Before I wake up and shatter this moment,

Before I peel back my eyelids and unravel the threads of whatever fated tapestry that have led us to this nirvana,

Before I’m left with only faint traces of this memory,

And am left with the blurry silhouette of your face;

 

Before this all begins to seem too good to be true,

Before doubt forces his treacherous charms my way and ruins this:

Before this dream slips away and my hypnosis is broken,

Before my treacherous mind conspires to forget ;

The music of your body,

The spell of your eyes cast from the wands of your brow,

The promise of lands of wonder that the oceans of your hint at,

The soothing balm of your presence-

My dearest, the shade of my heart.

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On the Psyche of Failure

“THE MORE WE HAVE OPEN DISCUSSION ABOUT FAILURES, THE MORE WE EMBRACE THEM, THE MORE AS A CULTURE WE ACCEPT THEM, THE MORE PEOPLE ACTUALLY CAN SPEND TIME JUMPING ON PLANES……”

JASON NJOKU, THE FOUNDER OF IROKO

 I remember it like it was yesterday. The teacher would stand with a slight tilt towards his latest prey with a self satisfied smirk pasted on to his normally-scowling-face as his reign of terror spreads. Then he asks 5 multiplied by 9!!!

This was always followed by a five second window within which an accurate answer was expected from the student while the cane began it’s malignant descent on to the palm of the student. 

This was one of the few moments in which anyone found math class to be any fun- the teacher of course being the one enjoying himself this time.- mostly, it was plain boring. A slow burning that contrived – whether by design or otherwise- to leave the mind numbed.

FACT: after years and years of conditioning within the social experiment, one of the legacies is that we have come to dread mistakes.

In our sub-conscious, we have come to equate making a mistake to a punishment, shame, disgrace. Unsurprisingly,this colours our choices, influences our thought patterns and actions. Forces us to shift our perspectives.

Thus, Kofi is much more comfortable with a civil service job that allows him a generous salary structure with little responsibility and Ama will keep quiet during a discussion about a problem even though she knows the solution to that problem until the situation develops into a catastrophe.

We have it constantly drummed into our minds that it is a crime to be wrong. Being wrong equals a few lashes of the teacher’s cane or the embarrassment of your mates’ and teacher’s ridicule. Your mistake becomes fodder for much merriment and fun fare. So much so that you learn from a very young age that it is not worth it.

This sort of abuse we suffer from childhood handicaps us. Kills in us, the yearning to explore and learn at our own pace. To grow from learning and learning through mistakes.

failure

It stifles us. Imbibes in us the sacred fear of falling outside the lines. So we stay safely within the lines. In primary and junior high school, that means avoiding the strokes of a teacher’s lash. In the second cycle/ secondary school, it means reading only what the teacher tells you for fear of being failed in a test even when you know as plain as day that what they are teaching is wrong.

One such incident which always stuck with me was when one tutor from back in high school misspelt a word on the board and after being prompted to this mistake proceeded to reward the prompter with a series of elaborate and impressive tongue-lashing that left most of us bemused and I dare say, flabbergasted (there is something about this word by the way that I find rather appealing. Audibly, it just feels so nice-ahem!!)

These days I look back on that incident and it makes me sad. Not because of the pride that forced this teacher to leave her wrong spelling on the board and defend her mistake. I wasn’t even sad about the fact that a well-meaning, brilliant student was assaulted verbally when he had done nothing wrong.

What I find incredibly unacceptable and doubly saddening is that this incident is just symptomatic of a wider and deeper issue of the society teaching and indoctrinating its faithful, that to make a mistake is a crime of such incredible proportions and such a shameful act that people like this teacher in question was willing to defend and propagate something which was wrong. Because the real issue in this incident for me was pride. The fear of losing face, and the idea that she was being diminished in any way because she was wrong about the spelling of a word was enough to warrant this.

If this fear is preventing us from acknowledging something like a spelling mistake then how can we expect anyone to take up the mantle of responsibility in managing a multi-million dollar investment or even more importantly, being a care giver or parent. Thus we have created this system where we blame everyone but ourselves when things go wrong. This has become our fall-back. A failsafe that allows us to cope with the mediocrity that was heralded in our schools. And then we wonder why there are so few indigenous companies.

But then the question that this poses anyone with a single spark of creativity within them is this; “how will you grow?”, “how do we get better?”, “how will this nation claim the promise of greatness?”. But perhaps most damning is this question, “how do we solve our problems?”.

Because there is no constant solution that applies the world over for problem solving. I once heard that we need african solutions to our problems. The speaker no doubt basing on the belief that each challenge is singular in its nature as well as its context and thence a catch-all guaranteed solution doesn’t exist for all . This sounds true but how can we find african solutions when we have been pre-conditioned to always trust the manual and “to think outside the box rewards you with a cross.”

The worst part, is what this system of education has made us into. What do we call that person who does blindly what is expected of him without a moment’s pause and an empty look in their eye: “zombie?  You said it. So since this article is a confectionary of questions, let me end on this last one:

“Are we really building a nation of undead?”

