Reading to Understand
A True Story
on Nov 21, 2021
"You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out dry," so said the great American author Norman Juster. I first came across that quote by Norman Juster in 2007 when I was a first year student at the university in JKUAT and it motivated me. But I didn't fully grasp its meaning till years later when I reflected on my reading journey.
I have always been an avid reader ever since I was a little boy in lower primary school. And I owe my passion for reading to my father who encouraged me at an early age to read books and write compositions. As a boy, I read such novellas as Robinson Crusoe that my father bought for us at home.
Despite the love for reading that I had as a boy, I wasn't such a bright pupil in primary school. I scored not-so-good marks in my end term exams. My performance got particularly mediocre in 1998 when I was in Standard Five, which made me hate school. Believe me when I tell you that I used to feel relieved on Friday evenings when classes ended for a weekend break.
Being the resilient person that I have always been, I kept reading more and more as my primary school years wore on. Though my performance in school improved, I still didn't score stellar marks that matched my reading efforts. When I was in Standard Eight in 2001, for instance, I never managed to score past 400 marks (out of 500) in the continuous assessment tests that we took at school.
It therefore came as a surprise to my family when I scored 421 marks in the 2001 KCPE exams and made it to Starehe Boys' Centre - the then top-ranked high school in Kenya. That score surprised my family for shizzle but for me, I have always perceived it as the fruit of all the reading I did in my primary school years.
When I got into Starehe, I kept reading intensely. Not only did I study the required textbooks, I also read books on such topics as how to pass exams. I will never forget the day in 2002 when I was at my Mum's grocery shop reading a booklet on how to pass exams. The booklet inspired me so much that I contemplated sharing it with Dr. Geoffery W. Griffin, the then director of Starehe Boys' Centre.
And you know what? In spite of all the reading I did in high school, including on books about how to pass exams, I never managed to appear among the top five students in my class at Starehe. That makes me wonder whether I was really absorbing the knowledge contained in the books.
Another fact that puzzles me is how I didn't manage to score an 'A' in English in my 2005 KCSE exams despite having read all the three English set books in 2003 when I was in Form 2. Yes, I read the three English set books in 2003 just before we broke for December holidays and scored an 'A-' in English when I sat for my KCSE exams two years later.
After I finished high school, I kept reading voraciously without observable results in the areas I wanted to improve on. Like in 2006, I came across in the Starehe library a book on how to get into top American colleges. I read it with great interest but I still didn't make it into MIT, Cornell, Stanford and Dartmouth - the prestigious colleges I applied for undergraduate admission that year.
Since 2006, I have devoured books on how to get rich such as Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, Wallace D. Wattles's The Science of Getting Rich and Robert T. Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. But even with all that reading, I still haven't grown financially rich.
The point I am trying to make is: so much reading, so little results. Truly, we can swim in the Sea of Knowledge all day and still come out dry, as it has been the case with me.
Come to think of it, I believe the problem has not been with the contents of the books I have read; the problem has been with me. I have either not been receptive enough to absorb the knowledge in those books or I haven't put into practice what I have gleaned from them. So these days, I am striving to understand what I am reading and apply it in my day-to-day living.
My dear reader, I implore you to also get into the habit of reading avidly because books change lives. And don't just read one book since reading one book is like eating one potato chip; it won't do you much good. Instead, read widely and wisely. And as I heard an ambitious friend of mine named Jamlick Kogi say on Facebook, when reading books, read to understand, not to finish. Adieu!
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update three days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new song that is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.
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A True Story
on Nov 16, 2021
Over the past four years, I have been composing hymns once in a while. Since I don't have recording equipment here at home, I have been forced to seek the services of music producers who live within commutable distance. And you know what? All the producers I have dealt with seem to be cut from the same cloth: they are untrustworthy when it comes to keeping their word.
In May 2019, for instance, I went to record a hymn with a producer named Jason who I had been connected with by a famous musician here in Kenya. Though we had a few hitches while coming up with the right instrumental accompaniment for my hymn, we recorded my hymn successfully. And once we were done, Jason released me with a promise to send me an audio copy of the hymn the following day.
Come the following day, morning turned into afternoon and afternoon into evening without Jason sending me a copy of my hymn. I kept contacting him and when I finally reached him via phone, he informed me there was a power outage in his studio. Even though I suspected he was coming up with flimsy excuses for not fulfilling his promise, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him to send me the hymn once power was back. He did send me the hymn, but after keeping me waiting for more than a day.
Then last year, I went to produce another hymn with a producer called Isaiah. I had gotten to know Isaiah through the alumni network of Starehe Boys' Centre, the institution where I had my high school as well as college education. Isaiah happens to be an alumnus of Starehe who attended the school a decade before I did. The day I met him, he regaled me with a few stories about Starehe as we walked to his studio which was in his house.
When we reached his studio, I was struck by how everything in it looked old and worn-out. There was only one loudspeaker whose cover was missing. The microphone was small and had issues. And the keys of the studio's electric piano keyboard were held together by sellotape. Because of the backwardness of the studio, we recorded my hymn in a style that I didn't think was world-class. And once we were done recording, Isaiah released me with a promise to send me an audio copy of the hymn later on in the evening of that day.
But alas! When evening reached, Isaiah began coming up with one alibi after another as to why he couldn't send me the hymn we had recorded. First, he told me his wife, who had the smartphone he used to access the internet, had traveled. Then, he informed me the wife had been held up in a burial arrangement ceremony. The evening ended without him sending me the hymn. He sent it to me two or three days later.
And then early last week, I went to produce yet another hymn with a producer named Sylvester. But the dude didn't turn up, an experience I narrated in my previous story on this blog. Irritated by Sylvester, I decided to seek the services of another music producer called Lenny. Let me spare you the details of how I got to know Lenny.
When I contacted Lenny last week, we agreed to meet at his studio on Friday. So when Friday reached, I woke up earlier than usual and traveled to Lenny's studio. I was feeling rather cheerful and clear-headed as I commuted to Lenny's studio. And when I finally arrived, I was impressed by the quality of machines in Lenny's studio and its ambience. The white walls of the studio combined with its fluorescent lighting to give it a heavenly look.
We recorded my hymn in an hour or two. And once we were done, Lenny released me with a promise to send me an audio copy of my hymn by noon the following day. But alas! The fellow didn't keep his promise. What's worse, he ignored most of my calls on Saturday. When he eventually picked one of my calls on Saturday evening, he apprised me that he had other clients he was dealing with. While asking me to exercise patience, he promised to send me my hymn by Monday or Tuesday.
It's now Tuesday afternoon as I pen this story and I am yet to receive an audio copy of the hymn I recorded with Lenny. What an untrustworthy fellow he is! I feel like I have been taken for a ride again.
Drawing from my experiences with those music producers I have told you about, it has dawned on me that trustworthy people are a rare jewel. They are as hard to find as gold. I have therefore resolved to be one of those few trustworthy folks by always keeping my word. And I will from now on rather say "no" than agree to something I can't do.
My dear reader, I exhort you to also be trustworthy. Either keep your word or say "no". And when it comes to keeping your word, I urge you to under-promise and over-deliver. If, for instance, a friend requests you to scan an old photo and email it to him, promise to do so in two days time and then do it the following day. Be trustworthy. It's that simple.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on being trustworthy, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about two years ago on "A Kiss of Adventure". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.