Blogging


I’ve been tagged by both Aulelia and Angie to share 8 randoms facts about myself….

  1. I live in Ottawa, Ontario which is the capital of Canada.
  2. I am a Oakland Raiders fan(atic).
  3. I have 3 tatoos. On my right upper arm I have an “Anhk”; on my left upper arm, I have an Arabic script which translate to “Allah is gracious”; on my right neck I have a west African, Adinkrah symbol for the supremacy of God called “Gye Nyame”, which means “except for God”.
  4. My 3 favorite movies are Apocalypse Now, Braveheart and Scarface.
  5. My 3 favorite musical artists are Bob Marley, Femi Kuti and Prince. 
  6. My 3 favorite actors are Denzel, Robert Dinero and Johnny Depp.
  7. My 3 favorite blog pages are Charcoal InkNuvision for a Nuday and SmuloSpace
  8. Today is my birthday.

Now I am suppose to tag 8 people. hmmmm…. John Smulo, Field Negro, Tafari, Refined One, Ensayn, Ronald Albright, Shaheen and Darius T. Williams.

Peace!  

Do you see a difference? 

  

Do you see obedience and sacrifice….

 

Or do you see apprehension and danger?

WHY?

Over the past year, I have read three books concerning the meaning of life. Interestingly, (for me anyway), two took a more psychoanalytical approach in answering this question, while the third was Christian based. I will summarize what each determined was the answer to this timeless endeavor, in the order in which I read the books.

 

1. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck: This theme of this book surprised me as I was under the impression (due to the title), that this was a religious based book. Although it had an underlying spiritual element, it took a psychoanalytical based approach and argued that the meaning of life could be understood by accepting these truths:

·        Life is difficult and contains a series of problems.

·        Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve these problems.

·        It is in the whole process of how we meet and solve these problems, that life has it’s meaning.

·        How we meet the challenges of dealing with these problems is the basis of how we grow mentally and spiritually.

·        The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.

·        The set of tools that is referred to as “discipline”, are “techniques of suffering”: which are the means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process.

·        There are four tools which make up the “techniques of suffering”: delaying gratification; acceptance of responsibility; dedication to truth; and balancing.

·        Psychoanalysis is essential in assisting someone in mastering one or more of these four tools.

 

2. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren: This book looked at the question from a Christian perspective. According to the author, we were all created by God for a purpose- His purpose…. and “it is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny.”  Consequently, there are five purposes to our life:

1.      To bring enjoyment to God.

2.      To be a part of the family of God.

3.      To be like Christ.

4.      To serve God.

5.      To serve others.

 

3. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl: This book is based on the experiences of the author, a psychiatrist, who survived a number of Nazi death camps. Within this backdrop, he argues that how we choose to deal with experiences, especially  “unavoidable” atrocities and sufferings, is the determining factor of whether we will live (survive) or die. From his experiences during WWII, he concluded that those who had survived the concentration camps, had the will to live through those horrible times, were those who found a deeper, even a spiritual “meaning” to what they were going through. He went on to develop a psychoanalytical “meaning-centered” form of therapy called Logotherapy. According to logotherapy, we can discover the meaning of life in three different ways:

1.      By achievement or accomplishment.

2.      By experiencing something or encountering someone.

3.      By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering.

 

All three books were a good read and I recommend them all. Being a Christian, the second book had more of a lasting impression on me and my understanding of the meaning…. “purpose”…. of my life. However all three books gave me a deeper insight of how I live my life, the choices I make, the reasons I may make one choice rather than another, and more importantly, also an insight into what makes others “tick”.   

I just bought a new set of books and my reading list is getting crazy. My wife is starting to comment on when will I get time to read all these books I’ve been buying, especially with a baby on the way in August. I’ve been spending a lot of time blogging over at AfroSpear and have neglected my reading and posting on this site.

