THE WAY OF THE DRAGON

What was strange to others, was ordinary to us. When other kids went for children’s parties, we went for training and competition in martial arts and swimming. That was our father’s way – and it was the only way we knew; and looking back now, God bless that man. He was just unapologetically himself. He gave us a different world in which to live because it was the only world he was convinced of. A world of discipline, simplicity, hardwork, scholarship, modesty, frugality, brotherhood and fraternity. This is the root of our bond today – my siblings and I.

The most horrible thing that can happen to any person, to any family, to any society, is to think that there is something wrong in being different. For, then, there will neither be change nor progress. Just be yourself, even if it is different – nay, especially if it is different. Earth thrives on diversity. And diversity is only guaranteed when each person has the courage to be himself/herself. Thus, courage is the protector of our future as a human species. People, BE BRAVE.

Our father wanted to strengthen bravery in us, so he threw us into the martial arts, where you are alone in the ring and only your own fearlessness will see you through – and, win or lose, will cement your character and your legend. Just fight fearlessly. That was his message: Let fearlessness be your blood; that is all I ask of you. Win or lose, please my child just fight to the end.

When we turned it against him, though, it caught him unawares. Maybe he unconsciously hoped everybody was burning to be a public servant, or a socialist, and things like that, like himself. But I just wanted to be myself, to answer the call of life in another context – and he had taught me the courage to do so. But myself, at least in that period, was everything different from what he wanted for and from me. The irony and riddle of doing what is expected of you and thereby going against what is expected of you. The split was unpreventable, unavoidable and – for many decades it seemed – unhealable.

But Time, that great Mender, was Merciful. And Love pushed its stubborn head through and I will forever be grateful for the three beautiful years we had until he died.

Well, what on earth is this life all about? Who really knows? Is it politics? – Not everyone can be a politician. Is it the professions? – Not everyone can pursue one. Is it family? – Not everyone will make one. Is it ideology? – Not everyone will feel inclined to one. So what on earth is this earthlife all about?

In the end, it is simply whatever is in you that has to come out of you. And all you need to do, to make that happen, is simply to BE BRAVE. Brave enough to follow your innermost voice, no matter what!

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BRIEFLY HUMAN CORPORATE BEINGS

Upon every Passenger that comes my way rests the weight of a wish borne. Some carry with them, over oceans and continents, desires they have nurtured – sometimes unconsciously – from infancy. Yet they must upon a time bear fruit. If I were to consider every one a book, rich would be the language that riddled their many pages with tales of many tails. And yet we say to one another “Good day”, “What can I do for you?”, “Just a second”, and things like that as we drown our entire humanity and history in silence during a moment of business service or corporate interaction.

But once in a while one will come my way who looks into my eyes as though we were both human and, as we address the issue of his baggage, his ticket, his itinerary or some other such stuff, we talk about music, the arts, sports, history, headline news, but never in detail of course about politics or religion. We don’t have to anyway. Little things show one already where and how each person stands.

And then the day will pass and many other customers will come and go, and nothing wrong or below standard will be said or done, but only that one customer will remain in your memory who spoke to you about music, literature, the arts, sports, his family, your history, some headline news, but never in detail of course about politics or religion. It wasn’t necessary. Little things leave the biggest impression.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BECAUSE OF SOMETHING MISUNDERSTOOD

Because of something misunderstood, although constantly seen, we fought; we fought against one another. Neither of us was killed in the intense battle, but our friendship died, brutally murdered by mistrust and injured vanity and faults unconquered in you and me.

There was a word we left unspoken. Would that one had spoken it all this time, would that we had broken down the barriers, the artificial barriers, yesterday.

One day too late, yet all we see are smiles. Is it a joke, or a word of comfort, or a tale, an apology, a ruse, poetry or a bridge? Like it was when we started, like it was, is. Secrets sleeping sleep on still in the sands beneath the sea, lapping up the shores of solemn promises that may never be broken, until the sands are wetted and the rigid stances have melted, lest we break.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

An excerpt from "The Lake of Love"

The Lake of Love: A Philosophical Journey

As he descended the plateau, he exalted in nature. He saw the azure-blue skies stretching protectively above his head, and around him he saw beauty unveiled. The green of the grass was of a tone he had never before quite seen. It seemed to have a restorative effect on him. The flowers were beautiful. Multicoloured, as if a rainbow had exploded in the skies and the little splittings of colour had showered themselves upon the fields. Was this real? He thought back to the world of men. Had he ever seen anything so beautiful? No. Not ever. Not once.

He strolled through these fields briskly. Much as they delighted his eyes and watered the garden that was his soul, he could tarry not even for a single second. His eyes were focused yet detached. Paradise was still in front.

And then there was a lake…

As he approached the valley …. suddenly and for the first time, he noticed a lake that nestled right in the heart of the greens, stretching wide into the woods on either side, but perhaps only about forty or sixty strides across. He hesitated for one second, his eyebrows lifted. He had not seen the lake from the top of the plateau.. He had not been looking into the valley, but only up at the Land of Bliss.

