Lost in London

I am very drawn to large cities. Having lived majority of my growing up years in very quiet Nigerian cities like Akure, Idoani and Ile-Ife (a university town that only got noisy when students raised the tempo a bit), loving the first taste of the chaos that Lagos threw at me during my first visit was quite a surprise. But that connection has manifested itself each time I find myself in a busy city: at home in Lagos or away in London, Cairo, New Delhi or New York. Maybe it’s the unplanned rythm of voices or the beauty of seeing how each person in a crowd can be so focused on their own agenda. Could it be the expectation of running into someone I know, somehow, or the fact that large cities present a central metaphor of life best captured by William Shakespeare in his 17th century comedy, As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…

That metaphor came to life again last week as Temi and I made our way through London’s Mind the Gap zones, after my amazing meeting with the staff at Ashoka‘s London office. The breath of the crowd was heavy, as thick as the variety that jumped at you from each face that either walked or literally ran past. Dressed in various garbs, I couldn’t help wonder what role each person played on the stage. No doubt, some were only ticking another day off the calendar while some others were in search of anything to give each day a unique meaning. Unfortunately, some are so busy trying to live that they fail to realise that they’ve now become mere statistics – just another one of earth’s 6.77 billion occupants whose presence on the stage is not different from that of those who have already exited.

We need to stop and reconnect with the dreams, activities and values that confirm that we add value to the stage before the inevitable exit. I couldn’t help thinking to myself: “how many of us in this crowd have lost our bearing in life and are actually Lost in London, only taking each moment as it presented itself.” Not just in London, or even in the major cities that clearly allow you see the daily mad rush, but everywhere. It will be a shame if we just wade through life only to find out close to our exit (and that does not necessarily mean death) that all we did was attempt to make all else but ourselves happy. Truth is that those who find the hapiness of playing unique roles on the stage of life are best equipped to make others happy. You can’t give what you don’t have, and I love the way an Igbo proverb puts it: “a naked man can not put his hand in his pocket.”

My Reply to X’s eMail may be useful follow-up reading even though he wasn’t Lost in London, I met X in Lagos.

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