February 26, 2011

Mental Fight

An anti-spell for the twenty-first century 

Poem by Ben Okri

Nigerian poet and writer - Ben Okri (b.1959)

(An excerpt)

Our future is greater than our past
So far we have mostly misapplied
The powers of the mind
We have under-applied
The wonders of the human spirit.
The mind that created pyramids,
Warfare, great art, and science,
Has not yet reached maturity.
Everything we have done till now
Merely suggests the power of the human
Mind in its infancy.

We are not defined by our failures.
Rivers have changed their courses.
There are revolutions in the heavens,
Among the stars, all the time.
New  worlds are constantly being born.
What we call civilization
Is only ten years old
In the mind of an oak tree,
And a minute old
To a distant start.
Tradition doesn't have to weigh us down.
We weigh ourselves down with tradition,
With the past, with past failures,
Past forms, past perceptions.
We have made these things;
We can unmake them.


We must not think ourselves victims,
Disadvantaged, held back -
Because of race, colour, creed,
Education, class, gender,
Religion, height, or age.
The world is not made of labels.
The world, from now on,
Will be made through the mind.
Through great dreaming, great loving
And masterly application.
Those who transcend their apparent limitations.
Are greater than those who apparently
Have little to transcend.
Our handicaps can be the seed of our glories
We shouldn't deny them.
We should embrace them,
Embrace our marginalisation,
Our invisibility, our powerlessness
Embrace our handicaps, and use them,
And go beyond them,
For they could well be the key
To some of the most beautiful energies
That we have been given.
Accept no limitations to our human potential.
We have the power of solar systems
In our minds.
Our rage is powerful.
Our love is mighty.
Our desire to survive is awesome.
Our quest for freedom is noble, and great.

And just as astonishing is the knowledge
That we are, more or less,
The makers of the future.
We create what time will frame.
And a beautiful dream, shaped
And realised by a beautiful mind,
Is one of the greatest gifts.
We can make to our fellow beings.

The new era is already here:
Here the new time begins anew.
The new era happens every day,
Every day is a new world,
A new calendar.
All great moments, all great eras,
Are just every moment
And every day writ large.
Thousands of years of loving, failing, killing,
Creating, surprising, oppressing,
And thinking ought now to start
To bear fruit, to deliver their rich harvest.

Will you be at the harvest,
Among the gatherers of new fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and celebrants
Of freedom, realisers of great dreams.

You can't remake the world
Without remaking yourself.
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unsuspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
We could use it to turn on
Our inward lights.
We could use it to use even the dark
And negative things positively.
We could use the new era
To clean our eyes,
To see the world differently,
To see ourselves more clearly.
Only free people can make a free world.
Infect the world with your light.
Help fulfill the golden prophecies.
Press forward the human genius.
Our future is greater than our past.

Already the future is converging with the past.
Already the world is converging.
The diverse ways of the world
Will create wonderful new forms,
Lovely cultural explosions
In the centuries to come.
Already I sense future forms of art,
Of painting, sculpture, humour.
Already I sense future novels,
Plays, poems, dances.
Already I sense the great orchestras
Of humanity, a world symphony,
A world jam, in which the diverse
Genius of the human race -
Its rich tapestry of differences -
Will combine, weave, heighten,
Harmonise all its varied ways
And bring about a universal flowering
In all the vast numbers of disciplines
And among the unnumbered peoples.
Already I can hear this distant music
Of the future,
The magic poetry of time,
The distillation of all our different gifts.

And because we have too much information,
And no clear direction;
Too many facts,
And not enough faith;
Too much confusion,
And crave clear vision;
Too many fears,
And not enough light-
I whisper to myself modest maxims
As thought-friends for a new age.
   See clearly, think clearly.
   Face pleasant and unpleasant truths;
   Face reality.
   Free the past.
   Catch up with ourselves.
   Never cease from upward striving.
   Don't be afraid to love, or be loved.
   As within, so without.
   We owe life abundant happiness.

The illusion of time will give away
To the reality of time...
And time present is made
Before time becomes present.
For all time is here, now,
In our awakening.


In the kingdom of this world,
We can still astonish the gods in humanity
And be the stuff of future legends,
If we but dare to be real,
And have the courage to see
That this is the time to dream
The best dream of them all.

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