the episode after the issues had been resolved and the conspirators agreed to a deal. The protagonist on whom the storyline was based said, “I could've been a better friend. I've been thinking about it. When you arrested me. I thought it was karma. I burned a lot of bridges in my time. Hell, I burned my whole house down.

I could be better

There is so much to unpack in that statement, and I could relate to everything she said, for it got me thinking about how I could be a better person, a better lover, a better friend, a better son, a better brother, a better parent, a better colleague, a better anything that is good, wholesome and redounds to the goodness of our humanity.

Moving on, I think about the things I probably should have done or paid more attention to, from the personal to the communal and where commission or omission has found me wanting. There is time for a lot of introspection, for there is not lost in continuous improvement, it would be nowhere near perfect, but getting better is always worthwhile. Knowing you can put the effort into it to do better is always a consideration to entertain and act on.

On bridges, even when I am tempted, I have tried as much as I can, not to burn my bridges. I learnt almost 5 years ago that bridges are not only for your use but for the use of others too. They may need that same bridge you have crossed and long-abandoned to cross the ravine over to you, that is their prerogative, but never burn those bridges, make allowances even if those allowances are taxing on your exploited magnanimity.

Life burnt down

“Hell, I burned my whole house down.” I have probably done that too many times, but what have I done with the ashes? More significantly, when I allowed HIV to ravage my body, it became full-blown AIDS presenting with life-threatening Kaposi’s sarcoma skin cancer that if the therapies did not work I was given a prognosis of 5 weeks, the long tail of cancer that wagged me to exhaustion was I lost everything.

Indeed, I lost my house among many things, and things I had acquired over decades, but rather than look around the ruins that tried to define my existence, I got a clear view of the sky, it was blue, sunny, and beautiful. My view of the sky in the context of my life was hope, I had a resolution that reverberated through my whole being, this too shall pass, and we would get to write a better story; that was the spring of possibility and life that was welling up from within me.

Prospect and possibility

In Yoruba, there is a similar saying that asks us not to despair but to be encouraged with hope and new possibilities, “Ilé ọba t'ójó ẹ̀wà ló bù si.” Using a translation of contextual equivalence rather than an exact interpretation, “You have the prospect of building something more beautiful after the royal palace burnt down.”

I guess you need to acquire the disposition not to dwell on the misfortune, no matter how catastrophic, and we have seen many that would make some hearts fail and extinguish any semblance of hope. For me, that I was alive and living meant I was ready for things ahead, a future, a world of possibilities, the need to walk through this valley of the shadow of death to new still waters and green pastures.

The comfort of knowing that trials are part of the human story, they are milestones we can do without, but if they come, we must pass them and continue on that journey that makes a better story of our experiences. Always seek and find a clear view of the sky, regardless of where you are, let the spirit of hope and encouragement take you to the place where looking back you marvel at the fact that you did not know your own strength.

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