Yes! I got the PhD but it’s not only for me, it’s for me, you, you, you and you.

| 7 May 2016

At long last, (why do we always say things like at long last, is it always a long and lasting drawn out process?) PhD was awarded last year, and graduation was held in March this year. It was a really delightful day, the weather held out for us, it was a perfect spring morning.

My mother, aunt and brother made our way to Guildford for the graduation ceremony. Ceremonies. I don’t dislike ceremonies, but I don’t particularly like them. However, seeing as the reason for not attending my masters’ graduation was because I said I would go for my doctorate graduation, I really had to go. And it was mainly for my mother. That said, I am glad I attended the ceremony, not so much for the ritual of the day itself, but because it was a lovely way to mark the end of the drawn out PhD affair. Ok, it wasn’t long, and it wasn’t drawn out, but it just seems more dramatic that way.

There were times when I did not think I would ever finish it, and there were times when the light shone just that little bit brighter from the tunnel. And there were times when it was pitch black. Days of being a broke student yet again, as peers advanced in their careers, days of being told that a doctorate was an inhibition to getting married, and some days of just bliss, knowing that this opportunity was a privilege, and treating it as such.

Thankfully, I finished my PhD in good time, all things considering, withdrawing due to health issues, travel or disappearing to Lagos as my supervisors called it, starting work at Edinburgh, all in all, I completed the PhD, I did, it is done, finished, done, ended. Ended.

Yet, as I walked up to the stage to get my ‘golden handshake’, I kept thinking, “This is not only for me.” Yes, it is my name on the certificate, I am the one that got called on stage, and I am the one with the letters behind my name (preference for Adun Okupe PhD as opposed to Dr Adun Okupe), but it is not just for me, I did not do it alone, I could not have done it alone.

And with that, and as it usually happens, I started to think about the things we go through in life, and how reductionist, if I may use that word, it is that at the end of the day, success or failure is ascribed to one person. Yes, I know, it is easier and simpler that way, but life is more complex than that.  The success of a leader is dependent on his/her team. So also the failures. The success of a marriage is not dependent on the bride and groom alone, there are so many other factors at play that influence this success. In the same way, my degree is not just for me. No, it cannot be.

So I would like to use this medium to thank again everyone that was with me directly or indirectly on this journey. To my friends, to my family, to those who in their little way made sure the journey was that little bit more comfortable, more enjoyable, less stressful, more fulfilling, thank you. This PhD has my name on it, but has your elves dancing all around the memories in my head, knowing that without your support, the journey would have been longer, harder, tougher.

So, if I was to write my certificate, it will look something like this:

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy has been awarded to Adunola Aderonke Okupe with supporting acts from Opeoluwa Okupe, Fowora Okupe, Mama, Adewale Oparinde, Ponmile Osibo, Patricia Pupek, Victoria Akagwu, Khadijah Junaid, Sammy Li, John Tribe, Graham Miller, Stephen Chan, Olivia Ruggles-Brise, Simi Falae, Nzube Ufodike, Akintayo Abiodun, Olamide Udo-Udoma, Giles Heron, Kim and James Lee, Tele Williams, Andrew Picton, John Grant, Celine Rojon, and all my participants. The list goes on and on, of course.

I know, not enough space on the certificate, but there you have it.

Thank you all for being a part of my journey, and this is for you, and you, and you, and you and you and you.

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| 5 September 2015

What exactly is hunger and how is it that all living things, to include plants and animals feel hunger?

Okay, I cannot really give the complete answers to how or why we feel hungry.  As to do so will be to attempt to try to answer the question of the ages. That said, I guess we can try to explore this concept of hunger:  Is it the same across the board? What is the difference in how hunger is experienced among the species? For animals? For plants?  I'm not sure we can really know how plants feel or react, in times of hunger - okay maybe we can, weeds do suffocate other plants so they can get to eat and feed from the sun's rays. I guess we can say the same thing for insects and parasites who feed on skin and blood. But then, if we take this a bit further, could there be some sort of similar point of desire, a belly, a well from wherein the springs of hunger emerge?

Do we (animals, plants, insects) all experience hunger in the same way - with the same sense of desperation, a need to be sated at all costs,  an urgent sense of want, need, salivation, we see it in dogs, we see it in how they beg and plead with their eyes to be given that morsel of food.  However, one might argue that that is not hunger, that is desire, want.

So I guess hunger stems from a need, not a want - a need to nourish, to survive, at all costs. In that sense, we sometimes experience some loss of control when we are hungry and need food. For some, it is when they want food as well. Civilisation has done a good job of making us inhibited, forcing us to guard and preserve our public appearances. And to a large extent, most of us do try, and are able to exhibit self-control.  Apart from when we are hungry.