As you can see I have transformed the look and feel of this page. It’s almost like a cleansing. I am now committing some time and effort to get into my reading list and post here more often. Here is my planned reading list:

Religious

  1. The God Delusion.  Richard Dawkins
  2. Epicenter.  Joel C. Rosenberg
  3. The Jesus I Never Knew.  Philip Yancey

 Psychology

  1. Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion.  Robert Cialdini
  2. Social Intelligence.  Daniel Goldman

 Afrocentric

  1. The Bluest Eyes.  Toni Morrison
  2. A Long Way Home.  Ishmael Beah
  3. Slave.  Mende Nazer
  4. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  5. Infidel.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  6. An Ordinary Man.  Paul Rusesabagina
  7. The Assassination of the Black Male Image.  Earl O. Hutchinson
  8. The Slave Community.  John W. Blassingame.

What are you currently reading and what do you plan to read in the next while?

Asa.    

I dropped this post over at the AfroSpear on the topic of abortion, specifically on the issue of when does life begin? I was not surprised by the positions taken by most of the commentators, however I found this comment by Francis L. Holland very interesting. It is lengthy, but I believe it is worth sharing here in it’s entirety:

(more…)

I read a post over at SmuloSpace about a resolution by the Southern Baptist Convention that dealt with their policy about the prohibition of alcohol consumption. Here is the resolution:

5. On Alcohol Use In America
June 2006
 

WHEREAS, Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35); and

WHEREAS, Alcohol use has led to countless injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways; and

WHEREAS, The breakup of families and homes can be directly and indirectly attributed to alcohol use by one or more members of a family; and

WHEREAS, The use of alcohol as a recreational beverage has been shown to lead individuals down a path of addiction to alcohol and toward the use of other kinds of drugs, both legal and illegal; and

WHEREAS, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of “our freedom in Christ”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.

RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we commend organizations and ministries that treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence and encourage local churches to begin and/or support such biblically-based ministries.

Now John 2:1-11 tells the story of Jesus’s first miracle, which was to turn water into wine. Would this then preclude Jesus from being elected to a leadership position in the SBC?

Athough the resolution is attempting to do a positive thing, I think this “smacks” a little of self-righteousness, elitism and legalism. It sounds like something the Pharasees would condemn Jesus for doing. Or am I wrong in my assessment? 

A few years ago I made a personal commitment to God that I would fast one day every week. I had engaged in prayer and fasting before that, mainly for spiritual wisdom and strength to confront specific situations I was going through in my life. All the Pentecostal churches I have attended, encourage it’s members to regularly engage in prayer and fasting as a way to address a number of issues, whether spiritual or temporal. So it is something I am comfortable with and I have an appreciation for the Muslim practice of fasting during the daytime, as they observe their holy month of Ramadan.  

I made this commitment for a number of reasons. The first was to establish a covenant with God. I would commit to denying myself of basic nourishment from sun up to 6pm once a week, and God in return would commit to increase my faith, spiritual wisdom and strength.

The second was to identify, even symbolically, with those who had no and/or limited access to food and water, to satisfy their own daily basic physical needs. I am aware though that this is just a “symbolic” identification, for the fact is that after 6pm, I not only have more than enough food and water to consume, but I also have a variety of choices of what I want to eat and drink. That being said, there is still much difficulty in denying oneself in the face of such abundance.

Therefore the third reason, which is directly tied to the second, is to develop self-control. We live in a culture/society, where we are not encouraged to deny ourselves anything. We live in the “Age of The Triumph of Greed and The Primacy of Selfish Fulfillment”. We are encouraged and even expected to fulfill all of our physiological, emotional and intellectual needs, wants, desires and luxuries…. and through advertising and marketing we are bombarded with the various pathways which leads to our material Shangri-la. Personally, I look forward to “that” first cup of coffee in the morning. I actually crave it! It has become more than a habit…. it’s a ritual…. an addiction. Making the conscious decision not to have that cup of java in the morning is painful…. it’s damn hard if you want to know the truth. I can’t explain it, but every week, when I deny myself coffee for that day, although it is relatively a small thing, it’s like I have conquered a psychological and physiological “shackle” on my being. Every week I prove that it has no hold on me and I am in control.

The final reason is a matter of health. Although there is some controversy within the medical community on the types or degrees of benefits from fasting, it is agreed that it does assist in detoxifying and cleansing the body. 

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.  Matthew 6: 16-18.

