Monthly Archives: February 2013

Am I Being Unreasonable?

In which a married woman urgently seeks counsel:

I am married to a man who is the first son of seven. I am older than all his siblings. One of his sisters was a frequent visitor to our home. I feel I did my best to make her feel at home.

For instance I never asked her to do any house work to help me because I feel it is my home and I would do my house work anyway even if she was not around. I allowed her complete freedom in the kitchen to dish her own food and eat whatever she wanted.

Three years ago when she came on vacation she stole some of my gold jewelry. When I saw it with her she denied that it was not mine. Later she insisted that I must have forgotten it in her parent’s house the last time we came on vacation which I know fully well was not true as the gold disappeared from underneath my bed.

Last year again she came to visit and some more jewelry disappeared. We were moving house at the time and in all the confusion she packed quite a substantial number. [I sell gold].

I went to their house to confront her about it and we started to exchange words. I called her a thief. Her mother (my mother-in-law) asked her to deal with me and she slapped me twice. I did not retaliate.

During the peace making process, I gave a condition for which I would forgive. I said she would not call me by my first name any longer. I am seven years older than her. My mother in law jumped up, shouting and saying I had no right to demand that. They are Igbo. The girl is the first daughter of the family.

Well since then if the girl calls me by my first name I do not answer her. If her mother is there at the time, a quarrel ensures as she will accuse me of keeping malice. Now people are advising me to let go and accept this girl calling me by my first name for the sake of peace.

Am I being unreasonable?

First, I want to thank you for your question. I hope that you are still married to your husband, and that despite the misunderstandings you might have with your sister-in-law or your mother-in-law, you have continued to live peacefully with your husband.
If this is the case, have you discussed this situation with him? Have you tried to make him understand how sticky-fingered his younger sister appears to be? If you have not, is there a reason why you’ve not yet discussed his sister’s petty theft or his mother’s apparent unhelpfulness to the situation? If you have not, please do so. Rather than continue to stomach the indignities and the insults that might possibly be heaped on you by a girl that is 7 years younger than you are, please let her older brother (your husband) realize the gravity of the situation. If he loves you, and is moreover mature enough as to want the happiness of his own home first, he’ll have a talk with his younger sister and with his mother if the need arises. You are better off if he steps in and makes it abundantly clear to all and sundry that it is your word and your wishes that take precedence in every matter regarding his matrimonial home. If the situation deteriorates to the worst, it would be better for you and for all if he is the one that makes the decision of forbidding his sticky-fingered sister from ever paying you folks a visit.

At any rate, let us say that you and your sister-in-law are now interested in making peace. She is the first daughter of the family like you say, and it would be splendid if you two could have a very rich and amicable relationship. Is it unreasonable then to demand that your only condition for peace would be for her never to call you by your first name?

Well, the answer is a mixed bag—it is partly reasonable and partly unreasonable.

I do not know what Nigerian ethnic group you come from, but from your piece, it seems evident that while your husband and his family are Igbo, you are not. It may be that in your indigenous culture it is considered highly disrespectful for people to address their elders by their actual names. From your upbringing then, you’ve been taught to address people older than you by some term of respect e.g. Ma, Sir, Auntie, Uncle, Brother, Sister etc. Therefore, it is not altogether unreasonable to request such courtesy in not being addressed or called by your actual first name from a girl who is younger than you by as much as seven years. I would think, given the relative seriousness of your previous clashes with her, that such a modest request on your part would have been easily and willingly accepted. Alas this turns out not to be case. So what then should you do as far as the matter is concerned?

On the other hand, you need to realize that your sister-in-law’s upbringing probably did not involve such supposedly respectful conventions. She was probably raised to call the people of her generation by their first names, and to reserve such supposedly respectful or polite terms for her own parents only or at most people old enough to be her parents. She might even call her older brother (your husband) by his first name and your husband being used to that most likely does not care. Now given the drama you two have had to endure, surely the fact that she calls you by your first name is not so grave an error, is it? Remember that you never mentioned the name she was supposed to call you to make you reply her. But even beyond that, what difference really does the name she call you make if there is mutual peace and understanding between you two? Will you suddenly and dramatically be anything less than what you currently are if she calls you by your name? The answer is no. For the interest of peace, I think you may need to change your mind on this one.

