#NaPoWriMo18

Offshore Nigeria, back in the day. For the prompt Rise/Set.

It is now a mere three days to the start of National Poetry Month this year, three years since I last participated. Back then in addition to the prompts from the NaPoWriMo website, I had La Reine and Tolu for company, two poets who are far more deserving of the label. I plan on jumping in this year, the idea primarily being to participate, rather than hammer out high quality poetry. Fingers crossed.

#24 – Dancing With (In) The Rain

#24 - woodman francesca

She whirls to the rhythm of the rain.
Her dance, light-footed –
A pirouette  – in step with the beat
The light, gentle splatter of rain –
Drops stopped in full flight
By the chipped stones makes.
As the night light catches
The fringe of her costume
She is no longer there.
What we have is the after glow
Of stolen re-memory –
Of Peace and of repose
And the calming lightness
Of the patter of the Rain.

For Mag 303

100 Days Of Being

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This year, instead of  a bucket list of things I am hoping to achieve, I chose to identify 12 things, key changes which in my opinion if implemented in my life would deliver the biggest value. The intent is to focus on one for each month, the idea (referenced in this Matt Cutts TEDx talk)  being that focusing on one change for a thirty day period gives one a fighting chance of making lasting change.

For January, the objective is to focus on developing a regular practice of contemplative prayer and bible study, two things which my harried existence in 2015 made nigh impossible to do with any regularity.

Towards the back end of last year, I stumbled on this post on the Hillsong Collected blog that led me on to the original 100 Days of Making Project page. There is a long and storied history going back to a graduate project at the Yale School of Art, but the premise is simple: doing something creative for 100 consecutive days.

Given one of my objectives for the year is to write a lot more consistently, I’d like my thing to be 100 consecutive days of writing. I suspect the subject matter will vary widely from day to day but I’d like the over arching theme to be one of being; specifically reflecting on where I am today, where I have come from and how these have shaped how I see myself evolving over the next few years.

The NYTimes Learning sub-site has a listing of 500 prompts for narrative and personal writing which will be the core of what I reflect on, augmented by any day to day happenings which catch my attention.

Fingers crossed then. Here’s to #100DaysOfBeing.

The Writer Is….

…Neither saint nor Tzadik nor prophet standing at the gate; he’s just another sinner who has somewhat sharper awareness and uses slightly more precise language to describe inconceivable reality of our world. He doesn’t invent a single feeling or thought – all of them existed long before him… He’s here, at our side, buried up to his neck in mud and filth.

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, Etgar Keret

 

Of Titles and Taglines

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I first heard the word Quotidian used in every day parlance in 2010 by one of my favourite authors, the British-Nigerian Poet and Novelist, Chris Abani in his TED 2008 talk On Humanity.

The context within which he uses the word is the retelling of a story from his childhood, growing up as a young Ibo boy in Nigeria, having to kill a goat, but finding himself too sensitive to do so. In the end, Emmanuel an older boy who has been a boy soldier in the Biafran (Nigerian Civil) war comes to his rescue, putting his hands over the goat’s mouth and covering its eyes so he doesn’t have to see them whilst he kills the goat. In the story, Chris is moved by the duty of care the older, hardened ex-soldier exercises over him concerning the simple matter of killing a goat, given that he has been involved in fighting a war widely recognised as having led to the deaths of over a million people. That deeply emotive context seems to have left an indelible mark on me, and driven me to associate a double meaning with the word. Whilst normal, everyday things are quotidian, context often colours them in shades and nuances far more complicated than they seem or should be – hence the title of my blog Quotidian Things.

For a tag line, I have gone for The Ramblings of a Lost Son. Ramblings, because if the past few years are anything to go by, my coherence levels reduce significantly as the days go by, and Lost Son for the increasing distance I feel – both physical and metaphorical – from my home land of Nigeria. Both Ramblings and Lost Son speak loosely to a sense of being quarantined – being substantially different from both my home and adopted countries, not quite fitting in either anymore and struggling to deal with the conflict inherent in reaching a new normal.

So that’s the inspiration for this, and my insistence that if I had my way, this blog would be about the simple, everyday things that happen in my world, hopefully with an attempt to understand what deeper meaning they may hold.

Beginning, Again

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For the umpteenth time I am attempting to begin again. As to triggers for each prior iteration of these beginnings, I can blame various cataclysmic events – a delayed quarter life crisis which ended up with me starting over on a new continent, a short lived romance, and the sense of endlessly treading water being prime examples of some of these. On this occasion however, I cannot pinpoint a singular reason why; such has been the sort of year I have had – between the end of a good year of sorts with G and the significant uncertainties brought about by an unstable oil price regime.

In conversation with K, she blurts out her conclusion that my slew of resets, reboots and new beginnings are only a smoke screen for avoiding commitment. Dee, the closest thing to a big sister I still have agrees, her conviction no less firm though tempered by associating my behaviour with a phase she once went through. I disagree with them both of course. For one there is a sense in which being a compulsive journal-er, as well as writing on the web in some guise or the other for well nigh on 8 years, has meant that I have come to think and write in a certain way, settled into the very deepest of ruts.

Admittedly, beginning again has a certain allure: the promise of casting off the old, wiping the slate clean and reinventing oneself with new paths and new directions to chase does lend itself to the redemptive meta narrative we as a species seem primed to crave. What this allure doesn’t account for though is the carnage that breaks often leave in their wake, particularly where feelings, time and other people are involved.

