Monthly Archives: December 2015

Achievements 2015.

 

It has been a short year. One of the shortest of my life this is because of a couple of things: it is the year that has proportionally represented the least of my life and, when we got older the parts of our brains that make memories get tired and so it begins to be more and more difficult to retain them. They make less of an imprint and nothing is as beautiful as it used to be-also incidentally the reason the music we used to listen to sounded so great.

 

 

Either way I managed to do some things.

 

  1. I am here.

This achievement cannot be chalked up to me or anything I have done. It’s just dumb luck. A lot of people more deserving of life don’t have it right now but I can still wake up and see things. Yesterday it was threatening to rain and so the dark rain clouds occupied the fore of the sky. In the back the sun still shone. It looked especially vivid maybe because of the contrast. The clouds beyond the nimbus were white against blue. There was a lone pillar of sunlight making its way down illuminating both the clouds and the sky. I was happy I was wearing glasses because I could see it properly. I was happy that this thing knocked my breath away. I was happy to be there to appreciate it and so I was happy to be alive. As long as there is beauty and the capacity to appreciate it life is worth it. It’s worth everything else and we are all blessed with such good fortune to have it with us.

 

On a side note to my religious brothers and sisters please begin to realise just how insensitive it is to ascribe the fact of continually living to the love of god. According to all your scriptures he loves us all even the ones who are dead. Saying you are alive is proof that god loves you sounds to me like saying that god does not love any of the people who died. It’s horrid to say this to anybody because you don’t know what part of their life they have lost. You cannot know which beauty they are unable to see because a parent, a sibling, a friend died. You don’t want them to hear that god does not love that parent, that sibling, that friend.

 

Cheers to life though.

 

 

  1. No-shave November.

I am a firm proponent of the hairy law: every man who can grow a beard will grow a beard. It is something in us. It is reported that George Mallory was once asked “why do you need to climb Everest?” “Because it’s there.”

 

This is the cornerstone of humanity. The pain of progress is assuaged by the ambition we have that drives us to see if we can. I mean, how ridiculous an ambition is it to go into space? How mad is it to look at everything up there and imagine that a human being could make it there? For most of our existence we believed that space was the home of the gods and for a tiny fraction we knew we could follow them up there and we did.

 

In 1861 serfdom was abolished in Russia. This was essentially a kind of peasant slavery where a landowner owned the people who worked on his land. There is a Russian book by Gogol with the amazing title of “dead souls.” A soul was the name given to serf. Serfs could be mortgaged, for accounting procedures even dead ones still appeared on the registers- which is where the title of the book comes from.  Until 1903 we had not mastered the power of terrestrial flight. In 1917 Russia was shook by revolutions that overthrew the tsar and put to an end centuries of feudalistic rule. In 1961 Russia sent a man into space. In 100 years a society that enslaved the vast majority of its people had put a man on space. When they were told they were crazy they said we have to try because we want to know if we can.

 

To every man who can grow a few hairs on their cheeks and then shaves them off because of a girl or a job or society. Grow it (a pair of balls and your beard), November gives you an excuse and… You need to know if you can.

 

It’s not an easy journey. The best way to begin it is to announce it. Announce that you will not shave in November. Wait for the recriminations because they begin immediately. There will be naysayers telling you that you can’t do it, that you should not. There will be people claiming ownership of you and what you do. Society will tear itself apart attempting to control you. Trying to remind you that like one of Gogol’s souls you are not really free.

 

It will get ugly. No shave November despises the trimming of a beard. You have to realise that beards don’t just look good. Take a look at Rick Ross and realise without a shadow of a doubt that he has an awesome barber. A beard just grows making it look good is something you do by trimming.

 

It will itch. This happens after a while. You start rubbing it contemplatively. Pretending concern, feigning wisdom, lending yourself by this purely physical necessity an air of gravitas. After it itches you will want to shave it off. There are many dark days in November. There are days that all you will want to do is cut it off and feel the sweet release that you know comes with being clean-shaven. Hold on on those days. Society has already tested you and you bested it. The body now wants to master you. But if you are strong you will come out in December a man. A beard on your chin and a sense of accomplishment, and a new-found comfort in your own skin. You will feel that you have done it. That which most can’t, many will not attempt and only a few will succeed at. I, this year was one of those few.

 

  1. Moved into my own place.

It’s nice to move out. To go off somewhere and take care of yourself out of the sweat of your brow. There is a story about moving out. This man (really a boy) lived in a place of plenty and could have all he wanted. Every day the one who brought him into being would talk to him, walk with him, impart him some knowledge. Then the man, being a boy was disobedient. He was cast out of the place of comfort and into squalor. He lived and rutted like a pig. The soil would not be tilled; the plants would not be sown. Every effort returned less and less. The way back home was barred and out there by himself he struggled to survive. And as a man He did.

