I don’t know why I have always had this urge to share things with my Dad. New experiences were maybe my way of trying to connect with him. This trait and storytelling have always been a part of me. I think it was because of the frequent estrangements we had as a family; we were constantly separated by work and education so I always picked stories along the way to share. This has stopped for a while, I started to get scared about the effect of allowing others into my stories. I wrote in my diaries and sometimes on social media or my blog but I always still shut people out of the experiences that matter to me. This is why I am really excited about Ese Ark’s book,Naked. It is like how she puts it “she shines and gives me the permission to shine” by the way she has taken the pains to elaborate on her life’s events, one after the other.
My Dad and I had a talk some days ago. I told him about “Naked” because it was my newest discovery and I had not been able to keep quiet about it. I knew he was going to judge Ese and the book, especially since I mentioned that she had written about her process of healing from the church to unbelief, and the tough war that had held the airwaves agog about a messy affair with a Pastor. I knew he would judge her because I also have this stint for jumping to conclusions. I know where I get this habit from and I have had to tell myself off several times to break the habit and stop assuming that I understand people.
My Dad flipped the front and last page, he saw the word “humanist” and declared that she worships herself. Typical of my Dad, he had not read her story or given the book a chance; one word had his attention and he slammed the gavel declaring his verdict. I shook my head in disagreement and refused to agree to his verdict. I said “this book has nothing to do with worshipping yourself.” He tried to argue and elected to read a chapter, he picked on Chapter Twelve “Religion-My Journey to Unbelief”. Maybe he felt that would be a great place to find his accusations, but as he read, it was obvious he was grasping for straws and trying so hard to confirm his fears.
After the read, my Dad still tried to raise the point stubbornly and I said to him “Daddy, let’s be honest, this does not in any way glorify self. This is someone who has owned up to her mistakes and chooses to live her truth.” For once in my years of discussing with my Dad, he agreed that he had misjudged the issue, albeit reluctantly. I think this experience summarises the effect “Naked” has on the reader. You first start out thinking you know, but as the story unfolds, you start to realise how much more you need to know.
I remember when I was reading Toke Makinwa’s “On Becoming,” Ese mentioned that the title had also come to her mind in probably a Facebook post. I can see how this is possible, the book shows not just how the author became who she is, but paves a pathway, a curriculum, a guide to sensitive questions that could shape the process of becoming an individual who is ready to tackle happiness, marriage, love, culture, family, and even death. However, I think the title “Naked” is more appropriate because she has actually gone beyond the surface writing which characterises most storytelling efforts. Ese Ark did not set out to please or entertain the reader, but to bare it all as it is. She entertains quite alright with a lot of real life experiences like when she sneaked off to skydive and how she learnt to speak in tongues just to fit in, but beyond this, she embraces you.
I have not seen a book that tackles so many contemporary issues without tilting too much towards women or incessantly pulling the victim card. She allows the reader to see how the woman struggles to interact with a culture that expects less from her. As a guy, I am better able to appreciate the struggles of a woman while I also reflect on how these weaknesses appear in the male gender. For example, the chapter she talks about “The mother wound”. I believe there is also the “Father Wound”. This wound is that stereotypes and cultural expectations that are passed down unconsciously from generation to generation. It manifests in women as a need to be “less” and sometimes reduce herself so that others don’t feel threatened. While in men, I believe this wound manifests in undue expectations; to be like your father, to follow in his footstep, to inherit his vocation, to please him by all means.
That need to please and not offend family, the need for validation, and the fear of the unknown are issues that plague and stunt our journey to self. This is not narcissism, this is the process of finding out how to love one’s self in order to be able to love others just as much. As Jesus would say “love your neighbour as yourself” but how can we do this, when we have not discovered how to love our own selves? She closes off the book with a daring look at the subject of death and I think there is no better ending than “Death.” I just heard about the death of someone who I really cared about, a mother to my friends, and I had been sad before reading this last chapter.
I am still sad that the woman passed but Ese has helped me come to terms with the reality of death and the transient sorrow we experience. As much as we feel sad for a while, just like life, this sorrow only lasts for a while and we all learn to move on one way or another. This book is a journey from life to death and I think every human should take a plunge and read “Naked,” it should be used to train students in schools, therapists should adopt it for people suffering a loss of identity or battling depression, parents should get this book and improve their chances of connecting with their children, women should find this book and read over and over again with their male counterparts because in the end this book is a journey to love and like Ese said “I am LOVE.”
This post by Damilola Jonathan O. was originally published on viva-naija.