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So, madness is good for you, eh

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Apr 2019

Oh, for the days of great passion! No, not the type that makes your breast heave in rapturous wonder at a lovely creature standing before you. Im thinking more of the type that makes men to go out in search of great discoveries for the benefit of mankind. Im thinking, for example, of scientists who offered, not just their time, but their bodies for science out of passion for the job.Take Humphrey Davy for instance. (No, please, dont admire my science savvy; I got it off the internet.) He was said to have sometimes performed all kinds of experiments with nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) on himself, his pets, his friends and his friends friends en-route to discovering anesthesia. Ho, ho, my friend, all I can say is that Im glad I was not his friend, for with friends like that, you dont need enemies.I bet you there are many husbands conducting unrecorded, unacknowledged experiments on their wives right now. When half of the months salary has gone on illegal activities like the pool or the bar, then out will come the test tubes, beakers, tripods and the pronouncements. Listen, Mama Bisi, we have to tighten our belts this month. Our employer has cut our salaries into two this month. He then watches for her response to determine whether to cave in and simply hand over his life (you know, as in, Your money or your life and you say Take my life but please leave my money).Finding a need to somehow provide herself with the required intimate articles, Mama Bisi wonders aloud if she may not just cream a little off the top of the house keep, as they say, and see what effect it would have on the family. Whoever used to eat ice cream may find him/herself eating a finger of banana and whoever used to eat two pieces of meat may have to make do with one. Im not sure but I think it is on that last note that the various experiments may break down and substitutions may become restitutions. Dont you just love this free market economy where everyone goes home happy'Anyway, back to our scientists. You have just got to admire their sense of total commitment to the cause which, youre quite sure, can only be propelled by madness. What else but madness would prompt a man like Davy to go contracting tuberculosis by inhaling carbon monoxide just to be able to find a cure for it' If my dress maker were to be as committed as he was, believe me, I would be better dressed.There, I digress again. Commitment means totally giving over ones mind to a cause in a way that can raise suspicion in others. I would imagine that friends of Davy or Joseph Priestly would be mightily suspicious of them and would only associate with them if they needed their services, such as when they had to go through surgery. But there cannot be any doubt that their efforts resulted in something that benefits mankind today. Now, people need not go through amputations again without anaesthesia, unlike before when they had only a bottle of whiskey between them and the surgeons blade, although I can hear a few people mumbling, Ill pick that bottle of whisky any day.That is the problem. Many of us Nigerians, including me, are choosing too many easy ways over trying to create something beneficial to mankind. Many of us have only one vision in our headsa picture of Aso Rock. All of us, to a man, have lost our ability to pursue our dreams with the required zeal and necessary passion. Too many of us are pursuing either money (ask our politicians) or our enemies (ask our religious zealots), even if those enemies reside right inside us. And so, we go on living with our potentials untapped, unexplored, unexcavated, and unexposed.You see, for dreams to rise to the surface, one needs a good measure of madness, without which nothing can be achieved. The madness will take you through days of hunger, poverty, deprivation and any other effects your tests may wish to visit on your little body. This madness will also mean a great deal of aloneness, aloofness and total lock-in. Finally, the madness we are talking about will mean a readiness to burn down the house. I guess this is difficult to achieve in Nigeria.Well, to begin with, there are your relations. I believe the major problem Nigerians have is this inability to divorce themselves from their relations. This is why, come every weekend, caps and geles are criss-crossing the country to attend a relatives burial or childs marriage ceremony. Then there is, of course, the most important relation to you who would refuse, on point of death, to allow you burn down the house because you are conducting one yeye experiment. If you persist, she would simply go to the village, ferry in your eldest, dying relatives to come and convince you to see the error of your ways.If you insist on going on with your mad desire to discover something beneficial to mankind, your relatives may cease all arguments with you. You would just wake up one morning in Aro Hospital to find that you have been wrapped and parcelled there in the dead of night while you were sleeping. After all, all it takes is for a relative to sign you in, and no one is ever short of those. In fact, I have recently discovered that mine are giving me suspicious looks I dont know, but it may have something to do with the things I writeSo, this madness thing is difficult in Nigeria, but not impossible. First, select your dream. Scroll down the road of your mind and pick that activity you love doing which brings that special joy to you and benefit to mankind. Please note that adding more people into this already over-populated world hardly counts as beneficial. Painting, inventing, writing, or just making things like radios, TV sets, computers are more acceptable. No wait, those have been discovered. So, go find your own article to invent.Then, assemble your materials as cheaply as possible. Note that expensive materials cannot be discarded in times of failure without you bursting into tears. Now, select a quiet spot around you where you can carry out your experiment in peace, such as your mothers or wifes kitchen. Lastly, gently persuade your spouse or parent that you are full of good intentions, you only want to discover something beneficial to mankind, and no, you hope the house will not burn down.I do agree with you; the governments yo-yo economic policies are right now not very favourable to us all. Nevertheless, we can still do a great deal in spite of it. Let the government carry on with its work of self-extinction, let the citizens carry on with their own seriousness; and one day, with a great deal of luck, the serious citizens will leave the unserious government behind.The moral of this story is that men ought always to go more in search of madness than money. Just listen. When you have madness, you will be pushed beyond the limit of endurance as you chase your dream to leave humanity a little better than before, and men will remember you always for your efforts. Today, we credit and remember Priestly and Davy for what they did for mankind, not for how rich they managed to get by having access to government coffers. No one remembers such. Thanks to inventors like those, you and I can now have our appendix removed while watching our favourite shows on TV.
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