Spirituality, healing in ‘The Ties That Bind’

Elliot Ziwira @ The Book Store

Yes, the Bible is awash with incidences of suffering; abject suffering, that one may be tempted to doubt the efficacy of being as enshrined in Godliness.

Suffering is not a new phenomenon, for it has always been Man’s companion since time immemorial. But is it really God’s plan that people should suffer? Is a world without suffering possible? Could the world be a better place if suffering in all its forms is nipped out?

Often, gentle reader, you have found yourself at the bitter end of the carrot stick, that you are tempted to believe that the words hurt, suffering and despondency might have been invented for you. As you wander about, trying to locate yourself in a miasmic world that gives no hoot to individual aspirations, the temptation to cut all spiritual connections that bind you to the source of your suffering intensifies.

Yes, the Bible is awash with incidences of suffering; abject suffering, that one may be tempted to doubt the efficacy of being as enshrined in Godliness.

Strange as it may seem, God is both the source of suffering and the solution to the same, for indeed the essence of being will lose meaning if Man’s existence is not tested against his faith. Jesus Christ, like all of us, was not insulated against pain, suffering and the fear of the unknown; so that humanity may understand the meaning of healing. What makes a woman endure nine months of pregnancy is the eventual thrill of holding her precious baby, which obliterates all the suffering she might have gone through, or will experience even after delivery.

Will the wounds in my heart, the pain, regret and hopelessness ever ebb? Is total healing possible? In this age of HIV/AIDS is it possible to find love again and live a happy and fruitful life? Oh God, is it really possible, that all is possible with you? Questions! Questions! But are there no answers in this world of suffering?

It is against this backdrop gentle reader, that I immersed myself in Phillip Kundeni Chidavaenzi’s “The Ties That Bind” (2015) published by New Heritage Press, and I realised that no individual experience is unique as all of us converge on a cirque that is both colour blind and social caste free.

Though the book follows a rather thin and predictable plot, it is rich in nuances of individual episodes that interact and merge in a national discourse that encompasses us all. The experiences purveyed through flashback, realism, visual, aural and tactile imagery as well as conversational language resonate with suffering, selfishness, materialism, carnal desires, avarice and death, as the darkness of Man’s heart is exposed.

Chidavaenzi highlights the struggle for existence in the slums which are the abode of the majority, whose hope to Utopia is merely through the trading of sex, as all other avenues seem to be blocked to their visions. Juxtaposed with this is the affluence on the other side of the beach, where individuals bask in the illumination of golden rays through hard work, corruption and individualism. Using realistic traits of modernism through characterisation and setting, the writer adeptly brings to the fore the ravishing nature of the angel of death, which comes in the form of HIV/AIDS and its inclination towards a classless troupe in the wake of its dance. As humanity suffers as a result of the afflictions strewn at its aspirations, healing is sought beyond human parameters.

Chidavaenzi is all too aware that healing is infectious because it encumbers the soul and liberates inertia; without which the body becomes incapacitated, the heart bleeds and hope dies.Inasmuch as Man is responsible for his own foibles, the solutions to the problems that ensue from his folly, lay in his spiritual connection to God, the artiste articulates. Through the protagonist Lincoln Mafusa, a lawyer of repute, and the woman of his dreams, Chiedza Jacha, a polished chartered accountant, the writer holds up to scrutiny society’s stereotypical tendencies in relation to HIV/AIDS, and explores how the fight against the pandemic ceases to be an individual’s own if healing is to be achieved.

What exactly constitutes healing, especially in the age of HIV/AIDS, poverty and hopelessness? In Africa in general and pertinently in Zimbabwe, there is a remarkable rise in Pentecostalism, as multitudes seek spiritual healing to their barren travails. Elusive hope remainsanchored in faith as challenges converge on the individual’s lap, and anything that proffers or pampers that hope becomes the real or imagined Holy Grail.

Lincoln’s dreams are shattered as he is diagnosed HIV positive at 25, a month before his presumed nuptials with his sweetheart, Anita, a medical student at the University of Zimbabwe. As a morally upright young woman, she believes that sex before marriage is taboo in the African context, which prompts the young lawyer to seek carnal satiation from other sources. Subsequently, he is infected by a young prostitute that he picks up from a nightclub.

The knowledge of his HIV status derails the hero, as he loses all that he thought belonged to him — Anita, and his career tithers at the brink. He contemplates suicide, but through his family’s help, especially his stepfather, the affable Justice Masusa, and his secretary, Shirley, he seeks God’s assistance.

The reader cannot help sympathising with the protagonist as he loses grip with reality, and sharing his exuberance as his star shines on the legal fraternity, with his pinnacle anchored at Harrods & Bradshaw Legal Practitioners.

Ten years of abstinence from alcohol, refined foods, sex and women, through his constant link to the living Christian God, see the unfaltering Lincoln’s prayers being answered. The binding ties begin to stitch up when Jackie, a colleague at the law firm introduces him to her friend Chiedza. Chichi, as they fondly call her, is a beautiful and upright single mother whose husband Michael, a banker, commits suicide after learning that he is HIV positive. Chichi, who is also HIV positive, broods at her predicament, questioning God why He decided to forsake her which dims her faith.

The writer takes the reader on a whirlwind voyage of intrigue through the examination of the ties that bring the characters together. Jackie, or Jacqueline Musosa which is her full name, is as gadabout as she is intelligent and believes that sex is what makes the world tick, but one has to be consistent in the use of condoms.

Her sexual exploits from the age of 15 pervade the story, yet she achieves her dreams as a lawyer, and eventually marries across the colour bar. However, her cousins Yolanda, Synodia and Shelter are not that lucky as they succumb to the ravages of AIDS in their quest to extricate themselves from the labyrinthine web of poverty, which has also caught up with their deceased parents.

As the unconnected ends begin to link up, Lincoln weds Chichi, Jackie marries the whiteman Ben; Lincoln learns that Anita is married to Jackie’s cousin Adrian Lee, he also learns that the young prostitute who infected him with HIV is the late pretty school drop-out Yolanda Masosa.

As a Christian writer playing his journalistic role to his people, Chidavaenzi, like Togarasei in “The Bible and Healing”, advocates that people should be enlightened that ARVs are God’s plan in conquering HIV and AIDS, and that doctors, like prophets, healers and pastors are His vessels. Healing comes through the intervention of supernatural and natural forces. God’s intervention comes in many forms and what is important at the end is the realisation that the totality of healing is not an individual effort.

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