My Sublime & Unending Education: Memoirs of a Thirteen-Year-old Philosopher [Vol. I – Chapter 1 – Part III– The Strange Man]

So where was I? Oh yes, memories of Y2K and all its buzz. But soon enough, you my readers will realize (hopefully) these recollections and memoirs, far transcend the paltry and trifle occurrences, as well as all the useless, irrelevant and unnecessary man made fears and troubles that plagued my fellow earthlings back then and the other events that transpired during the Y2K buzz.

But for those of you my fellow readers, that are still with me, like I said, on this particular day, it was a beautiful crispy Monday morning and I just couldn’t wait to hear what our newly appointed, highly Western educated and highly culturally exposed principal had to say. You see, he had just returned (the keyword here is ‘returned’) from Atlanta Georgia, where he had received his Doctorate PhD in who knows what and was filled with a vast array of knowledge, about basically everything. Historical facts going back years and he kept abreast with the current occurrences and trends and affairs of the world. He had a very sound mind and a corresponding sound intellect to brilliantly express this sound mind of his. It was indeed, the perfect combination of intellect and expression. Oratory eloquence and excellence at it’s utmost best.

Although getting and acquiring a PhD is still a daunting task and nothing to sneeze at, there are a few more people today that have multiple PhDs and a few Doctorates hanging on their walls, than a few decades ago. It has almost lost it’s sounding and authoritative impressive power. If you flashed your myriad of PhDs to the average person today, it doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to a few decades ago. Back in the pre Y2K days in Nigeria, if you received a PhD at all, or better, if you got one from Atlanta Georgia or any foreign country for that matter, you were king and everyone bowed at your feet.

You were the bright and shinning star that everyone aspired to be. It didn’t matter what you got your PhD in, didn’t matter if you got it locally, honorarily or through your raw sweat, blood and tears, you basically walked on water. Your words carried weight, because people knew the words were coming, not just from the highest pinnacle of academic and intellectual excellence, but from a mental and lofty plane of thought that was far and above the mental plane of the average person.

So naturally, as a curious thirteen-year-old boy, who had started to ask questions, ponder and wonder about everything in my immediate world, his words were more than gold to me. In retrospect, they’ve somewhat shaped my life, to quite an extent and in a manner of speaking. In the past he had told us and shared tales of his experience in the big U.S of A. Everything from the rise of this thing called the Internet or the World Wide Web, being used by people and businesses everywhere, to all manner of gadgets such as PDAs, cellular phones (Hello Nokia), laptops (Hello Compaq) and how people read their personal emails (hello YAHOO!) on this PDA gadget of a device. Back in Nigeria in the late nineties and early Y2Ks, technological diffusion from the western world, wasn’t as prominent or as rampant as it is now, so we were a little bit flabbergasted and bewildered, by this thing called the internet, electronic mails and the whole concept of cyberspace in general. I mean which thirteen year old wouldn’t?

Like I said, I just couldn’t wait to hear what he was going to share with us this time around, either from his fancy PDA looking device or tales from his living experience in the States. Let me paint you a picture, it was as if an alien from a super civilized race, 200 billion light years away, had paid us an impromptu visit and came bearing fancy gifts. We were always galvanized with a sense of excitement, mixed with a tremendous surge of curious wonder, each time he showed up. He spoke with an unmatched eloquence and confidence like I had never before witnessed in all my living. He always walked with a sense of purpose, always on a mission, even if sometimes, that mission was sometimes as insignificant as going to the refectory to get some food. He always dressed simplistically, but always somehow seem to ooze confidence, and appeared to have the sophistication of corporate royalty, but the elegance of a high school teacher. Class really can’t be faked or bought, either you’ve got it or you don’t. He definitely and undoubtedly had it. He spoke with coherence and would sometimes, take long pauses in between his words (I later learned, that this was the most POWERFUL way to hold, engage and captivate your audience, as they wait in anticipation to hear what you would say next, giving your words more power and depth. It’s the secret dynamite of public speaking. Steve Jobs used it a lot!) and his command of the English language was unmatched and second to none, clean, crisp and easily understood.

