Author Archives: Lọọlọ Ama Chi

About Lọọlọ Ama Chi

Creative Mind & Igbo Enthusiast at Ikenga Nation https://ikenganation.com Creating alongside native Igbo speakers using Igbo language, symbols and stories.

Ebezina | The Dream Killer

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Ndi Igbo turu ilu si:

Egbe bere ugo bere, nke si ibe ya ebena nku kwaa ya.
 
 
This Igbo proverb means in English:
 
Let the eagle perch, let the kite perch; if one does not want the other to perch, may his wings break.
 
People often interpret this particular proverb as meaning “live and let live.” The word “bere” means “perch,” or “rest,” or “wait.”
 
In some variations, instead of saying “ebena,” which means “don’t perch,” some say “ebezina” which means “don’t perch well.”
 
As I was getting ready for bed tonight, I asked myself why did Igbos use birds in this proverb?” They could have said “let the fish swim and the chicken lay eggs.” That also means “live and let live,” right? So, why did they specifically say it like this? Was it because it just sounds better? After all the “b, gb” sound is kind of cool to say really fast.
 
But I thought about it, and specifically thought about the consequence given in this proverb. That consequence being a broken wing.
 
The wing is the most important part of the bird. It is what actually makes it a bird. Without its wings (both wings), the bird can not fly, find food, escape danger, etc. It might as well be dead. In fact, a broken wing is worse than death if you are a bird. That broken wing kills all of your dreams.

What is this saying?

NgoziChukwuka Adaobuijele speaks about the Igbo understanding of a Networked universe:.
Igbos understand that all things are connected. It is embedded in their concept of CHI. We are all connected. You are connected to those around you in ways that go as deep as being spiritual.
 
Your neighbor’s presence is not a threat to you.
 
In fact, it is the one who threatens his neighbors well-being who is a threat to himself.
 
Egbe bere ugo bere is two birds resting on a perch. Imagine that they both have been flying along and are tired and just seeking some rest. The story is so simple that it does not make sense why a bird refusing to share his branch would be a bad thing. In fact, many have mistaken Igbo proverbs for being “childs play” and missed the opportunity to become wiser and more distinguished by understanding them on a deeper level.
 
The birds are an object lesson to us human beings. Live and let live. Onye ji madu n’ani ji onwe ya. This is not childs play. Ignoring or missing the lesson can destroy your life.
 
Many people sabotage themselves by trying to destabilize their neighbor. They do not focus on themselves, rest as they should or just go about their business. Instead they are focused on causing chaos and confusion for other people. Well, nature has an answer for such people.
 

The Broken Wing: The Killer of Dreams

When your entire mission is to sabotage others, you only end of sabotaging yourself. You have not done the work to build yourself up. You have taken justice into your own hands to do something that is not within your power. And while you are chasing somebody else’s destruction, it is actually you who are left unguarded. It is actually you who has opened yourself up to become vulnerable. It is you who becomes weak. You open your wings to swat away the other bird who is firmly perched and with the swat of the wing, you have injured yourself and killed your own dreams.
 
Your dream to go higher can be destroyed by your attempts to push another off course. Do not kill your own dreams. Do not lose your ability to fly.

What This Proverb Does Not Say

This proverb is not saying that you should expect others to do for you. This proverb does not encourage entitlement. This proverb gives wisdom to the hearer. However, you do not walk into another man’s house uninvited and start shouting “EGBE BERE UGO BERE!” No! This is a guidance for you. In the end, the universe will sort out the offenders. Also, if somebody enters your house uninvited to ambush you, this proverb does not say you just allow them to harm you or do what they like. Actually, you have the right to take your own course of action as it is your own property.
 
However, if somebody is passing you by, minding their own business you would be destabilizing them by injecting yourself into their affairs. And the universe always finds a way to deal with all such offenders.
 
Also, ebezina is an important variation to the proverb. This word is the difference between tolerance and acceptance. If you tolerate another’s presence, you are allowing the person to stay, but not allowing them to get comfortable. Acceptance is allowing them to stay without questioning their rights to liberty of how they choose to stay. At the end of the day, neither should violate the other’s personal space, because the one who does is violating this principle.
 
It is only small minded people that fear the right of others to live and let live, because the small mind has no vision for himself and thus fears those who may pass him by and fly to greater heights.

There is no “otu/etu” in English

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In the book, After God Is Dibia, Procfessor J.A. Umeh talks about “Etu” as one of Igbo mystical philosophical concepts. This has been one of my favorite parts of the book as it discusses a concept that you hear in American scientific communities as First Principles.
 
Nowadays First Principles is a hot button topic in American scientific communities as it has been popularized by Elon Musk. The thought process that one can understand most things by reasoning from fundamental concepts, or breaking it down to the source/origin.

