I’m not too big on self promotion. I used to be convinced this was a self esteem issue but upon closer inspection I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been pretty confident in my skill and capability – almost to the point of maniacal egotism. I tend to keep that confidence to either myself or the select few privy to my complete honesty.

This may be as a result of a fundamentally spilt identity. There’s the double trouble pull from the West; the semi-assimilation of individualistic culture coupled with a reaction to the West’s homogenization of African identity have led to the development of a somewhat strong “I”, one that wants or needs perhaps to set itself apart. This influence works against the strong communal sensibilities of the African continent resulting in two co-occurring self constructs: the self that feels as an individual apart and the self that is an inextricable part of a whole. How do I reconcile the “I” with the “one/we”? More importantly can I and should I?

 I’ve also managed to pin point another gnawing sensation, a sense that no matter how much I learn I will still be gloriously ignorant (that is, relative to the infinite knowledge to be gained on this our little blue dot, let alone the universe). What some may confuse for humility is simply caution. I want to be sure of what I am and what I say – to a certain extent anyway – before I share it. That’s hard when you consider yours to be a position of perpetual ignorance, thesis constantly crashing against antithesis, forever synthesizing. I can’t sit long enough on any thought without questioning it. This isn’t necessarily doubt in the traditional sense, just me fine-combing my truths in a world that I have come to see as contingent.

 Right now I can only learn what is framed by the English and French language, framed by human understanding and perception and by the limitations of the forces in our corner of the universe. This doesn’t make me sad, but I wish I would get over the mental block because if I wish – and I do – to be relatively self sufficient, I better learn to blow my own horn every now and then.

I’ve always been fascinated by scars. Not the scar itself necessarily but the process of scarification, the relationship between the scar and the wound. The wound is covered but not made impervious – the softness, the hurt, still lies underneath.

This fascination is probably why I don’t feel self-conscious about mine. Not that I have any disfiguring ones so I suppose it’s infinitely easier for me to be comfortable with them. There are some wounds I have that I can’t forget. Even when they become near imperceptible. I know exactly where they are and often run my fingers over them to awaken their memories. Most of them are from my childhood so this always gives me access to parts of my brain that would normally remain dormant.

My childhood was rich and full of vivid somato-sensory experiences. I was constantly feeding on information (avid reader and TV watcher), interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and engaging in a wide range of activities all in the highly dynamic and vibrant environment of West Africa. Accessing those roots helps me centre myself – learning takes you in so many different directions, it’s nice to have something to anchor yourself to, a point of reference you can jump off from. My childhood is my cliff, not my childhood self but what that self was surrounded by, felt, and came to understand of the world – the knowledge not the individual, if one could separate the two.

I think it’s useful to regularly inject some of the carefree insatiably curious quasi-innocent nature of that perspective into my current thought process. I can’t exactly stop looking but I don’t want to be weighed down by the truths I want to uncover either.

Autodidact blues

This is the my main beef with the institutionalization of accreditation and intellect: if you don’t have the certificate, one can dismiss what you say. And you could be telling any well founded truth, yet not possessing that almighty piece of paper somehow makes your information less valid? I’m not saying that all institutionally unaccredited individuals are the next Malcolm X but let’s not pretend that auto-didactic learning isn’t a viable route to knowledge acquisition.