Invert The Pyramid, Reclaim Your Freedom

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd

Max Lucado

Holidays changed the mood in the village.

The days brought an aura of joy and excitement that was unusual in the village. Preparations began the previous day with some fancy shopping, usually by my father.

The reason being, our big market was many kilometres away, and the only way to get there affordably was by riding a bicycle. And learning to ride one is a thing my mother vowed to never, ever do in her life. I have never understood why.

The eve shopping would kick in the celebratory tempo.

My father brought a few packets of wheat flour, some bread, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Our place being an arid plain, these were exotic foods that we only ate on special occasions. At times, he bought a tin of margarine to turn our holiday breakfast upside down. He also treated himself with some sugar and honey pack for his local brew to crown his day. That evening, he unusually circled the kitchen with one of his expert brewer neighbours, waiting for my mother to finish making and serving dinner. Then they invaded the sooty hovel to take advantage of the dwindling fire that warmed his brew overnight in readiness for the feast.

The chores were unusually relaxed.

We spent the afternoon not working on the farm but accompanying other boys to wash clothes in the river. We carried our dirty, patched laundry in cracked metallic basins placed on our heads or hinged on our hips. Supported by one arm, while dangling an empty plastic can on the other to take some drinking water back home.

The washing system began with dipping clothes in the river, then rubbing them with a hard-to-lather bar soap while placing them on a rockbed. Instead of toiling to wring them with our tiny hands, we whipped them hard on stones producing a loud, blustery sound. Some experts were so good at it, such that, tiny rainbows formed above their heads like a halo. It was a very thunderous and misty affair.

We then rinsed and spread them on hot rocks and small bushes at the bank to dry. This formed a canopy of colourful kaleidoscope along the river, adding much excitement in our day. If you came from town and saw the wash area from afar, you would have thought it was our version of Gikomba, an open-air second-hand clothes market.

The morning began with excitement.

My father amplified the volume of his radio for everyone to enjoy songs. Patriotic or religious ones depending on the holiday. We woke up to milk cows and enjoy the special breakfast with bread and sweetened tea, milkier than usual. Then sweep the compound with fresh green aromatic twigs before the sun warmed up the earth, making sure that the activity was less dusty. If you were late, you would find yourself sweeping while covered in a thick cloud of dust, making it impossible to see beyond your elbow. And choke yourself to near death.

The next chore was food preparation. My mother and my sisters peeled potatoes and kneaded the dough. My brothers and I lured the chicken with some maize seeds while consulting our father on which one to slaughter. Then the long chase began around the compound. We ran everywhere trying to catch the loud and evasive roosters. Sometimes almost despairing. In the end, we nabbed them, slit throats, and plucked feathers in a big pot of hot water.  Once curved, my mother and my sisters took over. We then relaxed and spent the rest of the morning savouring unusual aromas from the kitchen while anxiously waiting for chapati to be ready. Lunch was the climax of the day.

The afternoons would slow down.

We lazily walked in the hot sun to watch a football match in the dusty village pitch. It was a hard choice for entertainment after massive overfeeding. My older brothers would choose to nap and then visit their girlfriends. My mother would while the afternoon away with a friend or a neighbour. But the guy whose day began after lunch, was my father.

He is not gregarious at all. He likes his own company and does not visit anyone unless there is a fundamental reason to do so. Usually economic. If you need him, you will come to him. And you will find him always at home unless he is away for business or limited leisure. The funny thing is, he is insanely humorous and enjoyable to hang around. He never fancies being visited unless he summons a meeting. Or there is an important message to be delivered orally. He has always enjoyed his own company and is a total stickler to the privacy of his homestead. But holiday afternoons would entirely change his behaviour.  

His friends suddenly appeared soon after lunch.

Coming from different directions. Their arrival got him very excited while my mother’s mood would drastically dip upon their sight, her detestation made known. She knew the rowdy drinking parties were about to begin. For this reason, he summoned them secretly. The unannounced guest arrival was forever a surprise to her.  My father remained undeterred by his wife’s displeasure, and his fun went on uninterrupted. He raided the kitchen, a place he ordinarily never stepped in. To bring out the brew for him and his companions to binge and celebrate.

They were a select breed of friends. The polite and good storytellers because my father loves stories and laughter when in the right company. We loved to hang around and listen to them before they got drunk. They would narrate some hilarious incidents about themselves and other people. We heard and enjoyed the tales from a safe distance, up to the point where they got loud, incoherent and a big nuisance. In the end, my father would chase them away until the next holiday. His hosting was usually pegged to a certain point of inebriation. Just enough not to pass out in his compound.

One of them was old, frail and highly respected.