You need only to watch how people behave when they are in a canteen and are told all the food has run out. That is what hunger does. 

When the stakes are high, and this is not only for belly hunger, as hunger takes various forms, baby hunger, wealth hunger, power hunger, we will trample and step on others, to fuel ourselves of whatever it is we need, or feel that we need. That is the not-so-good face of hunger. It also has its value and its place in our existence. This feeling of hunger makes us feel alive. It gives us a sense of purpose, a life, a soul. Some understand it to be evidence of perseverance and some have learnt that sometimes, we should only seek to be hungry for what we need. 

Hunger, for hunger sake, wanting for wanting sake ends up being eternally insatiable. That elusive promise of satisfaction, that never comes.

On reading Kafka's Metamorphosis, I started to think about how hunger, the same need to fill our stomachs is subject like many other needs,  to the law of diminishing marginal utility. That, and also how amazing it is that hunger is satisfied in different ways for different beings/species, as a matter of taste. A dog won't feel satisfied by a vegetable and neither would a cow want to feed on flesh - but then it is beautiful that the same desire, the same concept is experienced in so many different ways by us all.

And I guess that is what makes life so beautiful - the multi-layered and complex experiences that come from a common source :  how we all see, but see differently feel but feel differently, love but love differently.

Amazing too is the realisation that with such simplicity, Kafka has portrayed so complex a phenomenon, and stirred something within me.

And it is this hunger, for knowledge, that fuels. 
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The dream for an urban oasis in the concrete jungle that is Lagos

| 22 August 2015
Urban spaces can be exciting. There are several activities happening, They can be a melting pot for a diverse range of people from all walks of life and backgrounds to try to actualize their dreams and no where is this more prevalent than in Lagos, the bustling and sprawling metropolis in Western Nigeria. Lagos and I have a love-relationship, but sometimes, every so often, like in many other relationships, it is good to get away, to have one's space. Absence they say...makes for fonder hearts.

Coming back to Edinburgh from Lagos last week, I realized after a few days that the over-arching headache that had lingered with me over the weeks I was in Lagos had dissipated.  I am not a proponent of being paracetamol-dependent, and refuse to always rely on drugs (the medical prescription, chemist kind and any other type for that matter, to be clear) , and this is why the headache had lingered, because paracetamol is not my friend. Yet, after a few days in Edinburgh, it had gone. I wondered what had happened, and tried to trace my activities, and realized that it was due to the time spent outdoors, morning walks, evening jogs and daily cycling that had worked the magic of healing.

And then,  it hit me, that  my persistent headache in Lagos was due to many factors: the need to be constantly alert all the time one was out of the house, even while the driver was driving, even in traffic, just in case someone was trying to get one over you, Lagos is for the very sharp. You have to have your wits about you all the time.  All. Of. The. Time. The other main factor for me in any case,, is that there is really no outdoor place to go to zone out - by outdoor, I mean, outside of the gated communities we refer to as estates. Here in Edinburgh, I walk or cycle to work. In Lagos, that luxury rarely exists.  And so it was that after coming back from Lagos and going jogging and walking for a few days, I was amazed at nature's ability to relieve stress and tension, sans paracetamol, sans alcohol, sans music. Just me, the trees, the birds, and the open space. 

I started to wonder, as I wandered around the streets of Morningside, how it can be so that something so simple, so easy, so free, is denied to much of the populace in Lagos. Denied I say because I believe there is a key role for the Town planning commission to take a more active role in the construction of the landscape that is Lagos, especially in such a time as this where the Africa rising, Nigeria rising narrative is attracting even more dwellers to settle in Lagos.

 Yes I know that the free spaces are not really free, the Lagos real estate bubble means that every and any area that can be sold and built up is sold and built up, with the resulting constructions being one of blocks of flats built to maximize the available land with little or no space left for cars to park, let alone trees. and even in some new estates, there are no trees on the streets. No trees. The trees are bulldozed away to make space for yet more concrete, more paving blocks on the ground, resulting in an existence where people go from home to work to home, and on weekends, to church/parties, one that has very little greenery, little tranquility, little serenity, very little.

At first glance, this may appear trivial, but it is not. Especially when one thinks about the effects this lack of usable, safe, accessible oases in the city  can have on people. I have myself as a prime example - I was not out looking for greenery, but its absence affected me, and I am aware of this, because I have something to compare it with, but what about the many people for whom this is their daily reality, and they are constantly stressed, constantly under tension, everyone constantly alert, with no place for respite, little interaction with nature, and no benefits from its healing powers; having little or nothing to turn to for solace, except perhaps  alcohol as a form of respite from the stress, a way to drown out tension, a way to feel slightly loose again, but then sadly, this also has very severe after-effects -alcohol, the drug becomes the illness that no one ever recovers from.....and it is an easy road to slip on to - very easy, especially when you consider the alternatives, sex and drugs, and for some, it is a combination of all of the above. 