“First principles is…boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.” -Elon Musk

But this concept has been in IGBO from the times of our ancestors. In the book After God is Dibia, it is explained that:

“Etu, which is Igbo Afa Language is Aka Obi which is the context literally means “Mind of God” or “the Divine Essence” or “the Soul of the matter/issue/thing” as the case may be…
 
The nearest English word for Etu is “the How”. When Igbo man/woman requests of you Biko gosim etu e si-eme ya (please show me How it is done) or Biko zim etu e si me ya or Biko gosim/zikom etu e sili me ya (please show me how it was performed/accomplished/done), he or she is requesting the Etu principle behind it.”
 
This, so far has been one of my most favorite parts of the book After God is Dibia, because it really points to what I have come to love about Igbo language. The closeness of Igbo to the truth of how things are. The way Igbos discuss things is very fundamental. When you try to say things in English, they become more and more abstract (and that is not necessarily a good thing). The day Igbo begins to talk about scientific and technological concepts will be when the world will truly know the power of Igbo.
 
The Igbo language in its purest form is a technology all its own. It was designed to explain things in a world where there was no paper and pen…no laptops. It was designed to explain things so that information can be understood, remembered, digested, passed on, disguised without writing down a single word.
 
A proverb in the book After God is Dibia states: “Uzu amaghi etu esi-akpu Ogene, ya nee egbe anya n’odu.”
 
This means: “The blacksmith who does not know the how of fashioning/fabricating Ogene should observe the tail of the kite.”
 
The book goes on to say that:
 
“All things and events take their form adn become resolved in accordance with Etu. And this is so whether they are cooperating or conflicting, harmonious or turbulent. Etu which we have seen in afa language is Aka Obi which literally means God’s Obi is, in other words, first movemnet or original movement, or prime mover or prime move or divine movement; the first movement from the position of akwu, mind of God, the Divine Spirit, the divine essence, or the soul of the matter/issue/thing; first principles, divine principles; the how of issue or thing; how things happen; how things work…
 
Etu in Igbo philosophy is Absolute — both the path and the goal…
 
Etu, being the underlying principle in all that is created and all exists, in essence, Chi.
 
This is only a sample of the deep concepts covered in the book, and I know I cannot understand all of it just reading it one time. I am sure I will go back and read some parts again as my knowledge of Igbo language goes deeper and deeper.
 
I just loved this concept so much that I had to pause and think it through, because it is the real beauty of Igbo, and why it is important for us to study and build and create using this powerful language.
 
Udo.

The Bastardization of the “CHI”

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“Onye kwe, Chi ya ekwe” -Igbo proverb

I have always found that proverb interesting. Simplified, it means “whatever one agrees to, their ‘Chi’ will move in accordance with.” It is a fascinating proverb that brings to mind question of what exactly the nature of this “chi” is. We have been educated to believe that ancient Igbos practiced a polytheistic religion, and worshipped idols and spirits represented by totems.

I believe “Chi” is not a religious concept, but a concept that has been seen in Western philosophies yet rejected and perverted in the forms presented in traditional philosophies of African cultures. Western culture looks at African cultures through warped, propagandized lenses. Western culture promotes the idea that historically Africans were (barbaric at best and mentally deranged at worst) people who practiced superstitious, fake magical false religions.

“It seems that as a result of Western influences, we have become caricatures of our ancestors.”

I don’t believe “Chi” is a magical statue. I don’t believe “Chi” is the concept of some “god” (in the religious sense of the word) that controls a person’s destiny. I believe that the idea of “Chi” is actually similar to the biopsychological philosophy of the “soul” that Aristotle attempted to describe in 350 BC.

Aristotle referred to it as the psyche, or ψυχή. Sigmund Freud later tried to describe it in psychological terms using the concepts of “id, ego and superego.” Ultimately, these were all bastardizations and an attempt to unspiritualize the idea of the human being. Sigmund Freud actually stole the word and idea of “ego” from Buddhism and then perverted it to some kind of weird concept of a person’s understanding of their identity.

In actuality, Buddhism talks about the “ego” as a subjective identity as characterized by who a person begins to believe they are which is shaped by culture and environment. It goes much deeper than that, but that is the extent to which I will describe it, because this is not a lesson on Buddhism and I, quite frankly, am not a Buddhist. However, that idea is important to understanding “Chi” as I understand it to be.

Neuroscience has shown that a person can be trained to believe ideas that do not serve them. A person can be trained to have habits that can destroy them. A person can be shaped to become anything using the right psychological and scientific tools (eg. propaganda, peer pressure, conditioning, etc.).

