During my many years in South Africa, lessons on life were a constant. One constant life-lesson came from that of an elderly Zulu man named Simon Dube. Simon, whose Zulu name is Umdlandlankulu - that's why we called him Simon - taught me among many things, his Zulu language. Over the years conversing both back and forth from English to Zulu, one thing Simon seemed often inquisitive about was how I viewed the future. He often said in a rather instructive tone being thirty years my senior, "You whites from America seem to think and worry much about tomorrow." By 'tomorrow' Simon meant the 'future.' Simon often added to the question asking, "With so much to concern yourself with today, why do you think so much about tomorrow?" Simply put, Simon's entire energy always focused upon day to day living; one day at a time.
As a respected elder of his area, he often taught me in the same tone as he did the younger men of his clan. "Jabulani," he would call me by my Zulu name, "When you spend so much time thinking about this thing called the future like retirement and growing old, well, you give away your power for today. You see with your power for today, you capture the entire day. When you give away some of today's power thinking about tomorrow, you lose some of the goodness of this day, the possibilities of this day, and the problems to meet in this day."
This was vividly demonstrated when violence erupted in the township he lived just twenty minutes away from my home. At age seventy-two, Simon and his family disassembled their home and moved it to a barren piece of dirt five miles away. My visits to Simon during this time of rebuilding never ended without a small lesson in daily-living.
One particular day while assisting Simon, he proclaimed, "There, for today that is enough." My reply, "But, we've only laid twenty cement blocks for your home today." He smiled with a familiar look, and immediately I knew another one of his metaphoric personal lessons was well on its way, "Yes, you are right, we laid only twenty cement blocks today, but they are twenty very good cement blocks for this day, and there is much day to enjoy and many many more things too." Bewildered, I shot back, "But how will you ever get your house done at this pace?" He leaned back and chuckled, "My friend, the house will be finished. Of this there is no doubt. But, soon this day will be finished, and that can never return. I choose not to concern myself with tomorrow, but live in this moment in this day. That is enough." As the bewilderment on my face showed, Simon added, "Have you ever watched a bird build its nest? It never finishes building. Every day the bird adds, takes away, and rearranges. That is how I build."
Simon, a very poor man by western standards owned so much more wealth than the richest person I ever knew. For him, the day in which he awoke was all he ever possessed. No person owned more than the day in which he awoke. Everything else, whether money, things, or wealth meant nothing beyond only one day. In the twenty years I'd know Simon, he buried no less than eleven family members. He often reminded me, "Today is today, and tomorrow will become today tomorrow, so all you can grasp right now is today. Today is all anyone really has. If you concentrate only on tomorrow, the thing that you love today may never be present to love tomorrow."
I often remind myself of Simon's words when I find myself caught up with the "what about the future" scenarios. You know the worrying stuff like, "Do I have enough? How much is in my retirement account? I hope my health holds out. I wonder if this or that will be possible."
Simon taught me that the future is really is today. This day has enough happiness, challenges, rewards, pain, and worries on its own. When concerning myself too much with tomorrow's perceived issues, I willingly give away some of today's power losing ability to chew and savor every moment that the current day presents.
So, give all your power to this very day for this very day is the only day that presents its self with fullness and potential. Tomorrow will be tomorrow, and today is today, and yesterday was yesterday. Capturing today's possibilities requires all your power today. Thank you Simon Dube.
Just My Thoughts