What then can this mean for Lagos in 30/40/50 years? If the city continues with much the same with no deliberate and concerted planning, the future Lagos will  result in an even more sprawling mushroomed existence. Driving past new Lagos (Lekki/Ajah), I cannot but compare it with old Lagos: Yaba, Surulere, Ikeja, Victoria Island, Ikoyi (although the landscape in Ikoyi has altered so much to become the new block of flat zone) - those areas were ordered, they were planned, there was organization ,there was flow. But now, even old Lagos areas are under attack. 

The landscape of Lagos is changing, and it rightly should, to accommodate the influx of people and flurry of activities that can only happen in a burgeoning metropolis such as ours. However, there is a role for those in charge of urban design and urban planning to implement one of the various plans and urban plans for Lagos  - I am told there are several plans and proposals but they are not implemented - if we can have some guiding rules for people ,where residential areas remain residential, commercial areas are commercial and where there are allocated spaces within these communities for nature, where people can go for long walks, where people can reflect, where people can de-stress, not as an add-on visit to a center, but as part of their daily lives in Lagos, their daily realities. Not only will this reduce the tension, it will create a sense of well-being, and a sense of wonder, an appreciation of the magic that is nature, a better sense of awareness, and maybe just maybe,  less aggressive and antagonistic Lagosians. 

But a part of me, the Miss-Benefit-of-the-Doubt knows that this might only remain a dream.  I know that we are too focused on making money, at the cost of everything else, to take some time back, to think about the Lagos we really want, how it should look like, how the city’s infrastructure and landscape affects and influences our well-being. We don’t pay much attention to this even though we should.Capital cities around the world, New York, London, Paris all have urban oases for people, where nature is architecturally beautifully and respectfully interwoven into the city-scape, gardens and parks to which people can escape for a few moments to breathe.

With that realization, as I walked the final metres back to my flat, my body craved for fresh air as though in advance of my next travel to Lagos , as if it wanted to store up banks of fresh  Edinburgh air for itself, before another trip to the land of concrete. 

Obediently, I inhaled.

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Conversations with Michael Stiernon

| 11 August 2015
I wrote an earlier post "Lesser beings, Greater beings" and this sparked conversation with Michael. I have decided to post the conversation as a blog post (with his permission) as I think it is quite fascinating:

MS: If I understand well, you believe that good and evil, the very concepts of good and evil, imply there are superior beings

AO: possibly. i don't know yet. but i will say yes

MS: because then, if you question the existence of God, but postulate the existence of, let's say angels, don't you move the problem to another level, without solving it? the question would be: why, while we are products of animal jungle, looking for mating, killing other creatures for food, killing each other for territory or advantages, are we drawn to sth. higher, sth. going beyond us, beyond our limits, beyond death, beyond our' finitude'?
I think this is close to be the 'Great Human Question" while, being made of flesh, we actually want things being made of spirit

AO: it is an eternal question, but i guess my reason for it are more about us to see we are all the same
and focus on that and not the teeny differences
i guess that is the utopia. but still we hope.

MS: yes, maybe.
I agree with the fact that this 'unification of humanity' beyond differences can only be done on a spiritual ground
what I mean is that, whenever man wants to create universality on a purely material, social or ideological ground, he just creates more divisions, and even new forms of tyranny
socialism is a good example of that

AO: this is true. but then perhaps humanity can never be unified? I think we are here for a few hundred thousand more years, and we will go and other beings will take our place, and the whole cycel continues. What hurts however, will be the individual lives that have been made to feel pain, confusion and seperation during this time here on earth.

MS: I see you've thought it over... but I wouldn't be that pessimistic myself, about the future of humanity. you probably know Michel Foucault, right? Foucault, in his semina work 'Les mots et les choses' tries to deconstruct our way of categorizing reality
showing that everything is construction even the very concept of human. and I think he may be right because if we don't postulate the existence of something superior, like the soul, which could give to the human being its value, what is really like to be human? I have this thought experiment: if everyone ceases to see me as a human being, will I stay human?

