Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The African Way - Ben Okri

I'm currently half way through Songs of Enchantment, the second in Ben Okri's The Famished Road Trilogy, the first instalment of which won the Booker Prize 20 years ago. I won't attempt a review or description of this incredible trilogy, which weaves  surreal fantasy into a description of the struggles of the poverty stricken community that the spirit child Azaro is part of - far better to read the original. Okri's use of language is exceptionally powerful and evocative, and in amongst the surreal accounts are profound and passionate philosophical statements. Take his description of the African Way:
".. The Way of compassion and fire and serenity: The Way of freedom and power and imaginative life; The Way that keeps the mind open to the existences beyond our earthly sphere, that keeps the spirit pure and primed to all the rich possibilities of living, that makes of their minds gateways through which all the thought-forms of primal creation can wander and take root and flower; The Way through which their forgotten experiments in living can resurface with fuller results even in insulated and innocent communities; The Way that makes it possible for them to understand the language of angels and gods, birds and trees, animals and spirits; The Way that makes them greet phenomena for ever as a brother and a sister in mysterious reality; The Way that develops and keeps its secrets of transformations - hate into love, beast into man, man into illustrious ancestor, ancestor into god; The Way whose centre grows from divine love, whose roads are always open for messages from all the spheres to keep coming through; The Way that preaches attunement with all the higher worlds, that believes in forgiveness and generosity of spirit, always receptive, always listening, always kindling the understanding of signs, like the potencies hidden in snail tracks along forbidden paths; The Way that always, like a river, flows into and flows out of the myriad Ways of the world."
The whole world could learn from wisdom like that, and may it be our mission in 2012 to be more open to this Way.

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