Guess it’s just a round about way of me asking you guys…what exactly makes you ‘you’? Take me for instance. The only reason why I believe I am Seun Odukoya is because the birth certificate I was shown has that name on it, and the people who I was told are my parents have called me by no other name since. So basically, I have been conditioned to think and accept that I am Seun Odukoya.
But imagine that some old man (ala Gandalf) walks into my room one morning, and told me that ‘life’ as I have known it for three hundred years is nothing but a simulation I have been fed intravenously since my ‘engineered’ conception. That the people I call ‘ma’ and ‘pop’ are nothing but special government agents, chosen to be my ‘parents’ because they had special training to deal with ‘paranormal’ children such as me. Of course, my initial reaction would be disbelief. After all…three hundred years no be beans! But then, a seed of doubt would have been sown. And I would probably go home and watch my ‘parents’ from the corners of my eyes. And then, maybe a lot of things would begin to make sense, like how I had three birth certificates as if my ‘parents’ were not sure of when I was conceived. Like how they would both inexplicably disappear for weeks on end, and then reappear like nothing happened. Like how my blood group and genotype were totally and inexplicably different from theirs, and from those of my other ‘siblings’.
But I am sure that in the midst of my confusion, there would be a realization that I could make anything of my feelings. After all, it was not as if these ‘agents’ had been slacking in their duties as my ‘surrogate parents’, even if I would rather have known my biological ones. And then maybe I would remember the saying ‘Some things are best left alone’ or words to that effect. Anyway, the mind…my mind would come up with a perfectly-rational explanation that would serve me, and that would be that.
But then, what if these ‘agents’ got tired of the charade and told me the truth…that they were not my biological? What would I do? Would I be able to handle that ‘truth’…or would the sudden stripping away of all the security blankets I had wrapped myself in for several years take my sanity away with it? Would I get a pistol and blow out the mush Biology calls brains out of my skull, because the truth has suddenly become too much for me to handle?
We will never know.
But know this: a lot of us float through life, living in a warm friendly haze, a ‘matrix’ of a world we have created for ourselves, because reality can be a handful sometimes. And I am reminded one of the rare classic lines from a movie; when movies were still that; an experience in sight and sound. This particular one had Tom Cruise playing amateur lawyer, and he had a veteran soldier in the witness stand. After succeeding in annoying the general, he asks ‘You want answers?!’ Cruise’s character replies, shouting ‘I want the truth!’ and Jack Nicholson, the general in one of his finest movie performances shouts, ‘You can’t handle the truth!’
That addresses a lot of us. We drift through life like sand wood left in a river, directed by whichever way the tide flows, not having a life of our own. And though deep down, we know there’s more to life than that miserable pay-check, more than those constantly changing array of girlfriends, more than that wedding ceremony that cost two million bucks when we know three-thirds of it came via loan, we have settled for mere parodies of living…because that is what society expects of us. Look this way…dress that way…talk this way….by a certain age you should have done this and that…
Who makes the rules? Who defines us; our neighbors? Friends? Parents who have a penchant for insisting that the boy goes to study law just so they can brag back in the ‘village’ about having a lawyer as a son, and it does not even matter if the boy can write circles around Achebe?
Who defines you?
And as I leave, I cast our collective minds back to a movie that was released in 2008, featuring ex Ms. Brad Pitt (cheap shot, I know), titled ‘Wanted’. Allow me cast our minds back to the last scene, a few minutes before the ‘nerd’ popped Morgan Freeman’s character. If you remember, the bullet exited Morg’s forehead, and then the scene was reversed, so we could see the origin of the bullet. After traveling halfway back across town, through the office bully’s doughnut, a fake best-friend’s energy drink can and back into the gun, the protagonist break’s the fourth wall. Looking at us the viewers, he says, ‘This is me taking control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?’
Well…what have you done lately, really? Some shit you wanted to do, or some ‘shit’ you really do not like to do but do because it ‘pays the bills’?
What have you done lately?