But only for a moment did he hesitate. His strides picked up speed and certainty once more and he headed straight for the lake. After crossing seven seas, amongst other things, a little lake was not going to bother him in any way now that he was so close to the Land.

As he neared the lake, it suddenly dawned on him that nature seemed to have changed. It appeared to have come alive. Suddenly the grass was whispering, but whispering what? He could tell not. The leaves were talking, but talking to whom – to him, or simply to themselves? The wind sang a song, a wordless song, and from the sides of his eyes he thought he could catch the flashy movements of little things. Almost like little human beings. Little human-like beings? He swung his head sharply on all sides…nothing. Only the green, beautifully decorated fields. The enchanting woods.

In him something began to stir. He knew that there was a discussion going on in nature, a conversation, an exchange of opinions…or, wait, a message?
Again Scimarajh hesitated. He wanted to find out what was going on around him. Or, rather, a part of him wanted to – the curious part…or, is it, the cautious part? But the larger part of him, the adventurer who had surmounted high and low, the seeker who had journeyed tirelessly, was impatient.

Move on! The command thundered forcefully within him, borne of a long–persevering hunger, a long-unfulfilled desire. So he tore his attention away from the mysterious, imperceptible activity going on around him and quickly took the last brisk strides that brought him to the edge of the lake.

The lake was silent. Motionless. Clear as the surface of a perfectly-polished mirror. Still.

Scimarajh gazed at it, equally silent, equally still. His mind ticked. A deep seriousness, immense and grave, settled over his beautiful countenance.
There was something about this lake on which he could not place his finger. Something mysterious. Something as yet unfathomed. Unravelled. And yet, why did he get the impression that he had seen this lake before? He looked at the lake and the lake looked back at him with his own eyes, his own face, his own self. Who knows himself? Scimarajh?

But other thoughts than these occupied him. How deep was the lake? How safe? He was not deceived by the apparent calm of the lake. The last months and years of his life had brought him danger in all forms, at unexpected turns, and he had learned to take nothing for granted. Not even a little lake.
He looked about. Nature’s voice had increased in volume. So Scimarajh calmed down. By his feet lay a long, thin pole. He picked it up and, holding it at one end, slowly immersed it into the water of the lake. Nothing. Presently he revolved his hand, stirring the water and all the while peering pin-point sharp into it, tense and concentrated.

After a long time of testing and watching, investigating, checking and waiting, his body slowly relaxed; the skin around his eyes, formerly tightened, smoothened out again and he let the faithful pole back out of the lake, carefully replacing it back down by his feet where it had formerly lain.

The lake was safe, just like any other.

Now that he had become satisfied of that, his movements again became brisk and sure. Speedily he took off his garments, knelt down in the soft, mossy grass and folded them. Then he opened up his little back-pack and gazed with delighted eyes at its contents.

Three beautiful precious stones, his sole possessions and objects of his deep love. He had acquired them laboriously through his long, long journeys. And he guarded them with all his might, for without them he would never make his way into the Land of Bliss. His former teacher, the Master of the Sea, had told him so himself. And he was going to present them to the King of Joy when he finally made his entry into the Land of Bliss.

He could not suppress the cry of joy that escaped his lips as his heart soared in these thoughts. Then he came back to the moment. To work! To work! Quickly, but very neatly, he folded his faithful garments one more time and arranged them inside the back-pack. Then, arising anew, he strapped the pack unto his back and prepared to dive in. He concentrated.

Suddenly he heard it. Loud and clear!

A voice.

“Do not dive into the Lake of Love!” –

Scimarajh started up, whipped his head around, saw nobody. He looked and looked. Nothing stirred. Nature had quietened again. Had he heard wrong? He listened hard and heard absolute silence communing with itself.

The silence filled him like a wave.

His head began to swim. Not for a second did it occur to him to immerse himself in the feeling. To know what it was. Rather he resisted it. What?, he thought. After getting so close?! … No way! …

He shook his head vigorously and sharpened his eyes on the silver-surface of the lake. I must have heard wrong, he told himself repeatedly, remembering the mirages he once used to see in the deserts and the imaginary sounds he once also heard in the forests when tension was high. It must be the same phenomenon, he assured himself, and the nearness of the end of my journey is making me dizzy.

In his heart of hearts, however, a contrary intuition stirred, but he drowned it with the clamour of his thoughts, and his desire.

Bent at the knee … tensed his muscles … breathed in … and dived in …

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

HAPPINESS, HONESTY AND IMPERFECTION

They said, you’re silent, and when you speak, you don’t speak of the things we know you know, the things you once spoke about. You don’t preach, you don’t teach, you don’t educate, elucidate or inform.

I said I have seen it all and it’s all an illusion. Never follow high-sounding words; they always hide a lie somewhere. All I want is just to be happy.

