Monday, 5 August 2013

ROBOTIC LOVE(Why I Love Cartoons)

I love cartoons very much. This may appear strange when you consider the fact that, I'm a grown man, over 20, bearded all over, possessing all the pubertal signs of maturity. I realize that some people may have reasons to discredit my maturity, just  because i love cartoons..however...i don't mind being judged.

I hear you asking me, "What exactly do you love about cartoons?" Well, I'm so glad you asked!.. For me, it's that out-of-the-box, escape-from-reality, comical fun that they bring. They're not under pressure to be real! Tom can fall from the empire state building, and still make it home in time to trouble Jerry. The "powerpuff girls" can fly, "cow and chicken" are siblings, and the detective dog "Scooby doo" always solves the case. They offer a brilliant escape from reality, especially the painful reality we humans sometimes have to deal with.

One of the central themes of many cartoons, and one i have found particularly intriguing, is the incorporation of the futuristic. From the "Jetsons", to "Futurama", and very recently "Ben10"(okay....don't judge me..i have a 3year old lil brother), you would often see cars replaced by space jets, automated-everything, remote-controlled bathroom systems, and very interestingly, robots.

Robots; those unemotional, mechanical devices, that behave like people. They talk,move and do pretty much everything that people do, except that they lack passion, because they are programmed. They respond to commands, not because they want to, but because they have to. For them, it's not natural, it's simply responding to hard-wired codes.

Many times, as i have sat with my brother to watch cartoons, i have often wondered, what it'll be like to be married to a robot. Absurd isn't it? My first reaction was, "Wow, that'll be awesome." I imagined my robotic wife; let's call her the "Nano-C100." I imagined that she was tailored to cook, clean, change diapers, and do all that i ask. Remember that robots, ordinarily have no emotions, so  Nano-C100 will do all this, without complaining or nagging. Every man's heaven right?

No silly questions like "Do you still love me?", "Who's that texting you" and "Don't you think you should cut down on your sugar level?" Pretty much a woman without emotions. No feelings, no objections..just a machine obeying your every command. That surely appeals to my inner male chauvinist, the one i know needs to DIE. The same one i know resides in varying degrees, in almost every man.

At first, being married to a robot seems awesome! Until it becomes boring. I realized that, the relationship between me and Nano-C100, would be no different from my relationship with my Hyundai i10. My car which meant the world to me 3years ago. I loved the way it responded to my legs on the throttle and the sharpness of the brakes. That was 3years ago,... as i write today, i am bored. For some reason, my Hyundai i10 is not just "kicking it" anymore.

Snap back to reality! While the relationship between i and Nano-C100 is fictional, the story of the relationship i had with God a few years ago, is not. However, the two have one thing in common.....a very mechanical robotic love. Except that, in the love saga between me and God, i was the robot. I was Nano-C100.

I found that as i walked with God, i became a robot, obeying God's commands and laws, not because i wanted to, but because i felt i had to. I thought i loved God, but it was a love that was forced. If you asked me, "why do you go to church?" , my response would be, "I have been hard-wired and programmed that way from my childhood."

Dad and mum(the computer programmers) had coded me this way; 8am-9am: Read your bible, 9am-10:30 am: Pray. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with timetables, just that i had no time for God after this period. It was a calculated mechanical relationship, based on timetables and schedules. Half the time, as i gazed at my Bible, my mind was somewhere else, my heart was even further, and as soon as there was no adult supervision, my body followed.

My love for God was ROBOTIC, RELIGIOUS and based solely on RITUALS; no real RELATIONSHIP. I didn't love God, i was only afraid of the dreadful punishments i had heard the preachers talk about. The fear of hell and damnation was my motivation for service. I was only pandering to the emotions and feelings of those around me. I was indeed a robot(from Czech word "robota" which means "forced labour")

I know that as you read, you can identify with a lot of this. You may not admit it, but many of us become robotic in our relationship with God. Interestingly, the longer you have been a christian, the easier it is for you to become religious(robotic), and not even know it. You can go to church, just because you've made a habit of it. You can sit in church and just be part of a working mechanical system; casually lifting up your hands and speaking in tongues..just because it's "that time" of the service. Unfortunately, we lose the whole essence, and we miss out on the classical romance that God desires to have with us.

This may shock you but, christianity is NOT a religion. It is not based on "do's and dont's." God didn't give us a book of laws, he left us a love letter. 66 books of his love affirmed over and over. We haven't been called to obey commands, we have been called to fall in love with a person. God did not intend that we fear him. He doesn't want us to feel like we have to obey him. What he did, is extend his love to us, and hope that we respond by falling in love with him.

He's not even asking us to initiate anything, he's asking us to respond. The bible says "We love him, because HE FIRST loved us.." He loved us when we were not good enough(Rom 5:8), and hoped that this love will "lead us to repentance"(Rom 2:4).

