Sunday, 21 May 2017


The first time I heard anything of Invictus, I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds and when the job was done and the team was in the plane heading back to wherever they were heading back to, a member of the team quoted the final verse of the poem:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The writer of the poem is a poet called William Ernest Henley, who lived between the 17th and 18th century, whose whole literary reputation rests solely on this singular piece of art.
Basically, it is a short poem about not sulking because you have a shitty life; it reminds us that everything is under our control because we are the masters of our fate. ‘Invictus’ is from a Latin word that translates to English as ‘unconquerable’.
Now, it is important that we understand the context based upon which this poem was written. As a child, William Ernest Henley developed tuberculosis of the bone, which occurs when the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis spread from the lungs to the bone, then as a young man of 25 the Tuberculosis spread to his foot and his doctors decided that in order for his life to be saved, they must amputate his leg. Henley wrote Invictus on his hospital bed.
Faith is a very important concept in life, in this case, faith in anything. Not so much important where the faith is directed, per se, at least not immediately. In the third and fourth lines, Henley wrote: ‘I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.’ There is also a part of the poem which I find personally satisfying. In the 7th and 8th line, Henley suggests that pain picks its victims through nothing but chance, which is at variance with the way many people see it, they assume that everything happens in a planned sequence: and victims of pain are victims of pain because someone (usually the devil) has a personal vendetta against them. Henley writes: ‘Under the bludgeoning of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed.’ Notice ‘under the bludgeoning of chance’, It is chance that bludgeons you, nothing else. Bringing in the devil puts a religious spin to it and when there is a religious spin to it, there is something to pray about or pray against. This is only true some of time.
I believe that this poem is a must read, not just for individuals who are going through pain and or suffering, but for every person.
And because of that, you can find the poem below for your reading pleasure.
You are welcome!

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Pearls Before Breakfast

I read of an experiment in context, perception and priorities – as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste. It was titled ‘Pearls before Breakfast’ and was put together by the Washington Post.

I am going to attempt to summarise the experiment below.
A man sat at the L’enfant Station in Washington DC, a metro station swarming with busy people going back and forth, and began to play the violin.
He played some of the most beautiful pieces of music ever, ever, ever composed. It was calculated that as he played, thousands of people went through the station, most of them were on their way to work.

A few minutes passed before a middle aged man noticed that there was some man playing music. He slowed his pace for a few seconds and then hurried up away. A minute later, the violinist received his first tip: a woman threw the money into the cup the man had placed on the ground for tips and she continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. He was walking with his mother, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. The mother pushed hard for the kid to keep walking until the poor child, without a choice, continued to walk with his mother turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents forced them to keep moving.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money without paying him any attention. He collected $32.00 in total. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen. He played some of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3,500,000 dollars.
The Washington post had this to say: “Each passer-by had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?”
In short, Do You Have Time For Beauty?

On Joshua Bell, The Washington Post wrote:
“He seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost. Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.”
So what is beauty anyway? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
The Washington Post goes with Kant, because they think “he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the L’enfant Metro.”
But I disagree with them, and I agree with Leibniz. Beauty is measurable fact. It is plain. It is obvious. It is there. If you do not recognize it in all of the forms in which it comes, then you do not recognize beauty in all its forms. The better argument perhaps may be to determine the possibility of recognizing all of the forms of beauty.
Let me tell you something, life is short. We must appreciate all the beauty of the world while we still can. We must marvel with fascination as raindrops stump against our windowpanes and make vermiform shapes on the panes. We must appreciate things because that is the best way to live our lives to the fullest.

