For a good part of my life I dabbled in music. I thought I was on my way to becoming a musician with a vengeance. I would get up as early as 4:00 in the morning to practice my guitar. The reason I was passionate about it was because I considered it to be a medium of expression (and I still do), my only medium of expression at that time. So I dipped myself in the Blues because without music I felt myself deprived of the medium of communication, or of being heard in this world. And so I played the Blues. And no one heard me. But that hardly mattered.
A lot of things have changed but I am still nagged by this desire and need to communicate and express myself. And this is one reason I write (thanks to the Morung family for this platform). A friend once remarked that to become a writer one has to experience the heights of pleasure and the depths of pain. I believe I have seen both. But that hardly qualifies anyone. One obvious qualification is whether the person can express herself/himself clearly through the medium of the pen. In today’s world where all opinions and taken and where truth is relative, sadly, this has become the only qualification a writer needs: voice out any damn philosophy, there is always a market for it. But other things to consider are the subject matter of the writer, how much she/he knows about it, whether she/he can feel the truth deep within, whether she/he is controlled by the truth. We all know how much damage can be caused by a newspaper report that contains only half of the truth, and thus making the whole report a lie. Mere ability to write is not a requisite. Whether a person can analyze, decipher and diagnose the truth or the lie in a given situation is equally important.
What I am really trying to say here is this: firstly, a person is not complete if he or she cannot express clearly, wisely and vigilantly. And secondly, whatever forms of expression we use, we should never be detached from truth.
Let me try to explain my first point. I believe that the desire and need to express oneself clearly, wisely and vigilantly, and to be heard is an essential component of being a human being. The Bible talks about being a voice to the voiceless, to speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves. Because they cannot speak for themselves, they have been deprived of this human need to be heard, and the need to express. A madman is a person who has a lot of ideas. They can often be brilliant ideas, or crazy ideas, or beautiful ideas and even divine ideas. For instance, a madman may see a lot of stars everywhere, he thinks he can reach the moon, he thinks he can move the mountains and drink up the river. He thinks he can dodge bullets and fly around the Sun. These are wild ideas, but they are not necessarily mad ideas. If we are honest to ourselves, we will also discover that every single person in the world has had these fantasies. But what makes a person insane is that he fails to express them wisely and discreetly. He expresses them with everything he finds, and he expresses them every time. He holds nothing back.
Hitler and Napoleon were people who had mad ideas and they expressed them so violently and unashamedly, holding nothing back. But the irony is that my history teacher never taught me that these men were mad. To divert all the money from the public development fund to one’s personal bank account is a mad thought. But there are people in suits and ties expressing these mad thoughts unashamedly. Ironically no one ever told me that these people with fat personal bank accounts are madmen. But they are madmen no doubt because they have no restrain in expressing this base human desire of greed and power. To kill a person because of a disagreement or an ideological difference is a mad idea. To kill someone because of betrayal, or because a person’s intelligence is a threat to another party is a very mad idea. But there people in our society who order these killings very regularly.
No one calls them mad. The irony is that people who order these killings are often heralded as visionaries and leaders of society and social change. But they are very mad no doubt—madder then the man who thinks himself to be an eagle—because they show no reason or restrain in expressing this mad idea that to kill someone is justifiable under certain circumstances. They are the madman in our society.They are far more dangerous and hazardous to the health of our society then the lunatic in the asylum who cry and howl the whole night. The ones in the mental hospital are simply harmless dreamers. As I said earlier, the insane person expresses every single thought every single minute and we put him in the mental hospital. He holds nothing back. The men in suits and ties and guns also hold nothing back. I have always suspected that these people, because they cannot face the hard realities of life, choose to create an alternated illusory world for themselves by storing up unaccounted wealth and by eliminating their enemies.
I would define a sane person thus: a normal sane person is one who can control his feelings of madness. Inside he may have more insane and crazy feelings than the madman, but he is sane and normal in that he has enough self control to keep them inside and only for himself. He does not allow them to be incarnated into his flesh.
But a completely sane person is one who has found the medium through which he can best express himself vigilantly, discreetly and intelligently. For some, their medium of expression will be through dancing, for some other through music, or speech, or writing, work of art, and so forth. The Bible affirms that each individual is given a gift. It further admonishes the individual to “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you”. Not finding the best medium through which one can satisfactorily and meaningfully express oneself could be one of the reasons that can contribute to making a person insane, dissatisfied and envious. That’s why I believe it is important that we seek to discover with utmost urgency the medium through which we can best express ourselves. When we find this, we will be like a channel through which springs of living water will flow into us and out of us.
The second thing I am trying to say is this: whatever forms of expression we use, we should never be detached from truth. In music or an art, truth may not be very obvious, but nevertheless it is always there. If a work of art, or a story does not give you much idea of the truth about God and the reality of the world, it is only because the artist has a very vague and distorted view of God and the world itself, and sadly, that is the truth of his situation. We do have a choice here: we can avoid the truth of his situation, or we can allow ourselves to be deceived by his blurry view of God and the world.
Romans 1:19, 20 gives us the idea that God expresses Himself quite plainly through His creations: “…what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and his divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” I believe what Paul means is this: the world is so beautifully and intricately designed that it is impossible to miss the Designer. A person who says he cannot imagine a designer behind the design is detached from the truth. G.K. Chesterton illustrates this beautifully, “I have always felt that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I have always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a storyteller… I came to feel as if the world must have a meaning, and meaning must have someone to mean it.”
God expressed himself even through His creations. And this expression is never detached from what He really is; He is the Truth. I believe every person is endowed with some divine creativity and imagination. It is our duty to seek means to unlock this creativity, and unlock it truthfully and faithfully. When we have learned to do this, we can confidently say that we are indeed truly learning to live as human beings in the image of God.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])