When the time comes when we let go of all these religious jargons, and we truly fall in love with Jesus, we will find that we want to obey him, not out of fear of punishment, but because every true meaning lover, hates to break the heart of his lover. When we fall in love with him, even when we do break his heart, we soon find that our own hearts are broken in the process.

When we fall in love with him, we find that even when we  sin, He says, "i still love you...i have loved you with an everlasting love."(Luke 15:20-24) When we fall in love with him, we see His genuine love in some of the scriptures we have religiously quoted. Scriptures like, "i will never leave you nor forsake you." When we fall in love with him, we find that His "perfect love, casts out all fear."

When we fall in love with him, we find that, we have not been called to a religion, we have been called to a relationship. We have not been asked to obey laws, we have been asked to bear fruits. Fruits that are borne out of a deeply ROOTED relationship with him. It is not mechanical, it is the Holy Spirit making us willing and able to love and serve God.(Phil 2:13) The things we do(our obedience to his commands), are not as a means to get his attention, but a loving response, to the one who loved us enough to give His only son on the cross(john 3:16)

When we fall in love with Him, we see that we have been called to a love relationship. No robotics! I hope that as you read this, you can check your motives. Check to be sure you're not trying to be a mechanical christian. Check that it is not fear, nor indoctrination that leads you to serve him. Check to see that you know God personally and love him. Check to see that you are not trying to work your way into his arms, but you are confident, that you already lie safely in His arms.(Luke 15:20-24) Check to see that you are no Nano-C100.

I leave you with the words of Apostle Paul:

"But now you need no longer worry about the Jewish LAWS and customs because you "DIED" while in their CAPTIVITY, and now you can really serve God; not in the OLD way, MECHANICALLY obeying a set of RULES, but in the new way, with all of your HEARTS and MINDS."

Romans 7:6(The Living Bible)

Daniel Addo

twitter: @PastorDanAddo

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Friends With Benefits

We live in a fast-changing dynamic world, where advances in technology, relationships and life in general, are uber-rapid. A few decades ago, James bond movies were the closest we came to mind-blowing technology; some of which many of us now own and use comfortably. They depicted phones that had navigators, voice recognition, the occasional bomb-triggers, and touch-screens, to mention but a few. Growing as a young boy, i was fascinated by these, and never thought that one day, i too will own a phone that could do all these and more! Well, at least most of it, except for the bomb part.

Perhaps, one of the areas of life that has experienced rapid change, especially in Nigeria, is our social life. Generally speaking, we have become very westernized. This is a fact that is very much evident in our fast-changing lingo. Every day, so many new words erupt from nowhere and become accepted as words we use in daily communication, especially among young people. Walking down the streets, you'll hear young people use words like YOLO(Acronym for, You Only Live Once) or dope( E.g "that song is dope", to mean, "that song is cool or great"). Sometimes we mean "good" when we say "bad." (For instance, "Skyfall was a bad movie mehn", really means, "Skyfall was an awesome movie").

I cannot count how many times my Mum has called me to ask the meaning of such "new" words. It's like many of our parents get lost in our conversations. They can't seem to understand what we say anymore because, we have evolved passed the regular dictionary words.

The Nature of relationships in Nigeria and indeed around the world, has changed over the years too. While a few years ago, the thought of a relationship between humans, meant a relationship between a man and a woman; in this generation, you can't be too sure. Sadly, there are all kinds of new sick combinations that exist. Not only have the genders involved in relationships changed, but also there are a few additions to the relationship statuses that exists in the world. While most of our parents know about Single, Married, Dating, Lovers, Just Friends e.t.c They don't know of the latest addition, which is: "Friends with Benefits"

For the purpose of my older readers, i'll tell you what this new relationship status means. "Friends with Benefits" is a relationship between a guy and a girl, where there is no emotional commitment, no love or feelings, but the two engage in sexual intercourse. That means that, they fulfill each other's sexual desires but have no emotional connection whatsoever. They are both free to see other people as there is no commitment in the "relationship".

My dear Mummies and Daddies, I'm a bit old fashioned, so i share your disgust. I can still remember the first time i heard the phrase "Friends with Benefits." It was like i had just seen a ghost. My mouth, nose and eyes were opened, as a girl in my Uni told me about this new relationship status. She just assumed it was something i knew. She said a guy told her, he wanted them to be "friends with benefits." I answered and said, "What is that?", and she began to explain it to me and was surprised at my reaction.

I remember going back to my room that day, wondering what this was all about. I went into deep thought, amazed and perplexed. Looking for a way to make sense of the new data i had just received. I sat there for an hour, sometimes laughing to myself, other times whispering "friends with benefits", while nodding my head.