We never saw him around the village, but on holidays, he would appear in our homestead. He was soft-spoken, wise, and courteous. My parents seemed to respect him a lot because he was a close mate of my late grandfather. After settling down and my mother offering him something to eat, my father would bring out Muratina, the fermented honey drink.

The mzee never behaved like the unruly “younger” ones like my father. He was calm and collected, politely speaking until he got blotto. Then he would begin to sing only one song repeatedly and uncontrollably. Stopping to make a few statements between, then get back at it even louder. He sounded like a broken record player.

It was a Kamba song titled Flora. A narration of a heart-broken man travelling to the big city, a long way off in the dark of night to look for his estranged wife. She had earlier on left him lonely and miserable to eke a living as a barmaid. His sorrowful sojourn was out of grave concerns about her regularly getting laid by her drunken customers in the bars. She would be seduced with beer, cash, chicken, and all manner of small niceties. He desperately wanted to get her back home and rescue his family.

After endless rounds of singing “Flora”, it would be time for my father’s friend to leave. And the message in the lyrics would soon manifest. Despite his lovely demeanour, his visit was semisweet to my kid brother and me.

We had to escort him back home in the dark.

My father, drunk enough to almost pass out, would give us strict instructions. To ensure that his treasured friend got home safely. That frail, plodding and staggering man. How would you get him home several kilometres away on his feet in the middle of the night? With sleepy little eyes, no flashlight, sounds of wild animals and creepy ghosts around.

The journeys began with a slow walk. That became even slower as we went along. He would then stop every other minute to pee or sing, or both and taking even more time to retrace the path. Then take a few more steps, then pee, then sing. Sometimes, he turned backwards without knowing. We then ran back to stop and convince him about the right direction of our travel. This would go on and on, becoming slower and more frustrating as we moved further away from home. The path eventually got narrower and scarier. Pricky bushes crept overhead, and violent dogs from adjacent homesteads threatened to tear our legs apart.

Sleep overwhelmed us to the extent of catching winks while still walking. Terrified about our return trip in that pitch darkness.  All the while waiting for a signal to turn back. But mzee was too intoxicated to notice our fatigue and fear cues. His loud monotone persistent, he continued to trail leisurely behind us, until we got him closer home. 

It took forever to get him there.

When we did, we hurriedly bid him goodbye and ran back in fear of our lives—arriving home exhausted and downright miserable. By the time we get into our beds, our bare feet were dusty again, and we cared less to reclean them. Irrespective of the fatigue, we found it difficult to fall asleep due to my father’s loud snores rumbling from his remote shack.

The following morning, my mother sarcastically reminded us how stupid we were to obey my father’s drunken instructions. We often replied that we feared repercussions lest something terrible happened to the old man on the way, landing us in deep trouble.

We eventually learnt to shift the game.

In the later years, we became wiser after noticing that my father blacked out just before we left the homestead. We started by delaying response to the final drink call by my father. This would tire them up while waiting. And ensure that my father blacked out before our departure. Then we graduated to shortening the escort trips bit by bit with time. In the end, we stayed out of the homestead during their drinking parties or just saw the mzee off to the gate.

Eventually, the old man passed on. And we missed his entertainment and wisdom. What we never missed though, were the angry dogs and all manner of creepy experiences. We came to realize that the old man did not need us to get home. After all, we later realized that he never even noticed our company throughout the journey. Our foolishness and lack of courage to change the situation is what made us suffer for long.

It is the same case with our lives. We do things routinely without paying much attention to the need and time to change. Most of the habits and perspectives we carry on are outdated, and evolution is long overdue.  Since that is what the majority practice and the society expects of us, we tag along with the masses. In the end, we will not have lived our lives. But those of others.

It is possible to invert the order and do things differently.

Starting to be yourself and to determine your way of doing things is never easy in one’s current environment. If you defy the social order, then you risk being openly judged. But the real obstacle is in withstanding own fear of being different from what is deemed to be the norm.

We make changing friends, jobs, religion, neighbourhood, or city to live in more difficult than it should be. Some of us cannot even be brave enough to change a hairstyle! Determining simple things like the way to dress, talk, walk, eat, or even socialize is often frightening. In my life, I have agonized over and stayed away from many small things that could make me unique and happier. The fear of change and judgements has always stood in the way of my enjoyment and self-advancement. But not anymore.

I am becoming bolder in doing things my way.

Today, I have somehow started to master the Law of Opposites. Creating my life philosophy and determining my definition of success and happiness. It may never appear very different in the end, but the path will be, without any doubt. I have been a contrarian in many aspects of life. But this time around, I have put myself out for a deliberate experiment.   Now that I know most of my limitations in life emanated from childhood trauma, I have primarily dealt with that. The next step is to face the things I have always viewed impossible.