Friday, 21 April 2017

How to Start a Cult

The Jonestown ‘massacre’ occurred in 1978. On November 18, 1978, a total of 919 people were killed from cyanide poisoning, in what they termed, "revolutionary suicide" by a man called James Warren ‘Jim’ Jones. Jim Jones was reported to have said, "Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity; don't lay down with tears and agony. I tell you, I don't care how many screams you hear, I don't care how many anguished cries...death is a million times preferable to 10 more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you – if you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad to be stepping over tonight."
The Heaven’s Gate ‘massacre’ occurred in 1997. On March 26, 1997, American police discovered the bodies of 39 members of a Christian group who had participated in a mass suicide in order to reach what they believed was an extra-terrestrial spacecraft. They were led to their deaths by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles after they had been convinced that there was a space ship hidden behind a comet that was then flying past the Earth - and that this space ship was there to pick up true believers and ferry them off to a better place.
Yesterday, the 20th of April, South African police arrested South African based Nigerian pastor, Tim Omotoso. He is alleged to have raped 30 girl members of his church. He was charged with human trafficking. He was said to be arrested almost as soon as his plane arrived at the Port Elizabeth Airport, they found him hiding in a female toilet.
We have the incorrect definitions of cults in our heads, especially in the third world. My opinion is that this is because here we are unhappy with accepting the fact that cults are mostly religious groups. Almost every definition of a cult richly contains religious groups and organisations; therefore we prefer to see cults as a small group of misguided juveniles. Those are mostly delinquents; call them terrorists even, whatever helps you sleep better. However, a cult is unthinking devotion to an individual; a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone too much.
We tend to no longer serve God as much as we serve His purveyors, and I say purveyors knowing that not all who preach do it as a business venture. But you find that those who make business ventures out of God are the ones with the most ‘customers’ – people  who are usually willing to go blind for them, call white black for them, call lies truths for them.
A disgusting video I saw on Twitter this week inspired this post. A woman, in her 40s – not much to look at, was threatening the life of Stephanie Otobo, the estranged Stephanie Otobo, who Nigerians, especially customers of purveyors’, detest extremely, mostly because of her allegations of sexual misconduct against Apostle Johnson Suleiman, a popular Nigerian pastor. The video was disgusting to me because she was telling us of her murderous tendencies; how she would pour acid on someone if she sees them. How do you brighten a spot by shading all over it? I have nothing against the apostle, whether he slept with her or not is not my immediate concern. My problem is with the woman in the video.  She became the devil, not Stephanie Otobo, who she was trying to pass across as the devil.
One of the most baffling things about faith being able to move mountains is this question: in whom must we have faith before our mountains are moved?
It is a baffling question because I have mountains myself and I have asked myself this a thousand times. These lines blur. 
From the first few paragraphs, you may see that one only needs few things to start a cult, it is a sort of starter-pack:
1. A sort of authority
2. Oration
3. A group of people who have misplaced their faiths and are willing to go the distance for and with you, their daddy, instead of for and with their God.
The purveyors of God know of this starter-pack and they know how blurry the lines get. They seem to be in the process of creating small cults among us; in the future, their small cults will grow appendages. That time, it won’t just be hate speeches and criminal tendencies, like wanting to pour acid on people, but actions as well. I pray we do not all misplace our faiths. I pray some of us are left who actually believe in God and not his men, regardless of how blurry they make the line seem.
Thank you for reading. See you next time.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Why I Write

In 2013, when I did it for the first time, it felt surreal; like I was doing something that actually mattered. It felt like making an impact on people’s lives and this was all the more beautiful because I was getting this feeling for the first time in my life. Writing made me feel important.
The first story I wrote was set in a fictional village I called Okunlewe, it was about the killing of twins. I titled it My Mother’s Daughter and it had more than 2,500 words. After I finished that story, I knew I was ready to take on the world.
I have written many more stories and have been published in places that I would never have dreamed of.
And then I started and finished Dear Ella, my first novella. Even though Dear Ella is presently stuck in a limbo, I have never been prouder of anything in my whole life as I have been proud of writing Ella.
So why do I write?
The first time I read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in Rye, I thought ‘Man, this is the dumbest book ever.’ It took a second reading, a few months later, to understand its genius and that this writing thing is the most private endeavour one could pursue. The only person for whom your writing must make sense is you. For example, the first line of The Catcher in the Rye more or less sets the tone for the book and if you are not really into being called a phony, then the book is probably not your cup of tea and the writer does not care: ‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’
You feel that Holden Caulfield, the narrator, does not care about you, he tells his story and cares very little if you like him or not.
That is the way writing is, at least to a larger extent. It is not about the reader. I have written and sent out stories I swore were crap and the reviews came back and they were brilliant, same time, I have written and sent out stories I was sure were pieces of gems and the reviews that came back were ugly. Writing, at least the process of story creation, has nothing to do with readers.
So why do I write?
I have a book by James Frey called How to Write a Damn Good Novel. On the top cover it says ‘a step-by-step no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling.’  I scoff. I have never read past the introduction where it whines on and on about what ‘a damn good novel’ does and does not mean. No person can teach another person how to write. People can only teach people how they write which is usually useless because as I said, writing is an intensely private thing, therefore, how you write may be repulsive to me.
People give writing advice all the time, in fact, there is a verified handle on Twitter @AdviceToWriters. There is nothing wrong with giving writing advice. It is just a question of writers having the ability to sieve advice because many advice are silly. The long and short of this analysis is that there isn’t a soul on earth who can teach you to write better than you can teach yourself to write. And most importantly, writing is not a popularity contest, you want popularity contests, go for Big Brother. The only writer to whom you ought to compare yourself, is the writer you were yesterday – now that is some brilliant advice.
So why do I write?
Can you not see that I haven’t the slightest clue?
And maybe that’s it. Maybe once we start giving reasons to things the importance of those things begins to dissolve. Like saying you love someone because that person is beautiful, what happens in 10 to 15 years when the fleeting beauty starts to fleet? Liking a tree because it produces fruits – what the hell happens when said fruit is out of season? Here is the thing about chocolate, chocolate is chocolate only because it has the cocoa-sweet taste of chocolate, if that cocoa-sweet taste vanishes for some inexplicable reason, chocolate ceases to be chocolate. So we do not like chocolate, what we like is that cocoa-sweet taste.
So, no. there is no reason I write. I love to, so I do.