From Bassey Ubong to Akanimo.
“Fortune favours the brave” or the bold is an English translation of the Latin proverb “fortes fortuna juvat.” Synonyms for favour include goodwill, gift, mercy, generosity, kindness, and so on; synonyms of fortune include success, wealth, greatness, luck, destiny, and even adverse events among others; synonyms of bravery include courage, strong effort; unshrinking, fearlessness, bold; freedom means the right to think, speak and act as one chooses; and my personal definition of a miracle is an unexpected outcome that is based on investment such as time, money/other material things, physical strength, spiritual commitment, political and social capital and related others. In essence, a ‘miracle’ is not a chance event that had no prior commitment or sacrifice by the donee or beneficiary. There must have been a prior input by the beneficiary of the miracle as for instance fasting and prayer. A man spent 39 years by the pool of Bethesda; his inputs included hope, believe in divine intervention, and never giving up. A paralyzed man had to fall back on the faith of others who removed roofing sheets to send him into the direct presence of Jesus. In essence, no miracle occurs without conscious or unconscious input from the beneficiary irrespective of the magnitude of that input. Thus although the days of manna are gone, the Israelites ‘asked’ before the largess dropped from the sky.
Fortune favours the brave has several interpretations but the thesis is that each person is favoured or receives a gift only on self-application, engagement of courage, and never flagging or giving up on a quest. It is why Ibibio elders say that unless a tree being cut is on the ground, the axe cannot rest (more so a tree which can be regarded as a challenge or obstacle can grow back and still constitute a bottleneck). Cutting a huge tree requires physical and spiritual strength with the support of a facilitating medium such as a long knife, axe, or machine e.g. Dolmar. The physique and spirituality imply courage, after all, who knows which dangerous animal lives inside the trunk or on the branch of the tree being cut down? The cutting device implies financial investment and in economics, when someone chooses to put in resources into one out of several in a choice set, the alternative foregone is known as opportunity cost which can be valued.
The climb on the ladder to success (however success is measured) or specifically greatness (this noun is never associated with negatives but only with distinction, eminence, excellence in a field of endeavour but success can be associated with negatives) is strewn with seen and unseen obstacles and only the brave, the bold, and the unflagging climb to the top.
Let’s look at the concept of freedom and the antonym bondage. French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in the opening statement in his book, “The Social Contract” left for the world a famous, profound, and sublime quote: “man was born free but everywhere he is in chains.” At the pristine level of life in the forest any living thing is free; but what about predators – human and non- human? What about raw weather and hunger and other basic or fundamental needs which community living makes it easier? These provided the rationale for people to voluntarily give up certain freedoms to have organized societies with leaders who, when necessary take away the freedoms of those whose desires placed limitations on the peaceful enjoyment of the freedoms of others as sanctioned by society. This is the basis of the social contract theory which I wrote on before. Common security is, for instance, a desideratum thus there is not one society on the entire earth that outsources communal security particularly the Police.
No one on earth is free: children are bonded to parents and vice versa; the boy and girl of yesterday lose their freedom to come and go the moment they are married; employees and employers are virtually enslaved to each other and to the laws of the land; even in clubs and peer groups leaders exact sanction on erring or even members they don’t like without justifiable reason. Are we not bondsmen and bondswomen to our religious denominations and faiths? Do priests in any religion not twirl us on their index fingers? One day you will have the opportunity to do this if you endure to the end.
A word of caution: freedom, when it takes on the adjective untrammelled, becomes licence and a danger to self and society. True freedom is intellectual and lies in the philosophical concepts of moderation and rationality. An individual is free within the law and bounds of universal moral principles. If my vehicle documents are current and I bear no contraband, I am free from harassment by Police and Road Safety particularly the ones out on the road for the sole purpose of extorting money. I am not free if I resist those requirements and call for freedom to drive without documents and to bear unlicensed arms and hard drugs, etc. If I am apprehended the loss of my freedom is self-inflicted and just. Always bear in mind the legal principle of my right to swing my arms stop where my neighbour’s nose begins.
Freedom also becomes a social fact when an individual is positioned for flexibility in life’s operations of which one means is through education and a marketable certificate or skill. I have been a core civil servant; a banker; a self-employed entrepreneur; then a Federal public servant; and now a retiree free to operate as an educational administrator and consultant, finance analyst; and entrepreneur. It is education and education only that confers such flexibility, not politics, not criminality, not even successful business. It is pertinent to add that true freedom is reflected in personal independence to acquire one’s food, clothes, housing, health facilities, components of relaxation, and worship orientation. Someone is truly free when he or she can determine the type, quantity, and quality of what hedonists term the good life. But freedom ultimately lies in meeting one’s needs legitimately. No one can claim to be free when he or she depends on another for basic necessities except if that person is a child or physically/mentally challenged or as society accepts, young people with qualification/skill without jobs, the elderly, and those who elect to be described as full-time housewives. The one the society cannot accept is that of able-bodied youths of sound mind who are ‘attachments’ on almost a permanent basis (sometimes derogatorily designated no future ambition or NFA) by personal choice. Nor is anyone who lives in fear arising from illegal acts free.