The big objective here then – besides the need to start over – is to find a new voice, without the pressure, and in the relative safety of a regained anonymity. To reach this different, hopefully radically new normal will take lots of experimentation; which is why I have armed myself with DW Moore’s Crafting the Personal Essay and the New York Times’ Learning sub-site with 500 prompts for narrative and creative writing.

Far from writing about any world-changing, life-altering, paradigm-shifting things, the bulk of what I will muse about on here will be the bread and butter things that weigh heavily on the mind of this single, thirty something year old razz Nigerian bloke: lostness, faith, chasing, finding and losing love, work, culture clashes, a burgeoning keg (instead of a six-pack), books, music and culture as well as my recollections of growing up – as ‘Quotidian‘ as anything could ever be.

The intent is to post something on here every Friday, upon completing the Daily Post’s Blogging 101 series. Whether I succeed at achieving these twin objectives – building the consistency and finding myself again  – remains to be seen. At any rate, accept my warm WELCOME to the start of this new journey – as you have somehow found your way here.  Here’s to hoping you stick around for the ride.

Reflecting on the Scottish Referendum: A Call to Social Justice

A few months ago, people across the length and breadth of the nation of Scotland went to the polls to answer the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” At stake was the very future of the United Kingdom, and Scotland’s place in it. On one hand, the governing Scottish National Party staked its reputation on a ‘Yes’ vote, alongside the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialists under the aegis of Yes Scotland, whilst Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservative Party, and the Scottish Liberal  Democrats took a pro-Union Stance under the Better Together banner.

As the vote count came to an end on the morning of September 19th in victory for the Better Together campaign, what became clear was that the keenly contested campaign had revealed deep fissures in the very fabric of the Nation. The romance of nationalism and the historical antecedents notwithstanding (Scotland as a distinct entity has existed in some shape or form since about 840 AD and 2014 was the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which saw the English army defeated by the forces of King of Scots Robert the Bruce), economic considerations, fair and equitable distribution of wealth and protecting access to the NHS in the face of the (real or imagined) threat of its privatisation featured strongly as a subject of contention.

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The HAVES vs HAVE NOTS narrative seemed supported by analysis of the voting patterns which showed strong correlations between greater unemployment and support for independence, and age above retirement with support for staying with the Union (perhaps due to concerns over pensions).

The immediate aftermath involved clashes between Unionists and independence supporters. As recently as October, a pro – independence rally in Glasgow still managed to attract over 6,000 people, perhaps indicative that even the passage of time has done little to soothe the sense of grievance a significant proportion of the nation still feels.

The challenge going forward therefore is one of reconciliation; recreating a sense of togetherness and genuine belief in all and sundry that the nation belongs equally to everyone – rich, poor, old, young and old alike. That sense can only be fostered by delivering on the sound bites trundled out by both sides of the campaign, mainly a fairer, more productive, empowered Scotland.

There is an economic argument for a fairer, more egalitarian Scotland. Equal opportunities and lower unemployment will deliver greater productivity, and enable more people contribute to the state in the form of taxes, rather than constitute a drain the system.

There will also be benefits, purely from the perspective of enlightened self-interest. It stands to reason that crime, social delinquency and violence are likely to drop as more people are gainfully employed. Those who are not, if they have access to the opportunities to improve and are catered for the interim will also see less of an incentive to crime.

The arguments for social justice go beyond secular and economic ones; there is also a biblical imperative. Passages like Deuteronomy 15:11 –  For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’, being a case in point.

Time and time again, the call to ‘do good and seek justice (Isaiah 1:17), not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor (Zech 7:9,10), defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov 31:8,9), to do justice and love kindness (Micah 6:8) and protect the resident alien, the fatherless and the widow (Jeremiah 22:3) are repeated throughout the Old Testament. When Israel failed to heed this call, they were punished severely by God (Amos 5:11-15, Ezekiel 16:49,50).

Elsewhere a social justice component is explicitly commanded as part of true and acceptable worship – knowing the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7), letting the oppressed go free, sharing bread with the hungry and homeless (Isaiah 58:12) as well as visiting the orphan and the widow (James 1:27).

Jesus himself, after being tempted and returning to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit chose to reveal himself in the Synagogue in his home town of Nazareth by reading from the passage in Isaiah which spoke of his mission to proclaim the good news and set at liberty those who were oppressed (Luke 4; 18, 19). Beyond that, he also highlighted acts of kindness as one of the things we will be judged by at his return (Matthew 25:31-46). The Apostles also weighed in in their writings – John enjoined us to love not in word but in deed (1 John 3:17,18), Paul in distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:13) and James to treat all without partiality (James 2:1-4)

The danger of all this is to end up flying the flag of social justice, for its own sake alone, as an end in itself or as an opportunity to ship sounds bites, hog the limelight and portray ourselves as good citizens. However as Christians, everything we do on earth occurs within a context – that of being Jesus’ hands and feet on earth, utilising the resources, skills and time that he has given us to further His kingdom. In these days in which the popular narrative is one of the death of the church and its increasing irrelevance, being champions of social change, in our communities – our next door mission fields – may well be one way that the tide can be turned, providing a door of opportunity to ‘do all for the Glory of God’.

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Originally written for my Church Newsletter, reproduced here for archival purposes.