“Ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being” – Kahlil Gibran
As a child my sleeves were always soaked with liquid flames, which would hang like Jamaican wis-wis (withe) from my facial monuments. I loathed wis-wis because I suspected they strangled fruit-trees and they were always in my way causing nuisance. In later years, I learned to use them as bands to keep firewood together and as skipping ropes. Thereafter, there was never enough wis-wis to satisfy my demands. I used them to guide my box-trucks through dusty potholes in the streets, as belts for my pants while I worked in turmeric fields and yam ‘gruns’… and to hold pieces of wood together on my makeshift pigeon coop. That was one of my first lessons from the open-school of Nature – that if a man looks carefully at himself and his circumstances, somewhere in the thick fabric of frustration is a life-changing lesson and oftentimes a solution. Man must configure his mind’s eye to see these things… and to use them to his benefit and those around him.
Most of my leisure time was spent in the wild – working, teaching myself to read, crying or just observing things. This meant that very little time was left for socialization. I was wary of people because I was only exposed to their more rigid and unfeeling dispositions. It took a great number of years for me to learn another vital lesson form Nature. This time about my solitary existence – Stendhal encapsulated it well – “everything can be acquired in solitude, except character”. In other words – Gods cannot cleanse the world from the heavens. Lame birds on the ground, cannot attend to the needs of fledglings in the trees. And so from an early age, I decided to prepare myself for the entire world. To learn the things that an indolent peer would not and to challenge myself beyond the expectations of those who constituted my milieu. I decided to dream for myself and for millions like me.
I read in Gibran’s Secrets of the Heart that “ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being”. These are words from the fragrant lips of The Ambitious Violet who begged Nature to turn her into a rose and died soon after in a tempest. She said to Nature “turn me into a tall rose, for I wish to lift my head high with pride.” On seeing her demise, one of the violet maidens said “because we (violets) are poor in height the tempest is unable to subdue us”. But the ambitious Violet insisted on her happiness, “I am happy now because I have probed outside my little world into the mystery of the universe” she said. “I have heard the whisper of the firmament through the ears of the rose and touched the folds of Light’s garments with rose petals. Is there any here who can claim such honour?” From this story I have learned that Life has no respect for the Sons of Stagnation – neither the masters of the world nor the slaves, but more so the slaves. In truth, there are no pleasures worth having that are more pleasing and monumental than those which come as fruits of ambition.
This is what the journey to Rwanda meant to me. This is the highlight of the programme, the key thing I learned – man is nothing if he has given up on his dreams – man does not have forever to dream. A man may have to trudge the highlands and lowlands of life’s labyrinth to succeed, but there is no undertaking more deserving of his time. He must try and try until he gets there.
My dream is to inspire the world to dream and I felt as though I was getting there as I walked the streets of Kigali. I want to hearten young women to colour the world with their flair and fancy and young men to see Life as the unfolding of their deepest desires. I believe that this is one the best way to fight injustice…because most of our contentions emerge from insecurities caused by need and ignorance/lack of education. But even so, “education (as we know it) will not take the place of persistence; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” (Calvin Coolidge).
Let us all ‘press on’ today and tomorrow and on the fickle days ahead. And let each take an aspirant along the way– encourage someone; uplift someone; sponsor someone. As for me, the days ahead will be daunting…but Nkabom: Rwanda has made the merit of persistence more evident and I believe now more than ever, that I too have a right to dream, and not only that, but also that the more humanity understands this dream-right and pursues its properties, the closer we will get to desired peace and solidarity.