The build-up of some hazy mess of anxiety and excitement usually begins around now, around the first of December, just under 30 days away from a new year. I’ve always conceived of the coming of a new year as the ultimate blind date. The pinnacle of cautiously-optimistic expectation building, nervous planning for the unknown (but oft fantasized about) and a burning hope for the encounter/experience/revelation that is going to make next year the one. But unlike a blind date, you can’t walk by the coffee shop window and make a superficial decision not to walk in, you can’t feign sickness to get out of it and you can’t just dip your toe in the experience. In that sense, I suppose the coming of the New Year is more like the ultimate blind date cum non-negotiable arranged marriage.
I’m typing this from a bench just a few feet away from where the disguised disciple fired three shots into your chest. It’s strange to feel an almost familial connection to a man I never met, and to suffer your loss with such freshness even though it has been 63 years. But despite never meeting, I feel as though you’re words have raised me. Words that continue to exist beyond your life, untainted by the nuisance of being alive, or being human. And so to does your concept – the immortalized essence of Gandhiji.
And 63 years on, we see that same concept channeled by one Anna Hazare.
Honoured to have my first guest post written by my good friend, Wairimu – a letter from a mother to her son.
“Mum, I have a girlfriend.” I almost choked. 2011 has been a year of personal revelations for you my son, and for me too. So far, I have been drawn closer to you, becoming more of a friend and more of a mother too.
I was helping you with your homework when you told me this. I had not read any book, or sought any advice on how to deal with such a statement. I have read Dr. James Dobson books and other parenting tips, but not one area showed me how to handle this situation. I said a quick prayer and went ahead to enquire who this lucky girl was. You gave me her name, and told me she is in your class. I asked a bunch of random questions and gave you some advice. Yes, you were 8 years old. And this is you Kamau, you are a very honest, smart young man that I dearly love.
You truly have a unique ability to enrage and infuriate like nothing else – a brand of self-perpetuating vexation that I just, well…I’m at a loss for words.
You see, words are far more than just receptacles of thoughts – they are thoughts in themselves. So you are not just choking the downstream output of some synaptic transmission, you are in fact crashing the operating system of thoughts, ideas and expression.
Khalil Gibran once said that “words are crumbs from the feast of the mind”, and while I typically hang on Khalil’s every word, in this instance I am forced to disagree. Words are not the discarded remnants of a meal; they are in fact the main course, appetizer and dessert. Words are charged with emotion, meaning and purpose. Whether curled around melodies or recited in a prayer, whispered in secret or etched in stone – words are at the heart of all thoughts, from inception to death to rebirth.
9 years on from where you stand today, I’m not sure that I have earned the right to espouse any sort of convocation speech-type-wisdom, but nevertheless, here are a few things that I wish someone had told me when I stood at this same thrilling but daunting precipice.
First off, congratulations! You have successfully navigated one of the most complex and dramatic socio-political environments you will ever encounter in life (i.e. high school). There is a sort of expectant way that adults speak about graduating from high school that down plays the achievement – it’s largely because they (we) have been distanced from the deeply buried challenges, social awkwardness and emotional anguish that characterizes the high school journey. And for the most part, we only had to contend with one realm of reality, let alone the additional complication of choreographing real life along side digital existences on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and what not. Props, this is no small feat. Celebrate your successes and don’t try to bury the negative experiences – stand on the shoulders of this conquered stage of life, it is indeed a massive achievement, and I trust that you have the friends, inside jokes, unsent love letters, first kiss and awkward photos to show for it.
I feel as though I might be misaddressing you – should I call you Destiny, Coincidence, Chance or maybe Luck? I’m going with “Serendipity” just because it has a whimsical cadence that makes it fun to say. But whatever your moniker, this is long over-due as I have innumerable things to thank-you for and I have waited 27 years to express my gratitude. I do have a list of unexpected people, moments of beauty and unforeseeable opportunities that I certainly owe you thanks for, but, this letter is not to thank-you for all that.
I think people are most grateful for the outcome of your magical moments, and not necessarily the moments themselves, i.e. a chance encounter that becomes an epic friendship or the perfect moment that leads to a life-changing first kiss. It’s so easy to celebrate the result of the moment rather than the moment itself; that moment of connection to what feels like a grand design.
I want to thank you for those moments – and actually, one recent moment in particular.
Of late, I’ve tried to understand your role as both liberator and captor, warrior of revolution and guardian of consumption culture. You’ve broken hearts, picked locks of complacency and sold more product than any single company in history. I find you catalyzing and stimulating but simultaneously oppressive and all-consuming, and I can’t figure out if you have my best interest at heart. Continue reading