AO: I understand. We are who we are by how we are described. But then, who is able to fully describe?
back to the concept of limitations. we only describe the human angle because someone has told us that is how it should be, but then we yearn for the spiritual as we were taught to do that too, and we ascribe that to religions (again according to the culture of the times)
what this means is that what we inherently fully know is limited. Back to Socrates, "I know that I do not know"

MS: more than tradition, I would say consensus, what old guy Lakatos liked so much our vision of reality, our way to structure it is conditioned by cultural consensus so if all the people who surround me decide that I'm not human, I have no way to prove them wrong. and the social condition where I will be put will perhaps make me forget I ever claimed being human

AO: ah consensus! you are right. but the invention of tradition (hobsbawm) is about consensus becoming tradition although i would not call it consensus, more like the agreement by those who have power. Everything is a power struggle, and I would say that the current religions are going through that. Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, etc

MSL I find my example partcularly unsettling, because you see the roots of the Holocaust in it. I don't agree with you totally

AO: I see what you mean re holocaust. It is exactly as I say - the human lives that will suffer for the constant search for differences
I would say, this constant search for differences is a form of insecurity

MS: again, if you go back to Foucault, you'll see that power, at least in modern socieities, but I would say it could be fairly true ion tradiitonal societies as well, is actually distributed among the individuals
so when you talk about the elite in the power struggle, I don't agree. look at 'excision' = female genital mutilation
you see that in societies where it is perpuated, its bigges supporters are women. mothers do it to their daughters
the entire society is collaborating to the opression, and the entire society is the victim of oppression

AO: yes, but that is because the tradition was already "invented" by someone more powerful, perhaps a queen and so no one wants to go against the norm. Although if you read Desert Flower, a book by Waris Dirie, a Somalian model who was circumcised, you will understand the real-life perspective and yes, it is society collaborating, because I think people are scared of voicing out discontent. And those who actually do are martyrs for their cause (okay, a bit extreme saying martyrs but you can understand what I mean)

MS: hm you actually don't know who invented it. no one knows. this the reason why it is a tradition. normally, when you can name the inventor, it isn't called a tradition

AO: but tradition has to start, has to be invented. perhaps not by one person, but it has to be initiated by at least one person. one person has to be the propeller. it has to start from somewhere. surely
I can't name the inventor of female circumcision, but I do know that it was started from somewhere.
I guess bring us back to the fact that the world must start from somewhere. perhaps it does, perhaps, it is all about some things just being inherently innate, like the need for food, drink etc

MS: i think that tradition and myth are inextricably linked whether the tradition is generated by the myth, or the myth serves as a 'a posteriori' justification for the tradition is unclear stating that thnings are innate just displaces the problem, in the sense that it just asks a new question: why should these things be innate? by the way food and drink are, as you know, basic needs for heterotrophous creatures the origin of customs and tradiitons is a fasicnating subject. maybe you know the seminal book by Frazer 'The Golden Bough'  the link with Freud, Jung and psychoanalysis is also evident. concerning my thought experiment, I think it's a mistake to think that people just look for the differences in order to exclude. People crave for the feeling of belonging to a larger group. But in order to build this group, they have to use brick (people) and cement (customs, religion, language, traditions). Then, when their ""house" is build, they have the feeling to be a certain group, to have a certain identity, automatically excluding the others. So yes, you're right on this point. But I was going further: you can feel different to someone else because you have a different religion, language, racial background, etc.

but you nevertheless acknowledge his/her humanity. I was referring the very concept of humanity, how it is built, and how it can be 'adapted' to encompass or exclude several groups, or even individuals. This is of course shocking, but we have examples in history where this rationale was used, and my point is, it can happen, at least if we keep the discussion of 'what is a human being' on the strict logical, material ground. That's why I would call myself a spiritualist...

AO: you make a LOT of sense. I agree with the brick and cement principle. I need to write another blog I guess! Who then is a spiritualist? Why do we need labels? (read the lyrics to this song - what do new york couples fight about by Morcheeba - Once a label is on something, it becomes an it

MS: i'll look at it. I like morcheeba. I mean, we need labels because our language is based on labels…We need to categorize things. if we can't describe the concepot 'dog', taking every dog as a different, original concept, there is no biology of the dog possible
so we keep on labelling...

AO: Ah. So we then need labels and need to categorize things. Very well then. Perhaps this bring us back to "when labelling, we should not be too narrow, or maybe even our labels should be descriptive, but not exclusionist" But I guess that might be too confusing for most. Maybe we need to move to where we can identify ourselves as humans, dogs, goats, horses etc and stop there. I mean yes the animal kingdom have their clans etc, but perhaps we can learn from them to identify, dog vs dog; horses know themselves, etc. Again, utopian.

MS: it's funny how you seem preoccupated by the idea that people should leave in peace
you haven't stopped being christian indeed

AO: I am not not a Christian (pardon the double negative). But every religion preaches peace, although they also preach war to bring about that peace. It is why I guess civilisations rise and fall. What is meant to bring peace has to go through struggles - which is why I do think this religious 'wars' might settle at some point.

Freud wrote something on Civilisation and its discontents - I found it very fascinating. I also found fascinating what he wrote about the military and the church/religion as the strongest forms of leadership - as everyone -even the head- is controlled by an 'other'.