To draw the curtain on this public advice (reasons being that the world will be witness to next steps and one or two self-misguided youths might read and turn to the right path), let me present a few legends that can buttress my positions above. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was a Prince and later King of Macedonia near Greece. At twenty-two, he started a military campaign that subdued the then known world. He could have chosen a life of leisure and even told off one of the greatest philosophers of all time – Aristotle – who was his teacher for three years (16-19 years of age) in the palace when he was a prince. Alexander rather made a different choice, marching through winter, summer, frosted and disease-infested lands and deserts up to Egypt where he founded one the greatest centres of learning in antiquity – Alexandria named after him. He conquered Persia (Iran), Iraq, India, and much of Asia spreading Greek culture including democracy as he marched on. Although by youthful exuberance he bowed out of existence at thirty-three, he remains, over several millennia, the world’s greatest military General of all time. The probability of a future parallel is zero. He forsook freedom (which would have meant bondage to pleasure) to achieve unparalleled feats that changed the known world. Was there any miracle in his life? None. He worked for every outcome. He acquired unrivalled power, fame, and wealth through bravery and self-sacrifice, not limitless freedom and carousing or gamble with fortune.
Jesus the Christ incidentally also spent thirty-three years on earth and bowed out. Forsaking glory in heaven He came to earth first through a demeaning birth in a stable. He went into a profession wrongly regarded as lowly the world over – carpentry. He enjoyed no freedom as for instance, Mary His mother compelled Him to change water into wine against His wish. He went through fasting in a desert for forty days/nights, battled the wiles of a powerful force of darkness; confronted lawmakers/breakers and persecutors; and even faced perfidy and betrayal in His kitchen cabinet. He ended up on the Cross for the ultimate sacrifice. There is no evidence of enjoyment of freedom in His short but eventful life yet He put together the greatest moral-religious revolution in the history of mankind. Today, before God the Father is mentioned once, Jesus the Son would have received ten mentions. It was all about courage, sacrifice, goal-orientation; being purpose-driven, and readiness to let go earthly freedom and comfort for the long term, and ultimately eternal freedom. Jesus performed miracles but a deep review of all of them should prior commitment in one way or another by the beneficiaries. And Jesus was a study in boldness and bravery which positioned Him for glory today.
Life is about decision-making; the greats of today in all walks of life from arts to sciences; from religion to sports; from academics to politics walked the path that American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “The heights by great men reached and kept/were not attained by sudden flight/ but they while their companions slept/ were toiling upwards in the night” (1838). This is a summary of life – toil, trouble, the sacrifice of freedom; courage.
Meanwhile, did all men and women who worked hard have an easy time? The answer is a certain no. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th US President. On the way, he failed elections eight times; failed in business twice; and even faced nervous breakdown. But he laboured on, won election to be President when he lost in lesser offices, abolished slavery in the US in 1863 and revolutionalized the American economy. He was assassinated but he stands tall today at the Lincoln Memorial and in the hearts of all those who detest slavery around the world.
Can we forget twenty-seven years of Joseph and Mandela in the prison? Both rose from prison to palace, the former became Prime Minister of a foreign country, Egypt. The latter became Executive President of independent South Africa.
If Barack Obama had simply decided to wait for his white, wealthy grandparents to bow out and bequeath their wealth to him, the world would not have had the first black American President that salvaged the world from the Great Recession of the first decade of the 21st century. He abandoned freedom and pleasure to labour up the ladder to greatness. Read the stories of the pioneers of Microsoft, Apple Computers, Google, Facebook, and others when they were youths. They are all stories of hard work, rejection of temporary gains and comfort and believe in the incredible capacity of the human intellect, endurance, believe in self and in humanity. Think and adopt the slogan of t Age of Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries) earlier presented by. Roman poet Horace and later used by German philosopher Immanuel Kant – Sapere Aude- dare to think for yourself or dare to know or dare to be wise!
There’s so much space out there so do not wait to be given a space to stand to move the world as Greek mathematician Archimedes said. Take the space in front of you now, stand, and move the world in a positive direction. Sometimes opportunity knocks more than once but never forever. John Calvin used the Genevan Academy that was more like a monastery and gave the world, incredibly, the economic system known as capitalism that fostered the First Industrial Revolution and changed world history for all time. That was a lawyer turned theologian and academic. How fitting for you?
Decisions are taken in a minute but the impact may be eternal. God Almighty guide you and all youths struggling at the crossroads of their life, Amen.