I finally uncovered the deep mystery underneath my somewhat calm exterior. I am one confused guy in between a struggling boy and an evolving man. I am but this mortal guy desperately trying to prove a point, yearning to make a change in the society he lives in. I am this next door average guy who smiles a lot hiding more than can be seen internally.
During an interview for a scholarship I had applied to, one of the panelist asked me why I write. I had no immediate answer to him but a poem I wrote while in my second year of college. Here it goes:
I write to raise my voice,
to warm my freezing thoughts-
Tend my forest of dreams,
stifled by the weeds of hate-
Look after my garden of desires,
strangled by ropes of time-
Water my pot of perpetual hope,
scorched by the hot sun of fate.
I write to restore my love,
of a world gone crazy,
maddened by the hearts of men-
Replenish my hopes,
of an existence that lacks meaning-
a being that is of no essence.
Cut the ropes of time
Kill the weeds of hate
Cool the sun of fate
and live to fight another day.
I write since I can't talk,
I remain silent
in my darkened room of hope.
I write since I can't share,
I clench my fist
in my island of optimism.
I write since I can't love,
I blind my feelings
in this universe filled with hate.
I write since am alive
breathing in my space,
In a world that knows no limits,
He remained speechless for three minutes after I recited the poem then said, ‘You do not deserve this scholarship. You should be a writer.’ Later during drinks he asked me why I applied for the course I intended to study, I told him I wanted to study Development because I wanted to be part of Africa’s solution. He looked at me in the eye and told me, ‘Use the pen.’ I never got the scholarship and I have never met him again. Those words still ring in my mind: Use the pen! Yet I really do not want to be a writer. I enjoy writing, penning poetry and stories but I don’t want to be a writer.
This morning while preparing for work, his words came back to me: Use the Pen. Maybe it is because I am applying for the same scholarship again. I asked myself why I write when I want to. It is the fire within, I realized. The fire within that makes me write, write and write. And the same fire within on some days burn so strong that it burns me into cinders and render me inadequate. On such days all thoughts simply burn into flames and do not come out of the pen or the keyboard. I wonder if all human beings are such mixture of emotions. They must be. But it must be true that only those people who have been able to control and tame their emotions are successful in what they want to do -- love or career or whatever... and this is precisely the reason I cannot be a writer. I cannot control my emotions. I feel them and sometimes they burn.
I love the water deeply. I have this affinity to water masses that sometimes I think is an obsession. Maybe it’s because I am a Pisces and our sign is water. But I always find myself drawn by the power of the waters and overpowered by its might. Over the weekend I was at the coast and like everyone else who is a visitor to Mombasa must go to the beach. I was at the South Coast, at the Forty Thieves Beach Resort and the might of the ocean simply overpowered me. I imagined the silent beast that the ocean is, the vicious monster that it can turn to be. I imagined the secrets that the ocean has kept under its bosoms for years on end. Secrets that no one can uncover. I imagined the thoughts of the ocean floor, the life that thrives in the other world. I enjoyed watching the magnificence of the waves as they are propelled to land then retract to the deep. I was lucky that this pleasure was within my reach for I always find the tranquility of the beach stunning, the undulating waves ecstatic. Every time I visit the beach I always have a near magical experience. The sunshine alone makes me happy to be there, but the water and the waves are a huge factor, as is the colors... The ocean is so amazing to me, because it can be so calm and peaceful, or on another day in another part of the planet, it can be raging with huge crashing waves that are just beautifully stunning. Reflections on the water, the life it contains within, the mysteries and adventures that can be had, all on or within the ocean are really almost too numerous to try to begin listing here. I think of the great depths and expanse and interesting things that can be explored and found within it. Feelings can't help but come into play, at least for me. I can be having just about any kind of day, good or bad, and always can feel better just by being near the ocean. It’s simply beautiful to me, and warms my spirit and heart always. I love even pictures of it, I love the lighthouses, I love the islands, I love all the stories that I know of that have anything to do with the ocean. It is like making love for the first time. These emotions are not good for a writer!