*left original edits which may contain typos but show the fast-paced nature of our email conversations
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| 1 August 2015
I have started writing blogposts on my mobile phone but still it takes time for me to post it online and make time to read and edit it. This was written in late Feb/early March.

This life of mine. The one time one gets to run this race, act this place, dance this tune.

Right now I'm in a very happy place because I've finished and been awarded my PhD and I'm thankful and grateful and feel extremely fortunate that I was able to finish it successfully even whilst working and with not very much support from work.

But I also am glad that I am in a new place in my life: one with interesting options, fantastic opportunities if only I am able to harness them wisely.

I think it will be exciting to try a new location. Something and somewhere exciting in this dance of life. 

So that is it. A lot of happy moments but also some melancholic ones too. 

But generally positive, although as per usual, with Nigerian aunties and uncles, after getting a PhD, the immediate comment is not congratulations. No no no no no. It is a question about marriage!

One went as far to say I would not be fulfilled unless I got married. Marriage does not equal fulfilment and fulfilment does not equal marriage. 

Fulfilment can come from many things, including marriage, but only if it is a happy one. That is something they all seem to conveniently forget! This is the future father of my children, future grandfather of my grandchildren - the person to whom I will be inextricably linked forever! It is not an easy decision. 

So, then I was asked what I was looking for - and I said a life partner, someone to discuss, share ideas with, travel, explore life, someone interesting, dynamic and just a little eccentric.

And then I'm looked at and told, too much to ask. Settle for 50 per cent.

Why settle especially when you can cruise instead?

Cruisin' by The Sutherland Brothers 

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You know it, but do we live it?

| 28 July 2015
It doesn't matter who it is or how they are, or what they purport to be.
People can and should only be taken at the value of how they act.
What they do.

This is the most important, and going on from that, they should only be accorded significance as a direct feedback of the significance they ascribe to you.

This is the best way to keep the order and also to protect fragile hearts.

 "Selflessness" is foolish. Behaviour should be based solely on merit, which is in turn based on previous experiences/interactions - we humans are at our most basic level, animals, and we react or relate in a tit-for-tat manner. Sadly but truly.

Yet, in some cracks unknown, otherwise unseen,  there springs out, a beautiful a feeling, that gained from experiencing friendship fully, which is all about sharing, truly, deeply.

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| 20 July 2015

Children herded from school with the road barriers, traffic lights, zebra crossings. In their numbers, they flock together, after school, from school back to their respective homes, each child flowing as part of the whole but individually towards home....

Throughout life, through are shepherded to university, from university, to work, from work and then their children continue the same rhythm.

The rhythm of the flocks.

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| 6 April 2015
Along the beach
The waters breathe in
And their breath ignites them
To rise and to move
And so they leap forward
With power, intensity
And purpose.

And then they breathe
The power in their exhalation enables them
To continue in one direction
Some rising
Some falling
Some stopping
But the movement never ends
Not until it meets the sands on the shore

The sands, beaten and scorched by the rays of the sun
Yearning for coolness
Wondering if any of the waters will come and touch them
The ones by the sea bed are the lucky ones
But those further afield have to wait some time
Until the day is gone and the tide rises
With more power in the waters
The waves riding high
Expanding to breathe in
Deeply. Slowly.
And then they breathe out
In unison
Just at the right time
as the sands further a field tan a burnt orange
Slaves of time
As they are about to give up being bathed for the day
Tanning to burn another day
As the footprints and the dirt and the castles left by humans begin to weigh on the souls of the slaves
Taking their toll on the landscape of the sea shore.

The waters, lungs expanded
Deeply. slowly
surely. powerfully

There is stillness.
There is peace.
The slate is clean.

Ready for a new tomorrow.

Welcome to April!
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Slow Tango

| 5 February 2015
Smiles, whispers, winks, covered smiles, wide smiles, quiet laughs, loud laughs, 'Whatsapp LOLs'
We get to know, we think we get to know, we move slowly and then we run to hide
We come and then we go
Darted glances
Each one trying to be
The stronger, the cool, the unemotional, the detached.

Courage, fear, hesitation, bravado, movement
One step forward, two steps back, three steps sideways, four steps forward
We try to spell progress
The style, the customs, the rituals.  Of course
De rigueur

Anxiety, confidence, nervousness, openness, reticence
Lies, white lies, pink lies
Everything but
The truth wiggling out
Truth, half-truths, black truths, grey truths, red truths

Shock, glare, broken sequences, broken rhythms
Words, tears, tantrums, hugs.
Poured out to the other
Received, rejected, redacted, regretted

Others. People. Comments. Opinions.
He says. She says. We say. They say.
Communication. Confusion. 'Combatment'. Commitment. Combustion.

