During my last years in high school, I met someone who had worked with my elder brother.
Report by Thembe Sachikonye
When he was told my surname he made the connection and asked if I was related to his former colleague. When I said yes he exclaimed: “Wow. I worked with your brother. He is the straightest person I have ever met!”
I was impressed of course, but my heart sank because I doubted whether anyone would ever say the same thing about me. There is nothing quite like standing in the shadow of a giant to make you feel painfully small and inadequate.
In its simplest form, fidelity is defined as faithfulness to a person, cause or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support. It also applies to sexual faithfulness to a spouse or partner.
In electronics, high fidelity means that the audio sounds as true to the original performance of the music as possible. This is where the abbreviation hi-fi comes from.
Extending these definitions to a way of living means that one lives a life that is as true and faithful to a particular vision or set of values as possible. The challenge for many people is that there is usually no specifically articulated vision to begin with.
Where there is one, it is usually borrowed from institutions such as churches, schools or political parties. I am not sure if this one-size-fits-all approach is effective, but I guess it’s better than no vision at all.
I have found my own experience to be a struggle to remain faithful to visions and standards so that sometimes it makes me wonder why I am punishing myself!
In the early days of Zimbabwe’s independence there was a clear national vision which encompassed recovery from the war, creation of equal opportunities for black and white folk and investing in education and healthcare for all. It was a vision that was clear and everyone understood its benefits and bought into it.
More recently, we seem to have muddied the concept of national vision with the murky waters of party politics and no one seems to have clarity on a unitary national vision.
Where efforts have been made, buy-in seems to be tenuous at best. That makes it hard for citizens, individuals, corporate and otherwise, to commit and remain faithful.
A vision by its nature stretches you and requires you to reach beyond the boundaries you are comfortable with to a better reality than the one you currently experience.
Remaining faithful to a vision for your life in the face of daily temptation to succumb to mediocrity is difficult at best, and often seems impossible.
It means maintaining a high set of ethical and moral standards at all times. Frankly it’s easier to give in – but only in the short term.
In the long term you gain the clarity that shows you that what seemed easier just then was in fact so much harder.
A high fidelity life also requires that we be faithful to our obligation to the next generation.
As we live out our present day choices, the generation which follows us is watching, learning and will soon be practicing. It’s important to think about what our obligations to them in fact are, and then to commit to meeting them.
A generation born in political freedom has a duty to maintain a level of liberty for those who follow them.
Faithfulness also requires that you stick with the vision even when it’s hard. Traditional marriage vows are made to seem elegant and romantic, but what they really require of participants is a tough, commitment to a lifestyle for self discipline, self denial and to a certain extent, the suspension of self expression. This is no mean feat.
One thing about fidelity is that it’s easy to remain faithful while all parties are in agreement.
The minute a dispute arises, various elements start questioning the validity or even the attainability of the vision. In business, we begin to question the direction of the company when disagreements arise. High trust environments allow parties to stick to a vision even when things are tough. Saints and matrys are an excellent example of this requirement.
When one is prepared to die for a vision, then we know that high fidelity has truly been achieved.