“A clear conscience fears no accusation.” – African proverb
Democracy first emerged when the Athenians, dissatisfied with the governments of aristocracy and tyranny, demanded and actually ensured the institution of a better system. History has it that Pericles, the philosopher, championed this cause. His belief that all citizens (which only comprised males at that time) should partake in the governance of society was wholly embraced by a majority of the populace. What is largely overlooked in narrating the development of democracy, is the role the conscience of the people, influenced by their educational system, played. They had an education that enlightened their minds and gave them courage to truly live.
The focus of the Athenian educational system was to produce good citizens. It was not to produce a workforce, as has been the focus of many modern educational systems. To this end, children – especially males, were taught not only to read and write, but also to play musical instruments. They learned poetry and how to debate and give a persuasive speech. They learned about the earth and how the laws of nature worked. They focused on training the mind; to the point where individuals could logically think through issues and appreciate the consequences of their actions. All in all, they were trained to harness the power within them and to be responsible for its use. It is perhaps not surprising that Athenian society blessed the world with many ‘wise individuals’ or philosophers.
“You are powerful beyond measure,” Marianne Williamson wrote in her famous poem ‘Our Deepest Fear’. Interestingly, this is the capability that many among us have never bothered to harness. Too many of us ‘play small’. As Bob Marley summarises it, “We want to go to heaven, yet we do not want to die”. We want the best of life, we want to change the present state of affairs, yet we have doubts as to our abilities; so much so, we do nothing about it. We are so ignorant about our ‘fearfulness and about our wonderfulness’, we allow others to dictate the kind of individuals we should be. Scripture highlights how “for lack of knowledge, my people perish”; and often we assume it is about others. Wake up to reality, you are the one perishing – because you have handed over your power to others.
You have within you the necessary abilities and a wide range of emotions to become as fearful as life created you to be, and to do all the wonderful things you dream about deep inside. The greats we learn about are those who dared to be conscious of who they are and what they could do to uplift our humanity. They developed ‘a state of mind and a willingness to act for what is right and just’. Instead of conforming to the ‘norms’, they risked the adventure of living in a ‘heartful’ way. They did not merely dream of change, they actually changed themselves and inspired many along the way. They carved new paths instead of following in the trodden ones.
We all want to be true to ourselves, but many of us cannot. Too often, we betray our souls just to get into the good books of others. We lie in our hearts just to be true to others. We ignore what has to be done for our children, in order to do things for other people.
The sadder part is at the end of the day, we sorrow deeply because we know we are living a lie. We cannot afford to be alone with our thoughts. They haunt us; so we seek the company of others who are just as miserable, and talk about things that has no bearing on our wonderfulness.
All of this has to stop – and it can. It is about time we started living, and living fearlessly. We can if we understand that fearlessness is a relationship with ourselves more than with others. Henry Ford described it as, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right”. No one possesses courage. It is more of a relationship one enters into with him or herself when one awakens from the slumber the world breathes over us.
When you recognise the world will not offer you the menu you want, you work creatively to come up with it. The process emboldens you to apply it in other facets of your life – fearlessness, a habitual and firm disposition to fight for that which is right and good for our humanity. The practice ennobles an individual to not only perform good acts, but also give the best of him or herself. And we usually label such individuals as courageous…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true, by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]