Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Victor Ogan

When the universe thought of us… or did it think of us? Did it plan us piece by piece like a puzzle, tinkering with every algorithm of our genetic code till it nodded in satisfaction at what it had made? … or did it just spew us out like splashing varying colours against a canvas and praying that something decent, something human would come out of it?

‘We are not mere accidents’, you have sworn. You tell me about the digestive system, about our endocrinal glands, our complex brain, heart, stomach, a complex interlay of cells that need each other to function. ‘These things are in their trillions’, for emphasis you add, ‘the human body is like the whole matter on earth compressed into a small bungalow.’ You talk about things that I cannot see, concepts I’ve heard from men who’ve been vomited from a lab they’d spent months swallowed up in. And, it’s not that I don’t believe you, not that I doubt this complexity, but I am disturbed at how simple and unrefined this complexity manifests itself and how simple it is for this complexity to be terminated. You shake your head because you think I’m talking gibberish and you scorn that I, ‘sound like one of those recent graduates on LinkedIn who commingle elephantine words from the English dictionary in their bio in hopes that it would aid them to sound sophisticated, separate them from the multitude, rank them in the top 1%. But instead, they come off as a badly baked caked with too much flour, sugar, egg and nutmeg.’ So, I ask, ‘Isn’t that how you sound right now?’ and you smile, ‘I just wanted to let you know how it feels.’ I think I understand how I could come off as pretentious, as trying too hard to be something I’m not. So, I think to tell you how it was like, growing up where I did before I met you. You see, in my childhood days in some school like that, you were either pleasing to the eye, or your brain was flooded with items considered so ethereal that you were detached from reality, from daily thoughts of struggle and survival. If you were the former, social relationships were simple for you, coming as easily as a river rushing to a stream. If you were the later, you bothered about solving equations, running experiments or making paintings. The two stereotypes were never allowed to cross. So, you could imagine me, an outcast, ranking bottom on the pleasing-to-the-eye index and I wasn’t quite there when it came to creativity. I’d doze off during calculus classes, get awkward results (by huge decimals) in experiments and I struggled with something as basic as using a pencil, compass and ruler to construct a straight line let alone being effective at anything that had to do with fine arts or technical drawing (with all that isometric and oblique talk). Yet, lacking creativity is not the same thing as academic dullness, it was easy to just read and remember Dalton’s Atomic Theory, Boyle’s law, Newton’s law of gravity and motion, Le Chatelier’s principle and whatnot and so, I inherited 3rd position in class as my birthright. I’m embarrassed to say that it was the same 2 ladies that used to stand atop me on the class chart, I wasn’t certain whether they were creative or not but they didn’t fall asleep during calculus and excelled in technical drawing (where the teacher once wrote on my work ‘Repeat this task’, in reverse he wrote for one ‘Splendid work! God bless you.’ Yet, when I entered the tertiary level, I taught myself to believe in motivational speakers and talks that, ‘Hardwork beats talent.’ So, I thought to myself maybe I can learn to be a creative in something that I was passionate about, something that I enjoyed and I loved what Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aaron Sorkin, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Michael Jackson, U2 and Bon Jovi could do, I was impressed by how they used stories to help us understand the mental, emotional, psychological, social and philosophical background of individuals from different niches of society. I did try to read and watch works of ‘critical acclaim’ and I did attend writing fellowships and classes but yet my works always read like, ‘I am a boy’, compared to these talents’, ‘If you seek me, just know I am found somewhere at the horizon, where the sky kisses the earth.’ I desperately want to tell you these things but I don’t because it just reads like a sob-story with no ‘moral lesson’ on how to learn from it and move on. This is why I prefer to ask, ‘What is the meaning not of Life and its purpose, not of the lives of the many who have lived before or live now or will live after but of mine and your life. When we berth at the end of the sea, would we look back at those turbulent waves that rocked our boat silly and washed off some of our supplies, would we find a meaning, a lesson in every second of it, would it be as important as every line in a Shakespearean play?’ You think I’m hard on myself, hard on us because we took a leap to start a scalable business, something we wool-gathered would put us on the continental map and innovate the continent. But within 3 years, we fell like humpty-dumpty and all the Venture capitalists and Angel investors couldn’t piece us together again. Now, we do run 9-5 jobs switching to another within a span of every 3-6 months, earning just enough to eat 2 times a day, wear good clothes and pay the rent. We got a TV and an AC and these two items were a luxury, you know how parents usually open up a savings account from the moment they birth a child with the dreams that that money could accumulate to source as a tuition fee per adventure the kid earned a nomination for a undergraduate or postgraduate scholarship abroad. I’m not saying the wait was that lengthy or the money too difficult to come by but, it certainly felt that way. Just that, none of these is what I mean. See, I’m not whining about hardship or failure, No! it’s more precise, more specific than that. This nihilistic anguish starts from the simple things and becomes more nuanced. Like, what is it with female anopheles mosquitoes sucking blood and getting one down with malaria leading one to waste money on medications, the cockroach that’d climb your body in the dark, the rat that’d eat the wood of your furniture, rip your clothes apart and eat your meals. What lesson is there, when one lends you a book and forgets he did and accuses you later of having stolen the book; When a kid no more than 2 years younger than you sneezes on your hand and you turn to politely ask for an apology and the adult guarding the child boldly tells you, ‘He’s just a child.’? Why prep for an exam for weeks only to face questions you don’t understand? What is it about being born grotesque and being filled with this insatiable human desire for pulchritudinous faces, shapely cabooses like peaches, and chichis? Why try different ideas (all legal) and watch them fail? What is it about seeing someone looking so vibrant and alive in the evening and in the morning, they are gone like pollens carried by the wind? What is it about this vast looking earth and the universe that encompasses it that we will never fully comprehend? What is it about this questioning desire to find the first cause, the absolute objective, the uncreated? Yet, we’ve discussed these things before and we know that there’s no answer. It’s like sweeping a field during autumn while the leaves keep falling. Yet, it doesn’t mean that the questions and the search for answers would leave me though I fear and know that there’s nothing at the end, just something as incomprehensible as The Great Wall of China.