 

The story is not contained in a book known for its psychological introspection so we are not told about the satisfaction he must have found in providing for himself. We are not told about the freedom that he breathed in and how amazing it must have felt not to live by rules that felt arbitrary. Freedom comes with consequences and his consequences were great but Adam after he moved out made a life for himself. He longed wistfully for the Garden of Eden but he put his longing aside. He looked at the life ahead of him and I’m sure he thought for all the ease I have left behind at least I can eat all the damn apples I want to.

 

I can eat all the damn apples I want to now. The day that bacon was declared a cancerous scourge I went to the supermarket and bought some bacon. I went to the chips joint and bought some fries. I turned on my gas and fried that bacon crisp. I took the oil I had used and applied it liberally over the fries. I ate in such contented enjoyment that it’s hard to describe. Then I lit a cigarette took some deep puffs right there in the sitting room. A mist of bacon, chips and smoke hang over my house. Then I turned up the music and went to sleep. I love the damn apples.

 

Due to how little I cook however my house has become like Russia; inexhaustible supplies of oil and gas. I also have this trail of ants somewhere on the wall. I love an ant-trail it is so much like a trade route its shocking. These ants walk back and forth and back again, making space for each other as they do it. They are my own personal souls with their life in my control. Every once in a while I spy this huge cockroach and I want to stop him and sit him down. I want to ask him what he eats as I never have food in that house. Since we are all roommates and I’m the one paying rent why can’t he share his stash?

 

  1. Not buttoning the top button of my shirt.

 

There’s an article I read this year that I would recommend to anyone. To any man who is pressured into wearing a tie, to any woman who pressures a man into wearing a tie. It’s called dickheads and here for your reading pleasure is the article.

 

 

It was written by a man who hates ties with a passion reserved only for ties. He talks about how worthless they are. Their whole point is to make us submit. A symbol of enslavement if ever I saw one. Hanging a noose around your neck quite literally as the world of servitude slowly chokes the life out of you.

 

I have to wear a tie in the profession I chose when I was young and stupid. So I chose another method of rebellion. The year has passed without me even once buttoning the top button of my shirt. I have walked into every courtroom with my tie sagged and my shirt open to the elements. I have met every client like this. I have gone through every workday without submitting to this whim of the man.

 

It’s been great. One day, one day I’ll never wear a tie again. And if anyone reading this is close enough to be consulted when it comes to funeral arrangements… if you bury me in a tie I will haunt you forever.

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to meru and beyond

The first time I went to Meru I got there at midnight. There was what a person from Nairobi would call “a storm” in progress. The rain was coming down in droves. You could see the sprays left by the drops in the air. The mist of what didn’t fall to the ground as a single compact raindrop filled the air with white. The rain thundered to the ground. It almost shook it. We stood under a ledge and considered it for a few moments. Suddenly there was a streak of lightning. All my life I have seen flashes of lightning; a photograph taken by a vain god. This streak was real. A line of lightning snaked and zigged its way from one cloud to the other. All through this it rained and rained. The air was cleaned of everything until every breath I took felt like it could quench my thirst.

 

I have a dangerous tendency to fall in love at first sight. To fall in love with women, books, musicians, places, ideas immediately I come into contact with them.  The bruises have tenderised every part of my body. Despite these warnings I can’t help falling over and over again. A part of me believes that falling is just the first part of flying and that we should risk everything in order to fly. A lot of other parts of me are bruised.

 

By the purest of coincidences I was offered a job in Meru a few months after that first sight. These things happen in my life, in most people’s lives. There are a lot of people who believe that the human brain is structured to look for patterns. It’s an existential necessity this ability to find patterns and recognise shapes in the chaos that swirls around us. It only through patterns that we can come to believe that life has meaning. Otherwise we would look at the night sky and try to imagine the distances and what they mean seeing nothing but the  utter and absurd insignificance of our lives to the cosmos. We would think about the blimps in time that we are alive for compared to the earth, the solar system, the galaxy and go crazy. It’s important to find patterns. These are the things that allow us to construct a coherent narrative around our lives. I fell in love with Meru within five minutes of being there and was then offered a job. We could call it god’s plan, we could call it positive energy and “the secret”, we could call it what it is, a ridiculous coincidence. Whatever it was we couldn’t have one without the other.

 

so small

 

A cartoon by Charlie Hankin from the New Yorker.

It’s that time of the year when we sit down and count our wounds and lift up our trophies. Tis the time of year to make plans and take stock of where we are in life. It is definitely the time of the year when we drink and eat and celebrate making it this far.

