Straight out of the gates, on 2 January 2023, the news hit like a bucket of cold water.
As though we did not know enough about the new year’s challenges, Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director, predicted:
“[…] 2023 will be ‘tougher’ than last year… We expect one-third of the world economy to be in recession. Even for countries that are not in recession, it would feel like a recession for hundreds of millions of people.”
The global situation’s outlook and uncertainty would ensure oil prices remain highly volatile, albeit in a limited range. The persistent harsh news and the deteriorating crime situation cause many to switch off their news feed. How can we make it through this long night?
Are we seeing the same evidence that WH Auden wrote about in the poem The Fall of Rome? He described a place where people were evading taxes, and no one wanted to work while the leaders ignored their citizens’ needs.
Those who should have done the most for our society had lost interest in it. They perceived themselves as getting nothing from it, and things started to slip into disrepair one day at a time.
In such a place, complete societal collapse is inevitable. But we do not have to live in such a place. We can change our country by the way we approach life. We need to recognise what is important and worth fighting for.
This week we had two stark lessons from the field of sports that should put things into perspective. The first was the NFL player Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the football field in a pivotal game. In the wink of an eye, everything changed.
A commentator said, “The game is not important. Hamlin’s life is!” It’s only a game!
Even though fans are mad after losses and are sad the next day and curse players who are not successful on social media. It is just a game.
We should acknowledge that often social media posts that are crazy, uninformed, baseless or outright false get the most traction, which brings more advertising revenue to the social media platform. We are the fools. We get hyped over things that are not important. Politics included.
The second incident is the notable absence of some Brazilian World Cup icons from the funeral services for Pelé.
We should deeply reflect on who and what is vital in our lives. When the lights are turned off, who will be there for us? Should we be chasing rainbows and men’s applause with all our energy for no returns?
Once we get real, we will realise that much of the energy we expend has no actual value. Our business careers included.
To brighten our corner, we should be grateful for the blessings we have enjoyed. We do not have to give thanks for adverse events, but we can choose to be thankful in every moment. Our gratitude inserts itself in the see-saw between our negative and positive emotions.
Life is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Let us look back at our lives, see where we came from, and be happy. That reflection provides the fuel to go on. Gratitude feeds happiness; it is not the other way around. We could have everything and yet be unhappy.
Vaniesa Baksh, the Wired868 columnist, is a remarkable woman who is actively changing the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves. She has told us about young men who help other younger men realise their football dreams.
Her columns should be required reading for all. She scoops out joy each week. Yet she is not lost in nostalgia—she is not romanticising the past and being anxious about the future or even today.
Her stories tell us that she has learnt a powerful lesson about happiness and, therefore, the capacity to face life’s challenges. Story-telling is powerful; the description of the incident resonates and shifts the gratitude needle. Should we not get our own energy-boosting stories?
We need to remember the old three-point lesson about crossing the streets we learnt in primary school. Stop – Look – go! We need to stop by moving from the busyness of life. We do not have to read every detail of every news item and every social media post. Take a time-out.
The Welsh poet, WH Davies, wrote: “What is this life, full of care/We have no time to stand and stare?/ No time to stand beneath the boughs/ and stare as long as sheep or cows…a poor life this, full of care/We have no time to stand and care.”
He laments the loss of time to enjoy the natural vibes. Yet it is that very thing that helps keep our spirits alive. The many worries and tensions in life drain our time and capacity to enjoy the true meaning of life. Is that any way to live?
Secondly, let us open our senses to the richness around us. We live in a beautiful country. Have we stopped to enjoy and treasure the beauty?
Why let the unpleasantness of others crowd that loveliness out of our minds? When last have we stopped to see the flowering Poui or even listen to the birds flying overhead? Yet we fill our hearts with the cacophony of politicians and their hacks.
We see the things that have gone wrong and dull our sense of what is right about the country. What a poor life!
Thirdly, let us open our hearts to make others happy. Do something for somebody else. See their eyes light up. Watch how your gift to them changes you. Remember the story of Nap Hepburn’s Tell Santa? Should we not wish to experience this gift of joy that boomerangs to us?
Be mindful that we, too, have flaws. Let us be more forgiving of others and ourselves. Recognise what they have contributed, and be grateful while acknowledging their faults.
Invest in our young—they give us fresh energy and perspectives. Celebrate their contributions and learn from them. Young people bring innovation and show us what is fresh and new. Is not Tik Tok videos modern art?
Let us choose to be thankful for our lives. Let us gain the power to face our challenges and transform our nation. Give thanks with a grateful heart!