For July’s edition of YIAGA AFRICA’s Knowledge Management Series, team members express profound thoughts through their written reflections on Yuval Harari’s somewhat controversial, but philosophical book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), which sets out to give the world a guide towards settling in the 21st century world.
Every generation is eager to realize the meaning of life, an explanation of purpose and the definition of self but this is met with ambiguous answers because what is certain keeps changing for every generation. The only certain element of life is the individuality of the role each human plays in the cosmic circle and this role defines, gives meaning and influences the choices we make. Understanding that life is not a story is the first step to critical thinking that sparks a self revelation of the reality of statistics, conflicts and resolutions rather than heroes, villains and happy endings. To understand the meaning of life is to understand your real unique function and live a good life to achieve that function, even if it requires you to be bellwether.
Yuval Harari cited in his book, 21 Lessons for The 21stCentury, the Hindu epic, the Bhagavadgita: during a period of conflict and war, the god Krishna explains to prince Arjuna that everyone possesses a unique dharma, which determines the path they follow and duties they must fulfil, it is only when individual dharma’s are discovered that they have peace of mind and liberation from doubts in life; so he urged prince Arjuna to discover his purpose in life. The bemused prince took some time to reflect on his purpose and realized that it was to end the war and restore peace to his land, he killed leaders of the opposing army who were his relatives and the war ceased and the land was restored to its status antebellum. With this story, we realize that everyone has a role to play and if that role is not accomplished it has the power and ability to hinder the executions of other’s purpose, in war, his people may never perform their function in life.
In accomplishing one’s purpose, it is irrelevant if it takes a long time to be discovered or if it is difficult to achieve, as long as the purpose is pristine and you strive to accomplish it even when the process to finding it seems unclear. Path finding is a great climatic moment in life that is key to peace and fulfilment. I love to say, there are three ways by which we learn our purpose; 1. By reflection, which includes meditation, reading, and revelation (which is by far the noblest) 2. By association with smart people to soak in their wealth of knowledge and experience 3. By imitation, which is by far the easiest road to self-discovery. The consequential part of life is that we have the choice to decide how we discover and learn our purpose.
Numerous purposes in life are interrelated, interdependent on each other and can give blurred expectations, it is against this background I believe that in order to construct a viable identity and give meaning to my life, my purpose must give me some role to play, a mission to achieve, an opportunity to extend beyond my horizon and leave a legacy, even if it is not up to eternity.
On the journey to discovering and fulfilling one’s purpose the last element to be on the watch for is suffering. No one’s path is without dust and we all should prepare for the dust of suffering; the dust can be made lighter if one is forearmed before it arrives. As we embark on the journey of self-discovery and fulfilment, we should take some time to pause and celebrate the individuality of our paths rather than compete with each other’s strengths because we all are built differently, some to illuminate the sun, others to blossom new beginnings, end the wars, feed the people, bear the children and sprinkle some sparkle in this troubled world.
Efemena Ozugha is an ardent advocate for youth, women and Persons Living with Disabilities (PWD) political inclusion and development. She is a Lawyer by training and has keen interest in advocating for sustainable development in Africa.