#15 - Namibian Proverb: Supposing Doesn't Fill the Grain Basket, IF Doesn't Fill the Larder.
Reflections on the need to take necessary action.
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Subtly, stealthily, the new year has already given us a third of its first month. With about 355 more days to go, I bring you the apt advice of a Namibian proverb for how to get more out of the year. Or out of life at any stage. You may not have made new resolutions recently or even like making them. But no one loses out on passing references to resolutions, goals, targets, and plans or whatever name you want to call them. Thus, it is important to think of the answer to the question at this time: what would you like to have achieved by the end of this year? Or in your life in the near future?
The Namibian proverb states that “Supposing doesn’t fill the grain basket; if doesn’t fill the larder.” In simpler English, the crux of the proverbial statement is that whatever achievement you seek will not materialize without your input. The proverb suggests that the nature of your input will have to be concrete action, not just words or an active imagination. Applicable generally to every aspect of life, the proverb zeros in on tasks related to basic sustenance—harvesting and storing grain. It outlines the tasks to be done—filling a grain basket and a larder.
In agrarian settings where grains are harvested by hand, grain baskets are for temporary collection of grains en route the mode of transportation or the barn, if close by. The larder is the indoor storehouse where consumable grains are stored. These are distinct from grains that will be sent to the market for sale and stored for seeds. The proverb states that both the grain basket and the larder must be filled, euphemisms for the process of getting and storing food.
Your process of getting food may be a job or a business. Or a training program at this time. Your storehouse may be small or large. Whatever the source of your sustenance or size of your storehouse, you will need to take steps to fill the grain basket to transport to your storehouse. In addition, the proverb throws in an unspoken reminder that there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. The timing in this proverb is the period of harvest. The season of planting and nurturing is over. The grains are ripened and ready for harvest. There is only a short window of time to get all the grains from the stalks into the barn. After that timeframe, the ripened grains will either start rotting or be destroyed by adverse weather. The grains will not magically transfer from the stalks to the barn. You are key to effecting the necessary transfer. The proverb reminds that you cannot wish that task away.
The timing that’s applicable to you may be the end of a school term or year. Perhaps it’s the end of an academic program. Or the end of a project at work. Or the end of a long round of negotiations or concept development? You’ve worked hard for so long. You planted seeds and nurtured their growth. You’ve watered, you’ve watched, and have labored long and hard to keep pests and other dangers away from harming your plant. You’ve plodded through doubts, tiredness, insufficiency, long hours, cloudy weather, and myriads of uncertainty. Your hard work has paid off and the worst is behind you. What lies ahead is celebration and enjoyment of your harvest. But it’s not over until it’s over. First, the harvest must be taken in. Parts of the harvest will meet your need for sustenance and become seeds for another season of planting. You can’t afford to leave things out there in the fields for others to harvest or to rot from neglect. Then comes a nagging problem—a flood of “what ifs …?”
On the one hand, your mind conjures up fuzzy images of the harvest already taken in. You can’t help but see grain baskets filling to the brim and striding majestically to the back of the truck that will transport them to be emptied in the barn. You dream about it at night and see visions of it in broad daylight. So vividly that you can smell and almost taste the grains. What more is there to do than to enjoy what’s in your grain basket and larder? Some Namibian elders would like you to wake up because “supposing doesn’t fill the grain basket and if doesn’t fill the larder.” If you haven’t done it, stop dreaming and do it.
Or, on the other hand, you have no challenge with illusions of grandeur. You understand that there is nothing mysterious about pending tasks, we simply have to bend our backs to do them. You are excited about harvesting that which is ready to fill your grain basket and larder. But you suddenly find yourself in the depths of the what ifs?
What if it rains the day you’re to harvest?
What if the skies wait till you’re out in the fields to start pouring torrents?
What if your grain basket gets a tear and everything falls off?
What if there are snakes hiding in the field you’re to harvest?
What if a lion crouches behind a boulder at the edge of your field to attack you?
What if there’s a family of mice in the larder?
What if you can’t remember the answers to the test questions you’ve been studying for?
What if your donor changes her mind about sponsoring your project as agreed?
What if your product launch fails?
What if ...? What if…? What if …?
Real or imagined scenarios can have as much power over our activities as we allow them to. Knowing that we all have to harvest grain in whatever shape or form, how are you preparing for harvest and then just filling your grain basket and larder come what may? When the time is ripe for harvest, and you are the one to get the grain, will you let an active imagination replace the concrete steps you must take to fill your grain basket and larder?
The grain you are to harvest may be the exams you need to write, classes to teach, products to take to market, and a range of other possibilities. Your mind may be predisposed to conjuring up positive or negative thoughts about what needs to be done. From Namibia with love, leave fantasy for playtime. Embrace the reality that real tasks require real action. And whatever “what if?” your mind attempts in place of a pending task, remember that, in the present, you must eat. And for the future, you must save. “Supposing does not fill the grain basket; if doesn’t fill the larder.”
Each of us is involved in multiple things at the same time. Thus, we are almost always simultaneously planting and harvesting. Take stock of what is at harvest time in your life. Avoid giving the “supposings” or “what ifs?” supremacy over action in those areas. Do not be held back by your own imagination or fear. Do not be deterred by externals such as the weather or other people. You will not achieve by ‘supposing’ or ‘ifing’ your way through life or tasks. When real action is required, act boldly and diligently.
May you always do the needful to fill your grain basket and your larder with abundant harvest, enough for you to enjoy and to share with others in the present and the future.
Have helpful insights to share about how you quelled some “supposings” or “ifs” in your life/work during a harvest season? Share with us in the comments section below.
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