Just think about it—I would have thought that with kleptomania being the name of your sister-in-law’s game, you would be calling for her to never visit you at all any longer since things mysteriously go missing whenever she comes to town. I would have thought that a serious discussion between your mother and your mother-in-law would have been more prominent on your peace solution. I honestly thought that in the interest of peace you might have already sent in your husband to have a frank talk with his meddlesome younger sister. Doing some of these things which I have wondered about would be widely perceived as rational.  However anyone might wonder why you would allow something as seemingly insignificant as a younger person calling you by your real name to become a perpetual rock of offence.

So in the interest of peace I say, inform your husband promptly about the sour state of your relationship with his sister. Then if other genuine efforts are being made by your sister-in-law to restore the peace, you shouldn’t turn your back on such efforts simply because she has elected to call you by your first name. Things could be much worse, and for that, you ought to be abundantly grateful.   

Jamaican Daggering

This is a dance style fashionable with Caribbean youth and can be seen in night clubs and other social events where dancing and partying is going on. It is called Daggering. Having watched the video, please can you tell me in what way this is not utter madness? What sort of insanity is this? The good book says to train up a child in the good way and when the child is grown, he/she will not depart from it. Parents who view this video must realize that it could just as well be their innocent sons or daughters out there on the streets daggering. That should motivate them to take up more visible and active role in their children’s upbringing so as to forestall this ugly possibility. If the people in this video are not under the influence of terrible drugs then they probably need their heads examined because there is no way any sane person will be caught doing that dance. Yes indeed, that way madness lies.

Religiosity vs Spirituality

One of the issues which have remained the source of countless debates and angry disputations is the topic of religion and spirituality. If you take a moment to think about the possible meanings of these words you would immediately come to recognize the broad contexts in which these words are used. Without much mental exertion, most people can readily admit the possibility of a wide-range of definitions. Therefore, it goes without saying that it can make for a very troublesome exchange of ideas when people interacting on critical philosophical and abstract topics essentially discover that they have these irreconcilable specific understandings and usage.  Is there a clear and unmistakable difference then between Religiosity on the one hand and Spirituality on the other? Can one say that there is some tangible contrast between being religious and being spiritual?
First of all, before any possible distinctions can be made between the two, one has to readily admit that there is a considerable overlap in the meaning of both words. Precisely—for were that not to be the case, then there would not be the sort of misunderstandings that often arise when people understand the usage in one particular way when a different understanding was originally intended. Secondly, it is necessary to realize that simple dictionary definitions may not be sufficient to build or develop a proper sense of the difference between the two.
Having said the following, what does it mean to be spiritual? The Miriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definitions for the word “spiritual”:
  • ·         1: of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit: incorporeal
  • ·         2a: of or relating to sacred matters
  • ·         b: ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal
  • ·         3: concerned with religious values
  • ·         4: related or joined in spirit
  • ·         5a: of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena
  • ·         b: of, relating to, or involving spiritualism : spiritualistic

