Dealing With Changes (Part 2)

Last time, I started talking about dealing with change, and in particular, I looked at it through the eyes of Tevye from  Fiddler On the Roof. I lightly alluded to how Tevye’s handling of the various changes in life differs from that of other fictional characters I have come across in recent months. This contrast is most handling change is in my opinion, most exemplified by Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe’s classic book, Things Fall Apart. (I can finally claim to be a good Nigerian boy for having read the book)

Okonkwo and Tevye are alike in many ways. They’re both pillars in their community. They place a strong emphasis on tradition and family values. They both struggle to come to grips with how drastically the world around them is changing, but they differ in what they do as a result. Since I’ve already talked about Tevye, today’s post is going to be about Okonkwo

Okonkwo is the prototypical stoic African warrior. He displays few emotions (with the exception of an overabundance of anger). He believes very deeply that if a person is strong enough, the world must bend to that person’s will – especially if that person is a man. He despises men that he deems to be effeminate, which tends to be how he describes men who would prefer not to be warriors. In fact, I would imagine that he had ever met a guy like Tevye, he would be more than a little peeved at Tevye’s easygoing nature.

These traits have served him well on the battlefield and made him a force to be reckoned with in the community, but they were ultimately his undoing. Whenever Okonkwo faced changing circumstances, he met each challenge with the same decisive force that he used countless times on the battlefield. When that didn’t work, he broke into pits of bitter despair. He held on desperately to the world he knew and the world he once ruled and even though that world had moved on he refused to move with it. When he finally understood how much the world he once loved had changed, he became dejected and died a broken man.

Okonkwo’s character definitely has its merits. At the very least, he proves time and again, that almost anything can be overcome if one tries hard enough. Nevertheless, I’ve never been a huge fan of this style of machismoism for one simple reason: brittle things break. Strength (especially physical strength) was Okonkwo’s greatest asset, but it also caused him to be unyielding and at times, irascible. It made him so rigid that in the end, he couldn’t fit into the new world around him. Perhaps, the realization that there was no place for him in the new world is what really killed him.

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Dealing with Changes (Part 1)

Lately, I’ve gone back to being a bit of a film buff and in particular, I have started watching a lot of older movies. One of the latest movies that I watched was the 1971 version of the film Fiddler On The Roof.

The film is about a man named Tevye who lives with his family in a small township in pre-Soviet Russia. Over the course of the film, we watch as his family goes through various changes both in terms of structure and the things they hold dear. Through his rather witty quips and fourth wall-breaking monologues, we get a glimpse into how these changes affect him.

The thing about Tevye is that he loves tradition. The movie begins with him explaining various aspects of his life as a Jew in this small corner of the world and the rituals that govern that life. He explains how he dresses,  how he eats, how he farms and what role tradition plays in all of that.

Perhaps Tevye’s most endearing quality is his ability to  smile and laugh even through the worst of times. In case you haven’t already seen, the 43 year old movies and happen to hate spoilers, suffice it to say that he goes through a lot. He sometimes struggles to deal with his changing circumstances but somehow manages to adapt to whatever shape the new normal takes.

Tevye’s approach to life is really quite admirable but it’s amazing how different his approach to life is compared with other characters that I have encountered in recent months.

That’s it for now. We shall pick this up another time.

Peace, Love, Many Blesssings

Nostalgia

I find nostalgia to be a very interesting emotion. Suffice it to say that I have a love-hate relationship with the emotion. Lately, some friends from past lives have expressed interest in getting back together for a trip down memory lane. All of this has got me thinking about the good old days. Were the good old days really that good?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there were plenty of moments that were (and still are) absolutely worth cherishing and perhaps that’s what makes nostalgia such an addictive emotion. My problem with nostalgia is that it leaves us (or maybe just me) with a tendency to pretend as though things were always good and always will be. Nostalgia dumbs down our darkest moments. The moments that tested how far we could bend without breaking; the ones that taught us those hard, character building lessons; the moments when we feel disoriented and directionless all to get trivialized for the temporary respite of little victories that followed – even if they were in fact, pyrrhic in nature.

But by that same token, it lightly suggests that those moments in which we wandered and truly were lost were not as bad as we had always imagined. It says that the less traveled path on the roads split by yellow wood was actually the better choice. It compels us to keep going because we have met with success in the past and whatever falls and failures we experienced along the way usually faded in time.

So, were the good old days all that good? Probably not, but they probably weren’t all that bad either. There were plenty of times that I laughed, cried, felt immense pride, and felt tremendously humiliated. I can’t count the number of times I wish I had done things differently, or the ones in which I would’ve done them exactly the same way. I can only imagine that for all their good and all their bad, there will be plenty more of those moments to come and perhaps to remember wistfully in years to come.