Yesterday, Ariadne tied the knot and she was the last person, barring us, from the 2013 set. As usual, we showed up, dancing and jiving, the Lives of the party. You should have seen us like our sister or brother was getting married. No one would know that Ariadne and I were total strangers, I used to try to make little conversation with her in the early days, sometimes in the form of a greeting, but she would ignore me like a blue bottleneck fly perching on her wig, so I ceased. You were her person though, the 3rd face she used to look out for after her best friend Camille and her then man, Nasir, whom she dumped immediately after our last paper. So, yesterday, I was there with you, pretending that everything is alright, that we’ve got the map all figured out on this lone road we are travelling on. Today, I ask you, Have you ever for a second had this teeny-weeny bit of what if, I just went down the normal path of religion, college, academic certificates, settled for a professional job, marriage, children, grandchildren and hoped for some heaven at the end of your life?’ You just shake your head but you don’t respond. I understand, that like me, the fear of having never tried is more dilapidating than the fear of failure. You then whisper, ‘Regret would have been that exciting road which I would always look back upon and ask what if and I’d never sleep peacefully at night till Thy Kingdom Come, haunted by the nightmares of the success I might have missed.’ I don’t tell you this, but I feel glad and relieved, always in need of this desperate reassurance that we were always journeying in the same direction and I did not leash you along this harebrained path.

We are way past the ‘#what do I want to be in the future talk.’  We see ourselves trickling down the other side of 30 and cannot fathom how our youth has gone like flipping the pages of a book. We will never be part of Forbes under 30 or Time Magazine’s most influential under 25. ‘All these do not matter’, you tell me these days and I think you are just trying to console us. ‘What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?’, the Bible says and you recite it to me these days and I can’t tell if you’re joking because for a long time now, we do not believe in a soul. When we were younger, we were afraid to die, afraid to end up in an eternal oven where we would be roasted meat, so every night we repented, giving our souls to God per adventure we died in our sleep and we also gave it to him in the morning as we were going out but we always had a lapse in the afternoons and evenings. I am glad you told me these things had plagued you in your childhood when we first met because it aided to develop our solidarity, made me not feel alone and I guess we were special in an abnormal kind of way. You once told me and I did agree with you that, ‘Heaven appeared to be an idea some people turned to when all else in life had failed and they held on to that delusional hope that somewhere in eternity all failures will be overcompensated.’ So now, are you starting to believe? Are you starting to dream that delusional hope of being overcompensated in eternity? Or is there a divine epiphany you’ve been having that is alien to me, like you were an elect and I was lost? Yet, I understand that you always had this persistent idea that a personal being had to be responsible for all that was, is and will be, ‘Consciousness, that thing responsible for coordination and empathy, lacking in the wind, in the sky and the universe, that we humans have, there must be a superior consciousness responsible for it, for all animates and inanimates.’ was how you’d put it. Yet, I always said, ‘Everything animate, anything with life can always be confined and comprehended in one space but these inanimates, they are so vast and incomprehensible. Have you ever heard that it was found were the universe, earth’s sky and wind started or ended?’ It was always going to be difficult for me to believe that there was an overseer present while we experienced this existential anguish, our life playing according to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah lyrics, ‘I did my best, it wasn’t much….’  but you did believe that there was someone there who cared for a few and despised others or probably didn’t care for any at all, just let the system run according to the survival of the fittest.

Like Abba once sang, today, “I have a dream…”, but I tell you, it’s not, “a fantasy to help me through reality.” No more talks about revolutionising the tech industry or educational sector, no more ideas about how to get into the annals of history with the likes of Da Vinci and Laplace. I tell you, I think this is something, not the ‘It’ ‘It’, but I think this could be our own stable business and we won’t have to work those 9 to 5’s anymore, our time and creativity would be ours and we could really start living, not just surviving. Yet, we could fail and I understand insanity might be, ‘Having that driving impulse to keep trying, to keep coming up with ideas even though one kept failing.’ But, I can’t shake off that whisper that says, what if this is ‘It’, what if we are already at the finish line of the marathon to some success? Are we just going to remain stagnant and never cross? And this question drowns the feeling that this is déjà vu, an exercise in futility. ‘It’s your call’, I say. ‘Regret is not a road we look back upon, for we have blazed every possible trail that has manifested before us’, you remind me, ‘and we must keep it that way.’ Yes, you will travel with me, we will travel together and even if we don’t find any conclusion at all, our journeys along the way might just count for an exciting story….


Victor Ogan is a writer whose works focus on philosophical themes related to metaphysiscs, aesthetics, ethics, nihilism, pessimism, individualism and existentialism.

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