The Greatness of God - Reflections of a Young Man™

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The Greatness of God

This is our beautiful planet as viewed from space. Photo courtesy of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).

Unlike Karl Marx (the father of communism), I am a great believer in God as well as in Science. Like I can spend some time reflecting on the Ten Commandments and then on the marvels of nature as Science so abundantly reveals. And who knows? I might one day pen a best-selling book on the rise of modern Science from a Christian perspective, God-willing.

It was in the midst of that reflection on God and Science that I yesterday found myself admiring the photo of the Earth as viewed from space (see photo above). The planet looks breathtakingly beautiful in its bluish, whitish and greenish perfect spherical formation. It is the cutest planet in the solar system.

What I find most fascinating is the invisibility of Mt. Everest from space because the planet appears perfectly spherical as I have pointed out. And mark you, that mountain is the highest on Earth that only a few people have managed to conquer since Sir Edmund Hillary's triumphant ascent in 1953.

So Mt. Everest seems to be reduced to the same level as valleys when the Earth is viewed from space. But some valleys are visible by virtue of their bluish or greenish colour. That reminds me of the verse in the Messiah by George F. Handel which goes as follows:
"Every valley shall be exalted;
And every mountain and hill made low;
The crooked straight;
And the rough places plain;..."
All these teach us to be kind, wise, humble, honest, hopeful and repentant if we wish to be exalted from God's perspective. But if we insist on being arrogant and boastful, we shall be made low in heaven just like the seemingly tall Mt. Everest is made low when viewed from space.


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A Magnificent Recommendation

This is the prestigious Harvard - the kind of top college I craved to pursue my undergraduate degree. The photo belongs to David Mbau, a bright high-schoolmate who made it to Harvard. And I have displayed it here with his permission. Copyright © all rights reserved worldwide.

During my days at Starehe Technical Training Institute (STTI) in 2006, I developed a craving to pursue my undergraduate degree abroad. It was under the influence of that craving that I turned up for a conference in downtown Nairobi organized by a Canadian university which was seeking students.

And guess what? I was admitted into the university after presenting to the conference speaker my impressive KCSE result slip whose worst grades were two A-'s in English and Geography out of eight subjects; needless to say, the rest were straight A's. But I eventually gave up with matriculating at the university simply because I couldn't foot the air travel costs, let alone tuition and accommodation fees. And the Canadian government is very smart; it couldn't allow me to leave Kenya until I proved to its embassy in Nairobi that I had the financial muscle to survive in Canada.

Later on in the year, I decided to apply to top American Colleges because they promised to take care of my financial needs if I got accepted. I arrived at the decision after getting motivated by Joseph Mugisha, another former high-schoolmate who had been offered a scholarship that covered air-fare by Stanford but chose to enrol at MIT.

Although the application process to top American Colleges was rigorous, I thought it was worth it given the frustrations I had experienced with the Canadian university that had assessed only my KCSE result slip. I had to fill out a form, submit my high school transcript, sit for the SAT exams, write essays and get three recommendation letters - all before a given deadline.

As it happened, I was not accepted into any of the top American Colleges I applied for admission but I became a smarter person just for completing the application. I especially treasure this recommendation letter from Mr. Geoffrey Karumba, our humble high school Physics teacher:
Dear Sir/Madam,


I have known Thuita for four years as his Physics and class teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre & School. Given those years of experience with him, I feel well qualified to address his candidacy to your prestigious institution. He excels in everything he does - academics, music, sports, personal relationships - but more importantly, he brings a real spirit and vitality to his endeavours which comes from having a true passion for all that he does. I think this is what distinguishes Thuita from other "all-rounders" who are successful at many things. Thuita does not just go through the motions; he invests his soul into his studies and work.

I will not bother to repeat Thuita's fine scores and grades for you - they speak for themselves. His grade A in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations can be attributed to his excellence in the basics - he writes, analyzes and presents his ideas very well. But what makes Thuita stand out in class are his insight and unyielding pursuit of the truth. Never does he simply read a text. He is constantly trying to attain a deeper understanding - of human nature, of historical contexts, of his own world and values of the philosophies held by particular authors. This dedication to discovering the truth makes his written work as well as his contribution in class discussions, a learning experience for everyone, including myself. It was not uncommon for me to come away from a class discussion pondering a new dimension of a text I had taught for over ten years.

