The Seminal Issue

An Intellectual Awakening

After an exceptional five weeks of studies, students at the African Leadership University, Rwanda were assigned chosen works of literature to explore for four days. At the end of every session, they had to reflect on what they understood and what impact it had in their lives. The passages selected were meant to spread the culture of reading, evoke the spirit of seeing the world from an author’s viewpoint on certain issues and channel our abilities towards group dialogue.

“Literature is one way to combating stereotypes”…-Chimamanda Adichie an excerpt from ‘African “Authenticity” and the Biafran Experience’ where she talks about the effects of a single story and the typecasts associated with our knowledge of only one side of a coin. An instance of this notion is that Africa existed without a past and only emerged after the colonialists came to divide and conquer. This reading centred mainly on how our people’s histories could have molded our personalities and the effects it has had on us; the intricate events that may have shaped the way we behave and act now.

The central message I learned throughout the week, was that a way to shift my mindset is to enlighten myself through reading books, watching news and the talking to people directly affected by certain events; to be in the know.

The dark caves to which we were born perhaps, limit our potential for growth and the progression of the whole society.

To be good at our PICS (Passions, Interests, Causes, and Skills), we are required to put in more hours of practice. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he lays out the theory of 10,000 hours of practice and the privileges opportunities may have on us. By using Bill Gates as an example; he comes from a wealthy family and went to a school that had a time-sharing terminal that sparked his curiosity for computer programming. Drawing back on this, I took notice that patience is a virtue I need to instill in myself by giving my aptitudes time and maximum effort, Malcolm continues to explain how difficult it was for computer programming back in the early 1970s. The programs were made of punched cardboards, which they had to take to the mainframe computers that could handle only one task at a time and meant programmers had to wait hours or even days to obtain back their cards. Talent, preparedness, and patience act as triggers to our levels of success; if we are take every failure as a learning process, chances are we will be successful.

Embodying a growth mindset acts as a catalyst to my success; a fixed mindset focuses on the failures while a positive mindset will always see a solution to an obstruction. The Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s book The Republic VI, though dense and needed maximum attention, tested my school of thoughts and helped prove this idea of the mindsets. I realised that, first, one becomes disorientated while learning something new and may opt to give up, but the attitude one possesses will push one towards either success or failure.

The personalities we have; past and present change and will continue to evolve, our background may influence our actions and value systems but how they impact our lives will be up to us entirely. We all live in the Dream City, according to Zadie Smith’s Speaking in Tongues, which should enable us to understand ourselves and others much better. We should express ourselves in different voices as leaders to ensure we are understood across different spectrums.

The readings and discussions related to my identity and perceptions, my way of thinking; both positive and negative translates to the way people will perceive me. At the beginning of the readings, I was inactive after all I term myself as an introvert. That comprehension made my peers see me in that light, only after I started to speak up did they see a new side of me, this perception I created is just a wall I built with the assurance that it allows me to venture out of my comfort zone. Instead, it only limits my potential for growth.

Overall, the week’s activities left me interested in knowing more about these various author’s works; from Zadie Smith to Carol Dweck and how their writings have influenced forthcoming conversations. I had to describe what emotion these written works had triggered and what I understood from them. From feeling satisfied on the first day, uncertain on the second, unresolved on the third and finally intrigued on the last day. I am inspired to draw closer to historical and philosophical works of literature.

This has been my intellectual awakening!

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