At once it can be seen from this definition that being spiritual indicates a person’s focus or attachment to things that are incorporeal (that is without physical bodily form), or things that are deemed supernatural. It shows that a person is focused on the transcendental and not the mundane. To be spiritual is to be focused on things that are sacred and eternal as opposed to the carnal and temporal. Therefore for someone to devote one’s life, ambitions and attention to things that affect the spirit (sometimes called the “inner man”), such a person had to first already believe in the existence of a spiritual dimension or of supernatural phenomena. It is usually the case that a person who believes in the existence of a spiritual dimension or of supernatural phenomena would place greater emphasis on these things than on the things that are obtainable in this physical, carnal and temporal realm. Such a person is persuaded that the real pursuits of any person ought to be a closer understanding of the spiritual realm; of genuine and deeper interaction with God or some divine substitute; of breathless thirst for the numinous; of a burning desire for the deeper mysteries of existence; of a steadfast dedication to a life sublime which obtain long after one’s temporal earthly sojourn is over.
It is therefore hardly surprising that despite the loud denunciations of spirituality by naturalists, moral nihilists and hardened atheists, the human family nevertheless continues to recognize the imprint of things larger than themselves while surveying their environment; they continue to see the handwork of a supernatural agency in their daily experience; they continue to affirm the all-too-real evidence of some higher calling or purpose. Spirituality is not limited to any particular faith or belief-system or religious orthodoxy—human beings no matter the color or creed can be spiritual or spiritually-minded.
Needless to say, one gets a slightly different understanding from the word ‘religious’. If to be spiritual we are given to understand that an anti-naturalistic perspective is paramount, and that a commitment to such a view is inescapable (i.e. it would be impossible for anyone who disbelieves the existence of a spiritual realm to abide by the dictates of the spiritual), it is often the case that to be ‘religious’ one does not necessarily reach the same inferences or arrive at the same implications.
Accounting for the overlaps in dictionary definitions based on the imprecise nature of our routine usage, to be religious hence means to be faithful or devoted to something or some cause; to be scrupulously and conscientiously faithful. To be religious is to have seemingly dogmatic, usually unquestioning, unwavering and automatic adherence or obedience to something; it is to be meticulously faithful to the stipulations and recommendations of some philosophy, creed, belief-system, culture, lifestyle or even habit. From this definition, one ought to perceive that while the term ‘religious’ is usually deployed to describe the nature of steadfast devotional or worshipful beliefs, such a common usage in no way invalidates the other several ways in which people can and do show the same scrupulous faithfulness  to matters that are decidedly mundane.
So, it is abundantly clear that in one sense or understanding of the word, to be religious is to be devout and pious and mindful of or attentive to the commandments and recommendations of some faith. Similarly, to be religious also accommodates strong devotion, loyalty or fealty to some secular agenda or other areas of human enterprise. One can be religious about one’s science convictions; or religious in one’s devotion to soccer or sports; or religious with one’s political views; or about one’s hygiene practices; or in the pursuit of money; or with one’s exercise and workout regimen; or religious with one’s studies; or as a matter of fact anything at all. In all, what defines religiosity is one’s attitude; one’s seemingly inflexible commitment to some repetitive behavior; one’s allegiance or fidelity to some cause.
At this juncture, one might pause to reflect on the fact that sometimes people who are being more focused on spiritual matters have been erroneously described by people who do not know the difference as being “too religious”. Such persons are hankering after the life of the mind or the spirit; they are putting their physical bodies and its needs into subjection as they strive to grasp after the numinous; they are putting away their carnal desires and the demands of the self in a bid to come into closer relationship with God. They are, if the distinctions I have spelled here have been understood by any, becoming more spiritual and NOT necessarily more religious.
On the other hand, there are people who have shown serious faithfulness, commitment or devotion to established patterns of behavior or conduct specific to some particular faith or creed. There are also people who have shown a scrupulous, habitual dedication to some activity or ideology. If they are required to pray 5 times a day, such persons will do this without fail. If he is expected to give alms, he gives according to what the belief-system specifies. He is careful to observe the canons or articles of the faith; steadfast to live by the rules and expectations of that political ideology or philosophical worldview or perhaps social status. Such persons have become more religious with these undertakings—and NOT necessarily more spiritual.
Sensible atheists who have understood these distinctions will be very careful with the terms used in their vocal denunciations. For the truth of the matter is that while an atheist is justified based on his philosophical atheistic worldview in denouncing a spiritual impulse he has absolutely no grounds upon which to denounce a religious impulse. A spiritual mindset or worldview necessarily contradicts the dictates of his naturalistic mindset in choosing to accept or further reify concepts for which the strict reductionist materialist has no means of understanding not to talk of testing empirically. On the other hand, atheism or the profession of atheistic convictions cannot be completely divorced from religiosity. The unthinking atheist erroneously assumes that to be religious, one must unfailingly describe a belief in supernatural causes or agency. It is a completely unsound expectation borne out of a narrow and tendentious definition of the word. The truth which has not failed to elude even the brightest atheists is that anyone can be religiouswith any undertaking: all an atheist really need do is be conscientiously loyal and faithful to his atheistic worldview for him to be correctly and properly identified as “religious”.

Akpor's Exalted Praise

I don’t even know what else to say to you but just check this praise song out and see if you like it.

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