Oluwadunsin Deinde-Sanya: On Days When Knowledge Becomes a Burden
“Time and time again, the wise are fettered by beauty, they ache with love-longing. Lucky are the fools like you, Torstein, who remain unmoved and free” – Floki, Vikings.
One of my favourite series is Vikings. Beyond the historical storytelling and perfect choice of characters, the dialogue is one I live for. Vikings, like many historical series, is filled with nuggets of wisdom. The characters look uncivilised and silly but on the contrary, you notice their strength and courage through the toughest of times and the wisdom with which they navigate life.
Sometimes, we are tempted to believe that for the wise, intelligent or ambitious, the storms of life can easily be weathered. But characters like Ragnar Lothbrok, Uthred of Bebbanburg, Lagertha, Floki and the rest have proved otherwise. They all had a tough life, not because they were dumb, but because wisdom and knowledge come with a burden that the ignorant and carefree do not carry. The more you acquire knowledge, the more it leaves you insatiable; your heart aching and longing for more.
In 2009, when Obama became president, the world rejoiced. I remember the huge grin on my father’s face as he said, “Yes! A black man won.” It was big news and the atmosphere in my street was charged with joy. That night, aunty Wemimo, my neighbour who lived about 4 houses away, came to visit. Cheerfully, I yelled, “Aunty, Obama ti win.” She looked at me nonplussed, “ta ni n jebe? (who the heck is that?)”
I was taken aback – who, on earth, didn’t know Obama?
Aunty Wemimo is one of the most apathetic people I’ve ever met. She gave her brain no room for news that wouldn’t directly affect or benefit her. She wanted just enough and had no dreams of becoming super wealthy or famous. And every time I talked to her, I was bemused at her apathy towards gaining more knowledge or wanting more money. Still, I admired her; aside from her being so kind and warm, she didn’t shoulder the burden of the world nor was she plagued by wants.
I have a friend like aunty Wemimo. Whenever I want to take a moment to think about the simple things of life, I call Eni. At first, I tried to talk about things happening around the world – ‘Did you know that there’s a recession in the UK?’ ‘Inflation in Nigeria has hit 21.82%,’ ‘Tems’ outfit at the Oscars caused wahala online’ – and she’d reply with ‘Ehen? oookay.’ On days when it was information overload, she’d say ‘Hmmn, it is well.’ And when I started my career in writing and sent her my published works, she’d reply, ‘Ride on babe, more ink to your pen’ and I just knew she never read any of those stories.
I soon learned to stop expecting her to know things simply because I was interested in them.
I used to find wilful ignorance selfish. The inability of people to be concerned about the world gives me the ick. Perhaps you may not be able to change the world, but you should know that people were brutalised during the elections, for instance. That women in Afghanistan can no longer go to college or that a bomb blew up somewhere. You should know when the Olympics start or that some Nigerians are killing it on a global scale.
But as the years go by, I see how I sometimes suffer from information overload or how these news stories do not even benefit me in any way. Or… do they? And social media doesn’t help. I wake up every morning to millions of people talking at the same time, each clamouring for their voices to be heard. I take in knowledge that isn’t meant for me to consume, I’m hearing people’s thoughts in my head, and it seems everyone’s business is mine. I keep wanting more, reading this or that, running a marathon with no finish line in sight. I cannot seem to catch a break, and on days when it feels like my head wants to explode, I call Eni and we talk about the silliest, unintelligible things.
My friend is not a witless person. She’s wise enough to simply consume the information her mind and body need, and although I find it too insufficient, I admire and even envy her ability to be detached from this world. It has worked for her so far; she longs for nothing, is envious of no one and always sounds too relaxed and lackadaisical over the phone. With her, I see how being ignorant of so many things and being unambitious can be a comfortable (and, I dare say, peaceful) terrain, and there are days when I wish, like her, I could be that way.
My head is always a big orbit of swirling ideas and thoughts, but as I write this, my legs crossed on a stool, throwing one peanut after another into my mouth, I ask myself, what’s the worst that could happen if I choose to be laid back, shutting my eyes and ears to the endless possibilities and opportunities out there? What’s the worst that would happen if I stopped working and choose to spend the rest of my life watching Vikings? What if I stopped challenging myself and choose to be like Torstein, unmoved and free? What if I let go of these dreams and just…
Never mind, I will snap out of these silly thoughts.
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