Suddenly, it hit me and i realized that, all friendships should be beneficial! Not the sick sexual kind that the world has placed in our heads! But we must go into every friendship asking ourselves, "How Can I Benefit The Other Person." Often, we have concept of love that is selfish! We go into relationships for what we can get! We go in, looking for our own benefit, our own satisfaction, and our own pleasure, even at the expense of another person. It's all about ME and how you can fulfill MY desire. It is parasitic when it should be symbiotic. it is an erroneous equating of the word "Love" to meaning just erotic excitement!

We use people, we don't really love them. And when the time comes when we believe they are no more beneficial to us, we throw them away, when actually, we should be looking for ways to benefit them. It's a conditional love that is predicated on how much i can get from you and not how much i can give to you.

This is precisely why it seems our relationships have an expiry date. Because two selfish people go into a relationship, each one, hoping to rip off the other. Picture for one second, what it'll be like, if two people decided to go into a relationship, seeking to benefit one another. Imagine if our goal for friendship was to benefit the other person and not just to benefit ourselves. Surely, you can see that we will have long-lasting relationships. We will benefit more for ourselves, by improving others.

While the term "Friends with Benefit" has a negative connotation, i believe that it also has a positive one. Every time i hear the phrase, i remember that i am in this world to bring out the best in the people i am committed to; those who i have called friends.

I leave you with the words of the greatest Lover i know.. Jesus Christ

John 15:13(The Living Bible): .....the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends.

I love you all, thanks for reading!

Daniel Addo
twitter: @PastorDanAddo 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Asleep To Our Own Snores

I graduated from the American University of Nigeria with a B.Sc. in Computer Science on Sunday the 15th of May 2011. The reason i am exact to the day of the week my graduation took place, is because it was probably one of the greatest days of my life. I still remember taking loads and loads of pictures and taking that deep sigh of relief--i had just completed a major phase of my life.

Like most of the people i graduated with, my plan was to go to the UK for my Masters and then return to serve Nigeria, in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). For me, it was a case of placing the promised land before the wilderness, because i really wasn't looking forward to one year of wearing that horrific khaki! Then there was the fear of being posted to a strange village where i would have to walk miles to find drinking water or have to climb a tree to get telephone reception. 

As time went on, i shared my fears with my close friends and that conversation usually ended with them laughing and calling me an 'ajebutter' (Nigerian slang for posh :D ). So anyway, one thing led to another and my plans failed, the order was reversed. NYSC before Masters; the wilderness before the promised land. Just like it was in the scriptures, i would have to go through the rigors of NYSC before i taste milk and honey.

On Monday the 21st day of November 2011, after months of preparation, i was finally on my way to the Abuja NYSC camp in Kubwa. i had my white shirt and shorts, a pile of documents and all kinds of temptations to turn back towards my house. Strangely, what kept me motivated and unwilling to turn back was the desire to prove all my friends wrong! I won't be mistaken for an 'ajebutter' by anyone. No! No! No! I was going to show them just how much i can fit in anywhere.

Interestingly, i did just that; i fit in perfectly! NYSC camp for me was no different from boarding school. It was like re-living my days in boarding school. Waking up for exercise, going for lectures, fetching water in buckets, sanitation duties, bunk beds and being in the hostel with all kinds of people. It was pretty much the same! 

The first few days on camp, i was quiet and kept to myself, but soon enough i started to make new friends, started to get aquatinted with more people and generally i loosened up. Meeting new people, inspired many new experiences, which inspired many new lessons. While there are many of such people, experiences and lessons i can write about, i will let you in on the most interesting.

Like i stated earlier, there were bunk beds on camp. I was on the top of my bunk and there was someone under me. The hostels weren't too spacious, so everyone was in everyone's business. There was no such thing as a private moment. Even at midnight, there was the sound of heavy snores, so heavy u literally felt as though someone was beating you into a coma. Unfortunately for me, the guys on the bunk right next to me, were two of the greatest 'snorers'!

For the purpose of clarity, let's give these guys hypothetical names. Let's say the guy on the top bunk is Festus and the guy under is Theophilus. These two guys could really snore! Many nights i sat on my bed just watching them angrily. I felt like stuffing their noses with raisins, particularly the guy on the top bunk, Festus. While Theophilus could snore, he was nothing compared to Festus. I mean this guy could snore for Africa! He was really bad!

2 weeks had gone and i had become an expert at sleeping in the midst of the snores. I thought to myself, if Jesus could sleep through a storm, surely i can sleep through these snores! (Can i get an Amen?). I was getting sleep now, which means i was less grumpy and more friendly. 

One faithful morning, Theophilus and i were walking to the parade ground and he seemed really bothered about something. So i asked him what it was, and he said that Festus (the guy on the top bunk, the chief snorer) was accusing him of stealing his sleep because of how much he snores at night. Just to be clear i said "Can you say that again?" He said, "Festus said i snore so much, he often can't sleep at night". You can imagine the comedy this created for me! How can Festus accuse anyone in this world of snoring. I mean, if there was a world snoring competition, this guy will win it 10 times over! How could he possibly accuse anyone of stealing his sleep.

