The Royal Treatment Doesn’t Equate In Ifa
I was sitting, watching the news people follow President Barack Obama around on his first trip on Air Force One, a cross between the Queen Elizabeth of the skies and probably the closest thing to an AWACS without actually being one. While no one will mistake Air Force One for anything other than a plane, it has got to be one of the best ways to travel known to man. One thing that caught my attention is that while flying the President has access to luxurious food prepared by some of the best chefs available.
But on this maiden voyage, Mr. Obama ordered a burger, medium well, with a salad and fries. The waiter was just too happy to take the President’s order. My partner, watching the program with me wondered aloud how long it would take the seemingly down to earth Obama family to adjust to being waited on hand and foot by people with some of the highest security clearances in the land.
I took the bait. I think they’ll do like most people and quickly adjust to having worldly items handed to them on a silver platter. It is human nature for most people to indulge if given the opportunity. But how long people tolerate such indulgences depends on the person of course. Some people are more than happy to have others wait on them. Some people might indulge for a minute or two, but will soon realize that there is something to being able to feed and take care of one’s self.
During our discussion I suddenly remembered the movie Coming To America, where Eddie Murphy played young African Prince Akeem. It was his birthday and he was proud to become a man of age. His attendant had wakened him up and started to prepare him for his big day. He escorted the prince to his private bathroom when he suddenly turned around and asked the attendant if he could do it by himself this morning. The attendant scoffed, clapped his hands, and called for the royal wipers. While some people would be more than happy to continue having their asses wiped, others would much rather prefer to do the job on their own.
Recalling the movie with the African theme my mind quickly wandered a bit to my old Orisa house that practiced the African spirituality of Ifa. Like most Orisa houses that I’ve experienced, the people there thought of themselves as a little African tribe practicing everything African including dress, food, language, rules, regulations, and African hierarchy. My old godmother was at the top of the hierarchy and there was a pecking order based on titles and initiation dates. People who weren’t initiated were at the bottom of the pecking order with their own pecking order. And everyone was to treat the godmother and her family like royalty.
What really got my goat was the way the community interacted with the godmother’s dogs. We would be deep in a conversation about the Orisa or about ancestors, exchanging ideas and trying to get concepts straight. When suddenly, the godmother would say the dogs need to be fed. Everybody in the house would get up and spring into action. A small army would head to the kitchen to get the dogs’ food and water bowls. A few people would be assigned to getting the dogs from where ever they were secured away into the open area. No one was allowed to touch the dogs or speak to them. The royal dogs had more clout than just about anybody in the house.
One day somebody in this little African community got the bright idea that we needed to follow the rules of royalty to the letter. The godmother needed to be addressed as “your majesty” and her daughter needed to be addressed as “your grace”. People in the African community could not turn their back on her without taking three steps back first. Somebody was going to have to accompany her whenever she went out in public.
I remember watching the elders in the house iron out the details of the royal treatment. I remember watching people argue back and forth about who was responsible for what. At one point, I asked my godmother how she felt about these changes being made to the community. She chuckled and said something like, who are we to deny the people. She was already using the plural reference to herself. I was disappointed. But it was another lesson or two for me.
Some time ago, my godmother taught us that the purpose of Ifa was not to make us larger than life, but to teach us that in the grand scheme of things, we are nothing more than the tiniest specs when compared to the cosmos. Ifa is supposed to teach us that we are no better and no worse than the next guy. If anything we need to be gracious enough and humble enough to avoid the pomp and circus stance that drives us to seek status for the sake of status and notoriety for the sake of notoriety. In one fell swoop, that royal baby was thrown out the royal window with the royal bath water. The opportunity for the royal treatment was snatched and milked for all it was worth.
As President, I can understand why Mr. Obama would take advantage of being waited on. The President needs to be free to think and respond to the chaotic mess that people make on a global scale. If people can help him focus on the big issues by taking his focus off the mundane things, I can understand. I sincerely hope Ms. Obama keeps him rooted with helping him remember to do a couple of his own chores every now and then. I sincerely hope Mr. Obama can avoid status simply for the sake of status.
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