In his novel, The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born, Ayi Kwei Armah creates an emblematic character and calls him simply, quite simply, the Man. The Man is different from every other character in the novel and represents the hope of a new revolution, slow and gentle as the wind. He is attracted, like every man, by the allurements of wealth and the pomp of power. His colleagues roll in High Class cars and live in mansions built with marble. But all this is built on fraud, on theft, embezzlement and other forms of corruption. His wife tries to incite him to be like others, to reach the top. She keeps harping on his ears that he is a good-for-nothing kind of man who cannot do what everybody does. In a moment of psychological tension and in a stream of consciousness of what goes on around him, he assures himself with the following words:
Those who are blessed with the power
And the soaring swiftness of the eagle
And have gone ahead, let them go.
I will hurry slowly, and I too will arrive.
I read this novel eleven years ago. I have forgotten most of the things that are contained therein. But not this simple phrase that defines the philosophy of an abstract man. There are times I would like to do a lot of things, to register progress in almost everything I do. There are moments too I feel so despondent of having to crawl about the same thing without having a head way: the ever returning of the same sins, the repetition of the same weakness and error. Sometimes one is so discouraged that the only alternative is to quit. No, I will not quite; I may not have the energy and the swiftness of the eagle but that is not reason for me to quit: it may take me a longer time to get to my goal, but I will not tire out. It may be costly, demanding, needing a lot of sacrifice to grow, but I will not give up: I will persistently try, over and over again. It is in the consistency with which we keep to the track that matters most. It matters, but the most important thing is to wake up every day with my dream alive, to keep my eyes focused right far out into the widening horizons. It is the fidelity to pad even slowly on the long and difficult road to life.
He who takes his own time to go through a journey, without being in a hurry also enjoys the leisure of its surprises and best enchantments. It is easier flying from Manila to Cebu in a jet plane within a few hours. But it could be sweeter going by the ship, taking one's time to discover the landscape, to watch the sea and listen to the rippling of the waves, to observe the scenery, the dancing trees, the bird that flies in the wild fields, and all that beauty in nature. Upon every road there are jewels buried, how can we discover them if we move so fast?
I have come to understand that I am not of that quickness in achieving things; I mean the quickness attributed to the perfect drive of the eagle. But I have my own leisure of enjoying every detour, every curve and bend of my pilgrim path. I can also cull souvenirs as I tread along the difficult path to growth and maturity. I can learn equally from the same repeated turns and errors that make me trip over and over on the rocky, rugged pathways of life. I do not despair of my search, of my journey, of my striving: my soul is nourished by the adventures of a long search, and the beauty of clear scenery. I do not need to do much; I do not need to get it all at once. It is wisdom to get it, "one step at a time".
It is wisdom knowing that sometimes what matters isn't the journey's end but the road we have taken. Treasures that enrich our life are gathered along the difficult road we walk.