Exploring purpose in human life

The Things that I tell myself: A God Complex; Lungani Zwangobani, Harare, Lungisani Zwangobani, 2017.

121 Pages

ISBN: 978-0-7974-7938-8 (Paperback)


HARARE - Perhaps the starting point in tackling this rather unique inspirational text is the fact that it is based on the experiences of the writer. In some way, he draws from real-life experiences to form the basis of an instructional manual.

“I do not purport to know much about life, purpose and success, but this book using my own life, I tell and share how I managed to free myself from the clutches of loss and despair. I share my strong belief in the power of creation and the Creator. We really can create anything, from nothing. Our god complex.” (p6)

And the writer himself says;

“The book is about what one needs to tell themselves to pull through life, to be able to navigate the challenges they may encounter. It is like mostly telling yourself that you have a purpose in life. You cannot just be a person who was planted in life without a purpose.”

Lungani, who says he was originally fascinated with leadership and youth development, added; “I have a passion for leadership and youth development.

“When you meet a lot of young people, you realise that what is lacking is telling them your own story so that they can be able to tell theirs.

“It is like trying to find a way of sharing with the young people without being scholarly but just basic and not complicating the subject.

There is intensive biblical reference in the book to which Lungani comments; “It is an important aspect to believe. Someone has to have faith in something and in our case, it has to be faith in God. Every creation has a purpose and this is given by the Creator. There is no way you can give yourself a purpose when you were created by someone else.”

“My greatest inspiration has been George Orwell, My biggest admiration is for Nineteen Eighty-Four although Animal Farm also comes close. Then there is also The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson. It all boils down to a bias on political satire as a style of writing.”

In The Things That I Tell Myself: A God Complex, Lungani primarily focuses on the theme of purpose in life but there a are a number of other related sub-themes that are neatly interwoven throughout the book.

The theme of death and frailty, with which the book opens, runs through as well because it is a part of human life anyway. It is juxtaposed with life and vitality in the book.

The old man the narrator encounters in the hotel garden who “looked a bit frail, I could tell he had lived the better part of his life well and perhaps also made right investments” (p13) reminds the reader of the closeness of life and death.

The elderly man goes on to tell the narrator; “Young man, don’t be afraid of death, just respect it.” (p13) sums up the teaching that the narrator internalises such that when he loses his mother, he manages to move on.

“Mum passed on in 2001 and you kept it together. To this day I still wonder where the strength came from.” (p31)

Somehow, the reader is reminded of what the narrator says of his youthful days in the first parts of the book.

“At my age the mind is uncomfortable to fret with death, whereas at his age when all is done death is part of a process; a certification.” (p14)

Hope and expectation are part and parcel of life. But to ensure hope and expectation bear fruit, there has to be determination first which is how the issue of belief, trust and confidence in whatever endeavour one might have becomes important.

“To get the mind in that mode, one must have certain beliefs and adopt a certain way of thinking. This book is about self-talk. Just like we used to chant before a rugby match to psyche up and face the opponent head-on.” (p6)

The youth are the owners of tomorrow but they start learning the ropes from those currently in adulthood, who should tell them that doors of opportunity are open all the time.

“They want to be told that every moment is an opportunity to respect the past and to start a new beginning.” (p8)

“They have the power and the ability to create an exciting future for themselves and for us who have lived longer than them.” (p8) There is no need for people to fear confronting their purpose. Like Lungani writes later in the book: “Settling in a bar of public opinion to complain about one’s misfortune does not serve any purpose except to waste more valuable time.” (p94)

“They have the moral obligation to listen to us and to learn from us. They have a moral obligation to acknowledge our leadership and influence. Because of that, we have an opportunity to teach and allow them to be.”(p8)

Being realistic and not pretentious is very central in the book. The ability to face the reality no matter how bad is the only sure way of getting things over. It is the same sense that continues to be in a person if he remains in denial when things and circumstances have actually changed.

This happens at the individual, family, community and even national level, where an individual’s or people’s failure to adjust and adapt throws them into bigger problems, some of which may never have been foreseen. Writes Lungani: “It takes great strength and faith to let go. It may be time to do exactly that and let loose the shackles of history. They hold us hostage from progress.

“It is time to change the narrative that we tell about ourselves. We must reject the stories we have been told to put us at comfort and explain our unending misery, poverty and mediocrity. Whoever we are and wherever we are.” (p9)

For Lungani, change is unavoidable and conservatism has no room. In any case it does not bring in any benefit except keeping ourselves holed up in the same situation for generations. History is responsible for shaping the future and perhaps must not be allowed to go beyond that.

Besides narration, the writer also makes use of the epistolary style when he writes himself a letter. It is unusual for one to write themselves a letter but it has added benefits of confidentiality, reliability and trust which begins to build within the reader.

Lungani is a 37-year-old young man who is very passionate about human development and political issues because they impact on our lives. He is also passionate about religion.

An avid reader, Lungani is currently programmes manager with the Zimbabwe Youth Council.

“I grew up in Silobela which I think is one of the least developed places in the country. There is one clinic within a twenty-kilometre radius where there is a single bus because the road is bad.”

After primary school in Silobela, Lungani went to Mt Pleasant for his secondary education after which he went straight to work, joining Hunyani Holdings as a cadet.

During the six-year stay at Hunyani Lungani studied marketing with Unisa.

“When I left Hunyani, I started an organisation called Mentoring Zimbabweans which trained young people in leadership until I started working ZYC.

I am already working on my second book Dreams of a Revolution, which is a pure political satire.

“In life, we can not use excuses like bereavement to run away from certain problems of life. There is a point at which those excuses will no longer work.”

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