Obara Ogbe, sayings contemplated

There are three sayings from Obara Ogbe that I want to consider closely. The three sayings, while related, emphasize different aspects of an underlying situation.

This is an exercise in close reading and spiritual contemplation. I hope it helps others, but my main goal is personal. I do this to make myself think more carefully on the sayings. The sayings are rich, multifaceted, and deep; I don’t exhaust them here.

My first exposure to these sayings was oral, but they can also be found in the published source Diloggun by Ocha ni’Lele. I’ve used Ocha ni’Lele’s phrasing here.

The ears cannot top the head, therefore respect the elders.

The ears provide a service to the head. They relay information to the head so that it can make decisions. The ears advise but they do not rule.

Yield to the elders, just as the ears yield to the head.

‘Yielding’ needs to be understood carefully though, because while the ears cede to the head, they are not silent. The ears ‘talk’ constantly to the head, the head ‘listens’ constantly to the ears.

The elder must listen and the initiate must speak. When the elder decides, the initiate must follow, while continuing to speak with the elder in regards to the changes brought about by the elder’s decisions.

Only the burro has ears that extend beyond the head, and he works only to carry.

This seems to only emphasize the message of the first saying. It does this, but it also introduces a note of subtlety to it.

Amplifying the previous statement, it states that a community whose elders follow instead of lead must labor more than a community whose elders lead. The elders, having trod many paths in life already, know paths that are not good to go down.

The community that only listens to its elders instead of following them may very well choose to go down those paths because they do not know from experience the dangers of that path. The elders, bearing the scars of that journey, will take seriously the dangers in a way others will not.

However, the saying also contains a warning to those who are not elders. The saying suggests that there is a danger in following elders blindly, of being one who listens to the advice of others without listening to the counsel of their own head, their own ori.

It is a warning against empty traditionalism, where reliance on an elder (actual or merely so-called) becomes an excuse to not strengthen oneself and one’s own ori.

It is worth remembering that the pataki about Shango and Obatala ruling the world lazily may be told in this Odu. They let their people slip into immorality. They let themselves follow the people, but, equally, the people let themselves veer into immorality by accepting poor rule without comment.

Had they strengthened their ori, they would have had the strength to be ‘strong ears’ and counsel the ‘heads’ to be proper elders. Strong ears, strong head. The ears may hold the head accountable.

Even the walls have ears.

This refers to gossip, to being careful about what one says because you don’t know who will overhear. This can be said more strongly, though, when the saying is thought in relationship to the previous two.

The walls have ears, but they have no head. In this saying, part of the danger lies in the failure of the head. In reference to the first saying, we find a community without elders, without discernment, among whom gossip easily takes root.

Without a discerning elder, the false and the true mingle indiscriminately and are given equal weight. In such a community, even things truly said may be repeated with so many falsehoods that the truth is lost. Watch one’s tongue, because even true speech may be corrupted in this environment.

In reference to the second phrase, the individual must watch what they say because those to whom they speak may lack discernment. They may not be able to help you discern what is true from what is false, and their counsel may only contribute confusion rather than discernment.

The wall may have ears, but its discernment is at best the discernment of the echo. It returns only what you say in a garbled fashion, like the slow degradation of an echo into an indeterminate sound or the confusion of a message relayed too often in a game of telephone.


~ by Ian on August 17, 2009.

One Response to “Obara Ogbe, sayings contemplated”

  1. bee ni, adupe pupo

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