Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 11th, 2011

On the road to discovering the living: Who is Alain Mabanckou?

There are many on the road, these migrating birds, in search of human diversities, of connecting and communicating emotions…A few become authors, of words or audio-visual narrators, they collect and recollect from their memories, diaries, and personal archieves, people they met, friends they entertained, books they loved reading, movies that touched them, experiences that marked thir life, music that haunted them…Things and people that constitute our life, the sustenance of the living…

Having these sorts of recollections into “prints” open-up wide doors into internal kingdoms, kingdom we never suspected existed, kingdom rich with experiences, emotions, feeling…the fabric of true living. The French publishing house “Chemin faisant” (on the road) specialized in these types of books. Author Alain Mabanckou is one of the authors (see note), and here are a few excerpts in his French book “Writer and migrating birds”:

“I had a tiny span view of the ocean, and I used to watch migrating birds.  A few birds were still in a hurry, many more had the flight heavy under their wings.  Migrating birds passed over me, very high-up, and a few would rest on a branch, eyes riveted to the far horizon over the ocean. The kid in me wanted so badly to join these birds: I ended-up a writer, a puny compensation, but my multitude of trips overseas were opportunities to meet and link-up with people of all kinds, and I read books of the local authors wherever I settled for a while.  Countries I visited were not for touring stones and historical monuments…I was mainly interested in talking with the local people and learning their literature and their languages… ”

“I was the unique kid of my parents, and my four aunts assumed that I was a fragile-type of kids.  My aunts felt they had to protect me and took me with them on their frequent outing to shopping…I could hear their heated and animated conversation, trailing behind them, forgotten. I was capturing and inhaling  the meaning of life, through my aunts adult chatting and their frank laughter…

Aunts are the pillars of every extended family: They are the mothers when they feel the mother is overwhelmed and subjugated to care for the kids…Aunts accord us wonderful days, with full attention that mother frequently refuses us…Aunts are supposed not to show their anger against us or harass us…Once aunts start imitating mothers, shouting at us and working on changing our behaviour…there is no ways of distinguishing who is the real biological mother…”

“I visited New Orleans.  Under a building on Carondelet Street, an Afro-American homeless is covered under a blanket on the side-street.  I didn’t even speak and the homeless pretended I have an accent. “Are you from this neighborhood?” the homeless asked me. I said: “I am from the Congo”.  He jumped up like a kangaroo and said: “I am not stupid. I know there is the French Congo and the Belgian one.  You speak French!”

This homeless person claimed that he is a direct descendant from Haitian families and delivered the complete speech of Toussaint Louverure who harangued his troops in 1800 saying: “Join my revolution and let us uproot the tree of slavery…”  He insisted that his dad made him memorize the speech, as did his father, and so on since 1800. He asked for change and I had only Euros.  The homeless would not accept Euro on account that only the currency with George Washington’s picture on is the only true money…

I told him that I’ll be away for 5 minutes and will come back with US currency. The homeless treated for liar, as all the people who promised him to come back and never did…I tuned my back and strolled away, followed by curses…As I walked, I remembered my best friend Bertin Miyalou, who resembled physically the homeless person and who hanged himself two days after I left the Congo…I got the US changes on Canal Street and returned to give the change to the homeless saying: “Take, it is for you Bertin…”

The homeless cried and thanked me.  As I was leaving, I overheard the homeless shouting: “Who is this fucking Bertin…?”

Note: Alain Mabanckou is born in the Rep. of Congo (a Francophone State) in 1966.  He is professor of Francophone literature in UCLA.  He published “Broken Glass”, “Black Bazar”, letter to Jimmy (James Baldwin)”, and “Tomorrow I’ll be 20″…

He was a Great Man: He was convinced he could change “Who he was”

The nurturing process, up to year 5, is the biggest factor in making “who we are”.  The brain functions according to “constructs” or formed models of how we perceive the universe, nature, people, society…It takes a fraction of a second (about 100 milliseconds) to form a good judgement of a total stranger we crossed: the face of the individual, how he dressed, his gestures…place the individual into a particular type.  Even after we get to know the person intimately, it is our original judgement construct that directs our appreciation and inkling toward the new-found friend…

It is very difficult to alter a construct once the brain has structured it in complex networks of neurons…Changing a construct in the brain is far more difficult than altering a paradigm shift in any field of knowledge:  The individual is battling with his own feedback and has no external support system to enhance any change of “who I am”.

I hear people saying with confidence: “The members of my family and friends don’t comprehend that “I am NOT what I was 10 years ago… They see me and treat me as the person I was many years ago…”  I cannot but nod in respect at such kind of statements, knowing that the person valiantly did a lot of sustained efforts to change “who he was”…

Aside from civil respect and compassion, fact is we don’t change in any significant way.  For proof is that members of our family and close friends noticed just the extravagant efforts on our part, but nothing fundamental in our behaviour…  Most probably, our perception that we did change in the last 10, 20, 30 years…is related to our recollection of the real effort we invested in changing “who we are”, we are proud of making the good efforts and we remember them vividly: We are “how we perceive and recollect our valiant efforts for change”.  Actually, the real change in the brain’s constructs didn’t materialize in any visible sense to the outsiders: You are totally biased in your conviction that you changed…

What you are feeling is your “twin-self”, your “effort-self”, not dissociated with the original already hard-wired self. It is the  “twin-self” of labor,  efforts, acquisition of knowledge, skills training, fight for survival, for change…the fresh memories of the struggle after the age of 5 period and beyond…

The “twin-self” memory that make-up the published “memoirs” and diaries…The original self is relegated to neuroscientists to discovering “mankind brain”  structure and  function, and never your own brain…

For example, if you experiment with a subject wearing a 3-D helmet of vision and let the subject see an image of himself (through a well-located rear mirror) and frequently touching him and faking to touch the image simultaneously, then the subject will merge with the image:   The subject thinks he is one with the image.  Remove the mirror and let the subject see a mannequin, even of a different gender, and repeat the experiment with simultaneous touching gestures of the subject and the mannequin, and the subject will feel one with the mannequin: You slap the mannequin and it is the subject feeling the slap; to verbally abuse the mannequin and the subject takes the insults very personally…

The two most potent senses that are behind our brain constructs are the sense of touch and sense of equilibrium. I cannot shake off the impression that the senses of taste and smell constitute the trinity of the factor “touch”, that taste and smell cannot be practically be detached from the main factor of the general term “touch”… The sense of seeing and hearing are mainly contributors to constituting the brain’s “constructs”…The sense of seeing and hearing can play the surrogate tools to the sense of touch in experiments when facing difficulties in conveying the direct stimuli to the subject.

For example, you can make the subject “see” the aromatic plant it smelt, and then approach the plant to the mannequin without letting the subject actually smell the plant later on.  The brain will light up as if the subject did smell the plant. This finding is essentially valid, since the feedback of the senses in general term of touch are directly sensed by the brain and do not need extra processing and transformations for perception…

It is the construct in the brain that is taking over and guiding you:  We are what our initial brain’s  constructs have defined us.

Great Man are great because they did the good efforts to change. Maybe we the great people did the efforts simply because they had no idea that all their efforts could not actually significantly change “who they were”.  If you refuse to believe my contention that it is very unlikely that all your efforts will make any significant dent to “who you are”, the odds are that you might become a great man.

Keep the sustained good efforts to change and reform:  If your efforts do not change you, you are actually transforming “family infrastructure” within the facilities of a civil community to nurture the newborn into a normal kids, with qualities and characteristics to fight the good fight…

Note: You may read




December 2011

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