 

I am currently involved in a Bible study (Alpha Course) at my church on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When we came to this topic of fasting, which the passage above is based on, I was a little taken aback that no-one, except myself, had ever fasted. I was even more amazed of the reasons (excuses) why they didn’t fast. The church has called for prayer and fasting a number of times since I’ve been regularly attending there since December 2006. I took it for granted that if not all, most Pentecostals fasted even periodically. I became aware of how much of a personal and spiritual commitment it was to fast, especially to do it weekly. To deny oneself of the very basic needs of life for “a part of a day” isn’t an easy endeavour to undertake, especially in a society of material abundance. However, I do not consider myself “special” or “more righteous or spiritual” than those Christians that don’t fast. I have come to appreciate God all the more for  providing me with the strength to do it…. for the truth is that every week I go through a tremendous struggle and look for excuses not to fast. 

So what is the joy of fasting? For me, it’s knowing that I have kept my commitment to God and have also overcome the power of my basic desires…. for that day…. and for that week.

Asa 

   

                    

Over at AfroSpear, there is a ongoing discussion as to the definition of racism and the idea that it is a form of mental illness. This discussion is a part of a wider discourse which is currently going on in the AfroSphere. It is enlightening as there are differing perspectives being presented. Here are the AfroSpear links.

Racism vs. Extreme Color Arousal: Part One

Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior, Disorder (ECEIBD)

Lynching: A manifestation of E.C.E.I.B.D. 

On this date at approximately 2:30pm, I began to receive the first of three phone calls that would change my world. They went something like this:  

1st Call: Hey…. do you know where Shelly, John’s wife works?

Asa: No… I don’t know exactly where or the name of the company…. but it’s an agency that looks after developmentally disabled kids.

1st Call: Ok…. (Hang up). 

My first impulse, as my heart started racing, was what a strange and unsettling conversation. I began thinking that something is definitely up but I avoid thinking the worst. Why would they call me looking for Shelly? Although John is my partner, I have been away on a special assignment for the last 2 weeks. Maybe he got hurt…. probably in a car accident (I’m hoping) and they just want to let her know he’s okay. 

2nd Call: Hey we need to get in touch with Shelly. Do you have a cell number or work number for her?

Asa: No…. what’s going on?

2nd Call: (Silence)…. John is hurt and we need to talk to her.

Asa: How bad is he hurt?

2nd Call: I’m not sure… I gotta go…. Talk to you later. 

Now I am getting that feeling of dread. It has got be really bad if they are scrambling to find Shelly. I try not to think the worst. I try to get the last two phone calls out of my spirit and bury my head in reading reports. I can’t shake this feeling though. I’m calm. It’s an unsettling calm though. I go to find a colleague who may have more information. I see that he is on the phone…. deep in conversation. I get an eerie feeling. I walk back to my office. This isn’t good.   

3rd Call: Hey…. where are you?

Asa: What do you mean? I’m at the office.

3rd Call: I’m sorry to tell you…. John is dead. He was shot and killed earlier this afternoon.

Asa: (Silence. I go numb. I feel like I’ve been placed in a vacuum. My soul goes blurry…. disoriented). Ok…. thanks.   

I leave the office and go out to the back of the building. I break down. I had never felt anguish like that before. Even when my Father had died earlier that year. His death was a surprised but not totally unexpected. An unexpected violent death of someone close to you brings a different dimension. It takes you to a dark place.  

I heard someone say recently that God can make something beautiful out of tragedy. I have had to search deep, for a year, to find the beauty in John’s death. I guess for me it’s appreciating my friends and co-workers. It’s easier to see the value in familial relationships. Now, I make the time to sincerely engage with those I work with. Now, I don’t take the moments I spend with my friends for granted. Now, when I say to a friend or co-worker: “stay safe” or “see you later”, it takes on a different significance.

I have also come to realize that the most sacred thing we possess in life…. is life itself. Cherish it. Don’t waste it. Share it with others. Make it count for something. 

One year later, I still ache. 

See you in heaven brother. 

 

John Charles “Sparky” Atkinson.

Born: 28 May 1968.

Died: 05 May 2006.           

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

 

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

 

The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

 

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

 

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

 

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

 

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

 

My second story is about love and loss. I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. 

 

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

 

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

 

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

 

My third story is about death. When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

 

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

 

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now. This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

 

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

 

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

 

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

 

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. 

 

Thank you all very much.

« Previous PageNext Page »