Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mukisa Finds a Feather at the Temple

The last time I wrote a blog it exploded into a 9" x 12", 424 page book. I promise I won't do that again -- because I don't want to go through another bankruptcy. Okay, in truth, the bankruptcy was mostly due to medical expenses related to a heart attack, which I also promise I won't do again...I sincerely hope.

Anywho, as you can see, this new blog is called NowNow or Never. NowNow is a Ugandlish word meaning immediately if not sooner and Never means Never. The two words best describe my outlook on most everything these days from my vantage point here in a very pleasant, bright, breezy third floor apartment in the Kisaasi neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda. Kisaasi is a wooded village that got swallowed up by the East African megalopolis of Kampala but has managed to retain its village atmosphere, friendliness, lush foliage, monkeys and exotic birds. I live here with my wife, Ruth, My son, Mukisa, 9 months,  and our terrific nanny, Sophie.

About 20 minutes walk from our home is the Kampala Baha'i Temple, built in 1958. It's the only one in Africa and one of just eight such temples in the world. The grounds surrounding it are lush, heavily treed (lots of monkeys, birds, squirrels, butterflies) and lovingly cared for. Yesterday we went up there and hung out for an hour or so in the morning. At one point I was walking across the vast lawn with Muki in my arms and noticed he was staring hard at something on the ground. I followed his gaze to a small black feather with a white tip -- probably from one of the black and white crows that are ubiquitous here; they resemble small winged pandas.

I picked up the feather, handed it to him. He looked at it with the wonder and awe that babies seem to look at everything. He carried it with him for sometime before something else caught his attention -- a flower or a fly or a vervet monkey galloping up an acacia tree -- then let it float to the ground. 

As we walked home, I got thinking about babies and feathers. This was his first encounter with a feather. He'd never touched one before, never held one in his hand. He doesn't know the bird-feather connection, even though we see and hear birds everywhere we look (the Ibises are particularly shrill; their wings seem to be attached to their vocal cords).

So, feather by feather, leaf by leaf, stone by stone and so on -- That's how a human assembles the universe that surrounds them. Making connections over time as they progress from 9 months to 9 years to 49 to 89 and beyond, maybe. I'm not a religious person (though my wife is; she went into the temple and prayed while we were there), but Baha'i makes plenty of sense as religions go. It's only been around since the mid-1800s, founded by Baha'u'llah. He was later martyred, of course, as were 20,000 of his followers. Among the basic tenants of the religion, according to a brochure I picked up at the temple, are "Oneness of God, oneness of humanity, and of religion"; "Abolition of all forms of prejudice"; "Elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth"; "Independent investigation of truth." Sounds good.

Mukisa slept as I wrote much of this, and the rain came crashing through, stopped all work, stopped all birds and monkeys. Then it was gone as quickly as it arrived. The shimmering green Ibises and the Great Blue Turacos and the vervet monkeys got back to their noisy work. And so did Mukisa.

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