Thursday, February 24, 2011

Life Lessons Through Sudoku

I love Sudoku. The game with grids and rows and columns and 3x3 boxes which must contain the numbers 1 through 9 without repeating themselves. It is challenging and addictive once you get to catch the hang of it, but it won't be labeled a vice unless you neglect your survival duties in the pursuit of its solution.

My own experience with Sudoku is sober and uneventful. I have come to regard it as a useful tool for those of us on this life path looking to better ourselves and find solutions to obstacles we may encounter. Sudoku is a good way to learn about strategy, tactic, patience, and perception of the big picture.

As you look at a Sudoku puzzle, you realize that that it needs solving. It is incomplete. However, there is trust and understanding that whoever put it in the paper has the answer and has determined that it can be solved with the numbers that are pre-given. We can also choose to look at life in this manner whether we believe our destinies are decided by fate or freewill, divine or nature.

Our lives have purposes that will require thought and action in order to fulfill. In the big sudoku puzzle of life, there are also other smaller puzzles, each of which must be solved in such a way that they line up well with others. We must design strategies that take us where we want to go. These must be sound and reasonably promote success.

Once we have decided on a strategy, then we need to look at each box and square and decide which number would work there. We must be able to conclude where each number will be put based on the placement of other numbers. Judging where one should begin and how to populate barren areas.

Knowing where to place a number and when is key to solving a sudoku puzzle much as knowing what to do and when to do it is important in being successful in life.

At times, however, during the course of attempting to solve a puzzle, one can find that no solution- no matter how much thought is expended- will come to light.  Sometimes after staring at a half-finished puzzle for over a quarter of an hour without progress, I have stood up and done other things to clear my mind and come back and solved it in less that two minutes.

You will need a break from whatever  issues you're tackling in life if you are to succeed. Though this isn't true with everyone, it's the case with the majority of people that we will experience burnout if we don't take a break from time to time. That's why there are weekends, vacations, and holidays.

The ability to discern when and how to take a break might be crucial in how successful you are.

Finally, sudoku will help with one's ability to perceive the big picture. Your strategy and tactics will only be successful if they take into account all the squares in the puzzle. If you overlook even one square, you might find that the last number of the puzzle will not align perfectly with others. Be aware of where you put the numbers based on where other numbers are.

Sudoku puzzles, as do life situations, will take you a varying amount of time to solve, but the issue is in being aware of where you are going, how you will get there, and the methods to best get you there. Once the analyzing and agonizing over seemingly impossible solutions have been weathered, however, and you have solved whatever was laid out in front of you, the exhilaration is priceless.

How can you describe, let alone put a value, on a process that puts you in alignment with the path of your existence?

Happy Solving!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wikileaks and the Dawn of the Wiki Revolution

It is said that history repeats itself...that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it...that what goes around comes around. Nowhere can that be more apparent than on the continent of Africa where, time after time, strongmen oust other strongmen, vow to establish democracy, then become the senile, oppressive dictators they accused their predecessors to be.
This past week brought about the ouster of Tunisia's strongman, Ben Ali. The 74-year old leader had been in office for 23 years. Foreigners living in Tunisia had remarked to me how Tunisians are cowardly and would never be able to rise against Ben Ali. So, what really made the people rise up?
There are Wikeleaks cables on Tunisia which showed the extent of Ben Ali's corruption. The US government, however, has denied that those cables were a factor, crediting the masses for initiating and seeing through the rebellion.
There is also the belief that the people were tired and the time was ripe for change. That, as the US claims, the people had simply been pushed too far.
I believe both factors came into play here. Whether the US, and other western powers, realize this or not, their view, made clear in the Wikileaks cable, that Ben Ali was corrupt and "had lost touch with his own people" empowered the people to rise up. They felt that western bullets and force would not be fully behind the dictator...that the losses in the struggle would be meaningful.
And that was the first of the Wiki Revolutions about to sweep the continent. All that people in oppressed, western-backed countries need to know is that their suffering is acknowledged by the West, and they will rise to demand their rights. At the moment, many live in fear because they know they have no chance against American, French, or British might which they see as holding up their oppressors. If the curtain drops, however, and reveals that muscle not to be propping up the dictator, then they can fight. They know they have a chance.
Right now, governments in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and elsewhere seem to be propped up by western powers, but Wikileaks cables could show otherwise in the next few months. When that happens, look for people to rise up and demand equal opportunities, equal rights, and open political space.
Ben Ali fell because he ended up emulating his predecessor in ruling style and corruption. Most, if not all, of today's dictator's are following, step by step, the paths of those they overthrew, yet they expect different outcomes. They have ears but don't hear, eyes but don't see, and brains but don't think.
So, if the cowardly Tunisians can do it, why can't everyone else???... I say "BRING ON THE WIKI."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Peace and Reconciliation in Rwanda

