I’m going to make this intro really short. This week I had no story. I’m in the middle of a block that’s been chewing on my ass the whole week. So I hit up Mwaniki, remember him? He wrote this one here. Mwaniki is your typical closeted writer, I asked him if he could get me 800 words by Friday morning and on Thursday he sent in a little over a thousand. Friends, here is Mwaniki…
The mild afternoon 3 O’clock sun hits my eyes. I squint to see ahead. It’s a haze but I can make out the short stout frame of my father standing next to what looks like a BMX…at least that’s what we called all the bikes back then.
One foot in front of the other and finally I’m standing next to father and next to him is one of those bikes that have a rat-trap for a carrier behind. Well, at least it has two wheels, no filthy training wheels protruding from the rear. Even at such a young age, I never could wrap myself around the idea of riding around with them.
Father told me the bike was meant for my sister. Thank God! Those effeminate carriers were not for me. Haha. You could say testosterone was bubbling up then. But irony is I was walking home from nursery school, my tongue numb from half a day of blurting out those multicoloured alphabets and things.
I watched all those afternoons as father taught my sister how to balance that bicycle with the big-behind. (This sounds wrong Mwaniki) I could picture myself doing it better than her, after all she feared houseflies. But all this time I was relegated to the side. Sitting there by the road side trying to sharpen my pencil in anticipation of penning down “News” for the teacher. Pencil…pen down…Hmm…. Anyway, why did they really want to know what we were up to during the – what seemed at the time, long – holidays?
The day came though, when I would be the one riding the bicycle. I was happy. It felt cathartic to not have to stare at that rat trap for a carrier. To actually be at the wheel. Haha. I didn’t need much practice. I had ridden that thing in my mind over and over again for afternoons more than I could count. Twenty minutes in and I was riding free from his grip. Can you picture that feeling you had when you first rode a bike? Like you were somewhere outside yourself? Like your steering hands were not part of you?
Maybe it’s just me, but that’s what I felt. And in that moment the voice inside my head asked itself: “Who are you?” And that question sent my mind into a spin cycle. My feet stopped peddling. The bicycle slowly came to a halt. My vision became italicized for a brief few seconds and then a thud, and then a sharp searing pain stemming from what seemed to be my scalp. That warm feeling you get while bleeding… I relished it at that moment, I think I still do. Pain? There was no pain. I was detached from my body in that instant. In that moment I was just soul. I was without myself.
The cleansing with antiseptic was what awoke me from that strange reverie; the pain, coupled by the throbbing and the beginning of what would be an intense headache. I now could hear father questioning out loud whether he had made the right decision to let go. I tried to formulate a response in my mind but I could not for the life of me, think. I couldn’t think. You know when people say they are blank? In that instant I was beyond the confines of thought… and that was the first time I ever questioned reality.
Every so often I’m pulled into this vortex of self mirroring filled with question. What is it that we choose to call mind? Did mind precede matter? Is there another dimension to perception, another wholly and totally different nature of existence?
I think the answer to all this madness lies in language. In essence we “speak” to ourselves through thought.
What is language? A tool that allows the mind to know what its thinking. Language allows us to create a virtual world in our heads and pull the present forward to meet that. The ability to design, to envision, imagining, were all a natural consequence to the emergence of language.
That the language we understand gives subject to our experience. It formulates our perception of life and living. It creates a reality for ourselves and those around us – creating this bubble that we call culture. Reality, to me, is tightly coupled to perception. A child’s viewpoint of life is almost wholly tailored by media. What they see on telly. What they read. What they colour. What teacher tells them in class. Back then I used to do everything for everyone who asked something of me. Why? Because teacher said it’s “Paramount to respect our elders”. I really didn’t quite get what paramount meant or why teacher used such a big word on our then slightly smaller minds, but one day after doing one of the many good deeds that were a consequence of teacher’s instruction – combing my sister’s hair – I told her why I was a good boy. “Because teacher said it’s paramount to respect our elders “. She laughed the hollowest laugh I’ve ever heard to date, and then said, “How old are you again?”
Isn’t who we are a narrative? Aren’t we trying to turn each day and every one of our experiences into meaning? Creating spaces of escape from despair, from our own decay, from our own mortality. Spaces where we cannot die. Spaces that we fill with family, friendships, work. Spaces that move us away from our own creatureliness. A somewhat, sort of bypass from the people mover that is carrying everyone towards death.
Storytellers essentially are people that encode the human experience, creating narratives that incept themselves into minds – providing vision for who and what we are.
And that is why I believe in the power of story. That mind is narrative and consciousness a self reflecting pattern of awareness. Of story. That living and life is story. Eventually, I did get a sleek, streamlined BMX that ended up giving me scarred knees. But isn’t that the proof that you lived your childhood? As I take it out today for another spin, I will try to achieve that state that I once had. That state of question that all these years I’ve been seeking. Then again, is not our addiction to the question itself? Once You find The answer, you risk completion.