Saturday, April 20, 2024

Philosophizing April Fool’s Day

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By Chainga Zulu

I have lived part of my life in the village, a small village called Kopa which was nestled in the heart of the forest in Chongwe, just after the Chalimbana. In fact, the stream that served as the lifeblood of the villages – bringing out vitality and growth – was called Chalimbana River. However, the once pristine Chalimbana River has now being polluted by Settlements in Silverest.
There I had group my friends who would just sit – often after filling our stomachs with Nshima or whatever our guardians deemed fit for us to eat that day – and just ponder the mysteries of the universe. We pondered whether there was more to life than simply waking up, surviving, and playing hide-and-seek with the Grim Reaper. We all had different perspectives on what the meaning of life could be.

As April Fools’ Day approached in the late 1990s, my friends and I began to ponder the significance of this playful day. While many Zambians had their minds on the social, economic, and political upheaval that was sweeping through the country, ours were on what new pranks we can pull off. What will we be doing? Is it even necessary to prank people when those are our every day’s key performance activities? Like tying grass across those small paths to trip off whoever uses them. Like painting ourselves in white ash during the full moonlight to scare people?

Peter argued that it was merely a silly tradition, a day for harmless pranks and practical jokes. But Anthony believed that there was a deeper meaning behind the day because everyone acknowledges pranks, and no reprisals follow. Rueben spoke to the very essence of human existence.

Mwalusaka, who was the de facto leader due to his age, believed that April Fools’ Day was a reminder that life itself is a grand cosmic joke. He argued that all our striving, all of our struggles and achievements, are ultimately meaningless in the face of the vast and infinite universe. That, he claimed, was the reason why he didn’t even see any need for going to school to be taught by a teacher who was poorer than him. Mwalusaka’s father had one of the biggest herds of cattle and he would give a cow to all his children at their birth. Mwalusaka already had a sizeable herd.

As expected, we were all skeptical of Mwalusaka’s philosophy.

Life has meaning and purpose, there is something more to existence than mere absurdity and chaos, I argued.
Isn’t why we go to Church and school to find meaning and purpose in our lives and live a more fulfilling and meaningful existence? Anthony asked a rhetorical question.

But as I grow older and get confounded by the demands of life more often than not, I began to see the truth in Mwalusaka’s words. I have realized that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I accomplished, I am ultimately powerless in the face of the vastness and complexity of the universe. A chasing after the wind.

And yet, in the midst of this cosmic joke, I find a glimmer of hope and joy. I have come to realize that if life is ultimately absurd, then I am free to find meaning and purpose in the things that mattered most to me, whether it was love, family, friendship, creativity, or simply enjoying the beauty of the world around me.

Whenever time and space permits, I like contemplating the deep truths we had uncovered from that nonchalant talk by formative minds inebriated in boredom. And as I look up at the stars twinkling in the night sky, I feel a sense of wonder and awe at the vastness and mystery of the universe, and a deep gratitude for the fleeting moments of joy and meaning I find in the midst of the cosmic joke that is life.

After all is said and done, here is my final thought. The inquiry into the meaning of life has been a philosophical quandary that has perplexed intellectuals for centuries. There is no definitive answer to this inquiry since it is contingent on an individual’s viewpoint, beliefs, and experiences. Some individuals perceive the meaning of life to be the pursuit of happiness, contentment, or personal development. In contrast, others consider it to be a higher calling, such as fulfilling religious obligations or contributing to society. Certain individuals contend that life does not inherently hold any meaning, and it is incumbent upon individuals to craft their own purpose. Ultimately, the concept of the meaning of life is subjective, and each person must discover their own answer based on their distinct perspective and values.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Silverest with flushable toilets has polluted River Chalimbana and therefore obscuring the real subjective meaning of objective life, not only about April Fools Day, but everyday; which would have offered some solace to poor Reuben, Anthony and Peter in past times who were busy doing meaningless pranks, got perplexed by many gifts of animals rich Mwalusaka was able to give when others including his school teacher had nothing to show for. Life is a joke requiring some sense of humour to wisecrack and laugh back to live for another day.

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