And still, we dance
Dance we must
Dance, we shall.

Slow tango.

*Title credits - EffieBean :-)

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| 23 January 2015
This list has been compiled to cover some of the questions I have, about womanhood, vulnerability, love, tenderness, sexuality, being female and fusing that with how society imposes its views on what being female and expressing womanhood means. I guess, reading Lady Chatterley's lover also shows that so many things have not changed, and perhaps, it is all in this journey, and discovery of the self, that we realise so much has not changed, rather history exists to confirm the validity and significance of new experiences. 
A part of that also includes a random addition, Gödel, Escher, and Bach, to learn something about the power of human processing that transcends explanation, no matter how much we seek to find them - and that is the ultimate humility-enforcing reality - that we always know that the more we know, the more we don't know, and merging the quest to know more, with what is unknowable remains a mentally herculean objective.
Many of the books in this list were recommended by friends, so here goes!
So these are the books, hope to read them by March and then upload some more.
 If you have read any of them, let me know your thoughts....
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Souls Mirror Cheese

| 23 December 2014

Conflicted souls
Tortured lives
Mere mortals

We strive to make our place 
To root our feet
To ground our actions
To own our relationships
To possess others

Bartering ownership with companionship
Painfully seeking 
Selfishly demanding
Some solace for our wounded, fractured selves
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| 19 December 2014
There is a beautiful song by Waldeck with this title, and I think the song captures much of what I am learning. Well, life is continuous improvement and sometimes we know things but we don't practice them often enough, or we discard them or just think they are important but not applicable.

But in the matter of communication, in everyday life but more so in professional life, presenting to and talking with people who have different backgrounds with different cultures and with different accents, the importance of being understood and understanding cannot be overestimated.  I do try to take the time to understand other accents, given that everyone speaks with an accent, some more unusual than others, but I am finding out that it is much easier to understand, and to be understood, when one speaks slowly. It is important to take time to speak. I'm learning to take my time.

What I'm learning goes like this: giving each letter it's own space, talking slowly, enunciating clearly, allowing each syllable of every word it's own place in the sentence, enjoying the relationship in the letters that make each word, and the flow from one word to another.

This is markedly different from just throwing the words out, an easy-to-make mistake especially when talking animatedly about something and you want to get all your points across in one fell swoop swish! but then that hampers on the listener's ability to comprehend. Rather, allowing each word to breathe as it stretches out from the brain and escapes through the mouth, dances in the air, and funnels into the ears of the audience, now, that makes for fine communication. 

This ensures that one is understood, or at least heard clearly, which is the first stage of being understood, and an important part of communication.
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The Art of Giving

| 29 September 2014
Friends and I have spoken about this topic extensively. I think these months have coincided with birthday celebrations, thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, Valentines Day, Chinese New year.

The question often comes up, as to what to give, who to give what, should you give the person before they give you? What happens if you get nothing in return? etc. Now I am no present-giving expert, and I am guilty of running out of ideas of what to give. For some reason, whenever it is not time for any of the above celebrations, especially birthdays, I can think creatively about presents. But when a birthday is looming, my brain appears to shutdown and I cannot come up with anything creative to give. Luckily, this does not happen too often, as I would not have any friends left if it did.

But then, that is another thing. Do I have friends because I give them gifts, and they give me in return, and vice versa to infinity, where gift-giving is played like a tit-for-tat game until one person decides not to give? Ofcourse, the answer is that friendships do not depend on the presents, giving is not all about giving presents. Infact, giving includes so much more, time, energy, cooking, entertaining, hosting, etc.

I think giving is an art, as it comes in several forms, and can be interpreted in so many diverse ways, e.g. picking your friend's children up from school because she is busy, or ill; cooking for a friend who needs company, taking a friend to the gallery, theatre, giving time to go for a walk with another friend, and yes of course, giving presents. As humans, since we were children, we have been initiated into the wonderment of present-receiving, a wonder I attribute to the wrapping paper. There is something mysterious and delightfully exciting about receiving something beautifully wrapped. Wondering what might be within the walls of the paper, the delicate, or not so delicate, unwrapping of the paper that has been used to wrap the present,  the sounds the paper makes as it crinkles, rapidly and loses that beauty, a tinge of guilt for destroying the results of the careful wrapping of the present, and the two-second preview of the present, where the giver is watching intently on the receiver, to view if the choice of present was the right one, and the receiver is also aware of this observation, and tries to rearrange their face in the right contortion to show surprise and gratitude. Or maybe not. It all depends on the receiver.

But regardless of how gifts in any form are received, let us all try to practise the art of giving, it makes the world go round, and it does add a little bit of happiness and tenderness to another person's day.