I love watching the stars. My friends think it is wrong especially for a man, but the last time I checked most astrologers were men. In college, I had a room with a clear view of the sky from my bed. I would spend countless hours at night watching the stars. They provided a sleep pattern that aroused my senses. When I watch the stars appear in the sky everything seems kind, romantic and harmonic. I always think being aware of the vastness of the universe, by watching the stars and the nights sky, really does expand my mind to realize how unimportant my problems are. There is something awe inspiring about a starry night and velvet skies especially for an insomniac like I am. At that particular moment when I see a shooting star or a meteor fly past, my emotions run amok. It’s at that point you realize that life’s miracles are in the little things always ignored. These emotions are not of a writer!
I am a light sleeper and I terribly enjoy walking in the night. I find it relaxing to stroll alone in the dark drinking in the breeze of the night. I love the smell of the air at dawn and I have no reason why. My friends think I am a night runner or a son of the night. It's one of life's most underrated pleasures: to stroll through the streets of a big city in the small hours, drinking in the wonders of the world after dark. I find night walking as the only freedom one has in this life. During the day one is drawn into the normalcy of situations and forgets his desires, at night the wolves in men pace the pavements. I would love to pace the streets of Timbuktu, the African intellectual capital at night. To feel what my forefathers felt, to breathe the air of the giants, to be free. These emotions are not of a writer!
I love music; but not your kind of music. I love listening to Rock and Country music. One of the great things about music is that it is so intuitively powerful that sometimes you find yourself loving songs that you know you should hate. For me, this pattern started early. I would listen to Lonely Boy and jive along to Somebody I used to Know. I would hum to Paradise and sing to Narcissistic Cannibal. I would nod to Iridescent and mouth Curl of the Burl. I love the weird names that rock bands possess, it smells of freedom. There is Five Finger Death Punch, 30 Seconds to mars, Chemical Romance, Dead Weather. I like country music because it’s about the things in life that really matter. It isn’t about bragging about how you are going to mess somebody up or about how somebody isn’t respecting you. It’s about love, family, friends, with a few beers…. With a cheap woman and a two timing man thrown in for spice. Country music is about new love and it’s about old love. It’s about getting drunk and it’s about getting sober. It’s about leaving and it’s about coming home. It’s real music, sung by real people for real people. It’s about Dolly Parton singing ‘I will Always Love You’ or Kenny humming ‘Coward of the County’, or Charley Pride crying, ‘Does my Ring Hurt Your Finger?’ These are my guilty music pleasures and they are liberating. This is what music does: it comes in below the critical radar. A great rhythm and melody bypass all and speak directly to your system. They release your ass from the ass cage, and swell your heart with ridiculous and delicious feelings — usually of woe or lust. These guilty pleasures and the emotion they bring are not of a writer!
Finally I enjoy reading poetry. The genius behind the brevity of words. The intelligence underneath the compact letters. Samuel Coleridge said it for me when he penned, ‘Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward: it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.’ I have a great collection of poems from many poets. I do not seem to have a favorite for it changes once I chance upon new collections. However, Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘The Man in the Arena’ poem has a special feeling in my heart. It speaks about courage and passion, two attributes I so desire to possess. Roosevelt says, ‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’ This poem hangs prominently on my bedroom wall and I read it every day before I sleep. The feelings I get from these words overpower me each time. These emotions are not of a writer!
It is 1:39 AM now, I am listening to X FM playing Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’, and I have a great desire to take a stroll. I cannot since I have to finish this application I am making for a scholarship I am applying to. I have decided to change the course I intend to study to Creative Writing. I desperately need to finish the application and send it, the deadline is tomorrow. I know I will be selected for an interview. I have to! I have an unfinished business that needs to be dispensed. I want to tell the interviewer that he lied; my emotions cannot allow me to be a writer for I cannot use my pen.
-Don Eddie Ombagi-