22 Mar An Easy Way to Navigate Through Life: a Reading of Gabriel Dinda’s ‘Questions of My Youth.’
By Wafula P’Khisa
In this 128-page book, Gabriel Dinda offers us a comprehensive, philosophical and practical guide for navigating through the labyrinth of life. He achieves this by dissecting, analyzing, questioning, critiquing, dramatizing and discussing different aspects of life and human institutions such as marriage, work, death, spirituality and God, technology, fashion and lifestyle, family and friendship etc.
These are presented in varied forms, sometimes in prose, sometimes in verse and sometimes in dramatic or epistolary form. This is probably aimed at capturing the interest of the reader and giving us different perspectives from which we can examine the issues. Moreover, it is important to note that Dinda explores the aforementioned issues in form of questions which, as he argues elsewhere, invite us to seek answers and in so doing, we understand ourselves and our true purpose in life. I will try and discuss some of these questions as follows:
In the first question, ‘Father, But Where is Time,’ Dinda questions how much time we spare, out of our busy schedules, to pray. He dramatizes this in a dialogue where a man is talking to God, complaining of how busy he is every day that he can’t find time for Him. But God, in his argument (which is by extension Dinda’s argument), says that we can pray to Him any time and anywhere, share with him our feelings, problems and everything we are going through. What is clear here then, is that man should always remember his creator!
In ‘Where is this Comfort Zone?’, Dinda questions the endlessness of human wants based on the common premise that ‘If you want to succeed, you move out of your comfort zone.’ Here, he wonders what this Comfort Zone is, how it looks like and what kind of people occupy it. Moreso, he wonders why anyone would get out of their comfort zone if they are already comfortable. This reveals to us the paradoxical nature of human life, that whatever we achieve is never enough. We should keep pushing and desiring more. But isn’t this the main cause of discomfort and desperation in our lives?
Also, Dinda criticizes our perennial habit of always believing that everything good lies in the future in ‘Looking Forward?’ For instance, to Dinda, everyone looks forward to going to University, secure a lucrative job, start their own company, marry and have children etc. After all this is done, what is next is death which, interestingly, nobody looks forward to it. Here, we are challenged to re-evaluate the value of the present moment and how we desperately need to make good use of it- enjoy and benefit from it.
To Dinda, which by extension is my view, too much hope and dependence on the glory of the future denies us the will and energy to live today adequately. The future owes the present no debt!
He addresses the habit of shifting blames to others when we are unable to handle individual problems in “How Come All Problems Are Caused By Others?” Here, Dinda argues that every time we have a problem, we don’t think of how to solve it on our own. Instead, we believe that it has been caused by someone- the government, politicians or friends- and keep hoping that help would come from elsewhere. This derails our progress. Thus keeping us dumbfounded and confused when our peers succeed.
“Who Will Save Us from Phone Distractions?” captures how we are sadly imprisoned to our phones and social media, and how much we hurt people around us every time we do not pay attention to them and appreciate their presence in lives. He argues that everyone should be disciplined when using a phone so as not to offend others. Moreover, it is a show of civility and respect for people around us when we listen and attend to them, rather than spending all our lives on phones and other gadgets.
On work, Dinda questions how people value and go about their work today. Do we love our work? Do we do it from the heart? Do we enjoy our work and do it with enthusiasm to satisfy our clients or we only do it for money? These are some of the issues he raises in “Again, I Ask, How Do You Work?” He concludes by urging us to do our best in whatever we do. That we should be a brand, a force to reckon with when it comes to our area of specialization. Everyone, he argues, should make a difference that would be felt at their workplace.
Also, Dinda extensively talks about death in the text which makes it a normal aspect of life which should be anticipated more than feared. For instance, in “When is Death Due?” Dinda wonders about the right time for one to join their ancestors. Whether one dies at 30, 72 or 93, it doesn’t matter. To him, there’s no point in praying for long lives which, in most cases, are unproductive and burdensome. Anybody should die at any age. So we should use the little time we have to be productive. We should value every little moment that we are alive and utilize it well. Mike Wudz keeps saying that we are all dying. That could be damn true.
On the issue of unemployment, Dinda wonders if indeed there are no jobs in our society or it is just that well-trained and competent employees do not exist. This is captured in “No Jobs or No “Good” People? What’s the Problem? The good and virtuous employee, Dinda argues, is highly valued by every employer. This calls for a critical examination of our education system and tailoring it to instill values and virtues in learners, rather than breeding robots.
In “Will We Ever Do One Thing at a Time?” Dinda questions how serious and attentive we are in meetings, classrooms or when we are with people. He admonishes those who are constantly on their phones while with people or cannot pay attention to anything. He calls upon us to be focused on one thing if we want to achieve something out of it and respect other people’s time.
Finally, this book, with its endless questions, opens our minds and challenges us to re-imagine our lives in new perspectives. Moreover, it invites us to re-examine our value system and the importance we attach to our lives, family and friends. In this book, Dinda discusses life in its absolute reality and nakedness, rather than concealing everything behind hard-hitting metaphors and fantasies in our poetry and fiction. It is worth your time and energy.