Sustainable Creative Living
Ever since I was a boy, I have always had a knack for being creative. I remember at one time in 1997 when I was nine, I asked my parents to get me a carton so that I could make a piano out of it. My parents did give me a carton but I eventually gave up with the ambition of making a piano from a carton because it was beyond my scope of understanding.
Then in 2001 when I was thirteen, I became interested in making a clock. I first successfully managed to cut a piece of white paper into a circular shape, and then beautifully scribbled all numbers of the clock around it. But when it came to having sticks move around the circular paper, that again proved to be beyond my reach of understanding.
And then in 2004 while I was at home here in Kiserian on a school holiday, I again developed an urge to do something creative that would astound people. This time, I tried to use an old sufuria as a satellite dish in an effort to make our television set display clearer images. The ploy didn't work.
Later on in 2006 when I was in my late teens, I decided to read Todd Siler's Think Like a Genius in an attempt to learn how creativity works. Let me share with you, my dear reader, what I learnt. If I become boring, stop me.
First, I learnt from the Todd Siler's book that even though there seems to be nothing new under the sun, there are countless things that have not been invented, discovered, explored or expressed in depth. That reminds me of a time in 2003 or 2004 when my younger brother Symo told me that everything that can be invented has been invented. I refuted that claim which led us into an argument.
"Okay," Symo finally said, "Then tell me what has not been invented."
"Of course if I mention something," I protested, "It means it has been invented. It's that which hasn't been invented that I can't mention because I don't know it."
I am not sure if Symo understood my point. Recently, it has dawned on me that he hasn't been the only one to think that everything that can be invented has been invented. Like in the year of our Lord, 1899, a United States Commissioner of Patents named Charles H. Duell also thought so. Mark you, that was before computers, aircrafts and smartphones were invented.
Another lesson I learnt from Todd Siler's delightful book is that creativity is multi-faceted. Some of us think that being creative is all about inventing a machine or discovering a cure for some major disease. But nothing could be further from the truth. Writing a beautiful poem is also creativity. So is creating a visually appealing blog or just coming up with a simpler way of doing something. So some of us are constantly creative without knowing it.
Now that I have told you what I learnt about creativity, let me also mention what hinders creativity as I gleaned from Todd Siler's book. The first hindrance to creativity has got to do with the way we acquire knowledge. Most of us indoctrinate ourselves with facts (that is, drilling them into minds without question) and we call that learning. But true learning, the kind that inspires creativity, should be intellectually and emotionally arousing.
The second hindrance to creativity is carrying negative emotions in our hearts such as hatred, jealously and cynicism. Some people take a perverse pleasure in hating someone over and over in their minds but the truth is, hatred only corrodes our happiness and impairs us from thinking creatively. So if we aspire to be regularly creative, we must first free ourselves from all bitterness, rage and anger as St. Paul says in one of this epistles in the Bible. Adieu!
 Sufuria is an East African English word for a metal pot used for cooking.
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Remembering My Teachers
How are you today, my dear reader? Hoping that you are feeling as bright and cheerful as I am, I have decided to share with you some reflections on teachers who taught me along the way in my schooling journey, right from primary school to the university. Let me begin with Noru-Moru where I began my nursery school studies in 1993.
The teacher I most fondly remember at Noru-Moru was one Mr. Mureithi, a handsome and charismatic young man who taught us Science in Standard Four way back in 1997. He enjoyed taking us out in the fields during our Science lessons held before lunch. And you know what? At the end of the lessons in the field and just before lunch break, he would gather us together and release us one by one for lunch by asking us questions. Like he would ask, "What is chlorophyll?" And the first pupil to answer the question right would be released for lunch.
Fortunately for me - and I thank God for this - I was among the brightest pupils in my class, so I was always among the first to be released. I wonder what used to happen to my dim-witted classmates.
At Kunoni Educational Centre where I finished my primary school career in 2001, I was lucky to be taught by a more dedicated lot of teachers who honed us for the KCPE exams. Among them was one Mr. Oketch who taught us Science. He had a passion for the subject that used to shine through in his lessons. And he regularly digressed from Science stuff to regale us with stories from his life which we all enjoyed.
At Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education, I was fortunate to be taught by devoted teachers most of whom I remember to this day. I would have loved to tell you about them all but in the interest of time, let me just mention two. Only two.
The first was my Form 1 to Form 3 Swahili teacher named John Mwaura (JM) who was creative at devising novel ways of driving Swahili lessons home. Like at one time in Form 2, he had each one of us tell the whole class something we had learnt in the subject that would be of interest to others.
But what I remember most about JM were the class sessions he used to call Chemsha Bongo during which he would split us into two groups. Then he would take turn asking each group questions which carried some points. At the end of the Chemsha Bongo session, we would tally the points and the group with the highest points would be declared the winner. I however have to confess that for whatever reasons, I can't recall whether I was ever in the winning or losing group.
The second teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre I will mention today here is Mr. Martin Moore who I have already told you about in the caption of the photo above. He had a habit of beginning his lessons with interesting fun facts that broadened our knowledge beyond what was required in the curriculum.
Some of my classmates in 2F remember Mr. Moore for the extra marks he used to award for well-answered questions. But if at the end of term a student happened to score more marks than required, Mr. Moore would truncate his score to 100%. Oh, how I miss those good old days!
And finally at JKUAT where I matriculated to pursue a degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering in 2007, the lecturer I most fondly remember was one Prof. Paul Njoroge who taught us Communication Skills in our first semester at the university. We were quite a large class of more than 200 students but I captured Prof. Njoroge's attention when I gave him Tony Buzan's The Speed Reading Book. After that, we became good friends.
And guess what? Prof. Njoroge in turn ended up lending me four books, two of which I never returned. The books were John Marks' Science and the Making of the Modern World, the biographies of Nelson Mandela and Joseph P. Kennedy (patriarch of the legendary Kennedy family) as well as the autobiography of Bill Clinton.
Yes, that was me remembering some of my teachers. As I finish my story, let me share with you the following observation by the great inspirational figure and educationalist William Arthur Ward: "The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the greater teacher inspires." Adieu!