The sky shines above them as the stars twinkle. The full moon brightens the night. It acknowledges the gathering of men.
They sit around the fireplace eager to learn their first lesson. The Zulu king rises up and greets them.
‘Men.’ His bold voice echoes.
‘Yes Sir,’ they all respond in a unified orchestra that roars into the air around them.
The fire burns beautiful orange flames in the dark. Besides the fire rests five spears on the floor and a chest box, possibly filled with gold.
‘Who is a man?’ the king asks.
The men are huddled in a circle enclosing the fire and the king. They murmur for a few seconds amongst themselves, until a young voice amidst them says, ‘a man is the strongest at war. He can wield his sword courageously against an enemy.’
‘Hmmm, anyone else with a different answer to my question?’ The King asks.
Another man stands up to respond, ‘a man is one who can win the hearts of many women. The more, the better.’ The rest of them burst into a short laugh and some applause is heard.
The king looks pleased; his face reveals a smile that does not last long. He thinks of what the man has just said, and thinks to himself, such folly.
Another man starts by saying, ‘My king, I speak with respect.’ He continues, ‘Among us all, I have succeeded most in my trade. None of you precedes me. Doesn’t that make me a better man than you all?’ The voice of Shanzu, the village’s wealthiest trader.
After Shanzu sits down, a deep silence engulfs the fireplace. An indication that the men, ponder on Shanzu’s provocative words. The king takes the opportunity as his cue to proceed.
‘A lot of you define yourselves as men with values that do not hold. You peg your precious gift of manhood on vanity. Even worse, most of you know not, what it really means to be a man. You assume that just because you are born male, that makes you a man.’ He then gestures to Eli, his right-hand man, who then picks up the spears and chest box and brings it to the king. The men follow the movement keenly with their eyes.
The Zulu king picks the chest box, opens it, raises it up for all to see and continues, ‘this represents your heart. The heart of a man.’ Indeed, the chest box was filled with gold.
He grabs a spear from Eli and says, ‘for each of the five spears, they define who a real man is.’ He places the chest box on the ground. ‘Your heart has deep treasures that should be unfolded and shared amongst you, your family and your countrymen. The same heart has to be guarded at all cost.’ He echoes with conviction.
He firmly thrusts the spear in his hand on the ground. It lands next to the chest box. He slowly scans their eyes and reads their emotions. ‘The first spear is initiative.’
‘Men.’ The king roars.
‘Yes, Sir.’ They respond.
‘Initiative is the key part of being a man. You need to initiate. Be it a relationship with a woman or in the family. You need to be the one to start, don’t wait till it’s too late to begin. Take action. In war, do not merely react to the circumstances. Think ahead and make the first move on your enemies.’
‘In matters of faith. Take initiative to make peace with God. Lead others and be under authority too. And when you need to make a decision, by all means, do just that.’
Eli knows the drill. He passes the second spear to the king who takes it, spins it skilfully in his hand and lifts it up. ‘The second spear is responsibility.’
He plants the spear next to the first one. ‘You will know a real man by his level of responsibility.’
‘Yes, my king.’ Shanzu responds as he stands up to address the king.
‘I ask you this day to tell us all, what is the one thing that you have done well enough to accord you such enviable wealth? Mention one key attribute.’
Shanzu takes a minute to think. The king and Eli, together with the men seated patiently wait for his answer.
‘Though I cannot deny that the gods have shown me a great favour, I find it prudent to say that discipline has served me well in building my wealth. Through hard work and my savings, have I managed to amass such wealth. All this thanks to discipline.’
‘You answer with great wisdom, my friend. Sit.’ The king commands.
‘If you desire to make anything great of yourself, as a man, you must be responsible; with your money and treasure, while making decisions, in matters of love and in your lifestyle.’ The king turns to face his back, and his eyes meet with a few of the men.
‘Responsibility makes you a man, embrace it.’
The third spear is picked from Eli’s hand and immediately thrust on the ground. It makes an arc next to the two spears now engulfing the chest box filled with gold.
‘Men.’ The king speaks up.
‘Yes, Sir.’ They all respond to his call.
‘Listen.’ He says softly. In the distance, a lion is heard roaring. The roar comes from afar. They know that sound too well, the sound of a brave, courageous alpha male lion, just as their king.
The king touches the end of the third spear planted on the ground and says, “This means leadership. A statement that we are all kings.’ Quizzical looks are exchanged at the thought of his words.
‘Man, you are a leader in your family and in your community. Let nothing wrong happen in your presence. Do your best to lead your family right, it is the most integral part of your being as a man. Lead others too, young and old, for your limitation is only forged in your mind if you allow it to happen. Avoid fear, have a plan of action, then lead.”
The king paused for a moment then said, ‘at the heart of true leadership, is love and sacrifice.’ His words spread across them like a wave in the ocean. Through their eyes, he could see a fire been fanned to flames.
Eli, at the command of the king, walks forward and erects the fourth spear.
‘The fourth spear is love.’ Eli says. He then steps back to allow the king to proceed with the lesson.
‘May we be blessed with lovely women to choose from,’ a cunning voice interrupts the king from the back. Spurts of laughter start to build up.
‘Is that so?’ The king asks fiercely and in a heartbeat, the laughs stop. ‘Yes, we all desire to love and be loved. But what is a king without her queen? What is a king without his army, a band of brothers to walk through life with? Love faithfully as if your life depends on it. Love your woman and take care of her. Be faithful to her. Love your family and friends. Be dependable to them and always cultivate your relationships.’
The cunning voice is heard yet again, ‘My king,’ the man says as he stands up, ‘you speak of love as though it’s a calling. Is it?’
‘Yes, it is.’ He responds. His authority ever entwined in his voice.
Now the chest box is almost enclosed by the spears. The king takes the last and fifth spear. He points its shiny metallic tip to the sky. All the men look up awaiting his voice to explain the exercise.
‘It is believed that our great kings and warriors look down upon us from the skies. These stars represent their valour which shines down on us to remind us the way of life, to live in courage and to live worthwhile lives.’
He then turns his face down and spears the ground with the spear; finally enclosing the chest box. ‘The fifth spear represents legacy.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ They all respond.
‘As long as you are living, you are making your legacy. Be cautious of the type of life you live. Live for a worthwhile cause, help the community you live in and commit to making something great of your life. Don’t merely exist until your days are over, live and live purposefully.’
The lion’s roar is heard again from the distance. The king majestically circles the line of men seated in front of him silently as Eli adds more wood to the fire. The king can tell from their faces that his words had struck certain chords in their hearts, they were in deep thought, calculating their next cause of action.
‘Do you now know what is the definition of a man?’
The king continues…..
‘Initiative. Responsibility. Leadership. Love. Legacy. Go then, and be the best man you can be.’
This marks the end of the king’s words that night. Eli steps forward and commands the men to stand up. He leads them in a chant.
Chants that seems to declare, ‘Yes, we now know what is the definition of a real man.’