And I said, keep searching and searching until you find the hypocrite within you; and when you have looked each other in the eye, you will learn to recognize him or her also in the people, the words and the works around you. It’s very easy to be deep and profound. It’s much more difficult to be honestly imperfect.

If you want to be happy, you can’t skip the first step. It is also the last step: honest imperfection. Leave the wise words to the teachers. You, just be happy. That’s the only thing left that I still honestly care about. The rest is just a waste of precious time at best, deception of self and others at worst.

A funny thing happened: this morning I heard a saxophone playing and it gave me more than all the wise moving words in this world ever could or did. It sang the melody of all my sins, all my hopes, all my regrets, all my joys, all the humanity within me; and in the end I knew, it is true: the inner voice is the real you.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

HAS THE ERA OF ACTIVISTS BEEN REPLACED BY THE ERA OF ARTISTES?

It’s cool to be cool. That’s all. Just be cool, suave, classy, be a star at being a star. Having nothing to give, but looking good at it. Having nothing to live for, to die for, to sacrifice for the sake of others, but looking damn good while doing this nothing and you’ll grab the headlines. It’s just cool to be cool.

Everybody knows all the issues – and they’re tired of them all. It’s you they want, because you’re so cool.

Artistes are the new Activists. Fashionistas are the new freedom-fighters. Stars are our new Saviours. Satan is probably the name of some new perfume I’m sure my girlfriend will like. I better buy it, ‘cos it’s so cool to be cool. You can never go wrong being cool.

What are you singing? Why all these lyrics on hunger, on poverty, on war, on injustice and inequality, on materialism? Who on earth do you think still has time for that? Just touch my dark side in a cool way, I’m good that way. Artistes have taken over the world. Bow down, Activist, your day is done!

What on earth are you fighting for? No-one really cares any more. Words never changed anything anyway. Just be cool and you shall rule. The freedom fighter is the biggest fool. Who says we’re not free? They should fight for the freedom of their own coolness. Then they’ll be really free of pressures, free of constraints, free of unnecessary problems. Because cool is the true upper class.

Where are those intuitions of yore? Those convictions of years before before? Where are those humans for whom being human is the sole goal? We have forgotten ourselves and become agents of our masks, the cool artistes. Who do you think you’re lying to?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MASKS

I saw suddenly one day that there on our face is a mask. Strange, but it moved. It spoke. It smiled. It frowned. It scolded. And it watched the world obliquely.
And the last thing it will tell you is that it is a mask.
And only love can break into this mask and comprehend its bearer. And only love can break into this mask and be comprehended by its wearer.
And then to my horror I saw that every continent has its masks. Every race, every group and every face. But whoever is unmasked by love is masked by love.
And love can speak, can comprehend every tongue. And on the day we have all learned to speak the language of true love – respectful, selfless love – we shall have no more the need to mask our hearts anymore.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

STRANGE MYTHS

After love was killed, it rose again. After day was banished, it returned again. After joy was smothered, it shone again. After ours was buried,… there – it resurrects.

But I wonder: when the universe sings in unison, do we hear music or do we hear again the first silence? But I know: when eternity smiles or laughs, no heart can help but smile and laugh along. Now the question is: who will point out to us the Way back into the fabled land of tomorrow? Only Today can do it, out of whom Tomorrow is ever and again born.

And like strange mists are all those myths which reassure us of the Immortality of spirit and love. You may not quite see through them with your understanding; but if you are patient, they finally turn out to yield the truth. Because when the mists break and un-form, you see again the very same road they once had shrouded.

But is this poetry? Or is this love? Or did Word and Spirit ever meet, or ever part?

Soon the Mists will break open and we shall see what lies inside this heart…

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

THE DANCING TOUCH

But require of me not that I dissect and demystify and recloak in petty words every poem, every rhyme, every song I write… and too many words obscure the subtle effect of the dancing touch of inspirational truth resting within the breast of true poetry…

Do you feel the stirring? Do you taste the salt? Do you hear the unbroken chant of spirit and light? Do you feel something…? If you do not, then you have no question. But if you do, then how come you do not understand the question in your own heart, when the language is yours and yours alone?

The dancing touch of poetry is more elocutive the less it is worded and worded too quickly…

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

THE WATER DANCER

As I was travelling from one place to another, once upon another time, I saw a young man with a friendly smile that occupied his lips and eyes, and – what do you know? – each time he spoke, he danced…

As he spoke, he danced to his own words. And as I spoke to him, how strange, he danced to my words too.

We had a deep and searching conversation, exchanging hearts. And by the time we parted, he was the traveller – although he still danced – and I was the dancer – although I still travelled – for we had changed, and exchanged, hearts.

I taught him how to travel, he taught me how to dance. If you will travel, then you must become like water. And this dance which he taught me, so strange, but it seems to me also to be…

The water dance.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.