Yesterday (Friday) I was called a Mad Man! Well not in so succinct words, but with rhetorical finesse. It may seem absurd but I was flattered at the compliment. Yes, it is a compliment, from where my head is at. My physical head actually plays an important role in all of this. Unfortunately this is one of those posts that I’d advice you don’t read further if you feel it is too centered on me; like I am simply ego stroking myself. So I was insulted (or complimented), who cares? Frankly no one, even I only find some aspect of the event insightful about my attitude to some things in life. (So really, don’t say I didn’t warn you because it is a lot of me, henceforth).
One thing I might have forgotten to mention is that I have something you might call an Afro on my head. The thing with Afros is that they sure put to waste that proverb: Don’t judge a book by its cover. So much has been read about (or into) my Afro; or what they see as an Afro. Many have expressed their concerns to me, almost in a Da’wah/proselytizing manner, that I should do away with my hair style because it sends the wrong signals. Talk about body language! I have accepted most of their concerns in good spirit, and I must say it is nice to know that so many care. It usually ends up with them explaining to me, then with me explaining to them and hopefully convincing them that there is nothing to worry about my nappy “cover” and that I am aware of their concerns.
Fridays are typically casual wear days at work, in Nigeria. So I casually went to work yesterday (Friday). But I didn’t remember the fashion equation: Afro + untucked shirt + no-covered-shoes = Cause for alert (aka Mad man on the loose!). Some raised (to put it mildly) their concerns and it was relayed to me in the nicest way. I was also “advised” to change the right-hand-side of the equation by correcting the left-hand-side; after a while, only the Afro remained on the left hand side.
I have had, and continue to have, several incidences where I purposely deviate from the normal practices especially if it is “expected” from one; in particular when it comes to fashion. There is no better way to blow your “cover” than through fashion. I have always queried myself if I was not doing all this simply because I craved attention. It is a favorite pastime to identify the length which people go seeking attention. Psychology (the discipline) is awesome!… So was I craving attention? I know deep-down that I am not doing it to seek attention; because I recall when I used to do it for attention (in retrospect). You don’t have to believe me because may be deep-deep-down, I am merely seeking attention. However for the sake of this post, we only need go to the basement (deep-down) not underground (deep-deep-down). So conclusion, I am not seeking attention when I decline the norm. But what am I doing?
I found the answer yesterday. I am being a Mad Man. I find this explanation quite appealing because of my respect and interest on the Sufis. The Sufis are groups of ascetic (esoteric) Muslims who’s primary goal is to EXPERIENCE the divine. Their emphasis on experience says something about their attitude to theoretical knowledge; that it is deficient in getting them to achieve their goals. As an extension, Sufis put little emphasis on the external and focus on the internal (where they fight the bloodiest wars against their egos). They also speak in cryptic languages in order to conceal secrets they share openly so that only “men of understanding” would understand (Cryptography! for the computer scientists). So Sufis have been known to say “crazy” utterances and dressed like mad men (and women).
Actually Sufis have been refered to with all sorts of names; Mad Men, Idiots etc. They have since embraced these names, to the surprise of their acusers and made it fashionable/honorable to be called those “derogatory” names. You could say Sufis are very HipHop (Like Black Americans taking Negro to Nigger to Niggah to African American and back to Niggah). The Sufis have embraced these names so much that it feels as if they chose these names for themselves.
The lessons the Sufis are trying to teach is simply: Dont judge a book by its cover. I am thinking now that perhaps it was a Sufi that coined that proverb.
In my case, as a Mad Man, it is comforting to find out that perhaps my actions are well explained by the Sufi tradition. FYI I don’t dress entirely mad, but the very sane seem to get quite mad about a person not being very sane.