8 Lessons for teenagers and adults from the wisdom of the Elders
By Brian Maregedze
In this age of social media, technological innovations, and fast changing world there is also migration taking its toll at an alarming rate. The global village has its perks and shortfalls. Raising kids and growing up has become even more static unlike before. I was recently attracted by Professor John Chitakure’s 2019 publication, almost decade since he settled in the United States of America-Texas with his family after leaving Zimbabwe which he described as miraculous. The book is titled, Things that my Father forgot to tell me: A Letter to Teenagers and Adults who seek the Wisdom of the Elders. The book is available on Amazon and l bought my Kindle Edition early March 2021. Professor John primarily had his two sons in mind when he initially thought of writing this book but along the way, the book has become relevant and appealing to anyone ready to drink from the cup of wisdom. Self-discipline, political involvement, friendship, generosity & gratitude, decision-making, importance of education, enmity, and finally cultural diversity form the major subjects in this wisdom literary work from a father. Interestingly, the dedication is to:
To all single mothers, for their courage and wisdom in raising their kids
And To all orphans, who never had the opportunity to learn about life from their parents, but still make it in life.
Living in a world where hedonism, the quest for self-gratification without efforts to control the SELF make this wisdom work significant. Materialist pleasure is pursued by many while the ignoramus is multiplying by the day due to egocentric narcissism. As such, two proverbs used as an entry point to this pivotal subject.
Zingizi gonyera pamwe, maruva enyika haaperi (One shouldn’t try to pursue all the pleasures of the world at once because they are endless).
Ramba kuudzwa akaonekwa nembonje pahuma (The one who doesn’t give heed to discipline or advice will get into serious trouble).
The analogy of the broken car which needs pushing and well-functioning starter is well explained such that grabbing a copy from Amazon bookshelves will do. You’ll definitely thank me later.
This is a crucial question that brings about divided opinions. The learned writer opines for the need for political involvement since it’s a civil right as well as a wise decision for anyone who wants progress in his/her country. The writer believes in democratic governance system and clearly doesn’t agree with communist leadership for a number of reasons he enumerates and explore in this chapter. Using the same method in writing, proverbs grounded in the Shona worldview are employed to introduce each and every chapter.
Much focus is paid to the power of association with the writer making it evident that friendship shouldn’t be based on hero worshipping but continuous constructive criticism. The social media handle, Facebook is used as an entry point to explore the perks and dangers of different shades of friendships. This chapter offers refreshing insights on types of people one can meet on Facebook based on experiential analysis. Besides hero worshippers, the “I-know-it-all”
face bookers, mourners, sanctimoniacs-those who post biblical passages, story tellers, the titters [also called Kikiki] and well-wishers among many are all dealt with. It is vital to buy this affordable book and learn more about those friends whom you can caution your mind against.
Generosity & gratitude
This chapter is anchored on two proverbs, that is, lack of gratitude is evil, and generosity should be reciprocated. A well notable quote in this chapter is “gratitude does the heart what rain does to the dry soil-it makes it softer, more pliable, more fertile and more fruitful.” Although this book has over 10 wisdom proverbs extracted from the Shona people worldview, in some circumstances, an auto-critique is offered by the author especially on those that may sound “unhelpful.” Kutenda kwakitsi kuri mumoyo which is interpreted as the cat’s gratitude is in its heart. The author argues that such an approach isn’t beneficial to those who are supposed to feel appreciated verbally. As such, the author upholds the proverb kusatenda huroyi which literally means being ungrateful is witchcraft. Hence, the golden phrase, ‘thank you’ must be upheld by all means necessary in everyday interaction. Humanity will never be the same with this speech etiquette.
Tracing from an early stage and age in growing up, much focus is on those episodes in life when making choices is crucial. Whether one makes a good or bad choice, they both have consequences. Choices about profession, career matters, marriage, friends, food matters are all dealt with in this chapter. The key denominator articulated in this chapter is that of being responsible in whatever one does. Blaming it on friends won’t make one responsible and mature. On the controversial subject of food, the learned author opines one not to overdo things. It is therefore to read this book on how he critically discusses the subject of alcohol consumption which many people have divided opinions. Again, we live in a world where the food we consume is addictive, genetically modified and sometimes too unhealthy. Making the right decision becomes vital.
Importance of education
It is possible to find some sections of Zimbabwe’s citizens denigrating the importance of pursuing formal education. To this, Prof. Chitakure is clear that this is born out of ignorance of the highest order and it is indeed, absurd. More critical is that education may seem less important if and only if one is taking a myopic interpretation along Zimbabwe’s physical borders. Zimbabwe’s crisis has brought uncertainty of hope in those sections of society that people should have hope in. As such, the world is understood as a global village where only the educated can live wherever they want. Unlimited dreams are at the disposal of the educated. Living plenty without education is sad, according to Prof. J. Chitakure. Hence, all examples used in this chapter lead to a functional approach towards education.
An indispensable part of human life involves facing haters, hatred, some for a reason/s while to others there is no reason at all but rather exhibiting the darker side of humanity. Put simply, this chapter offers insights on conflict resolution and how to survive in a world where hatred is part of the existential realities. Some matters may end up turning too nasty to handle especially in marriage or at work, it is in extreme cases that one can opt out or divorce. Real life experiences are offered which are also meaningfully constructive.
Professor John Chitakure is originally from Zimbabwe but later settled in United States of America-Texas with his family. The writing of this book attests to his experiences on cultural diversity within and beyond Zimbabwe’s borders. As a Professor, he encounters and lives cultural diversity. Chitsva chiri murutsoka (A person who travels to new places, learns new things, and gets new opportunities). It is aptly noted that no culture is perfect and equally important is that no culture is entirely evil. Prof. Chitakure discourages sweeping generalisations about people’s culture, behaviours, daily norms. He further notes that doing away with sweeping generalisations offers a window through which one can learn from others.
Prof John Chitakure writes with a global appeal to his sons and every reader of this 109-page book. More remarkable in this wisdom packed book is the knowledge gap filled on how to deal with social media rather than to avoid its contours. Parents and the growing up cannot continue to walk in the shadows of avoidance instead of facing the perks and demerits associated with the advancements in social media. Also commendable are the liberal perspectives covering religion, politics, business and social life explored. Professor Kudzai Biri would argue that let the male figures lead in the emancipation of women. True to that, Professor John Chitakure critically engages the topical subject of marriage, equality and respect for both girls and women in WORD and INDEED. More inspiring are the practical life scenarios offered in the book. Among other books, Prof. Chitakure is also the author of The Pursuit of the Sacred (2016) and Shona Women in Zimbabwe-A Purchased People? (2016), A Wife from the Ancestors. I am still to add more of these books to my library. Prof Chitakure’s books are a must read.