There’s a simplicity to life that undergirds happiness, pure joy in having your feet planted on the ground and your ear to the wind. With a few concerns in life you have the extra capacity for friends, family, dancing, and soaking in the raw elements of nature. Those of us with plenty in the west feel a disconnect from this simplicity of life that we fill with newer cars, bigger homes, faster computers, death-defying selfies, and Instagram likes. Yet all the while our inevitable depression looms like the sickle arched back against the wheat.
We project these priorities onto others in opposite hemispheres that live with less, and with hubris we wonder how they enjoy life. No other place on Earth do we assume such backwards triage than the nations of the African continent. We see them as sad and unfulfilled.
We see them as lost and alone, searching for someone to pull them out of their poverty and misery.
This is the surface gazing of the tourist, the individual who is satisfied with the comfort of their senses and disinterested in the culture several layers beneath. We hum to ‘Hakuna Mata’ and imagine ourselves in the valley of the Serengeti, mystified by the exotic animals that we don’t encounter back home.
We don’t consider that this phrase in Swahili—’Hakuna Matata’—is more than a tune to entertain thousands of miles away in the comfort of the silver screen, but is a way of life and world view. This is life for the Tanzanian. In a country where Swahili is widely spoken, you’re surrounded by poverty and conditions that most of us in the west would consider the trappings of torture.
And yet, the Tanzanians love their children with no less affection than our mothers in the west.
Tanzania’s daughters seek to look beautiful in all their colors.
Her children explore the world and satisfy their curiosity.
Their grit provides for their family.
And through it all—the poverty that you see and the morose life that you assume, the essence of life peculates to the surface and bursts out into the streets. The children play, the adults smile as they trade the latest happenings in town, and the elderly grin as they watch a reflection of their lives with fewer wrinkles.
“Hakuna matata”, it rolls off of our tongues in the shower or in the car with our children, but it beats in the heart of every Tanzanian. No matter the troubles in life—and there are many in the daily life of Tanzania, the harsh social outcast for the widow or the uncertainty of your next meal—you can set them down off of your shoulders, look around, and breathe a deep smile of the life that surrounds you.
Africa can teach us a thing or five about living life, the joy that comes from simplicity, and cherishing each day that you have with friends and family that so enriches our swift existence here on this Earth.