Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tribute To A Dead Scientist

I have stood outside at night, under starless and starry skies, in solemn reminiscence of the promise you held, of the person you could have become. I have sought for you in the fleeting meteor, hoping you'd announce your epiphany with blinding sparks of light as you reach our earth, but it disappears into the oblivion of sky and is seen no more. I have watched the waves emerge, like furious chariots bathed in watery translucence, wondering if you ride one of them, but they plunge back into the sea and you are not there.

So all I have is a memory; a remembrance. A photograph of you rests on the shelf - the one you used to climb- you were six then, a bundle of boundless energy, still pulsating... in this static matter. You were an adventurous spirit waiting to explore the world. O the dreams you dreamed; lofty dreams for a six year old. You dreamt because in your world everything was possible and the world was a canvas on which you were going to paint your colorful dreams.

Your joy soared to indescribable heights when you discovered that room, a room full of books; books that opened up the world to you. You traveled to the land of the Lilliputians and yahoos with Gulliver in his travels, joined Captain Flint in his quest for gold in Treasure Island, governed the empire of Rome with Caesar and loved with Romeo in Lamb Tales from Shakespeare. You shipwrecked on an uninhabited Island with Robinson Crusoe, opened and closed the Sesame with Alibaba and his forty thieves in Arabian Nights, joined Robin Hood on his escapades and empathized with skinny Oliver Twist because like him, you knew what it meant to be skinny. In Chinua Achebe's A Man Of The People, you toured the political museums of Nigeria, but you did not stop there; you learned the art of mischief in One Week One Trouble, grieved with Nnuego in Buchi Emechata's Joys Of Motherhood, and journeyed to pre-colonial Africa in Mabels Segun's A Second Olympus.

At the end of the term, when the list of books was given to every pupil, you’d take yours home, salivating at the titles and savoring the prospect of reading them. Mummy took you along with her to the book store. You liked the book store, and while mummy and the book seller bargained, you'd look for a slim title and gulp it up.

You loved collecting things, old radio parts, wires, batteries, tins... All these were stored in a junk box which you carefully tucked away behind the bed. They remained there until your restless mind fell upon some bright idea, you'd immediately be caught in a creative frenzy, rummaging through the box in search of an item previously stacked away, one that would be an integral element of the idea crystallizing in your mind. Your mind was a complex imaginative machine through which you sought to recreate the world. If you had no light to read at night, you ransacked your junk box until you found an old torchlight. With surgical precision, you dismantled the useless device, extracting from it the part you needed and discarding the rest. The valuable part of the torchlight was the cap which held the bulb. This you took and inserted at the base of a glucose tin so that the socket extruded from the inner side with the silvery interior serving as a reflector to diverge the light rays. The stand was the easiest to build and I still envy your carpentry skills. A flat board of about 30cm by 15cm, an old table leg cut to size and a few nails constituted the stand. The old table leg which you nailed to the board served as the spine on which you hung the glucose tin now converted to a lantern. Batteries were your most numerous possessions. To power the lantern you constructed a rack for them on the board using slim pieces of plank. For a conductor you used a neatly cut slice of tin from old Milo containers. The bulb you easily obtained from the local store. Wires were easy to get and intuition supplied you with the know-how.

It was under the light of this crude lantern that you studied at night, conversing with sagacious minds that lived long before you were born and sourjourning into worlds that held in them the allure of surreal adventure.

On these nights, the sound of Daddy and mummy snoring in their room was an amusing disturbance and being the mischievous little imp that you were, you'd make scratching sounds on the linoleum to wake them. They’d complain about how rude the rats had become while you stifled the laughter storming in your belly.

I wish I could recant everything you created in your little life - the transmitter, the TV antenna, the helicopter... I remember the helicopter. You were so fascinated with the helicopter that you spent hours after school in the library studying the encyclopedia. You learnt about the forces behind the mystery of flight; the pull, the push, the thrust. You learnt that to produce these forces, the blades had to tilt to a certain angle. At night you preoccupied your mind with creating your own model, one that would achieve the same result of tilting the blades. In your mind, you arranged and re- arranged parts, until you found a way. The helicopter was built, and even though it did not fly, you were satisfied to see it scurry along the floor, its blades powered by a motor you retrieved form an old toy car.

Spurgeon. Do you remember him? The weirdest kid in JSS 3. He had no friends until you came along. Other kids thought him to be some weird dude, but you didn't care, you understood weird. Weird was your thing. Spurgeon was a kindred mind. The both of you huddled together for hours, flipping through books that you weren't allowed to read and exploring the planets and earth's continents. I still remember your excitement when you came upon Antarctica, that world of ice and Polar bears and Igloos. Antarctica held a sublime appeal and there and then, oblivious of the constraints of time and space, you and Spurgeon embarked on a journey to Antarctica. A journey that rode on a bi-narrative, driven by two silly boys in the library, long after school. You'd both build a helicopter, steal a stack of food from your homes and escape to Antarctica where you'd build an Igloo and ride on sleighs driven by the finest and furriest dogs ever. You'd hunt down Polar bears and roast them in the evening fire and have a great peppered feast of bear-meat.

Your mind was an ocean of possibilities and never for once did you doubt your ability to transmute these vivid enthralling mental images into tangible experiences.

Now as I sit here and write this, the last rays of sunshine receding gently, I think about what you could have become had you lived; perhaps like Einstein or Faraday. In writing this, I seek to reconcile two worlds, a past and a future, a memory and a dream. I do recognize my role in your demise, but then, I would not use that word anymore, for now I better understand the complexities of our both lives. I prefer to use the term transition. At some point in your life you met me, and through music and poetry, I absorbed you and imprisoned you. I took your mental powers and channeled them to the arts with the promise of perpetual bliss. Your voice grew thinner by the day, until it became a distant plea, drowned in the tempest of my artistic cacophony.

I write this because at some point, you overwhelmed me and took control again, only this time, you were determined to ruin me. You broke me into several fragments like china-ware flung recklessly at the wall, and imbued me with a fearsome seeming omniscience that distorted my sense of identity. I became all and in all I became nothing. My confusion is the author of my search.

I have returned to you in obedience to Gandhi's proclamation- "Return to the earth now if you are troubled and your heart is uncertain, for it is by returning to the beginning that we can clearly see the path." I have returned to you for I realize now that all that I am must begin with you, that I am you expressed in artistic form.

I seek now to begin a new life, one in which you are not dead, but simply transited. One in which I am in cognizance of our oneness. Does this mean that I have found you? With all honesty, I admit that I have not found you, for it was I who was lost and not you. You are an endless universe within me which cannot be grasped absolutely. You are an Everest unto which I must ascend with innocence and hope. You are the memory which I create with every pulse of breath, the dream that I reach for, in every modicum of thought. I do not know if my time on earth will be enough to reach the summit but this one thing I know, every stroke of my pen is a conquest of gravity, a step upwards, an inquest into self. Every word, every sentence, is an epiphany, a revelation of your essence....

 Story by Tchidi Jacobs

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