The year is finally here. 2013 was filled with all sorts of news, technological developments, mounting internal security crisis in several African countries and gradual, very weak economic recovery in Western Europe.
This year, though, I plan to focus less and less on the usual political events and news stories and much more on the inner world of the mind, perception and the human psyche.
In Uganda, a society as intellectually superficial as most other countries in Africa, when prominent public figures die, their academic credentials, schools attended, long career, jobs and offices held, are enumerated.
In all our news reporting and historical studies, the Big Men and “success” stories of society are measured by their role as MP, minister, bishop, headmaster, lawyer, sports star, civil servant, businessman, banker, ambassador and so on.
In Uganda, we are where we studied, worked and served. We don’t have the penetrating minds and culture to study, observe and assess the inner workings of our minds, which is the true Self.
That is paramount. It is the hardest part of us to control and master and yet that is where our happiness and peace of mind and emotional balance is determined.
The relentless advancement of technology is making life much more convenient for the majority around the world, from mobile money outlets to smartphones, the Internet, 24-hour TV news channels, large shopping malls, a wide range of consumer products and services.
But while the practical, material life is getting easier for most, the burdens of the heart and mind are still as complex and unresolved as they have been for centuries.
Most of us on a daily basis suffer much more in the realm of the mind and emotions than even in trying to earn a living or paying our bills. Anxiety over known and unknown fears rules the majority of us, from President to peasant.
Writing in 1948 about the pioneering psychoanalysts Otto Rank, Patrick Mullahy noted of Rank’s observation of the forces that shape the human mind:
“Man fears final destruction, not so much natural death for in the belief of many peoples the soul lives on after death. What he fears is destruction of his spiritual self. Racial survival in one’s children and their descendants is not sufficient; it is non-personal and limited by death. Mankind yearns for some kind of eternal spiritual survival.”
This is the anxiety, the fear of a terrorist attack, complicated health problems, the fear of dying young and all the stress of modern living that I am thinking about a lot these days.
In fact, the one thing that the large social networks Twitter and Facebook have done is confirm to me just how empty, in essence, the lives of we modern, urban, white-collar citizens are.
It was the lack of inner knowledge and balance in world superstars like Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and others who wowed us with their celebrity status but deep inside were emotional cripples and all their adult lives simply could not find peace of mind or happiness.
Camille Barbone, a talent agent with the Gotham Agency and Studios in New York City, who first spotted Madonna (Holiday, Into The Groove, Papa Don’t Preach, Take A Bow) described dealing with the famous singer and how Madonna used and then dumped her after her recording career got underway in August 1981.