Maxims for personal guidance


In regard to life, people may be divided into two groups: those who think about it seriously and ask questions and those who, like animals, just eat, sleep, make love and raise no questions concerning their existence.

Civilisations have been developed by people who are inquisitive about the purpose and secret of life; why was I created? If God truly loves his greatest creature, man, whom He created in His image, why did He at the same time put into the earth things which are a danger to the life of man; the mosquitoes, snakes, lions, the earthquakes; mention it?

Answers to these questions may not be easy to find. But taking your life as a fait accompli, how do you intend to make the best use of it? A great Scottish writer of the 19th century Thomas Carlylex wrote that life asks us: are you going to be a coward or a hero? You must make up your life on this.


Anonymous tribal philosophers invented maxims which partially answer Carlylex’s question about heroism. I will cite one in Chichewa and the other in Ngoni because they are the only ones I know. In Chichewa, it is said fumbi ndiwe mwini – you the owner of the task or project must work harder and get soiled by dust. In Ngoni, there is indada iyazibonela – a man tackles a situation by himself without whining or passing the buck. The two maxims surmise heroism, meaning that where a situation that concerns you has arisen, you must not shirk responsibility but shoulder it.

The late Aga Khan, leader of one of the Muslim denominations, wrote or uttered words which were widely circulated among the Ismalis of Dar es salaam when I was living there.

“Struggle”, he said, is the meaning of life and must be man’s joy since God in the Garden of Eden decreed that man must live by the sweat of his brow and nothing can be acquired without effort. Getting certain things requires prolonged effort which amounts to struggle. Have you accepted the necessity of struggle as a principle of your life? Those who do not want to be in struggle have low aspirations, they have chosen to live by instinct. Such people do not contribute to progress. We must pay homage to those who want better things in life and struggles to make or find them.


Individuals and nations that prosper have accepted that where there is life, there must be struggle; lazy, soft life invites hunger and disease.

Some ancient Greeks belonged to a philosophical sect called Stoics. They believed that joy and sorrow should be received with calm. Their hero was Socrates who faced death calmly. Stoicism was founded by Zeno in C308 BC. From Stoicism, we get the English word stoical, which means having or showing self-control in adversity.

Benjamin Franklin (1706- 1790), one of the founding Fathers of the United States, resolved to live disciplined life on the basis of 13 principles.

These are: (1) temperance – Not to eat or drink too much; (2) silence – Speak only things of benefit to yourself and others; (3) order – Let all your things have their places, each part of your business have its own time; (4) resolution – Perform what you resolve and ought to perform; (5) frugality-make no expensive but do good to others or yourself; (6) industry (diligence) – Be always employed in something useful, cut off all unnecessary concerns; (7) sincerity. Use no harmful deceit; (8) justice – Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty; (9) moderation – Avoid extremes, forbear insults; (10) cleanliness – Tolerate no filth in body, clothes or habitation; (11) tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents; (12) chastity – Do not over indulge in sexual activities, and (13) humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Reader, you may if you wish list down principles which constitute your own philosophy. No two persons are exactly the same.

There are people who are all the time trying to reform others before they reform themselves. Listen to what they say, decide for yourself what is in your interest. Self-interest is a human right but not selfishness.

All men and women try to avoid that which can endanger their lives and seek that which can bring them happiness. But the methods they adopt to eschew danger or acquire happiness are not the same. To a certain, every person and every situation is unique.

In the Malawi, Rwanda Treaty has been made specifically to facilitate extradition of Murekezi to Rwanda; it is a conspiracy against justice and humanity.

The genocide took place in 1894 when the crowds of people were incensed by the apparent downing of the plane which was bringing home the president, a Hutu. As social psychology tells us when crowds are highly emotional, its individual members no long use their reasoning power. They act by herd instinct. Murekezi was a captive of the herd instinct and should not be singled out for reprisal 23 years after the tragedy. The people of Rwanda have largely reconciled. Malawi should not divest itself of the duty to protect refugees. Before acting, it should first consult international bodies concerned with refugees.

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