There is something about a shout that calls it to the fore of the mind in moments like these.

When these visitors of exciteable presence transform the docile straits of my glacial countenance into the eye of a storm. 

When the nerves engage in an outrageously intricate dance that my fingers eulogise with jerky, unaccomplished jerking.

When the emotions overflow the boundaries of the alphabets that my pen scratches in between these lines. 

In such moments of vulnerability, of pure uncultivated rage i default to Freud’s ID

And let it all out in a showering bellow. Because that is the fullest articulation of the emotions that Ali their way into my gut.


Home is in the subconsciously secreted pockets of heaven, hidden in shadowy corners. Like the oaken kitchen table with the little scratch from when little Eli was learning to use a fork.  

In the broken oven in the corner  and the warm welcome the kitchen sends my stomach. It is in the argument with Mom over dishes undone and the groans that herald each scolding. It’s in the smile whenever I recall those moments.

For those moments when the quiet emptiness of your absence crushes my soul in a tribute to you. In the creaking voice that reminds us that Dad’s pursuit of undiscovered notes still continues

It’s in the endlessly infantile expressions of one upsmanships and the pursuit of a bigger role in the cosmology of our little eutopia.

It is in the chorus of little insignificant things like:

the self satisfied grin in winning the race for the best spot on the couch or the TV’s remote control

Or how we pledged to make tea with full tins of ideal when we grew old.

It’s in how you ruined my favorite toy car when we were kids and how your corn rows gave me the chance to poke fun at your brow

Home is in the tapestry of smiles and cat fights, and yells and whispers and silences.

Home is in you, the me-shaped hole right there in your heart.

I love the way the grooves of your fingers cause mine to itch – yearning. How those same fingers find the notes to your favourite song everytime I pick up my guitar. I hate how each chord trips memories stored in them.

I hate the way the thought of seeing you renders me incapable of coherent thought- how i await the moment with the same desire we watch the clock minutes before work closes and we can go home.

I like how the sounds of your laughter remind me of home. The way your smile compares to a cool drink at the end of a long run – Soothing.Your skin reminding me of the fresh scent of the woods just after it rains.

I like the way each moment with you feels unreal. So much so that I can only stare in stupefaction as you blind me with copious amounts of wonder. How you’re able to leave me grinning like an idiot.

Hate the way I feel like a deer in the lights when I’m with you. The way without even trying you siamesed us.

I hate how you’ve got me spewing corny poetry wantonly. How as I pondered a heading for these verses I automatically thought to those words you imprinted on to my consciousness:

We’re like fingers and gloves ,you and I.

A

A SOFT WHISPER STEALS A BREATH FROM THE MUNIFICENT MOTHER WIND,

SHAPING IT INTO THE SOUNDS OF HUMAN LANGUAGE.

IT’S BEARER THRUST INTO THE LIME LIGHT

WITH A HEALTHY MIX OF PRIDE AND WONDER,

COURAGE AND FEAR, OF GENTEELNESS AND BARBARISM. 

THIS IS HIS HARMATIA- A FLAWED FATALITY FOR GREATER MEN THAN HE.

HE TAKES A MOMENTS PAUSE AND SWALLOWS A LUNGFUL MOTHER’S GIFT,

THEN HE BEGINS TO FORM THE WORDS. HE WONDERS IF THEY HAVE EVER BEEN SAID WITH SUCH FEELING,

IF THEY HAVE EVER BEEN INVESTED WITH SO MUCH FRAGILE HOPE. 

B

THE SKY’S FURY ROARS ACROSS THE LAND AND CAUSES THE WIND TO SHIVER IN APPREHENSION.

A PERFECT ALTO TO HARMONIZE THE IRRASCIBLE TEMPEST CHORUSING WITHIN:

ONE WHICH SPITS IN THE FACE OF HIS REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO REPRISE THE EFFECT OF ANCIENT​ WORDS: Peace be still.

BURDENED BY THE MESSAGE HE CARRIES, HE SOLDIER’S ON. THE WORDS COMING TO HIS MIND:IT IS EVER THE MESSANGER’S CURSE TO SUFFER.”

BUT WITH ALL THE GRACE OF A BULL HE PERSEVERES IN HIS SINGULAR ENTERPRISE, DESPERATELY HOPING THAT THIS HAIL MARY IS ENOUGH. 

THAT HE’LL SUCCEED IN FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS TO HANG HIS EMOTIONS ON.

THAT HE’LL SUCCEED IN SHAMING THE SOUL’S SECRET INTO LIGHT. AND SO WITH THE STACCATO BEATS OF HIS HEART AS A THEME SONG, HE BEGINS

Hi.I wanted to say ……………………. 

The silence was pregnant with grief,    

An organic pain that repeatedly sought to kick its way out of the confining umbilical cord that shackled it to the sufferer. 

Then came the sigh- kissed by frustration.

 A failing born from an arrogant enterprise of trying to cram too much into simple words.

And so overflowing with raw emotions the words dissolved,

and lost their singular identities. Coalescing into a long drawn out sigh.