A DISCOURSE ON SACRIFICE
The difference between donation and sacrifice is the outcome of the trade-off between or among relative values. I donate excess value the disappearance or lack of which will cause no harm to, or reduce, my sense of self-worth and/ or well-being; I donate when “I got more than I asked for, (and) there ain’t nothin’ I need…”
When I by conscious choice or otherwise give away all or part of what I have of material and/ or subjective value for what I consider to be of greater good than my ego considerations, I make a sacrifice.
I share when I am indifferent to personal gain or loss to the extent that that which I endeavour to give a part of, or parts thereof, to someone/ others, or a cause is such that its value neither diminishes nor grows when I have, and hang on to, it all by and for myself alone.
I donate, I share; and carry on with my life, living happily ever after. It is the application of sacrifice in practice which has been a major area of fascination in my youth and subsequent adult years.
We must have been in Form 4 (Grade 11) when one day in 1980 our then Chemistry teacher at Kamwala Secondary School, the ever affable Mr Mehta, brought an elderly visitor from India to our class. The latter gentleman not only came to greet us, but he gave us an inspirational talk about, if I recall, growing up, education, and leadership. I now understand that the man was a spiritual leader visiting some of his disciples in Zambia at that time. I recall him emphasizing that we should take it for granted that we were all in the class going to be highly educated and influential in society as adults, filling up all key positions in all aspects of societal organization, as well as development. We were all going to be top doctors, engineers, scientists, business people, military generals, politicians, etc. And given our potential future power and influence owing to our apparent superior individual and collective brain power, we were all destined to be very, very wealthy; we would have the biggest houses, the flashiest cars, and the most beautiful families. I have always been optimistic about a prosperous future full of all material trappings of financial success and power for myself, but that day I got this awesome mind picture of my classmates and I as having become the strongest and best ever rulers and power brokers of the world when grown up. The imagery was so intense and seemed so real that I to this day become hot and moist in my hands whenever I think about it.
I must have come to when I heard the Guru asked, “But what is all this education, wealth, power, and influence about then?” I imagine we were all so mesmerized by this man that no one in the class found the breath to say a word. He told us, I recall, that it was all about the responsibility to share with others who may not be as lucky and privileged as ourselves. He went on to say that in essence we become educated, wealthy, and powerful in order to serve society, starting with our smaller family units and immediate communities. This is so, the man argued further, because everything we learn and we acquire as a consequence of power and influence arising from our privileged positions we owe it to someone else who may on the one hand have made a single sacrifice, or a series of sacrifices over time, so that we on the other may have it good and better. We were reminded to primarily never ever forget the sacrifices that our parents make for us from as early as long before we were born. It was important to understand how society functions so as to have a better perspective as to how much sacrifice society as a collective makes for us as individuals, families, interest groups, etc. so that we can have and lead prosperous, successful, safe and protected lives. He concluded by encouraging us to make it a habit of reading autobiographies of great leaders of the world in all epochs if we wanted to understand the intricacies of leadership, power, and influence; that way we’d be exceptional leaders ourselves. Amen!
The act of personal sacrifice is a function of abundance of either or both material and non-material resources depending on the nature of prevailing circumstances here and now, or there and then. Sacrifice is selfless, and will often be extremely defiant against the status quo. At its most formidable expression, people have even made the highest sacrifice for causes they considered to be larger than individual life itself. Sacrifice presupposes strength and resilience, patience and tolerance, endurance and consistency, as well as belief in the inherent good of humanity.
I am a product of many people’s varying degrees of sacrifices, starting with my own parents. Since my youth days I have always been conscious of the help, back-up, and support of key, as well as peripheral, people around me during the most challenging and most critical times of my life. When, given my strong sense of independence, I do not know how to ask for help in times of need, I have many times been overwhelmed by the spontaneous stretch out of helping hands to get me back on track again. Many of these people will have weighed out their alternatives and odds I know, before deciding to come to my aid at the expense of other values they may have had to take into consideration contra my situation. Both from direct instructions by, and through observation of, various personalities from my youth days on, sacrifice in practice is a free-choice reciprocal process in my world. I have therefore made huge material and other sacrifices for other people’s agendas and causes as a matter of course when need arose. I have sacrificed everything from higher education and career prospects, through personal relations, to life’s comforts. I do what I have to do to the best of my ability here and now, or there and then; (but) neither expecting nor asking for any favours in return.
Strength and resilience are expression of power. Power is energy in motion. Energy in motion manifests work done in time and space. To the extent that energy is expendable, and that time and space may be finite, it goes without saying therefore that there sooner or later is bound to come a point where even (a) Super Man like myself will need to slow down to avoid hitting the wall and dying prematurely; then starts the time of soul searching and reflection down the valley of lethargy. To the extent that my falls don’t kill me instantly, I will always rise. When I finally rise again with my mental and physical zest rekindled, I sort out areas, causes, and people to continue sacrificing for things and resources that could add more value to my ego wants and needs would I choose to be self-centered. The act and principle of sacrifice need not be indiscriminate.
There are things I’d never sacrifice for anything or anybody regardless. I’ll never sacrifice my humanity, my personal integrity, my self-esteem; I’ll never sacrifice my values, my ethical and moral standards; I’ll never sacrifice my people, my countries. That’s why I do what I do, how I do what I do.
June 17, 2012
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(Dedicated to my Karate students everywhere)