I believe, the “Chi” is that part of a person that has a sense of the way a person should go. The Chi directs a person towards things beneficial, but it also changes its course in alignment with a person’s persistence. I think some may think of it as the instinct, but it I think it is a little different from the instinct, because the instinct can be led astray. I think the Chi can not be led astray or suppressed like the instinct, but can be redirected. I think the “Chi” always knows what is best for a person. However, the person himself, his physical body, may be deceived or led into a dangerous path or a trap by his enemies.

You get a sense of it when you consider the Igbo proverb that states: “A na-agba onyeìsì egbe, chi ya a’na ezere ya mgbọ.” (When a blind man is been shoot at, his Chi/personal god avert bullets for him.)

When Westerners, say “trust your instinct” in a way they are talking about your “Chi,” but they do not understand what they are saying. Your “Chi” can not be destroyed by setting your family statue on fire. However, it can be suppressed if you convince yourself (via your brain) that what your enemy (or society) is showing you, is more true that what you know (or things of this nature).

Someone left the following comment for me on the post I mentioned:

“You are mistaken. The western minds understands chi more than you do. The angels you hear in the Bible is what we call chi.. the difference between them and us is that they are trying to do away with old mentality and as such they keep growing. But we are holding on to the old and yet keep complaining that we are been cheated. Political infulence apart, we are too divided within us than we are United within us. The white is as well divided but they have one common interest which we lack.”

He is correct that other nations have a common interest and vision for themselves and African nations currently do not. However, I believe that everything else this person is speaking is from his own conscience, and that this was said with shallow understanding of the Bible, the Chi and world history.

To be continued…

Resources
Chi in Igbo Cosmology
What does the Igbo notion of “Your Personal Chi” represent?
Wikipedia article on “Odinani”
Wikipedia article on “Qi” (Chi) in traditional Chinese religions
A book on Chi
Wikipedia article on Ego death

Igbo Taboo? | Why We Should NEVER Fear Ọdịnanị Igbo

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Why is it important to explore traditional Igbo concepts that are considered to be Taboo?

There are many reasons including:

  1. Freedom from fear and shame
  2. Self confidence through identity
  3. Awakening your Creativity
  4. Empowerment through Authenticity

Just to keep things short I will discuss two of these benefits:
Self confidence through identity and freedom from fear and shame

Number 1. Self-confidence through identity

Imagine a world where Africa stops fearing, demonizing, fetishizing it’s past, and begins to look at it with eyes wide open; freely taking elements of it’s past and laughing about it, crying about it, chatting about it…putting it on their key chains, and bumper stickers and backpacks.

Did the Salem witch trials stop Americans from creating the show “Sabrina the Teenage witch?”What progressive culture do you know that has ever been so terrified of their past that they pretend it didn’t happen…I’ll wait. The answer is none!

Even America, no matter how much they say slavery and racism does not exist, they still acknowledge it was their past and are making conscious decisions about how to deal with it and even incorporate it into their framework. Why? Because doing so is part of their identity, and feeling shame about any part of your human identity denigrates your humanity and diminishes your self confidence.

Acceptance is key to the psychology of recovery, because it re-establishes a sense of accountability in the individual, and empowers them to take responsibility of their own actions.

So, accepting our heritage wholesale without attaching excessive emotional bias to it one way or another, will give you a sense of empowerment that will be exponentially beneficial to your sense of self.

Number 2. Freedom from fear and shame

Fear kills relationships, opportunities, morale and chronic fear destroys your quality of life.

Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self, withdrawal motivations, and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness.

The two emotions exist solely in the mind, and are linked to many addictions and other mental illnesses.

Science teaches us that fear and shame can be changed by changing the association.

Psychology Today has a great article online called 5 Ways to Silence Shame. Some things listed include:

  • Acknowledge the shame
  • Analyze what you are feeling and compare it to what you really should be feeling
  • Know the difference between what you do and who you are

Changing the association of what you fear and are ashamed of, can be very instrumental to accepting Africa’s past. If you stop associating Africa’s indigenous symbols with something to be ashamed of, like witch craft and devil worship, and start associating with them something like a curiosity or scientific discovery, you will find a greater sense of pride in your heritage.

Much of Western scientific symbols and language comes from occultic symbols. Using symbols to pay homage to the past are not the same as engaging in worship of those symbols.

It is all about reframing your mind. So, looking your ancestors square in the eyes through education and reframing your beliefs about who they are and what that says about you is key to empowerment.

When we run away from concepts such as Odinani, Osu, Ogbanje, Amadioha and so on, we are effectively refusing to deal with their implications and shying away from using our thinking faculty as human beings. All progressive societies advanced through transforming their understanding of the world around them through education and reasoning. Let us begin to ask questions about these symbols from our past and use them to design our future.