By Tai Solarin
I am not cursing you. I am only wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are unsure of what you should say back, why not just say; ‘same to you’. I ask for no more.
Our successes are conditioned by the amount of risk we are ready to take. Earlier on today, I visited a local farmer about three miles from where I live. He could not have been more than 55 but he said he was already too old to farm vigorously. He still suffers, he said, from the physical energy he displayed as a farmer in his younger days. Around his hut were two pepper bushes. There were cocoyams growing round him. There were snail shells which had given him meat. There must have been more snails around the banana trees I saw. He hardly ever went to town to buy things. The car or the bus, the television or the telephone, the newspaper, the Vietnam or Red China were nothing to him. He had no ambitions whatsoever, he told me. I am sure you are already envious of him or pity him but were we all to revert to such a life, we would be practically driven back to cave dwelling. On the other hand, try to put yourself into the position of the Russian or the American astronaut. Any moment now, the counts 1, 2, 3 are going to go and you are going to be shot into the atmosphere, and soon you will be whirling our earth at the speed of six miles per second. If you get fired into the atmosphere and you forget what to do to ensure return to earth, one of the things that might happen to you is that you could become forever a satellite going round the earth until you die of starvation and even your dead body would continue the gyration.
When therefore, you are being dressed up and padded to be shot into the sky, you know only too well that you are going to be on the roughest road man has ever trodden. The Americans and Russians who have gone were armed with the great belief that they would come back. But I cannot believe they did not have some slight foreboding on the contingency of their non-return. It is their courage for going despite of these apprehensions that makes the world hail so loudly today.
You cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs; throughout the world, there is no paean without pain. Jawaharlal Nehru has put it so well. I am paraphrasing him. He wants to meet his trouble in a frontal attack. He wants to see himself tossed in the aperture between the two horns of the bull. Being there, he determines he is going to win, and therefore, such a fight requires all his faculties.
When my sisters and I were young and we slept on our small mats round our mother, she would wake up at 6am for morning prayers. She always said prayers on our behalf but always ended with something like this – “May we not enter into any danger or get into difficulties this day”. It took me almost thirty years to dislodge the cankerworm in our mother’s sentiments. I found, by hard experience, that all that is noble and laudable is to be achieved only through difficulties, trials, tears and dangers. There are no other roads.
Life, if it is going to abundant, must have plenty of hills and valleys. It must have plenty of sunshine and rough weather. It must be packed with days of danger and apprehension.
When I walk into the dry but certainly cool morning of every January 1st, I wish myself plenty of tears and of laughter; plenty of happiness and unhappiness, plenty of failures and successes, plenty of abuse and praise. It is impossible to win ultimately without a rich measure of intermixture in such a menu. Life would be worthless without the lot. We do not achieve much in this country because we are all so scared of taking risks. We all want the smooth and well-paved roads, while the reason the Americans and others have succeeded so well is that they took such great risks.
If therefore you are out in this New Year, 1964 to win any target you have set for yourself, please accept my prayers and your elixir; may your road be rough!