They say confidence is contagious, and in my six years of secondary schooling, I osmosized and picked a lot from him. He was a strict disciplinarian, never ever late for any appointment, and one look at him and you instantly knew and sensed he was cut from a different cloth, compared to his other fellow academic staff. He was undoubtedly, the strange man. An exemplary strange man, whose every act and word, was worthy of the most utmost of emulations by the young and old, alike. He always stood out, his composure and his attitude towards life, always spoke of excellence. He had a different air and atmosphere around him, not charisma, as charisma would beg and eat the crumbs of what fell from the table of the air this man carried. Some call it, personal magnetism. Just by being around them, they literally boosts your mental energy, passion and zest for life. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. They raise the vibration and energy of everyone and everything, when they walk into a gathering, all without uttering a single word. That something, which definitely spoke without words. Like my other good friends mentioned on here, he too, knew something.

On this Monday morning, like I’d done before, I waited and wondered with my notepad [and pocket dictionary], to take down what immaculate words of wisdom he would share with us. Was he going to read us more chapters, from this so called best selling book “Chicken soup for the Soul” that was then, apparently sweeping the American Nation and bringing them to tears with every page and story? I wondered how the author came up with such a unique and catchy name for such an inspiring book. A book that indeed watered and nourished your soul with hope and a gusto to plough through, with confidence, whatever difficulty you were going through in life. Was he going to give us one of his quick one liner quotes of philosophical Truths and Axioms, that got you thinking for weeks, nay, for months? Was he going to share another Western pop culture reference joke with us? Which by the way, we barely ever understood. Was he going to share some more life lessons and takeaways with us? Some of which seemed over used, clichéd and platitudinal in nature, but riddled with innate meanings, some others, a bit more arcane, mysterious and puzzling, flying right above our heads.We weren’t sure what he would tell us on this Monday morning.

Just thinking back and playing it over and over again in my mind, standing out in the morning dewy air, hearing his words, I knew they echoed from a place deeper than his own will. For that’s the power of Truth, you can recognize it, even when you’re still asleep. They say you never know what you have till its gone, only that I KNEW what I had hearing those daily words of wisdom, and didn’t, nay, never wanted them to end.

Still, I wondered what he would tell us. What he would share with us. He had already told us about a freedom fighter in South Africa, with prisoner number 46664, by the name of Nelson Mandela and he’s struggles in fighting something called Apartheid and liberating his people and leading them to freedom. “Apartheid?” I wondered, sounded like Appetite. But this Mandela man wasn’t hungry for food, not at all; he had a different kind of hunger. The kind of hunger that gets you going for 27 years, in a confined dark space that barely fits a bed, on an island far away from civilization. This was surely a different kind of hunger, the hunger that burnt deep down in your soul and manifested in freedom and liberation. He had already told us of another guy in history, who was actually and literally hungry and fought for the freedom and liberation of his people. A very skinny, meek and humble guy, called Gandhi. Both these men were both hungry for the same thing, they both knew something which ironically, both fuelled and fed their hunger. This Gandhi guy too, was imprisoned like the other guy Mandela, and like Mandela, he too freed his people and gave them independence, technically from a jail cell.

As a thirteen year old, this got me very curious and I wondered how these men reached out to millions from a jail cell, how they fought without words, without violence and basically, without any voice of their own. I also wondered why people were marching and rallying all over the world for freedom and for independence. All these men knew something I then didn’t, else they wouldn’t be able to do, achieve and accomplish what they did. I pondered and uttered to myself, that, these were no ordinary men, they were indeed, strange men.

 

Cover Art: Nelson “Madiba” Mandela [July 18, 1918 – Deceber 5, 2013] – Prisoner 46664, Robben Island, South Africa – Photo Credit, Pinterest

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