If we have meaning, we have life

Having just returned from the fourth talk in London, together with Dr Ingrid Landman, it was time for soul-searching on where we have come and where we stand right now with regard to living in Zimbabwe. The 15-hour flight (we went via Lusaka to get fuel!) gave me time to analys

e my thoughts and feelings – to bring them out into the open, to say what I honestly believe about our situation, our decision to stay and even to dare to think out loud about dreams for the future. Ask us to talk on health, fitness or medical issues … off we go with confidence in our subject, delivering with conviction, scientific hard facts and figures. Now having been asked to talk to Zimbabweans living outside, on issues of the heart (me) and head (Ingrid) and suddenly we are faced with our core values, stripped of the guises of daily commitments, families to keep us busy or work and social callings which are all too easy to hide behind. There is the reality in economic terms – horrific. The AIDS stats, the orphans, the tragedy of millions who struggle daily to do what needs to be done to feed the children. Then the brain drain, the broken hearts who are forced to leave the land of their birth, the broken spirits who still live here and strive against overwhelming odds to just “be”. And, of course, the irritating and infuriating power cuts, water cuts …. passport queues and the unbelievable demands of simply trying to run a business or keep a job. Yet, time and again, throughout history it is at moments such as these that we, as human beings, are at our best. Dr Victor Frankel, survivor of four concentration camps, a psychiatrist and neurologist, had the opportunity to study his own obscene situation from within and without. His conclusion was that when we are stripped of all the material, physical and social comforts in life, we are left with the big question: “Who am I, what am I and why am I?” Ultimately, it comes down to this: if a person has meaning, s/he has hope and s/he has life. When we have to struggle towards a freely chosen goal, we are driven to verbalizing the word “love”. In other words, we have to act, to put our own needs aside to ensure the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth of another human being, a neighbour, a child, a relative, a friend, a countryman worse off than ourselves. The simple law of nature dictates that this is the only way we can self actualise and become who and what we were meant to be!
In today’s first world or in what many of us would describe as the “perfect world” the situation is so imperfect that as much as 60% of clinical depression can be traced to an intrinsic lack of meaning in life! Frankel calls it the “existential vacuum.” We may try to disguise this emptiness in the depths of our soul by applying social “band-aids” to our lives in the form of an excess of activities which give us an instant gratification or “high”. Material comforts, money, pleasure seeking, shopping, gambling, and any excessive behaviour which keeps us from stopping for a quiet minute to look “inside and deep down.”
We try to keep busy, but at the end of the day, and certainly at the end of our lives, we are hit by the tidal wave of that spiritual vacuum. In this chapter of Zimbabwe’s history, this is what I believe we have learned. Our children have seen how we struggle, how we come together to help each other in order to give them a fighting chance. By constantly taking the pain from the past and learning from it, we are passing on the lessons to the next generation. That they may take the baton and move Zim to a higher, healthier and happier place in the future.
Twenty six years have seen two generations of Zimbabweans. Regardless of ourselves and our persuasions, the universal laws and principles apply. Principles of life do not take sides, cannot be “used” and cannot be changed. When we live in accordance with them, we are at peace with ourselves and on purpose with our path. When we live against them, sooner or later we die – morally, ethically, spiritually, emotionally. We become consumed by the disparity and the dark side takes over. We eventually self-destruct.
Never doubt the principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service or contribution and spiritual growth. So make the difference. Stick your neck out, bend down to lift a fallen kindred soul, carry the ones who are too weary to continue. We hold the future in our hands, our hearts and our ability to respond to every moment in a way that builds, upholds, uplifts and supports what is right, good and God’s way; no matter the personal pain or discomfort.

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