Am I a mere mortal or part of a more extensive intelligent system? Am I a result of creation or societal influence? Can my body heal itself? Can I increase my level of intelligence? Can I up my self-optimization game by beating my self-limiting behaviours? Is it possible to be spiritual without caring to go to heaven? Can a body that never did a simple cartwheel at teenage manage a backbend in its fifties?  Can I change my personality? Is it possible to ignore the standard life model and structure my own? Can my brain be equally competent in science and art? Can I live without being constantly miserable and unfulfilled? And so on.

What is the worst that can happen? Nothing. Is it a midlife crisis? No way. It is indeed an intellectual crisis. But how will history judge me in the end? More favourably than if I maintained the status quo.

Your grade of courage determines how your life ends.

Almost all people die with lots of regrets. Author Bronnie Ware in her mind-changing book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying outlines the ordinary things we are missing out. We do not have to wait until we lie in our deathbed, and start looking back and hating ourselves for not living fully. Unfortunately, in Africa, we stay away from the dying in fear of evil spirits. So, we can never know how life ends. Maybe reading an inspirational book and getting some balls can help. But this is unlikely since entertainment and judgement is our collective addiction.

The one thing that we all need to know is that what is conventional and acceptable to the society is not necessarily the truth. Just because the majority think it is true, does not make it true. We have been conditioned by fear, perpetuating it across generations in our African culture. Our fear of going against the norm reinforces many untruths. The lies underneath our bodies, our minds and our spirits will always make our black race live as underdogs for generations to come. Deliberate narratives sustained by our ignorance and fear. Myths that have held us hostage at personal and community levels.

Learn to turn things upside down.

Like Mark Twain said, whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. And reform. If some aspects of life do not work for you, learn how to reverse engineer. Breaking things down and doing them the other way round. All over again.

The law of opposites is very closely related to the Law of Attraction. If you do things inversely, you are likely to end up with the results of the minority.

And in the world in which we live in, only a few,  turn things upside down.

The ones who leave a lasting mark on humanity.

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Published by Kariuki Mugo

I live cherishing the outdoors, especially green, rugged and watery spaces, but still enjoy the city life. I dedicate in and cherish a family system that provides the foundation for nurturing strong, loving relationships. I trust in thriving communities that provide a better life for everyone, and I am highly committed to creating knowledge. I am a husband, a father, a friend, a development worker, and a teacher to many!

14 thoughts on “Invert The Pyramid, Reclaim Your Freedom”

  1. Njeri says:

    Karis, I have read this thoroughly. Thoroughly because I identify with the aspect of a pattern of life being crafted for me. And to add the gender aspect to it, as a woman, I am not consulted. Can you imagine that for a 44 year old me? E.g. People sit (without me) and decide where my children should go to school. Anyway, I have done many things differently and the backlash almost makes me waver. I have been called kichwa ngumu, extravagant, roho chafu and been accused of being demon possessed just for doing things my way. This article? It inspires me to zig during zag. Keep writing!

    1. Thanks Njeri. The path to the top of the mountain is usually rugged and cruel. You will enjoy the beautiful views someday soon. That said, if you want to do things differently, you will have to face ostracism. You will be disowned, but only for a while. One day and before long, they won’t even have any children to discuss. And the labels they are busy pasting will have faded away naturally. Keep on my sister. Change is that rugged path.

  2. Rose says:

    Super lover of your, entertaining and thought provoking

    1. Thank you very much, Rose. Keep reading, I will do the writing.

  3. Jane says:

    The law of opposites is closely related to law of attraction-Well put.

  4. Justin says:

    Very home and applied; always looking forward to another one and more than the other…keep on keeping us nourished mentally.

  5. Njoroge C.M says:

    Good storey telling.
    Well put those were the days. How I wish I cannless busy and afford my kids such country life. Not the ocasional visit to shush.. Cucu and Guka..
    That was the life..
    “Our place being an arid plain”… That explains why Naivasha not Nyandarua..

    1. For sure Charles. I think the older we grow, the more we realize that we need to go back where we came from. Naivasha is the choice for sure. Keep reading my friend.

  6. Peter says:

    Awesome read…keep writing

  7. Ada says:

    Interesting one! Courage to change my haistyle…. i will do just that????

    1. Now you can colour your hair yellow or green, my good reader! ????

  8. Sammy says:

    I just love reading through your opening stories they take me back my memory lane. Again reading through your blog opens my eyes to one big challange we have in Africa. We are victims of popular thinhking. We end up not being creative and appear lazy… We are actually mentaly Lazy ????

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