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...and the animals roamed wild and free

| 17 August 2014
Apologies to followers of my blog for the slight off-topic nature of the previous post, but it was to show the level of hate that some humans can have towards others. An interesting observation was that no one came up to own up to the hateful comments, again wondering how it is so easy to be so horrible anonymously, and something that is common with online commentators. Also makes one wonder as to the mind of humans, but then again, I suppose if one does not have haters, then I'm not doing something right; and as one of my friend's said, "Welcome."

So indeed, I guess, it is a harsh awakening that the world is not kind, not nice, that we humans are so malicious and evil and abusive and beyond that, that we can dare utter such hideous, baseless statements about another person. Ah well, that is that about that.

There are other things in life of course, other happenings, one of which was my first ever safari trip. I have to say, I have been transfixed by the awesomeness of nature, of creation, how we are all so different and yet so similar, for example, the birthing process of mammals, and also just how nature is such a complex, and organised system, with every part, yes every part of creation, even the rocks playing their part in balancing our delicate world.

And I am privileged. Privileged to visit the animals, privileged to be able to listen to them and observe them as they go about their daily activities. 

Amazed at the creativity in nature, its complexity, and its simplicity…and its music.

And just like that, so much beauty in the world displaces so much negativity. All is well with the world.
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Dear hater

| 4 August 2014
Whoever you are, It is really unfair for you to go about talking to me this way. You know my identity, I don't know yours. Don't you think it is much better for us to actually talk, rather than posting anonymous comments regularly on my page.

Oh by the way, I review all my comments before publishing them, so naturally, I won't publish anything that appears to be spam-like, and not related to the point of the blog post.

So if you are serious, and brave enough, how about you send me a message as opposed to hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, leaving hateful bland comments. It really is cowardly and not in very good taste.

I am sure you will read this, seeing as you have commented on quite a few of my blog posts,  and if it was not for the negative and hateful nature of the comments, I would've thought I had a new follower. In any case, it shows you really do have a lot of time on your hands.

I have been ignoring your comments for the past month, but I thought I should give you this chance to release whatever tension you might have, whoever you are, let's do this like adults.

So here is an opportunity, send me a message, give me a call, tell me who you are and what your problem is. I think that sounds fair….doesn't it?
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Lolita. Hallam Foe. Nine Songs. Last Tango in Paris

| 30 July 2014
Okay, there seems to be a theme in some of the movies I watched recently - it wasn't deliberate and I am not sure it means anything, other than some sort of coincidence, although if you go on the premise that there are no coincidences, then perhaps it might have to do with some subconscious interest in human sexual relationships, I mean who isn't and also I guess the whole thing has always been part of human interest, well also animal interest, but animals cannot write, so we only have the examples of humans. One of the books I want to read is 'Sexual behaviour in the human female' - when I get the chance to - and to explore how it is different from the male, and whether or not it is possible to generalise such a topic, seeing as movies such as 'The Story of O' reveal that how people conceive of their sexuality, and how they express love, and all of those good things can be fundamentally different from 'the norm'.

Anyway I digress, I was a bit disappointed with Kubrick's version of Lolita, I don't know what I was expecting, but I guess it might also be due to the times it was being shown - 1962 and the world was not ready for any overt scenes…I think. But Hallam Foe, now that brings questions of oedipus and  obsession and hints on attractions to parents/parents attraction to children, which a google search explained to me,  exists. Now on google searches, most of what I search for is for scientific research purposes - I'm just putting it out there, so that whoever searches my search records knows. That is that.

Nine songs, was the story of a relationship in an atypical way, and again makes one question the role of sex in a relationship and the extent to which sexual relations can be a mirror of the stage of the relationship, the depth of the relationship, and the ending perhaps of the relationship.

Which brings me to the whole notion of the temporal nature of relationships. Can there be too much of a good thing? Can something good last forever? Is permanence an ideal expectation of a relationship? What goes on with that permanence? Compromises? etc…

And I guess for Last Tango in Paris, it showed how a man who tried to come up as insensitive and unemotional was able to only reveal his vulnerability sexually, and how those emotions became released gradually, after sex, as opposed to the other way round. Again, all very interesting and all very random which means there can be no typology of 'Human sexual behaviour' because these things are subjective and open to so many interpretations and affected by so many events and incidents and so on and so on and so on to infinity.

Book link :
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Plane Vibrations

| 12 July 2014
It had become a weekly habit, something I looked forward to, and something that was truly mine, not mine and anyone else’s but my one pleasure. Every week, I got to meet with him. Although the last meeting was a very difficult one, I hope I was not too rude or too forward, it has been three weeks now and I miss him dearly.