 

I like to think I’ve worked for a year in Nairobi. After getting a proper job in March I moved out of my parent’s house in July and believed this would make me happier. There is something about living alone that most people are not warned about before they do it. It’s fucking lonely. Coming home to an empty house is a struggle. Doing it over and over is hard. If there is anything that teaches a man to work through a hangover it is an empty house. The bar has something that the house lacks. It has life and people who can hold a conversation. It has friends and allows you to feel that you are not alone. This I learned quickly while living alone. I also learned that you get so used to living alone that the only thing it makes sense to turn it in for is regular sex. If you live by yourself for a few months it’s hard to adjust to a housemate. Who is this person who’s telling me that I can’t stumble home drunk on a Friday evening pull down my workpants as soon as the door is locked and not look at them until Sunday afternoon?

 

It gets monotonous though. The days blend into each other. The weeks look the same. The months twin so that you can’t remember if that happened  in August or September. Without much warning you can see your life laying itself out for you. It’s easy when you are in employment to draw yourself a road map to death. Every year or so (in a best case scenario) you get a little more money. Your expenses correspondingly increase. You take a few girls out for drinks and start spending more and more time with one of them. This turns into full weekends. It seems that even if you met her at the bar soon she begins to curtail your drinking. After all you have to spend some time together sober. Meanwhile at work there is more responsibility being heaped on you. This is no longer your first year. Now you are the arsehole supervisor or the person trying desperately not to be an arsehole supervisor.

 

 

You don’t drink as much but you still drink. Once in a while you slip up and sleep with someone who is not your girlfriend. You wash down your guilt with beer, justifications and the nagging hard-earned knowledge that she is doing the same thing. Maybe the drinking levels off or reduces. You begin to make long term plans with this girl and in your future there are dowry ceremonies. Ayies and ruracios. You mobilise your family. You tell your friends. You put up some facebook pictures and make  a big dent in your bank account in order to please her or her family or to show off or because its what’s expected to do and then you settle down. Perhaps you start your own business and you struggle for a few years before  it becomes successful. Then all your life you look at profits and losses and lose hair because of money. There are children who disappoint and cannot appreciate the life you give them. Then they grow up  and you are happy with them but perhaps you have no way to tell them because the lingering memory of the disappointment stains any chance of a relationship. Your wife dies. You die. The end.

 

The actual sad thing is that this is not even considered a bad life. This is a life devoid of addiction, bankruptcy, jail, divorce, job loss, unnecessary entanglement with image . This, what I just described up there is a life of upward trajectory with the person living it going from success to success in employment, in business, in their family life, in their relationships. This is what we are driven towards in Nairobi.

 

When the days and the nights begin to blend into one as they have its easy to see this happening. Khalil Gibran wrote “verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul and walks grinning at its funeral.”

 

The wake has been long. Passion has been stifled and suffocated well and truly. There are days and weeks where I walk around like a zombie. I begin to feel unable to feel anything but passing pleasures. The burn of a cigarette. The release of sex. The happiness in the bottle. The escape of a good book. None of these seem meaningful or long lasting. All of it is an excuse. An endless distraction from the fact that I am bored. That for some months I have been bored.

 

Those good books are good because they remind you that you are not alone. That many people in the world have felt like you are feeling. War and Peace had an excellent quote that I loved:

 

Does it ever happen to you,” Natasha said to her brother, when they had settled in the sitting room, “does it ever happen to you that you feel there’s nothing more — nothing; that everything good has already happened? And it’s not really boring, but sad?”

 

I read this and it struck a chord. There are moments that I talk to friends about how much I loved campus. Campus was great. A time of endless possibilities and so much fun. I loved it with all my heart. There are times I think back to my travels. Travels that seem to have receded so much in my memory that I almost can’t touch them. They feel like mist. They don’t seem to really have an impact on who I am. Travel for all of its advantages can be hopelessly isolating. I’m not going to start a soliloquy on my time in Egypt out of the  blue. Many people don’t want to hear it. It’s not as interesting. Travels after a while become something other than memories, they become dreams and not many people want to hear a person’s dreams. So I don’t reminisce about them as often as I do for campus. When I do though there is so much more longing in me. I long to be able to go somewhere new and start a life again. To know nobody and no one. To be in a place that is completely different than the one I am used to. I yearn for it with all my soul.

 

I have loved Nairobi but after a year of working in Nairobi  I have nothing to show for it but a year’s worth of barroom bills. This city holds no promise for me to achieve my dreams and what scares me is that this does not terrify me. I can see myself never seeing Moscow. Never visiting sao Paolo. Never drinking in Dublin. Dancing in New Orleans. Being amazed by Australia. Being in Buenos Aires. I can see that this is the path I have been on for the past few months. I want to go to Ghana and see Sierra Leonne, know Nigeria, move to Mozambique. There is a lot I want to do and I have been telling myself for months that I can’t do it. That I will never live somewhere new. That all I will ever have are weeks out of the year. Maybe just one. That this is all. And it has made me not bored but sad. As if everything good has already happened.

 

What I’m saying is that job offer in Meru may just be coincidence but I need it. I need it more than I knew before.

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