I laughed so hard and soon enough Theophilus joined in, and blotted out something like, "that guy snores the most in that hostel", and i nodded in agreement. I thought to myself, is this guy not ashamed, can't he even hear himself snore? And then suddenly it hit me...He obviously can't hear himself snore...he's asleep when he does it!

In the midst of the laughter i heard myself say to Theophilus:
"We are asleep to our own snores, often blind to our own flaws."

The mood of the conversation changed from comical to philosophical. I started to show him how as people, we notice everyone's flaws except ours. We are quick to point out the errors of others, forgetting that we are just as flawed as they are. We are defensive when it comes to our short-comings but we will attack others and judge them with our last breath. We are not more perfect than others, we are just more accommodating of our own flaws. We only remember mercy when the odds are against us.

Festus is asleep when he snores, so he can't hear what havoc he causes. We had all endured his earthquakes, yet when he had a chance, he accused another of the very same thing he is guilty of. Is this not how we live? As i conclude, i could think of no better way to end this, than the words of Jesus..

"Matthew 7:5(ESV): You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Daniel Addo

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Mask Of Criticism

It was a warm Tuesday afternoon, in the summer of 2006, and I was a high school student in my junior year, in Gray's international College, which was located on the outskirts of Kaduna state, Nigeria. This for me was a special day! First of all because it was about the third period and we were supposed to have a chemistry class, but somehow the instructor didnt show up.(dont judge me, chemistry was not my thing!). His absence, provided room for an experience that made this day even more special; an experience that will forever change my life.

At this stage in my life in high school, I was very mouthy! I was one of those mischievous folks who made fun of any and every body. I was, to say the least, a vocal terrorist, throwing bombs on everything. Interestingly, most people thought of me as good company, except of course, you were the one being attacked. I was funny( still am) and mischievous( still am, although much repressed)

Being that kind of guy in a class where the instructor was missing, I started off a discussion with a couple of guys. We talked about a lot of stuff and finally about movies. This was a great day! We had so much fun and I would occasionally point out people's grammatical errors and make a huge deal out of it. It was full of laughter and noise. 

We went on talking about movies during this "free period", when suddenly a friend of mine mentioned that on a previous trip to the United States, he went to a Cinema where he saw a movie using a pair of glasses. As soon as he said this, there was such silence in the class, you could hear if the cells in your body were mutating. The whole class was like "What?" We all turned to him, and then everyone turned to me with eager expectation, wondering just how I would attack this "liar"

I began laughing so hard, everyone joined in. To all of us, this was strange. Why would you need glasses to watch a movie. We were convinced he was lying and so we launched a mass attack at him. He tried so hard to convince us he wasn't lying, but we were too many for him. My laughter alone was loud enough to discourage him. We laughed so hard, made fun of him and as you'd imagine, I was at the forefront of this. Over the next few days, I didn't let this bloke rest. Even when everyone had given it a rest, there was one who wouldn't - Daniel Addo!

Fast forward a couple of months, the school term was over and I was now home with my family watching tv. Quite unlike me, I tuned to the discovery channel and they were discussing the development of so-called 3D glasses over a couple of years. They discussed how for years, these glasses have been undergoing development and how various test have been carried out on them in an attempt to improve them. At this point, to me, it was just a new pair of glasses as nothing had been said about it being used for movies.

Suddenly, I heard them say, "These glasses will totally transform the movie experience, allowing us to see movies in an entirely new dimension." I was like "Hold up!! Oh my goodness, he wasn't lying!... It's true!" It turned out these glasses had been in existence for ages and only gained peculiar success in the 2000's as did most of technology. I felt so foolish and slightly stupid for laughing at my friend in school. We made him feel stupid when in reality, we were just ignorant!

Fast forward a couple of years, and I myself was for the first time putting on 3D glasses to see a movie! I can't explain the feeling I had...I wished I could rewind to that day and react differently. I didn't enjoy that movie much because I went into deep thought. I sat there, analyzing the whole situation in my classroom and this is what I learnt:

We humans often use criticism as a mask for ignorance. We often make fun of things we don't understand. When we are ignorant of something, rather than research, we criticise. We use criticism to avoid saying, " I don't know." In my class, because we had never heard of 3D glasses, we just assumed it was a lie...when it turns out we were just ignorant! Never conclude about things you don't understand!

 Before you criticise, research! Have all the facts about a matter before you open up your mouth to laugh it off. Constructive criticism can only come from the well informed.

Ain't it amazing the lessons that a missing chemistry instructor can inspire :p

Daniel Addo
twitter: @pastordanaddo