He is very difficult to describe, not difficult in the sense of his physical characteristics, that is easy – he was tall, dark, handsome. Cliché I know, but so true in this case. It was his blessing and his curse. Women wanted to be around him, they wanted to be with him. He never had to chase them, why, everyone liked something good, and in Nigeria where the ratio of women to men is so high, you can imagine that he had it very good.

But he chose me. Okay, let me make this clear. Ours was not a sexual relationship. Not at all. There was not even a hint of that, but the time we spent together, I felt he was truly mine, in the sense that I had a part of him that none of these women could have. They could never dream to have, and that is what made our weekly meetings so special.

I guess I should also describe some of his inner characteristics. Now this part is quite difficult, as I don’t think he liked to reveal his inner thoughts, inner mind. Or perhaps he had not fully come to discover who he was, I guess with the constant distractions of the female sex, that might have been difficult to get time to reflect on who he was and what he was about, and what he wanted to get out of life, and so, he coasted.

Or so I thought, but like I said, in the last nine years or so, I feel I have gotten much closer to him. Prior to that, I knew him, and I was close to him, but in a sort of distant way. Now, it really is just me and him, no interruptions, no distractions, my one weekly pleasure.

Okay, let me get into the format of our meetings, I don’t actually have to book an appointment with him, I just go, okay sometimes he’s not available as he’s busy or otherwise occupied, but that is okay, I can’t really schedule an appointment with him as he has no mobile phone or no email address, he is weird like that, so it has to be old-school style, I go when I want to see him, and when he is free, he sees me, and when he is not, I try to go back the next day, but we have to see, every week. Unfailingly. I start to miss him if I don’t. My week is incomplete without him.

Occasionally, he visits. I guess this means he misses me too. I always make time for him when he comes. Always. I love him too much.

But you might be wondering why he has not agreed to see me in the past three weeks. Well, let me tell you a bit about our meetings,  when I go to his place, I go straight upstairs, to his living room, or his bedroom. Sometimes he is lying down, you see, he had recently been very ill, and I thought I would lose him, I visited him every week, for a year, and he was just there, lying on the bed, very weak, very fragile, the tall, towering person was now purely horizontal, that was a harsh blow to deal with and made me question my own mortality, and the fragility of our existence. Those meetings were painful. Painful as I could hardly hear him but I knew he felt my presence, and I guess that must count for something.

Sometimes, he was sleeping, and I just looked on and cried, quietly, I did not want him to hear me cry, I had to be strong for the both of us.

But something changed in the last six months, he became stronger, he became fuelled, he started to walk again, slowly. Well, he had always walked slowly, he had a limp, ever since the car accident following his brother’s wedding – he was driving back home, the police stopped him and asked him to come out and open his boot, it was late, the roads were badly lit, another car racing down did not see him, and drove straight into him, causing his leg to be amputated.  The driver sped off, the police ran away, and there he was. Lying helplessly in the dark. I always wondered whether the driver that hit him had attended the same wedding,  but that is another story.

I started to enjoy our meetings when he became stronger, but then something else happened. He became busy, people who had not visited him when he was too weak were now paying homage, I guess it is the thing about the human condition, we don’t like to be associated with the weak but we like to be associated with the strong. Something about the survival gene perhaps. I don’t know. But he became busier, although I guess he also looked forward to our meetings, we would escape to the garden together. His garden. The garden he built, with his hands. He had a love for nature you see, and the garden was a sensual pleasure, different colours of different plants and shrubs and herbs, and trees, it pleasured all the senses: smell, eyes, and spirit. Sometimes, if we were lucky, we would see butterflies flying about, going about their daily business of pollination, unhindered, freedom. Free.

That is how we felt when we walked in the gardens. We did not talk much, we just seemed to enjoy one another’s company. I guess he felt free too, like the butterflies. I loved it. I had him to myself, all to myself, usually, until one of his many friends called to visit, and he had to see them. This was the thing, he was too polite to decline a visitor. Too polite. That was another blessing, and a curse.

All was going well in my wonderland, until last month. I really don’t know what happened. It was not planned. I had not planned it but it came out. I accused him of being a bad person. I accused him of using women and not taking a stronger hold of his life and what his life should be about. I accused him of favouritism, I accused him. I accused him. All I did was accuse him. The one man I have ever truly loved unconditionally, and I spent 4 hours. Yes 4 hours, accusing him.

He was patient. He provided me with answers, he apologised. But it was a little too late, the damage had been done, all the relationships he had broken over the years, being an inactive participant in his own life. Allowing life to just happen, not taking control. I guess the silence means he was uncomfortable with our conversation. Perhaps I stirred up too many memories in him, or perhaps he is reflecting on them.

 I don’t know. I have stopped visiting him, I hope he comes to visit again.

 My dreams are incomplete without him.

**Ghost Notes**
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