“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclessiastes 3:12 -13
My friend Anna lives on Zanzibar Island. She moved there from the US several years back, seeking a change of pace from her hectic western life.
She was going through several life transitions and she figured Zanzibar was the best place to do it.
And so she packed up everything she owned and moved, filling her days with social work and learning the local language and culture.
She rented a rooftop apartment in Stone Town, from whence she could observe the comings and goings while enjoying the cool breeze and tapping into the rhythm of Island life.
It wasn’t easy, she told me, living as a foreigner and learning a new way of life, halfway through life. Yet she made it seem so breezy. She got on well with the locals, cooked their dishes, wore Kangas and helped the women create income generating projects.
It was from Anna that I first heard the phrase, ‘rhythm of life’. We were sitting on the rooftop sipping fruit cocktails when she asked, “Can you not feel it?”.
Ruefully I had to admit no, I felt nothing. Except the waves beating on the shore and the townspeople mingling by the waterfront for a relaxing evening. And so Anna begun to teach me. To get into Island life, she said, wake up when the first rays of the sun stream into the room through the light cotton curtains.
Take a few moments to meditate. Pray when you hear the call to prayer coming from the mosque. Buy seasonal fruits from the fruit vendors, some of whom bring them to your doorstep. Do not wish for paw paws when it is mango season. Buy and eat what is offered. Be grateful. Start your day unhurriedly. Smile. Be pleasant to everyone you meet. Ask how they are.
Listen for the answer. Offer to help. Go to work. Eat what is available for lunch. Pass by the market for the freshest fish or vegetables. Buy what you need for today and tomorrow. Go home early. Cook dinner while listening to music. Call home and talk with loved ones. In the evening, gather by the waterfront for sundowners and catching up with politics or gossip. Finally, make your way to bed when darkness descends. Be grateful. Pray. Sleep. And the next day, repeat.
By the time I left the Island, after a week, I had begun to live in Island rhythm. Something shifted in me. Taking my cues from nature, I felt more peaceful and happy. Perhaps that’s why Zanzibar always feels like a dream holiday and my favourite place to be, even when I am there for work. Perhaps it is because work, play, leisure all merge into one, instead of separate blocks or compartments of time.
You see, there is something that Islanders understand that we who live highly frenetic paces don’t. It is this. Life has a rhythm. Life has seasons. We are at our best when we live in harmony with them. The wisest man who ever lived, reminds us in Ecclesiastes, that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Living the rhythm of life requires that we understand the season of life we are currently in, make the best of it, eat its fruit, be present and be grateful.