To all those interested in Africa or humanity, broadly, please check out Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. It is novel that has affected me greatly. It has been eating me inside out, almost like how Camus’s The Stranger did for me in high school. Adiche’s novel resonates with me and at the same time, challenges me. It raises a very personal question for me, that is, to what extent am I being authentic? Instead of simply living life as me, am I creating various eccentricities as a means to feign authenticity?
So far, I have found at least one similarity between Third and First World living, that is my forgetting to breathe. However, the differences behind it are starkly different in each setting. Living in a city in the Third World means walking on dirt pavements or no pavements, directly adjacent to passing vehicles, and constantly being enveloped in a mist of dirt, dust, exhaust fumes, smoke, and other pollutants. After a while, I became so accustomed to holding in my breath as soon as my nostrils caught a hint of strong exhaust or backyard trash-burning that I found myself breathing less, taking shallower breaths, or forgetting to breathe from time to time. Perhaps, my body adjusted to a new equilibrium of lower oxygen intake?
Back in the First World, today I have realized that I am also forgetting to breathe as much I believe I should. In the life of endless to-do lists and ceaseless ways to be more productive, breathing almost takes too much. Perhaps, that is why so-called mindfulness seminars and meditative practices such as yoga are so popular in First World cities? Through the development process we may lose some aspect of our primal humanity in the quest of becoming a superior homo rational?