As I sat on the couch, blindly staring at the television screen, a visiting friend asked me whether I was tired enough to visit a neighborhood bar for a few drinks. At first, my aching body drove me to turn down the offer. The previous day's excursion to participate in one of the biggest political rallies of the year had left my already worn-out body in dire need for recuperation. However, the fact that I hadn't stepped an inch outside made me reconsider and viewed it as an opportunity to get some much needed stretching.
The bar was sparsely populated as we sat down and ordered a round of brew. As soon as it seeped into our brains, we began to talk about the political situation in our homeland, Rwanda. What exactly could we do to help?
In the past, I have been approached to be part of several political parties, but I turned the offers down because of my personal conviction of not belonging to any particular political party. I believe we don't understand their meaning or purpose, so we see them as opportunities to advance our own greedy personal agendas. He offered me a chance to start a political party, and my brain, souped up as it was, still rejected the idea.
My reasons for not belonging in any one political party stem from the fact that taking care of the party would divert attention from taking care of the needs of the country as a whole. We already have other things such as jobs, family, health, and such that take our time from addressing the needs of the people. Party meetings, rallies, fundraisers, and such would take away from time that we could use to help the country. What if instead of calling a rally for the RPF we could call a rally for all Rwandans so that everyone can come to the rally and see what their leaders have to tell them about their progress??? What if the colors people wore to the rally were those of Rwanda and not of a particular party such as PL or PSD??? What if the signs the people carried spoke of their allegiance to the country and not just singing the praises of a particular party???
My goal, as is the goal of my Rwandans I have spoken to, is to establish a system that views everyone as important and equally-deserving of the fruits of the country's development. Everyone has a hand to play. My friend mentioned that all parties have to be given a place in the government. That's true, but we have to give someone a place at the head table based on their ideas and potential to help the country move forward, not just because they're at the head of a political party. 
If you want to make a difference, come forward as a Rwandan and state your case. Let's talk about your plan, give you a chance to explain yourself and, also, a chance to explain our positions. Then we can reach a compromise that will have the most benefit for the country and not just any particular segment of the population. 
He told me it wasn't feasible...wasn't something likely to work because success requires precise organization that a political party can offer. I pointed out that great organization does not require a political party, but rather a will to see one's convictions realized. 
Rwanda needs its citizens to work together and not continue to partition themselves amongst political parties. We need to come together and find solutions by brainstorming and striving to put our decisions into action. When things go bad, we shouldn't barricade ourselves behind labeled forts and throw missiles of insult and accusation at other camps rather than sitting down together and finding solutions to the wedges between use. 
A couple of hours later, as I sat on the same couch and pondered back upon our discussion in the bar, I realized that we still have a long way to go in Rwanda and the solution might not be as simple as I would love it to be. His reason for wanting to start a political party was that many Rwandans are extremists who only want to satisfy their own thirst for power without regard to the common citizen. We agreed about that. But, is the solution to continue to carve ourselves up much as the Europeans carved up Africa in Berlin? Are we to figure out the cure for our ailments by running away from our fellow Rwandans? 
What if we were to come together under an umbrella movement whose only requirement was that you were Rwandan and concerned about the well-being of the country? There would be organizational tiers, but not the morbid fanaticism that accompany political parties. We form a think tank that puts its decisions in action for the benefit of the people by inclusion, not exclusion. We put the people to work for their own advancement. We mobilize the country to work to fix its shortcomings, and not to the singular benefit of a particular demographic group. 
Only then, I believe, will we realize the peace and reconciliation that we so love to sing about. Only then will we be  united for a common cause...Rwanda!!!