“Writing is thinking on paper.”
“Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it’s because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives.”
– William Zinsser
I think best on paper — a brave statement to make because some of you after reading my blogs will think to yourselves, “He’s not much of a thinker.”
And unlike Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, I don’t have the gift of detailed recollection of past events.
I’m a “chunk” kind of person. That is, I tend to remember small, self-contained incidents, that typically come to mind during or between my daily walks/runs and after I start exercising my fingers on the keyboard; which, frequently is the elixir that generates thought, memory, and imagination.
Writing has been a long time coming for me. That’s not to say I haven’t written before. Like many of you, I can produce many university research papers, and even a 300-page dissertation, an edited book, as well as a published article. But, when I say “writing has been a long time coming,” what I mean is: Seldom have I intentionally and willfully risked vulnerability.
As someone who grew up in a conservative Christian environment, regrettably, I learned early on that questioning and critically examining popular thought and belief often results in censure.
Popular thought, aka hegemony, is the dominant perspective or position of the “in power” group, whether a majority or minority of the total population, whose power resides in what they silence and inhibit other people from thinking, asking, saying, or doing.
A common motif in my blogs is “the Other,” which in philosophical terms refers to those different than self. Popularized by Edward Said, it often refers to those who have been excluded, subordinated, demonized and dehumanized by whichever social, political, or religious group wields overt, subtle and underlying (hegemonist) power at a given time.
Since early childhood I have had a sensitivity and affectionate regard for “the Other,” as reflected in my very first blog A Masai Warrior.
It wasn’t until postgraduate studies, however, and my fortuitous experience of and exposure to a confluence of alternative voices and perspectives — in the form of books, mentors, as well as experiences and encounters with the cultural, religious, even sexual “Other” — that an awareness of how inextricable power (and privilege) and identity are. And — of how much my own identity is a result of the historical disposition of power and powerlessness within North American history, as well as within the histories of post-colonial Kenya and Tanzania where I was privileged to grow-up.
It’s my hope that in sharing small, personal, self-contained thoughts, recollections, and life/work experiences, you will discover narrative and larger-than-self truths (mysterium tremendum) that you can critically engage with, recognize or identify with. I hope, too, that my writings will facilitate within you a heightened and compassionate sensitivity to the life and lived reality of the majority of the world’s people.
I am a Texan and U.S. citizen by birth, yet African in terms of percentage of life lived on one continent, which, in terms of worldview makes me predominately “African-American.”
From kindergarten to 9th grade my family lived in Mombasa, Nyeri, Kisumu and Thika, Kenya, and from 9th to 12th grade, Mwanza and Musoma, Tanzania.
Upon completion of under- and postgraduate studies at a U.S. university, my wife and I worked in both apartheid and democratic South Africa, including Thohoyandou, Venda; Stanger and Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal; and Johannesburg, Gauteng.
I am a Third Culture Kid (TCK), a term coined in the 1950s to describe children who accompany their parents to societies different from their native homeland. Sociologist, David Pollock in his well-known book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds says this about TCKs, “A Third Culture Kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.”
I am married and my wife and I have five children ranging in age from 25 to 9, all of whom are bilingual in Spanish (thanks to my wife).