While growing up and hanging out with people older than myself (by hanging out I naturally mean eavesdropping, playing mute around them, and persevering thru their endless errands...)
I picked up alota stuff... trust me ALOT!
Back to the story/theme
I remember an uncle sharing a story of an old scholar of his down in the borders of Cameroun (an approximate location of my village)...
The old man was giving them the key/elixir/secret to knowledge (my uncle was his a keen and stubborn student)... This was as a result of him badgering the scholar (Mallam) with questions like... “how does one become smarter/knowledgable?” “What’s the fastest way to master this and that?” etc at times even saying ‘ridiculous’ stuff like “how do I become as knowledgeable as you in a nick of time?”
Being a man of wisdom that he is, he would get himself outta the clutches of juvenile curiousity and thirst for knowledge with no accord or concern for its content and context and surely consequence...
However, one day he did give them a key... (which might make you shrug me off or hiss for playing with your attention spike all this long)
He taught them something, which when I heard, I found humour in.
He said “if you want someone to learn something... FEED THEM!”
“Make sure they are well-nourished... But not too much to become slaves of their bellies but just right enough to make them appreciative (and attentive 'sponges'.)”
Secondly make them more curious than ever... Be vague and ubiquitous if you have to.
Thirdly make it fun for them...
Show them they know not… They know little.
Yes! Trample on their pride and arrogance... Cuz that’s one of the curses on those-who-think-they-know or have self-acclaimed themselves- knowledgeable/smart etc
Under this particular segment I learnt the most invaluable lesson yet... Courtesy of a test he put my uncle and his fellow students to.
While they were deep in recitation/translation/memorization of a certain chapter of The Holy Quran, he asked, or rather tasked, them to find a certain verse within the whole 114 chapters and 6000 plus verses.
And he made it interestingly competitive too... A prize!
Being who they were... Everyone of them (over 10 or so) rushed helter-skelter, juxtaposing with no prowess, using any kinda quirky way to shortcut the process so they come up first.
Hell! My uncle even confessed to wanting to consult another scholar for the answer. But was faced by two dilemmas-
One, the guy was really far away and he wouldn’t be able to go and see him while beating the short time frame given by the scholar... (coupled with the fact that travel, at that time, was done by foot or bicycle, the former being the most accessible)
Two, HIS PRIDE!
The next morning after the usual bout and routine of lessons/lectures/tests/revision, the wise old one, confident that none of them found the answer, made it look like he was about to end/close for the session (with the usual ‘lets-round-up-with-a-prayer routine’) then with an air of sagely smuggness turned as if he was about to leave...
And blurted "oh... what’s the answer to last night's question?"
They were silent for a minute... Then all of them started talking at once.
Some saying “I am this close to getting it” (by that he means... this close reading the whole BOOK)
Others this close to luckily guessing it.
He just smiled and said “see you in the evening...”
NEXT DAY. Just like most days, the time they have the recital/memorization sessions, which usually involves him reading out a verse and they would repeat it. This would be done at least 3 times so it sticks, then they’d move forward onto another verse till they had enough for one day/night.
In last night's recital they were two verses shy of finishing off the chapter they’ve been on that particular week (a thing I ‘forgot’ to mention :-p)
TODAY... As they were done with those two verses...
They turned to the next page and awaited him to start it off so they follow…
He read not more than 2 verses and… LO AND BEHOLD!
He read THE VERSE...
Before he even went 5 syllables into it… They were looking at each other silly, side to side, then back to him, and kept repeating this act till he finished reciting the verse…
THEY WERE SILENT!
He had to jog them to continue by clearing his throat loudly...
*HE HAD HUMBLED THEM BY CONFOUNDING THEM*
Wise and prude, he didn’t say anything till the lesson for the day was over... Then he smiled and came closer to them…
Saying... “does anyone of you know the moral of this whole episode of ours?”
The answer “NO!?” came forth quite inaudibly.
“…it goes a long way to show you that human beings, irrespective of age or background are hasty and forgetful creatures. They tend to be in a rush for no apparent reason, their so-called haste which bores competitiveness, for no justifiable reason too, is a thing that blinds them to the point that they don’t see what’s RIGHT in front of them. They miss out on the little joys of life and living, which are the little things that sum up a meaningful and smooth sailed life. In all that haste which begets waste, they ‘forget’ to enjoy, or rather, savour those moments, people, and places… It’s much worse with you young folks... Shooting and cutting without aiming or measuring... Blinded by (false) ambition, juvenile pride (just to brag), and greed…”
He doled out a lot of wisdom you see... The chunk of which they didn’t appreciate till they grew up way much more... He sensed that vibe from them...
So he gave them a dumber/simpler (gwari-gwari) version-
“WHEN YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING... LOOK IN FRONT OF YOU BEFORE ANYWHERELSE! AN EXAMPLE IS LIKE YOU DROPPING A COIN IN THE DARK…”
"AHHH'S!" & "OHHH'S!!" echoed.
Your village boys nodded accordingly while displaying yellow teeth glowing against the fading red sunset... :p
Since then… I try and not look toooooo far away when I’m ‘searching’’ for something, some place, or someone. Start with a small radius. Then expand gradually, gradually, gradually… till you reach your figurative El Dorado.