Thuita is a well-disciplined young man. His integrity is unquestionable. During my four years as his teacher, I never saw him on the punishment list. Despite his argumentative nature, he upholds respect for others especially the weak. He interacts well with people. In class, I would see him chat with other students sometimes leading them to laughter. He has a great sense of humour. Furthermore, he gets along with teachers admirably. I often saw him talking to teachers inquiring something from them. It is for this reason that I made him a leader in group discussions which he led very well. His group was always the best in class.

I am not in a position to comment much about his extra-curricular work but being the observant man that I am, I have seen him participate in a number of activities. Most importantly, I have got to know him as a proficient pianist and the most promising volleyball team player. He is good at accompanying songs during school assemblies, functions and church services. I admire his confidence of playing piano in front of the whole school; something I have seen other students approach with trepidation. I guess it is for this reason that he won a number of certificates at the Kenya Music Festival. In the sports field, he was in the volleyball team that won provincial championships; the first time Starehe did so in many years.

I do not want to take more space than I already have. But let me reassure you that despite Thuita's academic prowess, he fits none of the negative stereotypes. He is not shallow or one-dimensional. He is an exceptionally intelligent, caring, mature and balanced young man who would add to your school in many ways.

Yours Faithfully,

Mr. Geoffrey G. Karumba.
Physics Teacher - Starehe Boys' Centre & School." [1]
That recommendation was in two words, magnificently written. But guess what again? I extracted it from a sample recommendation letter in How to Get into Top Colleges (a wonderful book whose authors extensively consulted admission officers from top colleges including the ones I was applying for entrance), modified it a bit and took the final copy to Mr. Karumba to sign as well as stamp. Some admission officers must have figured out that the recommendation was a product of plagiarism. No wonder I was not accepted into the top colleges. Foolish me!

The foolish plagiarism notwithstanding, I value that recommendation because it highlighted all that I have always aspired to be. I have found myself reading it again and again in my endeavour to become a better person. And that has made me smarter than I could have been without it. Indeed, it was a magnificent recommendation.

[1] I extracted this recommendation from How to Get into Top Colleges by Richard Montauk and Krista Klein, published by Prentice Hall Press.


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The Gossip Disease

Gossip is a disease endemic in the human race and it stems from idleness, jealousy and hatred. I have personally been a victim of idle gossip. Okay, let me tell the story.

One night in my university days in 2008 during a busy exam time period, I struck a conversation with a pregnant student in the library. We had a lively talk after which I offered to escort her to her room of residence. When I went back to the library to continue with my studies, a friend of mine named Mulinge mischievously inquired how I had met the young woman. From his facial expression, I could tell he had been gossiping about me with his male colleague that I had impregnated the young woman student.

The truth is - I had never known the young woman before that night. And I have never seen her again since then. I only remember her vaguely as Gertrude who impressed me with her candour and friendliness.

Thinking about the Mulinge's gossip-like inquiries reminds me of this story that can be found in Technology for Revolution by Mithilesh Kumar:
Socrates was a great Greek philosopher who was adored for his breadth and depth of knowledge. One time, a young man went to Socrates and animatedly exclaimed, "Socrates, I have just heard some news about one of your friends!"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied, "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say through three tests. The first is the test of Truthfulness. Have you made absolutely sure what you are about to tell me is true?"

After thinking for a moment, the young man replied, "I heard this news from someone else, so am not 100% sure if it's true."

"The second is the test of Goodness," Socrates continued, "Is what you're about to tell me something good?"

"No, actually it's the opposite."

Socrates interrupted the young man, "So what you're going to tell me is neither true nor good?" The young man was slightly embarrassed and shrugged his shoulders.

But Socrates continued, "Hold on. You may still pass because there's one test left - the test of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"Probably not," the young man replied.

"Well, if you're going to tell me something that's not true, good or useful, then why tell me at all?" responded Socrates. The young man walked away feeling embarrassed.
The moral lesson of that story is to avoid spreading gossip that results from idleness, jealousy and hatred. Instead we should share stories that are true, good and useful like the ones I post in this website.


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