“Ideas: they have a mind of their own; still, they try to make your mind their own” – Imisi
Hi and welcome back to DeMeStified. Hope you’ve been up to great stuff in the time it’s been?
They say every good story begins with a damsel in distress. It’s true, but mostly in the movies. In fact, maybe only on Hollywood. For me, every good story – everything I consider of any worth along this journey – began with a stupid and flat-out laughable idea. It’s happened so many times I’ve come to embrace it – even right from the very beginning.
“I’m gonna get a degree”. “How??? Get serious while you’re at it”
“Let’s get married”. “That’s a joke, right? You know we’re from cultures that don’t get along.”
“We’re having another baby”. “For real? Are you having a laugh?”
“I’m going to explore writing”. “With your handwriting? Come on!!! Be fair to yourself”
“I’m leaving”. “At this critical phase? You can’t be serious. I wouldn’t if I were you. What if those plans don’t come together?”
“I’m gonna take that course?” “And do what with it? There’s no market for it here.”
“I’m gonna do this”. “Are you sure? Hmmmn. What’s to become of all your education?”
Every single time, there’s that one voice saying it’s a brightly stupid idea. Sometimes, it’s from a loved and respected source. Some other time, it could all be in our head. Whatever the source, the impact is unmistakable; it leaves us wondering if we really know what we’re doing.
The other day I needed a picture of myself, and the silly idea of doing it myself dropped (to mocking reception). “You know it’s supposed to be high-grade, right?” “How’s this approach different from a selfie?” “Have you considered the technical challenge of it?”. But, just as I was laughing it off, thoughts of an unconventional pedigree came back to me. Mine’s one where dad used to build his own speakers and mom had sewn her wedding dress.
Her dress was so tight at the elbows, the fair lady couldn’t eat at the reception. But then, none of the brides she clothed after that ever suffered the same fate. Apparently, the worst one can learn from a ‘stupid’ idea is how not to do things.
I went ahead to take with the self-portrait. The better part of two hours later – and I still couldn’t get anything that looked like a portrait. No surprise that it felt like a colossal failure and I wrapped it up for the night. Whole thing left me questioning my understanding of basic principles. But then, that first silly idea birthed an even sillier youngling that worked to perfection on the second day. That second session ended up producing some of the very best pictures I ever saw of me.
It’s a marvel, really, how such ‘stupid’ ideas turn around to make you love them. I’d always thought it was just me – but, I look around and see same thing dotted all over history and scattered across the skies!
In the evergreen words of my physics teacher, it was a deathly laughable idea that a ‘giant bird would fly across countries without flapping its wings’. Then, the wright Brothers did it – and the joke became not knowing what an aeroplane was.
This one time, I had the pleasure of meeting a man who had lived in the same small Chicago community as (the now) President Obama. He’d helped organize fundraisers and the sort to get the young man on his way to becoming a statesman. They thought he was committed and passionate enough – but always joked that he looked too skinny.
If he was too skinny to be a statesman, picture in how many other ways he didn’t ‘qualify’ to be president of the United States. Today, not only is he president, he’s on course to have served two terms. Add to that the fact that he’s arguably the most fun human to have occupied that office and you begin to wonder as to the true merit of ‘stupid’ ideas. Even yours truly said “America isn’t ready for that now” when a friend touched on the issue.
Enter Atlanta ’96; Nigeria against the legends of Brazil at the Olympics. It didn’t seem like there was much of a chance. In fact, when Nigeria conceded the third goal with only twelve minutes to go, the idea of putting up a fight must have felt rather funny. But, things were just starting to get exciting.
Twelve minutes later, by seemingly random happenstance, the ball fell to a certain Nwankwo Kanu, with the chance to take the game into extra time. Those were the dying seconds of regulation time – and, there he was enveloped on all sides by a five-man demolition crew. As things stood, Nigeria was on course for a third-place scramble. It must have been astronomical pressure on those lanky shoulders.
Anyone who’s ever kicked a ball knows the luxury of fancy touches was not one he had at such pivotal moment. How on earth he chose to do what he did next is still a mystery to many. It was clearly not the easiest of choices nor the firmest of ideas; the required technique, time and space say so. Still, several years down, it’s the single moment we remember that competition by. Kanu scored with that opportunity. Buoyed by the success of that, he scored again in extra time to take the team into finals they also went on to win.
I marvel at the unusual choice till date. There truly must be something to the pursuit of ‘stupid’ ideas. Those memories strengthen my resolve never to discard such ideas. That decision has, today, grown into something I like to call ‘ProjectJJASON’, which, essentially, is a compilation of some of my dumbest, ‘against-better-judgment’ ideas. Today, I present Phase I: the unveiling of 5-12 iMagInG’s own space.
Sometimes, they come in a trickle; other times, in a maddening rush. Sometimes, in the shower; some other times, in more public placements. Wherever, whenever, if we embrace them, they have the potential to consistently alter our definition of possibility.
My immense gratitude goes to the many amazing people who’ve inspired, pushed and assisted me to take 5-12 iMagInG from inside my head to wherever it is today.