Seed time, and harvest time: cause, and effect. All I see is darkness, where there should be light.
I was afflicted with a love of books from my childhood. I cannot in truth find a date earlier than 1977, when I was transferred to Abadina Primary School, where I found the children’s library, next to the university conference center. But that library it was, that became the incubator for the voracious appetite that I developed for books, and for the simple pleasures of reading. In an age devoid of today’s gadgetry, free of the internet, with television stations the domain of a largely illiterate military, books opened a new world to me.
I must have discovered James Clavell’s works just after I left Fiditi, and I know this because of the cure, that he proved to be. I was obsessed with books in my teenage years. I have watched my sons oscillate between football, PlayStation, films, girls, haircuts, more girls, comics, and a lot more of the many distractions of their generation. But I was constant in my own time: my only pubescent affliction were books. The bigger the book, the happier I was, and when I couldn’t find anything else to read, I read the Bible from Genesis to the first couple of lines in the book of Revelation, about thrice. Clavell cured me.
As books go, James Clavell’s books are big. They rarely run for less than what at the time seemed like well over 500 pages, and they were awesome in the breath of the narrative prowess of the writer. The first one I came across was “Shogun”. The book gave my young mind a vivid and very respectful glimpse into Japanese culture, and it was here that I began to embrace the knowledge of the subconscious racial bias of foreigners seeking to explain a foreign culture through the limited prisms of their own cultural experiences, even when they might have meant no harm. It was in Shogun, that I read of the wailing tree.
The Japanese society at the time of James Clavell’s Shogun, was one that was highly feudalistic in its ruling system, and one where each person knew his or her place. The houses were built with Shoji, a type of paper derived from rice, and this made for easy reconstruction of the homes, after the earthquakes that have remained rife in the Japanese isles. Whilst the choice of construction materials used, being lightweight and largely derived from paper and bamboo made for construction efficiency and was exceedingly utilitarian, it offered little privacy for the occupants.
The Japanese culture resolved the lack of privacy by evolving a uniquely Japanese solution: each member of the household learnt to mind their own businesses, and to ignore whatever was none of their business in the first place. A complex cultural adaptation over generations, made people who live with such thin walls, learn to respect the privacy of their neighbors, as a demand on the neighbors, to also respect theirs. Bushido: The way of the warrior, taught the samurais internal reserve, detachment, and self control. And then there was always the wailing tree.
Gardens were de rigor in traditional Japanese homes, and in what would usually be the most isolated part of the garden would be a tree. When the lord of the manor is distressed by any of the many things that had penetrated the calmness urged by the Shinto religion, he would visit the wailing tree in his garden, and let go of his hold on himself.
He was allowed to scream at the tree. The Japanese obsession with “face” meant that however angry he might get, he is not expected to show his emotions in its raw forms, and the wailing tree was the only one, that was privileged to see his loss of control over his emotions. The loss of face is the ultimate taboo to the samurai.
Facebook is my wailing tree. I have done the best I can, to retain my sanity in the sick country of my birth and residence. I have largely kept it together because I have found a way to let the steam out without injuring either myself, or my loved ones. I come to my page to relieve the pains and pressures of being a Nigerian. I am of the tribe of wailers, the ones that have failed to make peace with our consciences about the country of our birth.
When you read my posts, read them in the knowledge that I am truly wailing. I am wailing at the incapacity of my people to smell the injustice in the giant toilet that Nigeria has become. I am wailing at our inability to see that we are being ruled by a class that has no interest in our common interests, I am wailing because I am cursed with the capacity to see the evil being sown for our children to reap. I am not frivolous, and I am not an alarmist. I am wailing because I am unbelieving of the capacity for asininities that I have been a witness to in the land of my birth.
I am wailing because I can see tomorrow. I am neither Adeboye nor Mbaka. I have never said that God said: but he has blessed me with a brain, and I can see. You will also see, if you would look, our putrefaction is in plain sight for those that would look. Seed time, and harvest time: cause, and effect. All I see is darkness, where there should be light. I am wailing because you have refused to uncover your light. I am wailing because I am bemoaning the loss of yesterday, the squandering of today, and the mortgage of tomorrow.
You’re welcome to my wailing tree.
First published 17 January 2020.