The 11 year old iconoclast

Ever since I was little; and even right up until this day really, I’ve had this over-arching obsession, of making sense of the world. To grasp it whole in my hands and see it complete in my eyes. To traverse it pole to pole and meridian to meridian. It confounds me! It has always confounded me. The world has.

The more I know and understand – the less, I seem to see. The more I learn and live, the more foggier it all becomes.

I remember a time when I was about 7 years old. I was sitting on a park bench and I’d just realised that I was seven years old! I understood what seven years were in the context of the age of my mother who was about 50 years old and my grandmother who was about 70 years old – and I remember thinking that seven years were nothing compared to the ancient age of my mother and prehistoric age of my grandmother! Oh, how long I had to go.

And I also remember thinking how clear things would become when I’d reach that grand old age. Even at the age of seven I had a sense of time. I recall thinking that by the time I’d reach the age of 70 – I’d know everything! Everything there was to know. So I spent the ages of 7 – 11 reading as much as I could. To learn everything! That was my mission! And all the time I just read and read and read. Pouring over books. My mother kept telling me off because she said I’d ruin my eyes. But I didn’t care.

Though blind by sight, I’d see more with my mind!

You could say I had become a bit of a nerd. A recluse of a kind. I began to spend more time in the company of my own thoughts, and less with others. This had its advantages though: I picked up few of the bad habits that one picks up from normal society such as talking nonsense, deviousness, pettynesses, self obsession, and the art of playing tricks. But then I also didn’t learn how to navigate the world through craftiness and psychological machinations. In short I didn’t learn the world of Machiavellian politics and manoeuvrings. How to get people to like you through craftiness and wiles. I believed that if you were a genuine person people would see that and like you anyway. The world I inhabited was the logical and rational world of science. Things made sense because they were based on unimpeachable reasoning and experimentation. It was a simple world without complications. I loved it! There were no tricks. It was all so simple if you followed the rules.

Even today, if the world suddenly does not make sense to me, or if I was to suffer heartbreak, I would turn not to a ‘self help guide’, but a science book for guidance and respite. The clarity of thought would be a refreshing welcome from the obfuscations of life.

But there was one big advantage I gained from my early precocious reading and thinking. I found it. I found the meaning of life. I found the light when I was a mere eleven years old. It was the seminal experience of my life.

How it happened I have know idea. But I look back often at that shaggy haired eleven year old boy that was me, and I look into his dark brown eyes, and I want to kiss my eleven year old self, and hug him and say: “You are fucking brilliant but crazy to have come up with this singular insight. I am proud of you you cute little thing!”

How is it possible for an 11 year old boy to know and understand, what much smarter and wiser men, have not been able to figure out?

I don’t know.

Where did the insight come from? Books?

Not really. Many had read the same books as I, without getting the insight I did.

Maybe I was a visionary of sorts?

But I do know one thing. If I’d been born in another time, say 500 years ago, or even a 1,000 years from now, I would still have been an iconoclast. I would still have raged against the status quo. I would still have questioned and sought answers. I would not have accepted things on faith or trust. Nor would I have let my forefathers and the ideas weighed down by the dust of time, be my guide. In spirit I would have been the same. The light would still have come from within and not without.

Some people are moulded such that they obey and listen and do not ask: the when, the why and the how. I have five siblings, and I am the iconoclast, the black sheep of the troupe. I was born premature and almost died – so my mother says. I was the size of a hand, and when I was born, people would shake their heads at this little thing, and wonder why it was born. They knew it wouldn’t survive.

My mother knew I wouldn’t survive. I was frail. A dainty petal thrown into the ravaging storm of life.

But I did survive, obviously.

I sometimes feel that I shouldn’t really be here. That I somehow got through the ticket machine, without a ticket. That I made it pass security without a passport. Maybe that is why I see life like an outsider? And it is always the outsiders; those that view life as if it is a Shakespearian tragi-comedy, who really see it for what it is. Whilst everybody else sits in the stalls enjoying the show, we, the outsiders, the iconoclasts, get to go backstage, and see the actors and actresses, getting dressed, putting their make up on, learning and reciting their lines. We get to see how the stage props work, get to see the winch and the wheels and the gears that move the scenery along, and lift the sun to the dome of the sky.

We see the lights hanging from the roof of the stage that are the stars, and the silver painted calabash that is the moon. We see the orchestra that pulls our heart strings along and plays our emotions like a violin. We see the work of the make-up artist and costumes and the many tricks. We are not fooled.

Though many a time, I wish I was….

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